Adopting a CEO Mindset in 10 Simple Steps

Thinking with a CEO mindset can help you reach the next level in your career. Learn how to adopt a CEO mindset in 10 simple steps here!

What does “faking it until you make it” look like in the corporate world?

For someone who wants to get to the next level in their career, they might consider acting like they’re already in that career. And this doesn’t mean that a junior-level contributor should knock on their manager’s door and kick them out tomorrow. It means that adopting the thinking process and behaviours of a manager can make you into a manager one day yourself. 

Rather than ending up in the position (or worse, wishing you had the position) of being a chief executive officer (CEO) and being unsure of what to do with yourself, you can start practicing these habits to build a CEO mindset into your everyday nature.

What is a CEO? 

A CEO, or chief executive officer, is the highest power in an organization. That being said, they have a lot of responsibility for which they’re held accountable. Beyond keeping the revenue stream flowing, the CEO is responsible for:

  • Determining the strategic future of the business
  • Ensuring employees are happy and the corporate culture is healthy
  • Providing sufficient resources to the organization (including financial resources, human resources, and physical assets)
  • Maintaining industry-level relationships and working with government or regulatory partners
  • Acting as the official company representative
  • Identifying further ways to continually optimize, innovate, and grow

With all that on their plate, the CEO is not focused on many tactical-level tasks. Instead, they mostly strategize and plan, and delegate the tactical portions off to functional business units (for example, sales, marketing, product development, and finance units) to execute. 

Become the best CEO by hosting productive meetings

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!

Why is having a CEO mindset necessary? 

To get their job done, CEOs need to adopt a sharp, forward-thinking, agile, and strategic mindset. They need to be great planners and even better relationship builders. Adopting a CEO mindset even years before you’re planning to become a CEO can bring you tons of new skills, which can improve efficiency in your current job and help you level up your career faster. Some of these added skills include:

  • Ability to build relationships effectively and navigate difficult relationships or negotiations
  • Creative strategic thinking and planning capabilities
  • Ability to work cross-departmentally and solve problems involving multiple teams
  • Forward-thinking mindset and proactive, long-term “roadmapping” abilities
  • Financial management skills

10 ways to adopt a CEO mindset 

1Create organizational alignment

Imagine when you watch a school of fish floating together in a group, moving back and forth in sync and headed in one direction together. Even if a predator approaches, the fish may temporarily separate under the crisis, but they will always come back together in sync (and fairly quickly, too). This is organizational alignment: the ability for the organization to be steered in one direction, with a collective effort and understanding of the company’s purpose from every single member of the company, regardless of how high or low they sit in the org chart. 

To get started on this today, try building alignment in your current team or on a current project. Work on getting everyone on the same page and destined for the same goal, along the same plan.

2Understand how to manage a budget 

Managing the financial side of a business isn’t just approving expenses, ensuring there’s enough money for hiring employees, and signing off on anything the finance team sends your way. It’s also looking at the “hidden costs” of your organization. Most often, this is measured by the time it takes employees to do something. For example, with Fellow’s meeting cost calculator, you can measure how much it costs just to run meetings per year based on the number of employees, frequency of meetings, and average salary that your employees are paid. 

You should also be consistently measuring return on investment (ROI), which helps you understand if a strategic decision will yield enough positive results for the company. 

3Simplify processes 

To keep costs low and productivity high, CEOs should continually be on the lookout for areas in which they can simplify processes. In your role, start asking questions like:

  • Does this add value to the work I’m doing?
  • Is this step necessary?
  • Is there a faster or more efficient route to doing this?
  • How is the quality of the finished product impacted by the speed at which a task was completed?
  • Who needs to be involved?

4Foster a productive strategy

The CEO’s mindset is focused on getting the most they can for their business. Think about practicing strategies that yield the most results and focus on using them more often in your processes. For example, is there a brainstorming technique that works more efficiently for your team? Is there a hiring process that tends to bring in more qualified workers? 

It may take some time experimenting and researching to learn which strategies produce the most results for the least efforts (without sacrificing quality). In your role today, you can begin this experimentation and take this knowledge with you as you grow throughout your career.

5Encourage psychological safety 

Psychological safety means fostering an environment where team members are encouraged to take responsible risks and communicate without fear of judgement or negative consequences. Building a feeling of safety is important in an organization as it encourages independence, experimentation, creative idea sharing, and improved employee morale. 

To build this element of the CEO mindset today, you can start creating a safe space in which your teammates feel encouraged to present new ideas to you. Being curious about their ideas shows that you’re open to learning more and want them and their ideas to succeed. 

6Be comfortable with delegation 

As a leader of a business, there’s no way you can do it all. Being able to trust your team and delegate project areas to managers on your team can help build team motivation and ensure that everything gets done on time. Even if you may be more specialized in an area than another team members, trusting someone else to take over the task enables your organization to build deeper knowledge pools and improve knowledge-sharing capabilities.

Daniel Saks, the president and co-CEO of Amazon, gave us an amazing insight on the Supermanagers Podcast when he said, “So what I’m always looking at is, are there ways to automate the decisions that I’m making, are there ways to delegate the decisions I’m making, are there ways to automate the technology, so we can work in different ways. And I really encourage our team members to graduate from one tour of duty to another as soon as possible.”

7Focus on results 

At the end of the day, of course a business can’t be successful if it doesn’t drive enough positive results. Don’t be afraid to cancel projects that aren’t working or search for alternative ways to execute a project in order to achieve the best results. Having a super clear idea of what metrics you’re tracking and tying all metrics to an objective key result (OKR) can help you identify if you’ve been successful in your project, or if you need to re-evaluate your project plans.

8Create effective decision making 

To have actions completed efficiently and to keep your business on track for success, you need to build great decision-making skills. Being more data-driven in your day-to-day operations can help you make more informed decisions. As well, just being able to delegate the right task to the right manager on your team is a sign of great decision-making capabilities.

9Have a top-down, not bottom-up approach

In practicing your CEO mindset, you want to aim for a top-down approach, which means the decisions stem from you and are integrated down through the rest of the organization. The other alternative is a bottom-up approach, where individual contributors and teams at the bottom levels of the organization communicate their needs upwards until they reach you. In a bottom-up approach, messages can be lost through busy managers, or teams may have separate requests that don’t align with other teams. However, a top-down approach ensures organizational alignment for all teams to build processes and OKRs that focus on a collective pursuit. 

10Develop a clear vision

Going back to the organizational alignment example in our first step, how exactly do you get your “school of fish” to work in sync? First, they need to know what you’re doing. What do you foresee for the business? What do you like about how it is now, and what changes will be coming? 

Communicating your plans to the rest of the organization at every possible moment ensures that all team-level strategies are well aligned to the common goal. This transparency can help teams prioritize projects, and can even help potential new recruits identify if your company is one at which they want to work!

In episode 93 of the Supermanagers podcast, Lloyed Lobo shared an incredible quote, saying, “Clearly articulating and communicating your vision to excite, inspire and motivate people is the most important skill to have as a leader. And it’s not a one-and-done activity. A leader’s job is to do this day in day out because people who are excited, inspired and motivated can move mountains.”

Parting advice 

It’s not easy understanding how one day you can manage a full organization with ease; quite frankly, for most CEOs, it’s never actually that easy. But giving yourself extra time to practice a CEO mindset can help you get there quicker and be more in tune with the skills required to do the job exceptionally well!

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About the author

Alexandria Hewko

Alexandria Hewko, holding a Master's of Digital Transformation & Innovation at the University of Ottawa and a Bachelor's of International Business from Carleton University, brings a rich blend of international marketing, business management, and IT expertise to her writing. Founder of a travel blog in 2018 and an experienced global marketer in the tech and consumer electronics sectors, Alexandria excels at illuminating lesser-discussed topics through compelling storytelling.

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