Become the CEO of Your Life
By Robert Hargrove
Start your transformation!
Last week one of my clients, who I will call Luke Carbone, a SVP in a Fortune 500, told me something that stunned me. He said the work we did together was a world apart from “executive coaching” and he referred to it as “The Transformation.” He said it was the single most powerful thing that has happened to him in his entire career.
I was thrilled to hear such a comment, but wanted to know more and asked him to explain what he meant by the comment. He said, “Robert, there is one thing in particular you said that keeps coming back to me over and over again. You told me to be the CEO of my own life.”
He elaborated, “The moment that I heard this idea, it struck a chord in me. I started thinking of myself as a CEO who had the power to rewrite my future, rather than just accept the default future that was coming at me. It caused me to give up the belief in my own powerlessness… give up the frustrating situation I was dealing with at work. I also started to look at my life as a company. As the CEO of that company, how was I performing? Was I a great performer or mediocre? I saw I wasn’t acting like the CEO of my life and building a career in my ‘Area of Destiny,’ but rather like a good employee stuck in a holding pattern that was hard to escape from.”
In sharing this idea of being the being the CEO of your life with many people I have connected with in LinkedIn, I have discovered that it can help almost anyone dramatically change their perception of their situation, stake out an Impossible Future, and start taking action on it.
So what does it mean to be the CEO of your life?
It’s a provocative statement, but I bet most people reading it don’t know exactly what it means. I like to say that being the CEO of your life means you are the top dog, the chief visionary and master strategist, the ultimate decision-maker, the ace of accountability, the one who is 100% accountable for the results that you produce.
Peter Drucker was once asked what the CEO’s specific and unique role is. He answered that the CEO’s most important role is to create a meaningful outside that helps define what is possible, achievable, needed and wanted and then create a bridge to the inside of the company.
As the CEO of your own life, it’s up to you to interpret what’s possibilities, the opportunities the “outside world” holds for a person like you based on big trends, the best companies (job) or start up opportunities, and then create a bridge to the “inside world” of your passions, talents, gifts, and interests.
Unfortunately, most people are so focused on what’s going on internally, rather than externally, that they can’t see the forest through the trees. They are either self-obsessed, obsessed with their boss, or obsessed with what’s going on inside the company building that they miss the really big possibilities that exist.
They don’t ask themselves the most important questions, like: Based on the latest trends, what CEOs of leading companies, given their strategic situation, would sell their children if I would go to work for them? What idea do I have for a great company nobody is building? What do I as a customer want to buy, but can’t find, that would be a great product or service for my company to offer?
As the CEO of your life, are you building a winning company? Are you winning in your job and in your career?
According to Alan Lafley of P&G, as the CEO of your life, you don’t have a boss. It’s up to you to establish a future direction, starting with thinking about a winning aspiration (goals and priorities). It’s also up to you to not only develop a strategy for reaching your winning aspirations, but to decide where you are going to play. Would it be better for you to invest your time mastering the inside game in your current organization? Or would it be better for you to invest your time in establishing an outside game?
It’s also up to you to determine how you will win. For example: “being so brilliant at your job they can’t ignore you,” “creating a blueprint to a billion for your new company from the start,” “social networking in real life, rather than staying parked behind your computer.”
One of the best things you can do as the CEO of your life is to find a coach who won’t settle for less.
As the CEO of your life, you need to recognize that you can’t do it alone. You need a team of people to help you. When Erich Schmidt was asked what the best advice he ever got was, he said, “Find a coach to help you.”
The problem, as Edgar Schein of MIT points out, we are born into a culture where an adult is not supposed to ask for help. You are supposed to know all the answers, even when starting out. However, some of the best CEOs—Larry Page of Google, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla—are creating a cultural island and hiring CEO whisperers that act as their most trusted adviser, masterful thinking partner, and chief sounding board. How about you?
As the CEO of your life, it’s also up to find the right team of people who can help you succeed in your current job or who can help you start the company you want and make it super successful. As Jack Welch once said, “The team with the best players usually wins.” Having said that, it’s amazing how many business leaders I have met who have talked themselves into sticking with the team of people they already have, when it fact, they know on a vague, intuitive level that this team isn’t going to make it.
I recently read Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. He told a story about starting PayPal with a great team, a company he sold to eBay in less than ten years for one and a half billion dollars. The original team was composed of himself, now head of Plantar (one of the most successful venture capital firms in Silicon Valley one of the first investors in Facebook, which made him a multi billionaire), Elon Musk who founded Tesla, Reid Hoffman who founded LinkedIn, Russel Simmons who founded Yelp, and David Saks who founded Yammer. Each of these companies were soon to be worth over a billion dollars. Now that’s a team!
As the CEO of your life, it’s entirely up to you to determine how much money you want to make and how you will do so. Thiele suggests applying the “power principle.” This doesn’t have anything to do with trying to climb to the top of the ladder in a big company over other bodies so you can wave a flag around and say, “I’m a vice president.” So what? Who cares?
The power principle has to do with picking the right company to work for and the right team of people to work with. For example, graffiti artist, David Choe, was asked to paint the offices of Facebook in Palo Alto, California in 2005 and was offered the choice by then president Sean Parker of being paid a few thousand in cash or the equivalent in shares of stock. He took the stock, which today is worth close to a $668 billion.
As the CEO of your life, you are responsible to manage your life in its completeness, not just one department or function. You are responsible for your personal life, professional life, health and well being. When was the last time you asked yourself, “How am I doing in each of these areas and in balancing the different parts to make a whole?”
Finally, as the CEO of your life, you are responsible for any results that you produce, good, bad, or different. I would like to offer this one page strategic plan to help you in becoming the CEO of your life.
ONE PAGE STRATEGIC PLAN
As the CEO of your life, how are you performing? Are you living a life filled with vision and purpose, and are you making a difference that matters? Have you reached the level you aspire to in your organization, or have you hit a glass ceiling? Do you find that the world is beating a path to your doorstep or are you politely being ignored? Are you making the kind of money you want?
As the CEO of your life, what is the mission statement of your company? Richard Branson has a very clear one, which he calls EBO: Everybody Better Off. He says, “I have always thought of every Virgin company as a group of people trying to help other people be better off.”
What are your company’s strategic goals and priorities? Think of your core purpose and winning aspiration. What is going to be your top priority for this year? Getting promoted to the C-Suite? Starting a new company? Finding a new job? Build a great team? Break the year up in to four quarters, select one top priority for each quarter.
Create a strategy that represents how to reach each priority. List each of the four priorities for the year. Then write down the biggest obstacle, or nut to crack in reaching it. Find a thinking partner and discuss how you will overcome that obstacle.
How are your different departments doing? Is your professional life going great? Is your personal life suffering? Do you have a healthy diet and exercise program? How are you balancing all of these?