Simon Terry

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CEO: This job is almost impossible

I am very pleased to be sharing with you today my first post as CEO. Apologies if it seems a little frazzled. I am by the challenges ahead but that’s also because I am writing at home surrounded by the turmoil of my young family. I thought I would pass over the usual inspiring memo and start a conversation here in our enterprise social network. I am humbled by the many posts here that saw me selected as your CEO. I now have a great challenge ahead to honour that confidence in my potential as a leader and to use my new position wisely. We have many challenges ahead and we will need to work together to solve them.

As he was leaving the organisation, my predecessor remarked “This job is almost impossible. You are going to need a lot of help to fix things”  Yet again he was incredibly insightful. 

A Big Challenge

I suspect I see the job of a CEO slightly differently to my predecessor but I agree on its challenges. I see the CEO as less of a commander atop a hierarchy. I haven’t won this role for my expertise or ability to make all the decisions needed. For me a CEO is a guardian of the organisation’s purpose and its impacts for customers, community and people. Ultimately, the CEO is held accountable by these stakeholders for their ability to facilitate great outcomes from the whole team.

To advance our purpose and improve our effectiveness, I will be less of a boss and leading the way as a change agent helping to create the needed focus, better performance and accountabilities in our organisation’s network. At the same time I recognise in a time of rapid change I need to lead the way as learner in chief. That will be easy for me. One of the reasons I am frazzled is that I have a big learning curve ahead and our organisation has a lot to learn.   

Learning on the job as CEO is almost impossible, how can you help me to learn the role, learn better ways of working and learn the future of this organisation?

Only A Job 

I am acutely aware that CEO is only one job. Some CEOs confuse the job and the role thinking that their personal power and expertise is the answer to the organisation’s challenges. I know too well that I don’t have the expertise and I don’t have the answers. You know that well. It was discussed aloud when you chose me.

My authority comes not from the role but from your confidence in my ability to help realise our purpose and to create the answers we need together. That is the only sustainable basis of your decisions to follow. We need to replicate relationships based in understandings of capabilities, effectiveness and authority for every role in the organisation so that anyone can lead, can contribute their expertise and realise their potential. Working together in this way and working explicitly on our relationships will make our interactions can be rich in trust and quickly identify those who would rather work elsewhere. 

Changing our leadership approaches and relationships is almost impossible, how can you help me to create new relationships in this organisation?

We’re Together in Change 

We need trust and strong relationships because we are going to work to use all our talents to fixing things together. We need the people closest to our customers and those with new ideas and new information to have the authority to make change and to call on the support of their colleagues to see it through. At times, we have valued processes and rules over outcomes for our customers and our people. Not all of our ways of working deliver the outcomes we want. We aren’t as responsive as we would like. We have work to do. All our employees have the responsibility to find fixes to the issues that they see in our business. They won’t be able to do that on their own. They will need your help too. 

We will only succeed in the harsh competitive environment if we have the ability to better leverage the talents and potential of all our people. Together we will focus on how we improve everyone’s effectiveness, autonomy and agility to deliver better outcomes for the organisation, its customers & community and importantly for themselves. Our collaboration will be critical to connect us, to share information and to solve the daily obstacles we face to better performance. Everyone has a role to play in this.

Realising the potential of all our people to contribute to purpose is almost impossible, how can you help me to accelerate our change?

Let’s Continue the Conversation

Attached to this post is a memo that the executive sent to the CEO some time ago outlining the importance of this enterprise social network to our strategy. Unfortunately, as it was a email it was only seen by the CEO and the executive team. As all our employees will contribute to creating value for our customers through collaboration and continuous improvement, it would have been wiser to share this with you earlier. As we move forward, our leadership team has agreed to write fewer politely worded memos and to engage in real conversations out loud here in the enterprise social network. I would ask you each to work out loud too.  Sharing our work as it progresses is a way to help us learn and improve.

Our future success is a real challenge. It always is. You might even say it is almost impossible, but nothing less would suit our very capable people. We will improve and deliver our purpose one day at a time. I am frazzled but I couldn’t be more excited as CEO as I have confidence that this amazing group of people will help find each day’s answer to the question: 

‘What Do We Need to Improve Today?’

It is almost impossible to believe that I am CEO of this great network of talented people. I know you will help me get over that too!

Previous posts:

#1 The Last Thing We Need Is An Enterprise Social Network

#2 Dear CEO: This Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You


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