A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive in a company and although the role of the CEO will differ from organisation to organisation, the main responsibilities will include:
- setting the overall direction of the business
- managing the operations and
- managing the resources of the company.
Typically spending about 60 hours per week (often more) it is a complex and challenging role.
A recent Harvard study found that CEOs will spend about 10 hours per weekday and 4 hours per weekend day on the job. Further, going into the vacation, they spend about 2.4 hours per vacation day.
This can lead to a very stressed CEO, which can be projected throughout the company, causing harm to the overall business. According to The American Institute of Stress, 80% of employees today experience stress at their job. This is due to the ever-increasing demand to do more with little time, the financial stress of maintaining the job and more. CEOs and company leaders, however, suffer the most, with a majority reporting feeling regularly overworked, exhausted, and anxious as they carry the weight of a company's performance.
With ever-increasing demands for more and more, time is the scarcest resource for CEOs. In fact, 72% of the CEOs time was spent in meetings, but how often have we thought "that meeting could have been an email"?
The breakdown found in the study of hours spent working is interesting.
- 25% on people and relationships
- 25% on functional and business unit reviews
- 16% on organisation and culture
- 21% on strategy
- 3% on professional development
- 4% on operating plans
- 4% on mergers and acquisitions
- 1% on crisis management
Let's also consider how CEOs are watched for how they spend their face-to-face time, which is viewed as a signal for what or who is important, adding more stress to the mix.
Now, what does this all mean? Essentially, being a CEO is a very stressful job, but with a few minor changes can become a better and more pleasant job
Step 1: Delegate
Are you the CEO that everyone goes to? Do they ask you all the questions? How does your business hierarchical structure look like? In fact, in Australia, we are very well known for having a flat hierarchical structure and can refer to our CEO by his or her first name, which is very different to other parts in the world.
While a level hierarchy or centralised structure can be great for morale (in some instances), it is very time-consuming for the CEO.
A quick and easy way to free up time for a CEO is to decentralise the organisation. Instead of everyone reporting directly to, or asking directly the CEO every question they have, a decentralised organisation can setup levels of reporting that will prevent the CEO having to speak to everyone, or being stopped briefly to be asked a question.
In fact, each impromptu question, although may take 1 min to answer, can interrupt the flow of your work by 15mins on average and receiving as little as 8 questions in a day can add another 2 hours to your workload.
WHEN TO DECENTRALISE: Research has shown that the effectiveness of groups decreases above 5 members, as it starts to create individuals who begin to contribute less. The "someone else will do it" or the "someone else has already done it".
Teams of 3 to 5 in a sector can have a team leader that reports directly to the CEO.
Step 2: Empower to be Autonomous
When the employee runs to you with questions, do you need to answer them? When they give you prepared work, do you need to double-check it and do significant updates yourself?
If you answered yes to these questions, then there are some problems. This essentially means, if the worker does not know the answer to the question, yes, sure you the CEO can answer it fast, but then your time has been taken up answering the question. Why doesn't the worker look it up or research it themselves? Otherwise, why did you employ them if they are only going to consume your time?
Similarly, if they prepare some work that you the CEO need to double-check and make significant updates, it will only go towards consuming more of your time and you might as well have just done it yourself.
HOW TO EMPOWER: A very simple way to empower the worker is to not answer their question, but guide them to where they will find the answer. While it sounds rough and slower, it needs to be done. Add on to that, providing additional skills training for them to become a better worker will help them grow to become a better worker.
Now.... the hard part. If the individual does not take the guidance or additional skills training, they are unlikely to change and you should consider letting them go. You the CEO want workers who can do the work, and do it well. This will make success.
Step 3: Outsource
In recent times, outsourcing has become very popular with virtual assistance, marketing, and more... but what some CEOs have missed is the opportunity to outsource their strategy and operations.
If we look at the breakdown of the CEOs time mentioned earlier on, 21% goes towards strategy, 4% on operating plans, and 4% on mergers and acquisitions. Let's also factor in the stress, which we know can slow down a process.
Why not reduce the stress, and some of the workloads with an outsourced Chief Strategy Officer (CSO). This is someone who can enter the business and devise a short and long term strategy, without the myopic thinking that can ruin a business. With one step in the business and one outside the business, the CSO can provide insight into what the business looks like towards its clients, and inwards, how the business is operating. With a CSO in place, they can also continuously assess the situation, to ever increase the strategy/business going forward.
The CSO's fresh eyes can also evaluate new opportunities to leverage growth through a merger or acquisition, or even build the new entity using current resources to make the business more profitable.
In fact, an outsourced CSO can save as much as 26% of the CEOs time as some of the responsibilities have been delegated to the CSO (i.e. Step 1: Delegate). This is just over a quarter of a CEO's time or approximately 15hrs. This freed up time made available (red below) can then be used to focus on other areas and/or lowering the CEO's stress.
HOW DO I GET A CSO? There are very few businesses that provide this service as an outsourced CSO and the ones that do, often provide a strategy piece with no-assistance in its implementation.
The team at Emergent Works are different, in that it is a team of cost-effective senior business management consultants with a proven track record that work as your CSO to firstly determine your strategy going forward and then assists in its implementation on a continuous basis. Specialising in sales, marketing and more, we aim to help grow your business.