A CEO Only Does Three Things: Finding Your Focus In The C-Suite

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By: Trey Taylor

Rating: A-

Intro: What is a CEO supposed to do?

In an entity like the US federal government, imagine asking the President to swab the decks of a battleship because a Seaman is on leave. This is happening in businesses all over the world, CEOs are constantly doing work to which THEY bring no value.

“A CEO focuses on only three things. He sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. He recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. He makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.”

Represented by one work each: Culture. People. Numbers.

The Psychology of a CEO

Self-awareness – not personality – is the strongest predictor of a successful career. Being cognizant of your own strengths and weaknesses enables you to work with others who have different skills and experiences.

Conversely, a lack of self-awareness comes off as rigidity, stubbornness, or an intractability that alienates others. 

A Time for Choosing

The typical American reads three books a year, but the average CEO reads twelve. CEOs digest and implement the ideas they find in books. They read more than other People because they want to be better, to do better, to make better decisions.

Ultimately, deciding is what CEOs are paid to do.


Culture Trumps Everything

A primary role of the CEO is to align corporate Culture with the underlying shared values of its People. Culture is the ethical environment in which we live and work, including the beliefs, behavioral rules, traditions, and rituals that bind us together.

Your Commitment to Values

It is impossible for anyone but the CEO to champion and lead Culture.

With this in mind, how do we introduce our values to the team in a way that ensures they take hold and produce the behaviors we want to see? How does your organization informally introduce its Culture to new People joining the company?

Establish and set rituals to practice your values and culture. You must be intentional to make them habits from the CEO down. People won’t take them seriously unless you do. Create work instructions as part of the onboarding process to tell the story of your company culture and present the rituals and habits you instill.


One of your tasks as the CEO is to pick the right People to power your business.

“I Think,” “I Feel,” “I Am.” This model is useful when applied to understanding your current employees and potential hires.

  • I Think: The intellectual dimension is the rational, conscious, cognitive part of us that learns information, remembers facts and figures, and coldly analyzes data.
  • I Feel: This is the part of us that senses our feelings and produces our emotions. Emotions fuel our actions, giving animation to behaviors. When nurtured and coached, employees use their emotions to provide creativity, passion, and engagement.
  • I Am: Our values, self-image, beliefs, and sense of right and wrong. What makes you uniquely you. When you hire and manage people with your shared values into positions that embrace their unique selves, you tap into their unique abilities and free yourself up to focus on your most important work.

If we want to get the most from our People – the most productivity, the highest results, the best quality – then we must manage them from a whole-person perspective. That is, how they think, feel, and are as unique people. Get the right people in the right seats according to their unique abilities.


“If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.” – Marcus Lemonis

The person who decides what gets measured is the real person in control of the business. Defining your business’s KPIs is your opportunity to set the course of the business. 

Do you know what Numbers are critical to predicting and confirming success in your business?

Leading indicators: reveal how a business is expected to perform in the future. Simple measures of complex activities. Give us the opportunity to intervene before it’s too late.

Lagging indicators: rear-facing, or historical, and reveal the past results of an organization’s activities. They present a baseline against which leading indicators can be measured.

A CEO must articulate the KPIs that everyone in the business should pursue. He must teach his People to track those KPIs down to the level of daily work. He must publish and review results within an appropriate time frame to make meaningful course corrections.

Only by establishing leading and lagging KPIs will you know where you are going and if you are making good progress. 

We are not aiming to simplify the whole of our business into cold Numbers. Our intent is more human than this. With the right Numbers and the right approach, we can better understand our People and the customers we serve.

Empowerment, Not Entitlement

One of the most efficient and popular methods is implementing an employee-facing dashboard that displays key metrics and supporting data on the state of a business, without role bias, so that everyone can see what areas are performing well and where improvements are needed.

Think, “What do your People need to know to understand the purpose of their work?”


A CEO focuses on only three things. 

Culture: He sets the overall vision and strategy of the company, practices it, and communicates it to all stakeholders. 

People: He recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. 

Numbers: He leads and makes decisions with objective data.

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