Great CEOs are not born, they are made.
How are they made you ask? There are many components that go into becoming a great CEO, and one of them is to be a life-long learner. Gaining knowledge to keep taking you up the ladder of success can be found in different avenues, including joining a peer or Mastermind group, getting feedback from team members, and by reading books. While all ways of collecting knowledge are valuable, I am going to focus on books, and give you an inside look at what CEOs like myself are reading, and why I believe books are an essential part of any great CEOs tool-kit.
To many people, books are just words strung together to create a story. To great CEOs, books are inspiration. Books are powerful tools that have the lessons and messages within the pages to help catapult those, who take the time to really dive in deep, to a higher level of success and potential. When CEOs are continuously learning and growing through reading books, these practices trickle down to the rest of the team. When you have both a CEO and team that continuously grow and learn, a more engaged culture and a more successful business is formed.
Books also help move your business forward into the demands and expectations of the future. The world is ever-changing and growing; technology is everywhere. Because of wanting to stay ahead of the times and stay on the level with other successful businesses, I have most recently been reading Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail. This book offers an expert look into the new form of company organization that will soon become an industry standard, and how your company can accelerate growth by leveraging opportunities such as technology, community, algorithms, staff on demand and many more. For your business to survive, you will need to continue to adapt and be open-minded to new ways of doing things. COE is always working to be innovative and modern, which is what helps set us up for growth and and success now and in the future.
I also choose books that help me learn what to look for in successful team members. In the book The Ideal Team Player, written by Patrick Lencioni, the three essential characteristics that all employers must look for in new hires is laid out and explained – Humble, Hungry, and Smart. After reading through this book by myself, with the leadership team, and later within the book group, implemented with all team members of COE, I realized that in order for my business to continue to grow and succeed, I need the right people in the right positions. Now when interviewing new candidates for a job at COE, they are evaluated using the Humble, Hungry and Smart chart. Current team members are also evaluated, and given the help to grow within all three characteristics.
Even when you hire team members that hold the characteristics of humble, hungry and smart, there are still sometimes areas or “dysfunctions” that will need fixing. Teamwork starts from the top, with the leadership team, and works its way down to the bottom. When executives are not working together, the rest of the organization is affected in a negative way. In the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, written by Patrick Lencioni, we learn the five areas where teams often struggle, and how to address them individually to become a stronger unit from top to bottom. Identifying that absence of trust, fear of conflict. lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results are all areas that need groomed and maintained.
Becoming Your Best, written by Steven Shallenberger, is also a must read for any leader that has the desire to reach his/her full potential and the drive to turn good companies into great companies. This book was one of the first I read, along with the leadership team. I got so much out of this book, that all COE team members read the book twice, in small groups, to really gain as much as they could. One of the main take-a-ways from this book is that you can succeed in business and still live a happy life. This goes along with one of COE’s core values of work/life balance. This book also gives you the insight on how to create a strong work culture, that is essential for any successful company, which include being true to your character, leading with a vision, prioritizing your time, innovating through imagination, being accountable, living in peace and balance, and being an effective communicator.
The Executive Team and myself have also worked our way through Scaling Up, by Verne Harnish. This book was also what inspired me to join a Mastermind group and work my way through the first Growth Institute program, which I graduated from recently. This book goes through the four areas of business that are most important, including hiring and keeping the right people, creating a truly differential strategy, directing flawless execution, and keeping cash reserves to weather the storms. This book also helped COE to develop their very own One-Page Stategic Plan, that helps keep the company on track to fulfilling all goals.
I am one of those people that truly believe that books are more than just words. Throughout the last two years, I have been inspired by the books above and have believed in their messages. These books have changed the course of both the company and my life.
I have also seen the effects these powerful tools have on the entire team and culture. Working for COE, you are pushed to becoming your best everyday, and you are given the tools necessary to turn into the ideal team player. And while there will sometimes be dysfunctions and confusion within a team, if you work together, starting from top to bottom, you will scale up the ladder of success and become an exponential organization that is ready for the demands of the future.
I will leave you with this final thought:
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”