Treat Your Company Like You’re the CEO

When you go to work int he morning, adopt a new attitude: pretend that you’re in charge. And do that every day. Now… wait a sec. That’s not the same as the typical, “if I ran this place, things would be different” thinking. Let me explain.

Businesses aren’t actually dictatorships, and the leader of a business – typically, the CEO – is rarely able to fully control what goes on. That gets more and more true as the company grows larger and larger. So when I say, “treat the company like it’s your own,” that means you have to acknowledge some of the things every company owner/leader deals with on a daily.

For example, one reason large companies can start to have oppressive-seeming rules is that, somewhere in the course of time, someone did something that caused a huge problem. And so now there’s a rule for it. Maybe it was abusing a lenient time clock policy, maybe it was taking too much copier paper home, whatever.

Another thing leaders deal with is a lack of total information. Making good decisions is difficult, if not impossible, when you don’t have 100% of the information you need, but business leaders often have to face the fact that they won’t always have 100% of the information. That’s why a good CEO actually doesn’t make a ton of day-to-day decisions: they set a direction, and the hire other people to handle pieces of it. The smaller a chunk you run, the more likely you are to have all the information you need.

Company leaders also have to strike a balance between achieving the company’s needed outcomes, satisfying the company owners (like shareholders), and creating the best work environment they can for employees. That’s really, really hard. It’d be nice to be able to ignore one of those stakeholders – say, the absentee owners (which most shareholders are) – but, I mean, they own the freakin company so you can’t just write them off. Running a company doesn’t mean doing what you want to do, it means achieving the outcomes you were hired to achieve. And a CEO is just as much an employee (of the owners) as anyone else.

So with all that in mind, how’s your daily attitude supposed to be different in this pretending?

Seek context. Before you let something rub you the wrong way, find a way to understand the whole of why it’s being done.

Do your best. Once you understand the “why,” do your best to drive to that outcome. Rally your coworkers. Remember: you don’t need to agree with the “why,” because you don’t own the company.

If nothing else, this kind of exercise will make you a better businessperson, and that’s a very portable and desirable skill (it’s what Let’s Talk Business is all about, too).

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