Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

What do C level officers do? 1: navigating the maze of conflicting needs and priorities

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 2, 2014

I have written repeatedly about management and leadership at a more senior executive level in the course of assembling this blog. See, for example, the series: Transitioning into Senior Management (at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 158-178). I focused heavily there on issues related to finding and securing a C level position, and on reporting to others while working at such a position. That generally means reporting to other more senior hands-on executives (e.g. a Chief Information Officer or a Chief Financial Officer reporting to a Chief Executive Officer), reporting to a business owner who might or might not be actively hands-on involved in ongoing day to day management, or reporting to a board of directors (as is commonly the case for a President or Chief Executive Officer of a business.)

I have also written fairly extensively about executive leadership in a nonprofit organization setting (see my series: Leading a Nonprofit at Nonprofits and Social Networking, postings 21-38), there primarily focusing on the CEO position for leading these businesses. And I have written an ongoing succession of postings on leadership per se, and in that regard note that collectively, as of this writing I have added over 60 of them to my Business Strategy and Operations directory and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations alone, that address that complex of issues, with more included in other directories as well.

My goal for this posting and series is to offer a very specific and I add crucially important approach to thinking about executive leadership, that stems from a simple and at least superficially obvious set of observations.

• When you work in a non-management position or as a lower level manager, or even as a middle manager, and in general when you work in a larger organization and within some specific line on its table of organization, you in most cases work entirely within that one functional area and your professional goals and priorities are more single-focused accordingly. This holds even if you routinely work with and on a task-by-task basis report to and take direction from stakeholder clients in other departments or services, or even with outside clients as holds for employees of consulting firms. The manager who reviews your overall work performance and writes your annual performance evaluations, in most cases works in your home department and in your functional area too (even most matrix management systems only partly excepted.)
• But when you advance to a C level position, you suddenly need to think, plan and prioritize in two directions: inward and within the operational scope and parameters of your own department, and outward to include the business as a whole, and as a matter of taking ownership-level responsibilities in two directions. That can at times demand acknowledging and addressing differing and even competing goals and priorities that you have to reconcile and ultimately meet if you are to perform effectively at your job. You have to meet the goals and priorities of your own department that you hold title ownership responsibility over, and you need to simultaneously meet overall business needs and priorities and even when their requirements for resources and attention mean delaying, reducing or even setting aside the goals and priorities of your own functional area.

To put my topic area for this series into perhaps clearer focus, I have written on an ongoing basis about startups and early stage businesses, and about small business operations in general. And I have written at least occasionally about more autonomously functioning lower level and middle managers, and particularly where that means managing and leading satellite and other offices and facilities that are physically and organizationally remote from the home office and direct senior executive oversight. I am not writing about these workplace contexts here. I am writing about larger organizations with more complex and comprehensive tables of organization, where leadership and management flows remain more day to day operationally connected. So lower level, non-executive managers can face many of the same issues and challenges that I will discuss here from a C level executive perspective too, and particularly when they work for wholly owned but more autonomously run office operations (as opposed to onsite manager owned franchise operations that for purposes of this discussion are more in the position of owner-run businesses.) But I focus here on how this plays out for department head C level executives. I will discuss these issues from the perspective of managing a more autonomous business operation later.

This is a first installment to a series on C level management and leadership, and my goal here has been to set the stage for more detailed and focused discussion to come. I am going to focus on the Chief Financial officer in my next installment, and after that will turn to consider the Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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