The CEO Survival Guide


You’ve finally landed the top job, started your own business, bought someone else’s business or grown a business to the size that you can now focus on being the CEO.

The next challenge: How to thrive rather than merely survive as a CEO in the 21st century landscape of business. Some days, it sure is a jungle out there.

Here are 6 tips to get you started. They are not designed to be a comprehensive list of everything that you need to know. They are however suggestions on now to maintain your sanity – so that you can apply what you do know whilst ensuring you continue to learn, faster than those around you and the organisation that you’re leading.

1. CEO = Chief Energy Officer

You need to be the person in the company with the most energy. Your capacity to perform (expend energy) is directory related to how well you rest (recover energy). Do you need to upgrade your mattress? Would you consider scheduling a regular weekly massage with a mobile masseur in your home before bed?

Exercise and diet are two of the most commonly neglected areas in the lives of busy executives, but they don’t have to be. If you are going to successfully become a corporate athlete, you need to understand that energy – not time – is the currency of high performance, health and happiness.

Be creative about integrating exercise into your routine. Consider some black line therapy each week (lunch times spent swimming laps in a public pool).

2. Plan the Year & Work the Plan

To take a more strategic perspective, you need to look further out. Rather than planning the week or month ahead, it’s time to shift your personal, professional and organisational planning horizon to one year and beyond.

I recommend you buy one of those annual wall planners and start by scheduling your holidays. Aim for a minimum of 5-6 weeks per annum (if you don’t think this is possible, ask me how).

3. Get Hyper Organised

To stay calm and cool under pressure, you need an advanced productivity system. I’m talking about the kind of platform and habits that mean that things don’t fall through the cracks. The kind that allows you to zoom up and down to change your perspective at will. Something that’s portable and mobile so it’s always at your fingertips. A great system for holding all of these competing demands and priorities outside of your head will keep your brain free to deal with what matters most now, moment by moment, processing information and experiences rather than clogging up your RAM.

At nLIVEn we’ve researched and test driven dozens of applications including Asana, Nozbe, Basecamp, MindManager, Evernote, OmniFocus. Our pick is Nozbe

Develop the habit of picking out tomorrow’s outfit the night before and hang those clothes somewhere. Avoid making wardrobe choices first thing in the morning when you are still waking up and mentally working your ways up through the gears.

4. Prioritise and Re-Prioritise

Clients sometimes ask me, “When is the best time of the day to plan my work and juggle my priorities: the start of the day or the end of the day?”

My response – both.

Update your task lists and calendar for tomorrow at the end of each day. Then each morning, review both again. Sometimes your subconscious will have processed what’s happening at a deeper level and provide you with a deeper perspective on the best use of your time today/right now.

5. Managing Boundaries

You are going to be dealing with a diverse range of demands on your time and attention. Managing boundaries is an ongoing challenge that can only be mastered with thoughtful design and practice.

How will you switch off and escape from the challenges and issues facing you at work when you arrive home each day, when work follows you wherever you go?

You can learn more about the subject of boundaries here.

The Art & Science of Delegation

To take on more responsibility, you need to be willing to let go of some of your current responsibilities.

Most people and companies have limited resources to spend hiring people or outsourcing functions to service providers. So, determining what to delegate and to who is essential to letting go… and becoming.

You need to develop a consistent process for recruiting great team members. Whether it’s a super executive assistant, the right marketing agency, a babysitter/housekeeper to assist you and your life partner run your household or a financial planner to ensure you save sufficiently for tomorrow – you need to codify your best practice approach to recruiting great talent if you are going to build “the dream team”.

With a robust process in place, you’ll be free to deal with the art of delegation as you lead your team through the ongoing six step cycle of:

  1. Recruitment – selecting and contracting
  2. Induction – socialising and equipping
  3. Training – mentoring and coaching
  4. Appraising – planning and reviewing performance
  5. Incentivizing – acknowledging, rewarding and reinforcing desirable behaviour
  6. Retention – promoting, enhancing and upgrading capabilities

In Closing

The business of business is people – it always has been and always will be.

Each person coming into a CEO role previously relied on their domain of expertise; their specialist technical skills in a certain functional area. They may have been a top sales performer, a financial reformer, a stalwart of product innovation.

As a CEO, you’ll need to unlearn some of those specialist skills along the path to becoming a generalist; someone who knows enough about each part of the business to coordinate their contributions without being the person in control of those functions.

You need to love people – even when they disappoint you. You need to love projects – even when they frustrate you.

When you put these two together, you’ll learn to love achieving projects through people.


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