CEOs know a lot about how to run a company, work with clients, lead teams. No doubt about it. But there is always room to learn more, right? However, I am of the opinion that there is still much to learn and your average CEO could probably learn a thing or two from the project managers and teams working in their organizations. Specifically, four key things...in my opinion.
Here are four key things that I believe CEOs could learn from the project teams who are managing their critical projects and customers on a daily basis...
How to manage those ever-important budgets. Certainly, CEOs did not get to their high ranking positions without some knowledge of how to maintain budgets, forecast financials, and plan out how to remain profitable. But by the time they reach CEO-dom, someone else is doing all of that for them - usually a controller, comptroller or chief financial officer (CFO) and all of their underlings. How bad would it be if those CEOs could still fight their way out of a project financial paper bag? Project managers are dealing with the minute details on a project and accidentally over-forecasting resources for the month of November may mean the difference between turning a profit or not for the entire engagement. Survival. Those instincts are good at the top of any organization, too.
How to handle and resolve conflict. As you can probably tell by now, much of this article deals with focusing on some of the daily skills that are required by the PM just to maintain sanity and keep the ship moving forward. And team conflicts are right there in the middle of all that. The entire process of sitting your team players down and discussing areas of conflict and helping them refocus on the goals of the project for the good of the project - or in the CEO's case, the good of the organization, is critical. And it's important to be able to do this without making the situation worse and losing someone who you then must take away valuable time and money to replace...something you usually don't have an abundance of.
How to prioritize key tasks. Everyone thinks multi-tasking is the way to go. Unless you are an extremely organized individual, then multi-tasking can definitely be the wrong way to go. It can lead to a lot of fire-fighting and jumping from issue to issue without ever really accomplishing anything completely. Project managers learn (sometimes the hard way) that it's better to prioritize what needs to be done and go down the list. Yes, sometimes things need to be placed on hold because you need more information, but you still don't leave a bunch of loose ends out there you are going to jump back to in five minutes, nor do you move on to two more issues. You go down the list to the next most important issue – or one you've prioritized high because it can easily be accomplished and removed from the list quickly. Task prioritization skills like this aren't always easy to adhere to, but I'm certain there is more than one CEO out there that could benefit from this way of thinking and working.
How to handle those very important customers. It's always my take that CEO's could be and should be a little more involved in the daily interaction with the corporate clients that help keep them in their position. I'm certain that many CEOs value their corporate clients very highly – especially the biggest clients. But are they spending much time personally reaching out to them? They have project managers who are doing that daily. These CEOs should be taking opportunities to show these important clients just how important they are to the organization and they can do that easily just by sitting in on regular project status calls from time to time.
Summary / call for input
Many CEOs are aces in these areas. But it's a daily existence for the average project manager and team. Readers – do you agree with this list? What would you change about it or add to it?