For CEOs and CEOs in the Making: Will You Give Yourself the Job?

By Nilooka Dissanayake, ACMA, MBA

If you are planning to be a CEO of a large firm, in the capacity of an employee, I recommend you skip this article. I am writing this for CEOs of small and medium businesses; the guys (and girls) who are their own bosses, the business owners. And for those who want to go into business on their own.

Still, most of what I will be talking about will be relevant to any CEO or CEO aspirant regardless of company size and ownership. So, if you are still reading this article, disregarding my opening line, congratulations! You have mastered the first and most important lesson for CEOs of any firm: to be discerning in listening and taking advice from consultants and advisers. Keep a bag of salt handy at all times.

An email from the Humantalents Yahoo Group featuring “The Right CEO” by Frederick W. Wackerle (Copyright 2001 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) inspired this article. I read it with interest because I am seriously evaluating my duties as the CEO of my family business. And I recalled that I promised to touch upon more topics of interest to small business owners, especially in this area of managerial responsibility as and when I come across them.

How would you fare as the CEO?

How would you fare as the CEO if independent outsiders evaluated your job? Here are the questions that Wackerle recommends be used to assess future CEOs. I have adapted them slightly for general applicability.

Members of an evaluating committee were asked to give the following ratings to a number of areas so that the decision is less subjective: The ratings for the first 6 questions were as follows:

5 – Clearly confident

4 – Confident

3 – Seems OK

2 – Some concern

1 – Serious concern

0 – no information and left room for comments from the evaluators.

The other questions required a simple Yes/No answer from the evaluators.

If you are your own boss, you will have to rate yourself. You can also ask someone who knows your business operation to help you.

  • Criteria: A track record of achievement, demonstrating success in leading a dynamic, volatile environment; experience should include successful acquisition and related integration or culture shifts; capable of leading a large, complex business on day one.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: Will not gamble foolishly with the assets of the company. Knows how to protect and “anchor” a franchise, as well as project a leadership position in a highly competitive environment.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: Uses seasoned judgment to make sound strategic choices – knows when to emphasize and balance the organization’s long-term strategic objectives; applies broad knowledge and experience when addressing complex issues; makes timely, tough decisions.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: Has demonstrated the ability to develop a vision for the business; maintains a long-term, big-picture view; anticipates obstacles and opportunities; generates break-through ideas; is willing to entertain alternative corporate structures and governance models to achieve strategic objectives.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: A great leader who inspires others to perform at their best; creates a climate that fosters personal investment and excellence; sets and pursues aggressive goals; a high-energy type who can change a successful culture, keep the momentum going; drives for results; promotes collaboration and teamwork.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: Strong integrity base; establishes open, candid, trusting relationships; treats all individuals fairly and with respect; makes decisions that are effective rather than politically expedient.
    Rating: 0 1 2 3 4 5
  • Criteria: Experience in the financial services industry as a leader of a substantially distributed financial-services product.
    Rating: Yes/No
  • Criteria: Clear understanding of the customer, competition, and legislative environments.
    Rating: Yes/No
  • Criteria: Clear, date-certain successor to the chairman.
    Rating: Yes/No
  • Criteria: Excellent presenter to the Board of directors, management team, employee population, and external communities.
    Rating: Yes/No

Read it and re-read it carefully. Each question requires you to put yourself under the microscope. We began this year through Business@Home by helping you do that, reminding you that your own limitations as a small business owner could well become the limitations for your business.

Be cold-blooded honest

In evaluating yourself, be cold-blooded honest. Don’t fool yourself. Your plight is worse than that of the emperor in the story of emperor’s new clothes. Not even little kids will ask you why you are walking around naked!

I agree with you that the evaluating criteria seem too oriented towards public or larger companies. There is still a reason why I decided to talk about it in Business@Home.

Recently I met V. Satyendra of United Realtors Limited, a company specialising in leasing out BOI properties. He is also as a TOYP award winner (Ten outstanding Young Persons) for entrepreneurship in TOYP 1999. A short chat with Satyendra showed that he believes in finding a real concept as a business idea rather than copying someone else. He believes that he derives satisfaction from developing a concept into a workable business and then moving on.

Says he: “I read in a book that when you start a business, it is good to think of it as if you will be franchising it tomorrow. That means, rather than depend on individuals, you will be focusing on building and incorporating robust systems into the business right from the start. That way, your business does not depend too much in individuals. I try to do this with each project I start.”

As current CEOs or CEOs in the making, we must remember this. How good we are depends not on what we are born with, but on what we do with the little that we are given. It is the same for our businesses. We can make them as solid or as fragile as we set our minds to. So why not make them solid?

Now ask yourself: Will you give yourself the job, considering you know more about you than anyone else? I hope the answer is Yes! If not, that too can be changed.

First published in the Sunday Times FT's Business@Home column in February 2004

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