The Unconventional CEO – Work towards graduation

the unconventional ceo

Chapter 48 – Your own children need to grow up, to learn more, achieve and to graduate. That’s your hope, anyway. You must offer the same path, with a gradient, to your people, too.

When someone feels they have better prospects outside our tribe, we hold a Graduation Party.  We tell everyone to where, and to what, the departing one is graduating. We were unable to match such a position. We are also extremely and genuinely happy that there is a graduation. Bon voyage and well-wishes are said, too, and a farewell gift is offered.

Graduation prospects arise through the acquisition of additional knowledge, sometimes called qualifications, and the confidence of achievement, which compel the hunter within to find new hunting grounds, where the trophies are bigger and more plentiful.

You need to encourage this. Not everyone leaves. A few do, and sometimes they are the people you genuinely want to stay. In the process you are increasing the capacity for better output, better decisions and all the good things that improvement brings. Everyone should have a plan to adding skills and responsibilities to those skills already bedded down, and the opportunities to show just what they’re worth.

Your own graduation is imminent. The average CEO’s cycle between “Help us!” and “Pack your bags!” is rather short, probably three to five years, or so. That’s the limit of your fresh approach and of your results becoming humdrum or stale in a world that is ever-changing.  Then comes the fresh demand of miracles from the same players, via a new coach.

Your skills need to be honed. Your reaction time, insight, wisdom and ability to make a ragtag squad into a Wehrmacht, need to be upgraded constantly.

The very skills that got you to be the CEO are often not the skills that you need to keep you there, so improve your repertoire.

In time you will face the question, temptation or inevitability: your own graduation from formal employment to become the lauded entrepreneur or investor.

Many have walked that plank, but few have succeeded. Internationally, it is informally known as the 5% Club. That’s the success rate after five years of all start-up businesses. It’s an appalling failure rate.  It gets worse…

The ‘free man’ is described by Nassim Taleb in Antifragile as one who can fix the problems and understand the business and not only via delegation and control. He contrasts this with the two other types: slaves and slave drivers. Many would-be or dabbling entrepreneurs from the C-Suite reckon themselves as ‘The Man’, but mostly they are slave drivers with money. Their investments are usually lousy, their efforts puerile in comparison to their former performance. It probably takes five years to make the transition from ‘Corporate Slave Driver’ to a successful ‘Free Man’.

It is a hard, hard school, with few shortcuts. Like swimming, it cannot be learned from a book. As a wealthy, successful, retired or fired CEO you are at a massive disadvantage. Your ego does not easily lend itself to learning the lessons from the ground up. In the immortal words of the Marquess of Halifax:

“A prince who will not undergo the Difficulty of Understanding must undergo the Danger of Trusting.”

The Unconventional CEO offers succinct, compelling advice from one successful CEO Mario Pretorius, to you The Cape Messenger reader.

The book is also available to purchase in full from the Amazon store.

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