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When people think of CEOs and other top-tier executives, they often imagine polished professionals who know all there is to know about business and success. I urge people to remember that CEOs are only humans with many of the same fears and concerns as other working professionals.
Accepting an executive position does not result in an automatic transformation; it’s not like you become superhuman the minute you receive a promotion. Now, after 30 years of experience, I feel more confident than ever, but I am still vulnerable to self-doubt; also, I earned my confidence the hard way through trial and error. Obviously, if I could go back and do it all again, there are things I wish someone would have told me — honestly, someone might have, but I was younger, eager and ready to set my own path.
If you are preparing to begin your journey as a CEO or executive officer, take a few deep breaths and resolve yourself with the exciting journey ahead. Sure, the path is hard, but nothing in life that’s worth it comes without some challenges. Know that you are capable.
When I was starting out, there were several things I wish I had known. Now, armed with years of experience, I can share those lessons I wished I had with you. Hopefully, my advice will help you avoid some of the challenges I had coming up in this intense and incredible position as CEO.
1. Hire subject matter experts
Your team is your most valuable asset. My team started small, with only a handful of staff covering multiple departments, myself included. But over the years, I have hired some of the industry’s top experts in their specialized fields. From taxes to touring and everything in between, I seek to hire the best in the business to provide the highest quality service.
There is no shame in admitting you don’t know what you don’t know; that doesn’t make you any less of a leader. If anything, recognizing where your expertise may fall short is a significant leadership skill because it ensures you always put the company and the team before your ego.
A true leader is only as good as their team. If you want to be a recognized and praised CEO, always find team members who strengthen the company’s position.
2. Never stop learning
Continuous learning is one of the most important things a CEO can do for themselves, their team, and ultimately their company. Our team holds continual learning sessions throughout the year for our staff and leadership team. For myself, I block off time during the week to read up on new developments in the industry and seek counsel from trusted advisors.
Part of what differentiates successful CEOs from other leaders is their motivation and drive to constantly better themselves and the company. A chief executive always looks for the next big thing to make waves in the industry or the company. They want to keep their eyes and minds open to innovative ideas and talent. Successful CEOs always look for ways to increase and improve their knowledge.
3. Criticism comes with the territory
As a CEO, you must realize criticism comes with the territory. People will always feel like they could have made a better decision, but hindsight is 20/20. You need to trust yourself and have faith in your ability to make the best decisions for the company.
Most problems have multiple solutions, and each will have pros and cons. A successful CEO can weigh the pro and cons and take decisive action. While it seems like a lot of pressure — and it is — you can make such challenging decisions because you are never alone. Every CEO has the support of other executives, managers and team members.
4. Keep an employee mindset
One key to a successful career is never forgetting the employee mindset. All CEOs, including myself, must remember where they came from and acknowledge the importance of every position and every team member. True success lies in a CEO’s ability to remain humble and appreciative of their position. As a CEO, you are only one member of the entire company population. Remember and rely on those around you and you will do fine.
5. Every successful CEO makes mistakes
Finally, know that as a first-time CEO, you will make mistakes, but you are not alone. Every successful CEO has to learn in their first executive role. You will excel with enough practice and dedication to the position; just maintain a willingness to listen and learn.
While the position of CEO comes with challenges and an adjustment period, it is still fulfilling and energizing. When I look back on my career and how everything led to this moment, I can genuinely say I am grateful and still looking forward to what tomorrow will bring. If you remember these lessons, you’ll look forward to the CEO journey, too.