Being a CEO can often be very chaotic. Varied and fluctuating tasks, along with significant responsibilities, can be highly demanding, resulting in chaos taking over both to-do lists and the mind itself. External chaos can be found on the desk and in the tasks, while internal chaos clouds the mind. In this blog post, knowledge-based management professionals from Aamu Partners share how the CEO's external chaos is tamed, and the experts of psychological performance from Laavu Performance reveal how internal chaos is subdued.
This blog is written in collaboration with Aamu Partners.
Data-driven management reduces CEO's external chaos
External chaos is a lack of structure. Even a small task can feel chaotic if there is no clear approach to it. Chaos is also uncertainty. Making decisions based on incomplete information or, at worst, on intuition can lead to a sense of chaos. The feeling of control disappears, and chaos takes over.
However, a CEO can tame this chaos effectively by utilising a clear data-driven management approach. Ideally, data-driven management is a systematic process that starts with defining goals, considering how to achieve these goals, gathering information about the organisation's operations, and establishing metrics to monitor goal attainment.
- Define clear goals. Managing operational activities should begin by outlining high-level strategic goals for the company.
- Model the logic of the business. By creating a cash flow-based tree model, you can better grasp the cause-and-effect relationships within your company's business.
- Select business metrics. Once the cause-and-effect relationships in the business are clear, and the desired outcomes are known, it is important to identify the numerical metrics related to the desired business objectives. These metrics could include for example operating profit, market share, or revenue.
- Define business drivers. Once the business metrics are chosen, it is necessary to identify the drivers that impact these metrics. A business driver is a tangible, controllable factor that can help achieve the desired outcomes. For example, one driver could be the quality of customer service:
a) From the logic tree, it is evident that revenue is strongly linked to monthly billed customers.
b) When deciding what business metrics to follow, it is noted that the number of customers billed monthly is related to customer satisfaction.
c) Customer satisfaction cannot be directly influenced, but it can be recognised that customer service or certain product or service features directly affect customer satisfaction. In this case, a derived business driver could be customer service actions and their quality.
- Collect the necessary information in an understandable format. Once the desired outcomes and how to achieve them is known, it is crucial to gather the necessary information in a clear format for decision-making. In the above example, the required data could include revenue, the number of customers billed monthly, customer satisfaction surveys, the number of customer service representatives and their tasks, as well as qualitative surveys for customer service representatives. Management information is often good to be numerical, allowing for easy monitoring of impact, but qualitative information is also significant.
- Monitor goal progress and the effectiveness of actions. Data-driven management should be an ongoing and consistent process. A good tactic could be to sit down once a month, create a situational overview based on the collected data, assess the progress toward goals, and determine the impact of the actions taken on achieving the desired objectives.
A successful data-driven management process requires substantial groundwork in terms of business modeling and data collection. However, the invested effort pays off. It is also important to note that data-driven management is not an IT project where data is collected, but a tangible way of making decisions and leading a company. When decision-making and management are based on a systematic structure and accurate information, the external chaos experienced by the CEO diminishes, and the sense of control increases.
What about the internal chaos?
As a CEO, in addition to the external chaos, you most probably are dealing with the internal turmoil as well. Strong emotions, brain fog and high stress all affect your ability to focus and make sound decisions. To tackle these challenges, you need a set of psychological skills that help you regulate your emotions, stay focused on your goals, and build resilience to overcome setbacks. Here are four tips to help you tame the internal chaos in your head and keep focus using psychological skills:
- Practice self-reflection: As a CEO, you face a constant barrage of challenges, demands, and distractions. To navigate this and become aware, what you really want, feel, and what’s happening in your mind, you need to practice self reflection. Becoming aware of your values, thoughts, feelings and automated behaviour patterns is the very first step in developing psychological performance and taming the internal chaos. For self-reflection, it might be good to find support from friends and family or seek professional help through therapy or coaching.
- Accept your thoughts and feelings: As a leader (and a human being), you will experience a wide range of emotions and thoughts, from excitement and joy to frustration and insecurity. Your ability to handle these emotions and thoughts effectively can determine your success as a CEO. We tend to avoid negative thoughts and feelings, but actually suppressing them increases anxiety and pressure in our mind. To be psychologically stable, it's important to learn to accept difficult thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
- Let go of harmful beliefs: We are all a combination of our personality and previous experiences, which can be developed into harmful beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It’s important to become aware of these harmful beliefs such as “I always need to give my best” or “I must be there for others at all times”. These kinds of rigid thought patterns might be guiding your actions in the wrong direction and create chaos. Learn to acknowledge these beliefs and try to defuse yourself from them.
- Set meaningful goals: Goals are important in controlling the external chaos, but making sure they are meaningful helps with the internal chaos as well. Make sure you know your “why”, thus what are the values and reasons behind your goals. This is important, because acting against our values is exhausting and can by itself cause burnout. Identify your core values and use them to guide your actions. This will help you make decisions and take actions that are meaningful and fulfilling.
- Take committed action: Once you have identified your values and set meaningful goals, it's crucial to take action that aligns with them. Focus on the things you can control rather than dwelling on the negative. This may involve, e.g. clarifying your business objectives, setting boundaries for other people, taking more time off from work or adding exercise to your daily routine. You might also find it useful to ask help from an external accountability partner.
In conclusion, as a CEO, you need a range of psychological skills to manage the internal chaos in your head and stay focused on your goals. By practicing self-reflection, accepting emotions and thoughts, acknowledging harmful beliefs, setting meaningful goals and taking committed action, you can navigate the challenges of leadership with greater ease, make better decisions, and achieve your goals with purpose and clarity.
Whether the chaos was internal or external, one thing can be agreed upon: CEO’s days tend to be full of it. The good news: you don’t need to try to tame chaos alone!
If you want to support taming external chaos, Aamu Partners' Clarity service partnership provides a strong foundation for knowledge based management and systematically supports the achievement of long-term business goals.
And when it comes to internal chaos, Laavu Performance’s Psychological Coaching is the way forward. You can book a free trial session to test the service, no strings attached.