If you’re heavily stressed as a business leader, the business is running you — not the other way around. Chances are you’re not prioritizing correctly, and you’re not delegating.
I’ve worked with CEOs who put in an insane amount of hours and don’t do any better than CEOs who work a fairly normal schedule (granted, usually 50–60 hours a week).
One could describe a leader as someone who establishes and communicates clear goals, gets the right people in place, gets everyone working toward these goals and focuses on what’s important.
Culture is an additional ability of leadership. Culture is less important, actually, than fanatical execution on a clear set of goals. Ping pong tables, beautiful offices — nice — but not vital.
The core is figuring out where you’re going, getting the right people going in the same direction, and focusing on what’s important.
Sounds easy, but it’s an art. It’s why great CEOs are paid a lot of money and are in high demand, because it doesn’t come intuitively or naturally to a lot of people. However, it can be learned.
Teaching leadership skills, however, isn’t the purpose of this blog post. I’m just going to tell you what’s important.
There are just a few things that you have to do really, really well in this business. If you do those well, everything else follows.
Many years ago, one of my early mentors told me, “if you just focus on creating a great product, support it well and do a good job on PR, you should do just fine.”
Not bad advice. I’ll expand on it with a bit of my own experience.
Here is the scale of importances in running a product or services business.
1. The product or service.
2. The quality of the product or service.
3. Support/customer service
4. PR and marketing
Assign KPIs to each area (you can’t manage what you can’t measure…). At the beginning of every week, go through each of these areas by yourself. And then go through these with your senior staff at your Monday morning staff meeting.
The funny thing is that as an executive, you may find yourself spending a tremendous amount of time keeping people focused on doing the important things. And, you may find yourself burdened down with things that aren’t that important. People add complexity to everything they do. It’s a natural tendency, but it generally means that they are not confronting what really needs to get done (either because they don’t know, or because they don’t understand something).
If you establish an organization with this set of importances, you’ll increase your chances of doing well.
The mistakes I’ve made are when I’ve reversed the priority — too much emphasis on finance, or sales, etc. The product (or service) is the most important thing to focus on (read my other post, The Product is All). Give the accountants the problem of worrying how to book the revenue. Give the sales and marketing guys the problem of actually getting the revenue. And get the product guys firmly lined up with what’s needed and wanted from the market, and delivering it.
And lead a less stressful life.