I want to be the CEO

What is a goal setting series without some real goals? Last night, I took the evening to myself and to practice what I preach. I sat down with pen and paper, no computer and no sound (other than Baby S putting himself to sleep on the monitor) and I set myself goals for my role in the Portuguese and the UK charity. They are very different, partly related to where I am based, and partly because of the team set up in each of them. It was hard work, especially when I got to the part where I have to fill in “things to do” and I know I am not quite there to even be able to start picturing the reality of these goals, but the exercise was worth every bit.

I want to be the CEO, and that means different things for the 2 different charities

“But wait Sara, I thought you already were the CEO?”

Well spotted, I am. But as also the founder there are things I get involved more intensely than others and working remotely there are other things I don’t do but should do. There are a few bits that I have still to let go of and, given my love of numbers, that is especially true on the financials numbers side. I took a big step this year as we hired a Financial intern on UPG that can take the execution away from me considerably. We have now offered her to stay with us full time and I am also seeking to pass the day to day accounts from the UK charity. I will ALWAYS be close to the numbers, but more in a CEO capacity. Not only it is the right thing to do but it is also killing me to be the bottleneck of the team in multiple pieces and reports. Most of us who have tried know how hard it is to delegate and let go, but I have said it before that we have to let go to grow.

For UPG, my broader goal is to be a CEO that inspires, leads and provides direction. That means a lot more people, a lot more strategy, a lot more outside in than inwards out. A lot more industry knowledge, challenge of our own practices, search for better implementation mechanisms. Yes, I do all that, I know what you may think. After all, am I not the strategist in the group? I am, but if I am truly honest, I only allow myself time to do it perhaps once a year, I don’t provide myself with sufficient information to do it and I don’t show enough how that is my priority.

Why do I want to be the CEO? I want to focus on this mission for at least 1 year and see what I can improve tactically and strategically and see how I feel about it. It will require some re-prioritization of things I am used to working on and some stepping out of my comfort zone and letting go of some control, which I know are important for UPG’s long term sustainability before we decide what comes next. I also feel like I want to be closer to the team as I believe there is a role I can play in improving our culture.

Next step, when do I want this by? Well, recognising that I am the CEO immediately but that I also procrastinated on giving away some things for a long time, I have decided I will start immediately on small next steps identified and I will increase my intensity from Q2 onwards. I will give myself a quarter to get organized, which I know is a challenging deadline.

And on to the hardest part – what do I need to do, and how will I measure success? Here is a summary version of what I identified as my to-dos, which I keep on adding to every day… :

  • Be closer to the people: I have established the weekly team meeting a while back, which I do make an effort to attend, but I recognise Monday mornings are sometimes a struggle for me at work, even if all I have to do is dial in and listen. Inevitably, I know I don’t “just” listen and I am quite involved in the debate, so often I have to choose not to attend. I also started 1on1 meetings with the team, and I rotate them in a way I can do 1 per month for 30-45 minutes. I feel closer to them and that should also improve their communication with me on a more regular basis. I am a believer in teams
    • KPI: Attend at least 1 team meeting a month
    • KPI: Attend more than 90pct of my 1on1
  • Make time for management: we all know the CEO rule of work 95pct in the business and 5pct on the business. I am not nearly anywhere close to this rule. We now do a monthly management meeting (which does not always happen), and truth be said that it is more oriented towards important decision making and problem resolution than otherwise. More recently, we were able to focus the discussion more on operating model and partners. We need to find ways to speak less about the day to day and more about strategic direction.
    • KPI: Complete at least 9 formal management meetings
  • Challenge strategy and provide direction: I missed doing a formal offsite in 2018, but I did use our usual Christmas Lunch as a time to get everyone around the table and debate a few key topics such as establishing a physical space for us on the ground, approaches with the older students, potential areas of investment for 2019. It was unprepared and only partly structured but there was a fair amount of challenge, which I welcome. At the same time, I was keen to communicate to them the priorities. Another part of this role is that I believe I should be doing some reading in what concerns industry trends and solutions that work. We have been traditional in many of our approaches to education and nutrition but we have access to such good resources that I believe we can be more innovative and trial a few pilots going forward.
    • KPI: Organize a formal offsite by Q3’19
  • Develop people: in a small company or in this case charity, helping people develop is even more important as any member is absolutely key and given our efficiency focus we must ensure everyone is working to their full potential. I have failed to do 360s last year, as I have done in the past, but will bring those back in as a matter of urgency. I have asked the team for goals and will ensure that we review those quarterly as part of our 1on1 meetings. We have some junior members in the team who will benefit immensely to exposure to different people and challenge how they are developing and how they can grow further in the organization.
    • KPI: Establish 360s by end of Q1
    • KPI: Review goals at least semi-annually, if not quarterly
  • Protect the charity: in the absence of a chief compliance or chief risk officer, I feel it is my job to protect the charity to the best of my abilities. The legislation is abundant and not always top of our mind, so I want to ensure I spend appropriate time to review our legal agreements, policies and procedures. I have procrastinated on much of it before because given a choice I will always choose financials or project work. I could have included this point under “management” and probably get away with it, but because I believe it is important this must be done
    • KPI: Review and approve all trust minutes in a timely manner
    • KPI: Review and improve all protocols on the ground as necessary
    • KPI: Review all legal contracts in place and ensure good record keeping policies
  • Financial and KPIs monitoring: A key element of achieving all of the above is to move my role ever more to a monitoring role, especially on the financial side. That is already the case for general accounting controls at UPG, where I am not producing daily financials anymore, but I still do not spend enough time analysing numbers and trends. We need to work a bit further on our historical information but there is a lot of food for thought already. Furthermore, I want to ensure a dashboard of key early indicators for the charity that we can look from the management team and see the clear progress over the months vs. our budgeted goals.
    • KPI: Establish management KPIs across areas by end of year
    • KPI: Move all production of reports and local accounts control to the team

You can see I went detailed on this one. Even though this is for a charity, you might be having some thoughts yourself on how this is applicable throughout multiple businesses.

The power is in the detail, as goals are meaningless without an action plan.

Most likely, I always had this goal, but I have not explicitly really understood or thought about what it meant. Now that I do, it is up to me to execute on it. We will talk about goal #2, which is for ALG, in another time on this series!

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

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