“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”
For the ambitious leader, while success may appear easy and never-ceasing from the outside, in reality, it becomes more challenging as you gain seniority. There are higher stake projects, more complex people relationships, unexpected external factors that upend your plans, and increased stress from other areas of your life. Many leaders try to push through these challenges in the same way they push through a muscle-burning run on a treadmill. And it makes sense as this is what has often worked for them in the past: “If I can just keep going - learn more, do more, fight more fires - my value will be seen and I will be inevitably be rewarded”. Unfortunately, what worked in the past doesn’t always work in the future.
While the “just do more” approach can work in the short-term, it usually results in a leader in overdrive - over-stressed, overworked, and over-committed. So although you may feel some sense of success from “just doing more”, satisfaction, fulfilment, and your desired impact may suffer. And this is because instead of prioritising time to strategically work on your career, you are spending all their time working in your career.
So, how do you get off this stationary, tiring muscle-burning, never-ending treadmill and instead skillfully and strategically navigate your journey up the escalator of true success? Shifting your perspective, your attitude, and therefore your actions by embracing the words of my good friend, Jay-Z: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!”
How to achieve true career success, like a highly-successful, impactful business.
The biggest shift in perspective comes when you stop looking at your career as a single-person entity and start looking at it as a multi-billion dollar business. Unlike a single-person operation, a successful multi-billion dollar business achieves specific goals aligned with its purpose, missions and vision. To achieve these goals, the business has different functions focused on more targetted goals and a team of people to execute purposeful strategies to reach their goals and therefore the overall vision.
I know what you’re thinking:
“But I’m only one person, not a business. How can one person be a business?”.
Yes, and there are a growing number of entrepreneurs hitting $1m+ revenue before hiring their first employee. So let's park that excuse for a second.
“OK, but I’m a really busy person with responsibilities!”.
True, but what are you busy doing? Tactical, low-impact, “in your career”, treadmill work? Or strategic, high-impact, “on your career”, escalator work? Which will serve you in the long run?
“Fine… you’re right. How do I go about doing this?”.
Start working on your career today. Have a clear CEO-worthy vision and strategy, create space to focus on key functions, build a strong team to accelerate your success, and do what you do best - deliver:
1. Have a clear CEO-worthy vision, strategy, and plan. CEOs of the most successful businesses (and careers) know where they are going and create effective strategies to get there. Because if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will lead you there. So start with that vision. Imagine it’s exactly 3 years from today and you are more successful, satisfied and fulfilled than ever. What does your life look like - career, family, finances, etc.? Get super specific. With that vision, you can now start creating your strategy to get there. Without the vision, you’re walking in the dark.
The most effective CEOs also know that they can’t do it on their own and build a strong team around them to provide insights and recommendations, which takes us to point two...
2. Activate your Inner C-Suite. Ok, so hiring a C-Suite team for your career may seem excessive (or maybe not. :)). But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring more focus to the areas of your career that will enable you to accelerate to your next level of success. It’s time to put on your various C-Suite hats and create space to do some more specific strategic planning!
Chief People Officer. What skills, knowledge, experiences, and expertise do you need to enhance or add to your repertoire over the next 6 months, 1 year, 3 years to achieve your vision of success?
Chief Marketing & Sales Officer. How can you better share your strengths with others, both in-person and online? How can you better connect with other people and find people who value what you do? How can you be more effective in networking and interview situations?
Chief Operating Officer. Efficiency is key (remember, you’re a busy person). How can you be more efficient with your day-to-day work? How aligned are your priorities with what you're actually doing? How can you increase your performance? (Personal tip: Consider higher a Virtual PA. It may seem like a luxury, but when you consider the cost-effectiveness, the benefits are life-changing!)
Chief Finance & Investment Officer. How can you better align your cash with your vision & goals? What are you not investing in that you want to? How can you make better decisions about money? How can you negotiate better and earn your value?
3. Leverage your CAOs (Chief Acceleration Officers). You can’t do it all on your own and whether you realise it or not, you already have a team (i.e. network) of people who can help you accelerate to your goals. Invest in sponsors that will advocate for you where it matters most, coaches that help shift your mindset to one where your next level of success is inevitable, and mentors that inspire you. In addition, identify and cultivate your relationships with people in your network who can support you in working on your career, and specifically support your Inner C-Suite, e.g. a university friend who is also a lawyer and an excellent salary negotiator.
4. Do what you do best - Deliver. This is the work in your career part. Definitely not to be ignored, but it shouldn't be the only thing you're doing. If it is, consider the opportunities you may be missing out on.
Reflection: Think about the past two weeks. What percentage of your time have you spent working on your career? What potential opportunities did you miss that would have helped you to start creating the life and career that you want for yourself? How can you begin creating space so that you two can join Jay-Z as he says, “... I’m a business, man!”.
Want to continue the conversation?
Let’s chat! Comment below, E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book time in my calendar.