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10 Things Every CEO Needs to Do to Become a Success

10 Things Every CEO Needs to Do to Become a Success

What separates an über-successful CEO from an average one? It isn’t being super bottom-line focused or being a great salesperson (although those things don’t hurt). What elevates CEOs from so-so to stellar are the things you do to not just boost your own success but help your team grow, too.

When you commit to being a CEO who envisions and upholds a holistic growth plan for your company, employees, and yourself, it leads to success personally and professionally for everyone who touches the business.

How can you be a CEO who ups the game when it comes to creating this holistic-success mindset?

1. You must be mission-driven

A clear vision is critical to business success, but is your entire team on-board with that mission? And does that mission align with their own personal missions? It’s not as simple as saying ‘Here is what we need to do, now go do it.’ You must also define the why behind the action AND ensure that each individual employee has their personal ‘why’ defined as well. If they aren’t invested in where the company is going, they will stall and drag performance down with them.

ACTION STEP: Hold a Mission Workshop with your team to outline company vision and map out each invidual’s mission as well.

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2. You should create a culture

As a CEO, one of your jobs is to create and uphold a culture that differentiates your company. A culture is more than just a cool office, flexible work hours, and beer at 4:00 on Fridays. A culture is defined by the inherent values, energy, and actions that drive you and every team member to do their best work. It’s a comprehensive spectrum of factors including goals, benefits, environment, rewards, tasks, respect,and personality traits that create a culture. Each employee must fit into and value these elements or they will hold you back.

ACTION STEP: Do a comprehensive assessment of your company culture to identify where you are now, where you want to be and the gaps you need to close to get there—then implement them.

3. You need to be realistic

Many CEOs come on board with guns blazing, ready to rock the boat and change the game. However, with change comes stress. With change comes shifts in workload. With change comes different ideas on how to make it happen. This can create chaos in an organization. If you want to be a great CEO you will set realistic and achievable expectations that don’t burn out, frustrate, or overwork your team to ensure they are fully functioning and happy.

ACTION STEP: While you want to be strategic and vision-focused, you must also be aware of what is happening in the trenches. You were there once too. Care for your employees and they will give you massive returns.

4. You must manage stress

When you or your team are stressed out, it leads to sick days, reduced productivity, relationship problems, moodiness, and many other issues. Stress isn’t something to be taken lightly. It impacts health-insurance costs, innovation, employee turnover, and general engagement and happiness with your job. Successful CEOs know that not only do they have to manage their own stress at work and at home, but they MUST implement structured training, resources, and benefits for their employees, too. There is no one-size-fits-all stress solution so you need to customize resources for each employee.

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ACTION STEP: Work with a wellness coach or consultant (or identify someone within the company) to create a comprehensive stress-management program that is customizable to your team members.

5. You should customize benefits

As a smart CEO, you know benefits can’t fit every individual. Some people value pay and rewards while others value flexibility and freedom. Smart CEOs get to know their employees on a personal level to ensure they are offering benefits, rewards, and incentives that maximize what each person needs and wants in order to do a great job and bring their best to work every day.

ACTION STEP: Do a survey to really get to know what your team wants in terms of benefits. Then get creative in offering unique things to meet those needs.

6. You need to be flexible.

We don’t all work best in the same ways or at the same times. And while you do want to recruit and develop employees who fit the culture you envision for your company, you must also honor their individual work styles and needs. Some enjoy teamwork and others are more independent. Some are early risers while others are night owls. Like benefits or stress tools, creating a workplace that is flexible also requires customizing to each individual employees’ needs.

ACTION STEP: Instill in your management team the belief in flexibility so they can work with their employees to create schedules that work for them.

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7. You must set the right goals

CEOs are always setting and measuring goals. There is nothing worse than setting goals and having them stagnate and cause stress because you’re not making progress. When this happens it is usually because they weren’t set with the right guidelines in mind. A great goal should be gut-checked, obtainable, actionable, life-oriented, small, and supported. This goes for both personal and professional goals.

ACTION STEP: Work with an expert or coach who can help you create goals that fit your needs and hold you accountable along the way.

8. You should communicate clearly

A team in the dark is a team that can turn on you. When employees feel left behind, out of the loop, or out of control, they get stressed. Stress leads to lack of productivity, worry over job security, and even sabotage if they feel so much anxiety that they blame the company. As CEO, you must ensure you have a clear way of communicating changes, ideas, and company news that everyone can access. Plus be sure that your team has a way to communicate back to you.

ACTION STEP: Work with your HR or employee-relations team to create an open communication environment for your company.

9. You must listen well

When tough times hit a company, it’s not usually a blindside. Signs and indications were there long before it went bad. Listen to your team. Open your eyes to what is happening on the front lines. Have open dialogue with employees. Use what you learn to drive goals, actions, and changes for the success of the company, the team, and you.

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ACTION STEP: Be around. Don’t isolate yourself in meetings or your office all day. Hang out with your team to hear what is happening.

10. Don’t be a jerk

This should go without saying, but really, being a jerk never helped anyone. Many believe that being a success means being aggressive and plowing forward with your vision no matter who gets hurt in the process. But it is possible to lead well AND be nice at the same time. You don’t have to be too nice. You still need to hire and fire and discipline and create growth, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the CEO everyone hates or avoids.

ACTION STEP: Get in touch with your own goals and personality. Be honest with who you are and how people relate to you. Work on the areas in which you need improvement and your team will see you as even more of a role model.

Now it’s up to you to implement the above tips into your leadership strategy. This holistic way of approaching your business will not only create momentum in your own success but will help your team and company grow too.

Featured photo credit: Businessman looking at city via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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