Chief executive officers (CEOs) undoubtedly have one of the busiest jobs. From being the face of the company to external stakeholders, to continuously analyzing market trends, to being the last one to sign off on all strategy changes, they hold a lot of weight on their shoulders. Deciding between which priorities CEOs should take on can be an overwhelming but important task to make sure this ever-heavy workload remains somewhat balanced and the company’s growth stays on track. Here, we’ll help you tackle this big project by identifying the 8 priorities we think CEOs should always focus on first!
What is the role of a CEO?
At the very top of the corporate ladder, the CEO is usually the person of highest authority within a company (unless a board of directors governs over the CEO). Within their role, the CEO takes a highly strategic approach to decision making—this includes approving budget expenditures against return on investment (ROI), ensuring that company culture is aligned to the company’s overall values, deciding on which markets to pursue, and making the final call on decisions in times of major crisis. Since their role is so important, the CEO spends a lot more time in the public eye, either meeting with external business stakeholders or getting media exposure.
Meetings worth showing up to
A well-run meeting can foster communication and collaboration by including an agenda the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!
How to define priorities as a CEO
- List your priorities
- Determine how long each task will take
- Rank your tasks based on importance
- Use the time-blocking method
1List your priorities
You’ll need to know what’s on your plate before you can start organizing and prioritizing all those activities. This list is likely to vary from one CEO to another. For example, in some companies, such as start-ups, the CEO might be involved in a lot more decision making. However, in large, publicly traded companies, the CEO might have a narrower area of day-to-day responsibility as they spend more time external to the company, leaving internal decision making to a chief operating officer (COO). Also note that this list will not remain constant, as markets continuously change and priorities shift as your company grows, too.
2Determine how long each task will take
After identifying all the high-priority tasks that need to be worked on, start calculating how much time you expect each individual task to take. You can do this in multiple ways. The first way is to base timing off of previous situations where you’ve worked on a similar project, either in this company or another one. The second alternative is to rely on your network or an expert consultant who is well experienced in that line of work to tell you what they estimate you will need for time (and they’ll even guide you on what other resources you’ll need as well).
3Rank your tasks based on importance
Even though the tasks on your list are all priorities, think through which ones need to be completed first. Some ways to help you determine which are more important include:
- Looking at due dates. The tasks with closer due dates should be started first.
- Determining the level of impact if not completed. If this task isn’t done on time, what are the consequences? The more negative the impact, the more likely the task should be prioritized.
- Determining the tIme it takes to complete. Tasks that take a longer time to complete should be started early enough that they finish ahead of their deadlines.
- Considering the additional resources required. Are there more tools, information, or people that you need before starting on this project? If you can’t start the project yet, de-prioritize it or figure out how to get the resources available faster.
4Use the time-blocking method
The time-blocking method is a useful calendar management approach to help you deeply focus on tasks during the workday. To use this approach, start by finding time in your calendar that you would like to use as deep focus time. This could be anywhere from 1 hour to 6 or more hours. Ideally, this block is available at the same time each week so you can get into a routine. Block this time as an event in your calendar, and notify the rest of your team that this is an important period for you to work on urgent or high-priority tasks. Ask that you not be disturbed during this time, except for an emergency or if a fast response is needed. The less context switching you do during your time block, the better!
8 top priorities for CEOs
- Leverage technology
- Delegate tasks
- Prioritize time for yourself
- Communicate often
- Run productive meetings
- Prioritize growth
- Retain top talent
- Create a productive hybrid or remote work culture
Leveraging your tech stack is a great way to improve productivity for yourself and the wider organization. Consider adopting tools that help automate mundane manual tasks or bring your team together in the remote working world. A few great examples of tools that help you do this include:
- Fellow, which helps your team prepare for and track meetings more effectively
- Hubspot, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to align sales, marketing, and customer success into one shared database
- Miro, a virtual collaboration tool to whiteboard in real time together
- Clockify, a free time-tracking software that measures how much time you’re spending on each project
Unless you’re a super small start-up, there’s no reason the CEO should be tactically involved in every project the company undertakes. Delegating effectively is a critical practice of any successful leader. Consider also using the delegation of new, challenging tasks as a way to offer professional development opportunities to your employees.
3Prioritize time for yourself
Burnout is a real cause for concern. Nearly 70% of CEOs said burnout was a serious topic for their company after the COVID-19 pandemic, and it affects CEOs themselves, too. Taking proactive steps to prevent burnout is the best approach. Taking time for yourself to have food, go for a walk, chat with a family member, or reflect on your day can make a meaningful difference in your work. This you-time can improve your patience, your creativity, and your overall energy levels!
Especially if you work in a virtual environment, over-communicating is helpful to keep your team informed about upcoming changes and progress updates. Make sure to be communicating effectively in all four styles of communication: verbally, nonverbally (i.e., body language), written, and visually. Having regular team sync meetings and one-on-ones with your direct reports and peers can also help improve communication flows.
5Run productive meetings
The CEO acts as a role model for the rest of the company, so if the CEO can run productive team-wide meetings, this will demonstrate how other teams can run their smaller meetings productively as well. A great example is how Aydin Mirzaee, CEO at Fellow, hosts a town hall meeting every Friday. Using this template, he can prepare a meeting agenda, track action items, make decisions within the meeting agenda, and use the meeting notes to help guide the company after the meeting ends. This means it’s a productive meeting every time!
It’s a fast-paced world out there. And it takes a lot of time and energy to consistently monitor the market, analyze trends, and decide on the next mission to pursue. However, incorporating these habits as a part of your role will help your company to keep moving forward as the world changes. Regularly reading industry news, reviewing feedback, interpreting internal sales and marketing data, adopting a growth mindset, and brainstorming with your peers can help you prioritize growth.
7Retain top talent
With the ongoing economic concerns around hiring and layoffs, it’s an especially important time to focus on retaining top talent. Not only will this help your company bring the best ideas to the table, but it will also help you save on costs (as hiring and firing are big budget-drainers, as we’re sure you already know). Some things you can do to help retain top talent include:
- Offering great benefits and compensation packages that are reviewed and updated at least twice a year
- Conducting employee feedback surveys and actually applying the advice employees give you
- Providing a psychologically safe environment, building trust, and promoting transparency
- Continuously offering new opportunities for professional development
8Create a productive hybrid or remote work culture
The hybrid work model is becoming the most popular approach for companies, as it allows employees to have a much-loved work-from-home environment while also encouraging teams to connect in person at a local office. Adopting the right technologies and setting up meetings to accommodate for this type of work style can help improve efficiencies in your work processes.
Being a CEO is demanding and can cause a lot of stress, so naturally, it’s easy to get lost in the moment and end up working on projects that don’t contribute to the company’s goals or growth. Instead, remember to frequently stop and reflect on the purpose of what you’re doing and how it will impact your company’s future. Taking in feedback from your team as often as possible is also a great way to remind you of the bigger picture while also including your employees in the decisions that move their company forward!