It hardly seems possible that I have now been the CEO for a year. So time to step back and consider what I’ve learned – and reflect on what I did well and where I need to do things differently.
What became apparent almost immediately is that being a CEO is a lonely place. Yes, you interact with people all day every day. However the reality is you have no internal peers and at times you need, like everyone else, to share your hopes, fears, achievements and yes, failures. You don’t stop being human when you move into the hot seat – in fact a “superhero” leader is probably the last thing any organisation needs. Pants firmly on the inside please.
I think I can safely say that joining Vistage was a godsend – not that it was really my idea. In fact I was rather dubious about the whole thing. However spending time each month with 15 talented CEOs/MDs and my Group Chairman provides both challenge and support in equal measure. Thanks V16, I wouldn’t have made it without you.
The second thing I have learned is to surround yourself with talented people. And then let them get on with it. You don’t need to tell great people what to do. You just need to set them a clear vision and then coach them when they need it – rather than when you need to prove your own value.
That “letting go” is hard sometimes. You know exactly how you would tackle an issue or situation but that doesn’t mean that’s the right, best or only way of doing it. Yes, people get it wrong sometimes but in the process they learn. Part of being a leader is to take risks and that means letting others prove what they can do. Otherwise they are constantly trying to “second guess” what you would do. They aren’t “mini me’s” – they are themselves.
So this year I will delegate more. That isn’t about tasks. Rather it is about decision-making and authority.
Letting go will empower me to do what I should be doing – focusing on the future rather than interfering in day-to-day operational activity. The pace of change is relentless and accelerating. Our client, delegate and candidate needs are changing and we need to constantly question what we do and why.
The past two years have seen a number of our long-standing competitors disappear. The business world is tough and you can never, ever sit back in the “sun lounge” and think the job is done. Pace will be my watchword again this year – if it is worth doing, get it done fast. If not, drop it.
If I had to highlight one mistake I have made this year it would be trying to spin too many plates. And that crosses the work-life boundary. CEO, father, husband, volunteer mentor, NED, Governor, rugby coach, football coach, CIPD committee member. I’ve done all those jobs and more this past year. And that can’t continue.
This year I need to be bold enough to tell people that I can’t help. You see I am a natural volunteer. I can’t help myself. I see a problem and I want to step in. So let me apologise in advance to anyone I have to say no to. It isn’t personal.
Finally I need to say a big thank you to the whole Chiumento team. You’ve done me – and yourselves – proud this year. I’m genuinely excited about what we’ve achieved and this year is going to be even better. New products, new technology, new colleagues and, I am certain, new clients.
I love my job.