The successful CEOs that I know maintain a steady focus on these five items every week, without fail:
1. Review your three most critical metrics. There may be dozens of metrics that are important to the company’s health but there are only a few that really really matter. Focus on and review them every week without fail. Usually these are revenue, cash flow, and headcount, but can also include new business sales/renewals, unit volume, or expenses. Review and discuss them with the key people to stay informed and reinforce that these what matter.
2. Meet with your direct reports in person (or by phone if necessary). Discuss their pressing issues, challenges, areas where progress is being made, and their sense of how they are contributing to one or more of the three critical metrics. I prefer to have an agenda or topic list to review in advance to keep focus and maintain continuity from previous meetings.
3. Talk to at least one customer in person or by phone. Regardless of whether you have a few customers or hundreds, a CEO-customer conversation always provides unique illumination into how your company is performing, how your people are succeeding, and what’s happening in the marketplace. This is true even if you are B2C. Bonus points if you can also talk to a new prospect every week as well!
4. Meet with an employee who doesn’t report directly to you. Some call this a ‘skip level’ but I prefer to call it doing your job. Take a walk around the office, sit next to someone at lunch, wander the halls. Your employees have things to say and a CEO who listens will learn an amazing amount. Ask questions, be engaged, communicate your values. You don’t have to commit to anything but just listen to the employee’s concerns and progress.
5. Attend a different department meeting. Listen to the team’s challenges, praise the successes, and recap your goals and progress on key metrics (see #1 above). This expands your focus, demonstrates your involvement, highlights challenges, and keeps the you involved. It allows you to explore barriers and challenges to achieving the goals.
So what does this accomplish? It allows you to stay focused on your mission-critical goals and reinforce them with your key employees; they allow you to learn what’s happening in the company, with customers, and across the industry; and they allow you to reinforce to employees that you are active, engaged, and involved.
It’s so easy to get distracted by burning fires which obscure your on-going areas of focus. Maintaining this level of involvement within the company creates a rhythm of information gathering that highlights the real issues and challenges within your company, at the same time building culture and force multiplying your areas of focus.