Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

7 Tips for a Young Professional to Become a CEO



For a professional to succeed at the senior-management level in the 21st century, it’s imperative to demonstrate seven core competencies.

Consider them part of your personal branding for success.

It starts with speaking the language of a chief executive officer, and understanding the big-picture needs of an organization to get to the top. It requires a positive personality.

No, it isn’t necessary to perform at a Ph.D. level in all the competencies, but it’s important to excel in them.

trust yourself be a bossThe necessary core competencies for high performance are inter-related – they include:

Influential designing – At all times, it’s important to keep your ego in check.

You don’t want to develop a poor reputation, such as Carly Fiorina’s at HP or Carol Bartz’s at Yahoo.

Neither Ms. Fiorina nor Ms. Bartz showed leadership values at their respective companies.

Not only will you want to get to the top, you’ll want to stay there.

A company culture often needs changing to compete in the new global economy.

An ambitious professional must understand the chain of command, and intuitively know how to communicate with a CEO like any senior manager, and ultimately the board of directors.

If change is warranted, successful professionals know how to astutely ask the right questions to get to the needed answers without alienating others. You can do this without being passive.

An influential designer understands how to frame the questions and the solutions while appearing to be assertive, not aggressive. Learn the difference.

It starts with speaking the language of a chief executive officer, and understanding the big-picture needs of an organization to get to the top. It requires a positive personality.

You’re there to implement strategies on directions of the CEO and the board. Executives lose their jobs when they’re incompetent in key areas and/or when they’re too ostentatious. To become a CEO and to be able to keep the job, it’s important to know how to make friends.

Resist claiming credit for any strategy successes in a gauche-like fashion.

Authoritative culture-change – You must understand your company’s situation and what needs to be changed culturally to solve marketplace problems for improved company performance.

To comprehend such challenges, you must understand a myriad of factors and issues.

For example, understand how your employees interface with your customers, and grasp Pareto’s Principle, the 80/20 rule, for revenue.

In this case, you would have to know the top 20 percent of customers that provide 80 percent of the revenue. Determine what needs to change in your culture to keep these customers or attract better ones.

If you determine anything needs optimized, this is an opportunity for growth. Look for challenges to solve, and know the facts. So, you must understand what works and doesn’t work culturally, and what needs to be fine-tuned.

Additionally, consider the future and what needs to transpire in order to maximize profits for growth. You accomplish this by studying emerging trends – economically and politically – and having an acute awareness of how your culture is a fit for the marketplace.

Talent management – Naturally, your human capital is critical. This means knowing your organization design, your staff and what motivates them, and evaluating their capabilities and developing them. If employees are underperforming, then change is indicated.

Further, recruitment and retention of valued talent is, of course, crucial.

Marketplace strategies – Understanding the sales process and marketing are important in two ways: Improving revenue, and for human resources.

Yes, you must understand how to sell products and services. You must also know marketing and branding. This affects revenue, and it’s why talented performers are attracted to companies that outrival the competition.

Here are simple tests:

  • Can you make a good sales call on a customer?
  • Do you know your branding and value propositions?
  • Do you understand how to adapt to changing demographics
  • Do you know what’s needed in information technology?

Finance – Leadership requires an awareness of principles in accounting and finance. You must be able to read a balance sheet and know what creates profits.

You must be able to use technology for inventory management.

You must understand economic conditions and the impacts of financial decisions – what the market will bear.

You never want to suffer the fate of a Netflix. For astute outside observers, this was a no-brainer. The company hiked its prices in 2011, which led to an immediate decline in business. The CEO had to publicly apologize to customers.

Nor do you want your company to expand too fast. Problems can arise such as being spread too thin and not being able to supply your products. Or, you might encounter the same profitability issues like Starbucks. It cannibalized sales because its stores were too close to one another. This led to costly closures and layoffs.

Operations – You must learn your processes and how they work. And you must have a grasp of your technology and the role it plays. And you must understand the available tools in technology to reduce repetitive jobs.

If they are inadequate processes or there are problems, you must have a working knowledge of business-improvement processes – you must assess the reasons for problems, then develop and implement solutions.

By reducing operational costs, you will improve performance.

Trustworthiness – This means becoming the go-to person where you work, being able to form strategic partnerships, using ethical practices, and knowing how to develop business for revenue at the lowest cost – for profitability.

To summarize: You must understand your human capital, your firm’s financial situation, your company’s environment, emerging trends, sales and marketing, and what’s needed to tailor your practices in your value chain for a positive effect on customers.

To win, in other words, you must become intimately aware of how business makes profits and you must communicate well.

Good luck.

P.S. And by the way, look for a mentor, and remember your personal appearance counts (dress for success – tips for women, men).

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more resource links:

Leadership: How Leaders Employ 11 Strengths to Grow Businesses — Ascension to the C-suite doesn’t automatically qualify an executive as a leader. Leaders have 11 strengths that enable them to manage their companies for greater effectiveness and elasticity despite a fast-changing marketplace.

Career Strategies: How to Get a C-Level Job — If you’re climbing the corporate ladder and have designs on the C-suite – CEO, COO, or CFO – a Stanford University professor has some excellent advice. In essence, he advises getting a strong, generalist-background in business.

HR, Marketing Pros: 4 Keys to Marketing Your Ideas to CEOs — Whether you’re a human resources or marketing professional seeking to be a partner in the C-suite, it’s vital to communicate effectively with senior management. Effective professionals often have ideas that will benefit the organization – opportunities for growth or options to conserve revenue.

25 Best Practices for Better Business Writing — If you want to accelerate your career or turbo-charge your business, one of your priorities should be good communication. Good writing is necessary in a myriad of ways, including letters, advertising copy and presentations. A lack of writing skills will can hold you back or even hurt your career.

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — Yes, the competition for jobs is ferocious. Here are proven tips to be hired for your dream job.

“In a fast-paced world, today’s popular brand could be tomorrow’s trivia question.”

-Wayne Calloway


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.