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Becoming a C-level executive can be simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking. In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “great power means great responsibility”.
Yes, the new position comes with a bigger paycheck and higher company status, but the ever-present pressure to get things right also intensifies.
As every organisation is unique, unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all rule that all executives should follow to ensure success. Almost inevitably, you will go through an initial period where you feel “out of your depth” as you get used to your new responsibilities. Here are a few management tips that can help C-level execs find their feet and excel at their job.
Get enough sleep
Today it seems like many executives carry sleep deprivation as a badge of honour. This is short-sighted to say the least. A mountain of evidence points towards the fact that lack of sleep cripples cognitive performance and focus. Burning the candle at both ends is not something to be celebrated. At best it leads to burnout and at worst can give rise to severe health issues.
As leaders in their organisation, C-level executives set the tone of company culture which others will naturally adopt. If you want your employees to lead health balanced lives, the best way to go about it is to practice what you preach. Strive to carve out a health work-life balance for yourself, get at least 6 hours sleep a night, and emphasise the importance of off-the-grid time (no phones, social media, or emails).
Executives who get things done understand it’s simply not possible to gather up all the facts for the dozens of decisions they make each day. This is not to say that data-driven decision making is not important, it clearly is. But it’s very easy to get bogged down in the details and succumb to “paralysis by analysis”. Executives should aim to gather enough information to make sound decisions which move the company forward. There is no getting away from the fact that some of those decisions will turn out to be wrong. But it’s always better to learn from your mistakes and try again than be immobilised by indecisiveness.
Find mentors you can trust
A seat at the executive table doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Having someone to talk to about your challenges and bounce ideas off will keep you sane. Smart leaders surround themselves with people they know can be relied upon when the going gets tough.
You’ve made it this far off the back of your own talent and ability. But you need more than that to excel in this new phase of your career. Those who have been in a C-level position for a few years already are probably best suited to give advice. When deciding who to ask for advice ask yourself “Have they done something I want to do myself?”. If the answer is yes, ask them how they approached that particular problem.
But it’s important to note that things change quickly in modern business, especially in the technology sector. Tactics that worked in the past may be ineffective today. A quality mentor will help you identify best practices to help navigate tricky situations, while also acknowledging that what worked for them may not always work for you.
Be consistent in your interactions with others
As you manage more team members, creating a rhythm becomes increasingly important — consistent daily/weekly/quarterly meetings, your approach to giving feedback, data and KPI metrics, objective setting and so on should all have a flow. It will help your team come to expect what they are going to get from you as a manager, while helping you map out your schedule and manage the team effectively.
It’s natural to feel pride when you succeed at something difficult. But remember, you are not a one man team. Your success is dependent upon the dedication and hard work of other employees within the company. Don’t forget this. Go out of your way to find ways to acknowledge their efforts.
There’s no need to go overboard, it’s not necessary to shower your employees with praise for small routine tasks. But when they do a good job on an important project, let them know you recognise and appreciate the work they put in. It has more impact than you might think. Don’t act on urges to brag about your own achievements. It comes off as annoying and obnoxious. Let the results do the talking.
Never stop learning
As C-level executives are driving the direction of the company, they need to pay attention to and study both micro and macro issues. In most instances you’ll need to begin learning about parts of the company that were outside your remit before. This will help you better understand and contextualise the decisions your company is making.
At the same time you should also look at processes and strategies being adopted outside your own industry to gain outside-the-box points of view. Simply continuing to do things because ‘that’s the way they’ve always been done’ leaves you at risk of being outmaneuvered by more forward thinking competitors. Every obstacle you encounter offers a new lesson. The greatest leaders are able to see the opportunity for learning and growth in every challenge. They can transform adversity into advantage.