Lessons learnt as a CEO – part one of three
Compared to most veteran CEOs, I am still green behind the ears. Six years, two different companies and two different industries is still not enough experience to reflect on for wisdom. However, as the year draws to an end, I am forced to ask myself “What has been the three big learnings once the aperture to the world changed to be that of a CEO”
Lesson 1: Don’t forget how you enjoyed the see-saw as a child
The first lesson, I reckon, as I look back, is “it is all about balance”. No idea is purely good or purely bad. No one decision is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. No opinion is guaranteed to succeed or guaranteed to fail. You have to figure out how to balance out things. Competing points of views is good. Lack of opposing points of views is what you have to guard against.
Every individual’s bias is going to make the see-saw push towards one end. But you have to let it go. There will be conflicting interests. You have to protect investors’ interests, employees’ interests and customers’ interests. You have to figure out how to balance. You have to balance the need to have an environment that employees love to work in and then increase medical insurance costs on their paychecks given the realities of the world.
The strive for balance will ensure that the see-saw is not permanently stuck with one in the air and one in the ground. Next time you find yourself in the midst of a lot of conflicting pulls, restrain yourself from taking a position immediately. Remind yourself that it is a see-saw. You want the forces pulling you in different directions. Find out how to balance things.
If that is not hard enough, wait for this: perfect balance is a terrible thing too. Imagine two of you – absolutely equal in weight, at the exact same distance from the fulcrum on the see-saw. Both of you are going to sit up in the air with no movement. That is not how you enjoy a see-saw. Similarly, as a CEO, once you feel you are reaching balance, introduce some chaos.
I realize that is confusing. Balance or not? My answer is – just remember your childhood see-saw. Having somebody much lighter or heavier than you never got you anywhere. And when you two were reasonably similar and the see-saw was not swinging enough to give you fun, one of you heaved hard to the ground to give it some momentum.
That is exactly what you want when you are in a CEO position. Strive for balance. Till it starts getting balanced. Then you introduce some chaos. Growth in a business is much like the thrill of a see-saw – the fun is in the movement – not in the static end state – either completely unbalanced or completely balanced.
That journey – that swinging on either side of the see-saw – is what business is all about.
(second part will be coming next Thursday)