Stever Robbins is president of Stever Robbins Inc. He describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur” and is a top-10 iTunes business podcaster. What follows is extracted from his 2001 article “A CEO Job Description” the full text of which can be found at http://www.SteverRobbins.com/articles/ceojob

What’s the CEO’s main duty? Setting strategy and vision. The senior management team can help develop strategy. Investors can approve a business plan. But the CEO ultimately sets the direction. Which markets will the company enter? Against which competitors? With what product lines? How’ll the company differentiate itself? The CEO decides, sets budgets, forms partnerships, and hires a team to steer the company accordingly.
“The CEO’s second duty is building culture. Work gets done through people, and people are profoundly affected by culture. A lousy place to work can drive away high performers….. A great place to work can attract and retain the very best.
“Culture is built in dozens of ways, and the CEO sets the tone. Her every action (or inaction) sends cultural messages. Clothes send signals about how formal the workplace is. Who she talks to signals who is and isn’t important. How she treats mistakes (feedback or failure?) sends signals about risk-taking. Who she fires, what she puts up with, and what she rewards shape the culture powerfully.
“A project team worked weekends launching a multimedia web site on a tight deadline. Their CEO was on holiday when the site launched. She didn’t call to congratulate the team. To her, it was a matter of keeping her personal life sacred. To the team, it was a message that her personal life was more important than the weekends and evenings they’d put in to meet the deadline…..
“Team-building is the CEO’s #3 duty. The CEO hires, fires, and leads the senior management team. They, in turn, hire, fire, and lead the rest of the organization.
“The CEO must be able to hire AND fire non-performers. She must resolve differences between senior team members, and keep them working together in a common direction. She sets direction by communicating the strategy and vision of where the company is going. Strategy sets a direction. With clear direction, the team can rally together and make it happen…..
“If vision is WHERE the company is going, values tell HOW the company gets there. Values outline acceptable behaviour. The CEO conveys values through actions and reactions…. Slipping a ship schedule to meet quality levels sends a message of valuing quality. NOT over-celebrating a team’s heroic recovery when they could’ve avoided a problem altogether sends a message about prevention versus damage control. People take their cues about interpersonal values (trust, honesty, openness) from CEO’s actions……
“Capital allocation is the CEO’s #4 duty. The CEO sets budgets within the firm. She funds projects which support the strategy, and ramps down projects which lose money or don’t support the strategy. She considers carefully the company’s major expenditures, and manages the firm’s capital. If the company can’t use each dollar raised from investors to produce at least $1 of shareholder value, she decides when to return money to the investors. Some CEOs don’t consider themselves financial people, but at the end of the day, it’s their decisions that determine the company’s financial fate.

On July 7, Nationwide News Network (NNN) CEO, Clifton Hughes, started a job with competitor radio station Power 106 as a mid-day talk-show host. From 10.00 am to 2.00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, he’s in direct competition with NNN who programs a series of talk shows during those hours. If he’s successful, he’ll pull listenership and advertiser attractiveness from NNN to Power 106. This seems an obvious conflict of interest and duty.

On his first day at Power, he claimed to be doing what’s done worldwide. Wrong. Worldwide, freelance journalists work for as many media houses as they can. Nowhere does a company’s CEO work for its competitor. Is this how NNN “differentiates itself” from its competitors, Cliff? What “tone” are you setting? What “cues” should NNN employees take from your Gypsy style behaviour?

Captain this ship is sinking.
Captain these seas are rough, oh yes.
We gas tank almost empty;
No electricity; we oil pressure reading low;
Shall we abandon ship
or shall we stay on it and perish slow.
We doh know, we doh know
Captain you tell we what to do.”

“.…..at the end of the day, it’s [CEO’s] decisions that determine the company’s financial fate.” Is this a decision that foretells Nationwide’s fate?

Peace and Love


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