Singing in the rain: 4 Steps of the Effective CEO in dealing with “business weather”
As a CEO you spend your days dealing with a number of issues. It is like the weather, changing and uncontrollable. There are sunny days where everything seems to be going the way it is supposed to. There are days with a light rain, with small issues to handle, or quick showers with many issues pouring down on you. And then there are storms. The storms come with issues with the potential to be destructive and worst than that, the potential to become “the perfect storm”.
Only a “perfect storm” demands for a CEO to assume an emergency mode. I recently wrote an article called “Dealing effectively with an Overwhelming Crisis … the case of flooding in Peru”. In it I describe what a CEO feels, think and do, whilst in a crisis.
In my experience, reasonable business weather provides an opportunity for a CEO to tackle issues in a way that feels productive, enriching and fun. It takes 4 steps that you must take for every issue that doesn’t have an immediate and obvious solution.
No matter how urgent the issue seems to be, you must take time to reflect on it. You must resist the urge to act, which is very typical of a CEO’s personality. Take 5, or whatever time you need to sit, walk or sleep on the issue, so that its true nature comes to you loud and clear. Most of the time you just need to ask yourself, what is this truly all about? And let it rest. Struggling with an issue in your head doesn’t help. On the contrary it will probably keep the answer from coming out.
I remember one occasion where not matter what I did I couldn’t get a project to start. Frustration was starting to build up. I put aside time to reflect on it, and unexpectedly the source of the resistance was clear to me. These EUREKA moments do happen … and they feel good.
Planning will always be necessary if you want to take the shortest and easiest route to the end of the issue. This is planning 101. Make sure you have a specific goal identified, divide the task into manageable pieces, and schedule your actions. Most experienced CEOs think that they can plan in their heads while acting on the issues. Maybe. If the issue is familiar, and you have face something very similar before, it is just that you already got the plan.
For me it is always helpful to define the goal or what the end of the issue looks like, in so many words, jot down the specific tasks on my Outlook calendar and put a “check” on them as I go on. If you are like me, you will get a lot of instant gratification from the pleasure of crossing tasks on the plan!
This is step easiest to skip. It is only natural that if you have the true nature of an issue identified, and a good plan to deal with it, you act. However, most issues are not math like, they have emotional aspects that need to be taken into consideration. It is important to understand how you feel about the issue. Does it have an impact on your identity? Meaning, those it makes you uncomfortable, touches a vulnerable spot, or makes you feel less confident in yourself? If you have invested in self-knowledge it will be easier for you to describe the emotions that the issue is awakening. Then you can prepare yourself to control and even leverage those emotions in your path to issue resolution.
Personally I lead by seeking consensus. I hate confrontations. Even, witnessing a heated discussion makes me uncomfortable. So I know that if I am going to face a difficult conversation as part of the plan, I need to prepare myself with a script, choose wisely when and where the conversation will take place, and accept the uncomfortable position I am going to put myself into. I always reward myself afterwards for my courage.. A piece of chocolate seems to do the trick!
Life doesn’t go as planned most of the time. Most issues a CEO faces are complex, so you must be prepared to go back to reflect, plan and prepare for the same issue many times. Persistence doesn’t guarantee you get an issue solved, but without persistence you haven’t got a chance. Without persistence, you may try to convince yourself that the issue will get solved by itself, or you will be satisfied with part of the solution, and the issue will come back to haunt you again and again. Never give up on your commitment to solving an issue.
Having said that, do choose your battles wisely. Don’t do looking for issues for the wrong reasons. As a CEO, you don’t get a lot of sunny days. Try and enjoy the ones you get!
Mariana Rodriguez Risco | Presidente Laureate Perú
Mariana Rodriguez Risco
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