The 5 steps to getting on the CEO's radar (in a good way!)
In the chief exec’s world, hard work is important, but results are what matter.
CEOs are responsible for a lot of moving parts within their organizations—driving growth, overseeing operations, managing the financials, and more. In other words, they’re pretty busy people. And—short of writing an open letter—it’s not easy to get the big boss’ attention. But many CEOs would say there is no more important role than actively seeking and cultivating the talent on their teams. The more competent and driven a CEO’s workforce is, the better he or she looks.
“My role as CEO is all-encompassing,” says Jonathan Wasserstrum, CEO of SquareFoot, a commercial real estate technology company and marketplace based in New York City. “I do everything from working with investors to make sure there is money in the bank to having discussions with landlords to get their spaces listed on SquareFoot. Perhaps one of the most important roles I have is building and managing a high-performing team that is focused on building best-in-class technology to create a superlative experience for both our clients and our brokers.”
Without a doubt, your CEO wants you to be a huge success, as the company can only benefit from your greatness. So if you get an opportunity to show your CEO how much you hustle at work, don’t blow it. Here’s how to get the attention of your company’s chief executives and fast track your career, whether in your current job or your next one. (No open letter required).
Show confidence—not arrogance
The first step to standing out is not being afraid to do so. Confidence in your abilities and pride in your work are huge advantages, as long as they don’t tip into arrogance. “I’m primarily looking at attitude, confidence and hustle,” says Robby Berthume, CEO of Bull & Beard, a Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based adviser to advertising agencies. “Are they going to be fun to work with? Are they going to challenge me? Do they have a little swagger? There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but nothing throws off an interview like a person who comes off weak or insecure.”
Confidence isn’t just for show—it speaks to your fundamental ability to rise to the occasion in tough circumstances. “I need to be able to trust the person and count on them,” Berthume says. “If a candidate shows up for an interview and they’re sweating bullets and stumbling over their words, it makes me nervous. If they try too hard, it makes me nervous. If they’re real, are comfortable in their own skin and aren’t afraid to interrupt me, I get excited.”
Demonstrate you care about the whole business
It’s important to be competent in your role, but CEOs are most impressed by people who also make an effort to understand and contribute to the organization as a whole.
People who demonstrate this kind of big-picture thinking can earn promotions quickly. Brett Derricott, founder and CEO of Objective, a digital design firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, says he particularly values workers who are as dedicated to the success of their co-workers as much as their own.
Several years ago, a team member joined Derricott’s firm as a project manager and quickly stood out. “It didn't take long to see his leadership potential,” Derricott says. “First, he took complete ownership of everything assigned to him; he never expected anyone else to solve his problems or fix his mistakes. Second, he behaved as though the company's success depended on his own actions and in several cases made personal sacrifices that benefited the company more than himself.”
Look for ways to fix problems
CEOs are impressed with employees who are continuously looking for ways to improve processes and test new ideas. “I look for people who work hard, bring solutions to me and are active in the company,” says Ernie Bray, CEO of ACD, a technology and services firm for the auto insurance industry based in San Diego, California. “They are always going the extra mile, ensuring they are taking care of customers and also thinking about ways to improve processes.”
Berthume says he, too, values initiative. “I’m looking for a person who is self-aware and rolls up their sleeves before they tell others to do the same,” he says. “Someone who can figure things out. Someone who takes ownership and responsibility—and wants more of it.”
Volunteer for tough projects
If you want to make a big impact, you’ll need to take big risks. That means volunteering for tough projects in which failure is a real possibility.
CEOs are impressed by people who are willing to challenge themselves and prove they can handle the stress. “To become a leader in our company, you have to demonstrate leadership before you are promoted,” Bray says. “That’s done by taking on tough assignments, rallying the team together and ensuring project success.”
Casey Halloran, co-founder of Costa Rican Vacations, a travel agency based in San Jose, Costa Rica, likes to test potential leaders with project management opportunities. This allows him to see if his employees can handle increased responsibility and also how they interact with people of different personalities and professional disciplines. “Those who deliver big on a key project are then provided greater opportunities,” he says.
Help others succeed
Real leadership is about more than doing great work yourself; it’s also about how you support others in reaching their potential.
Wasserstrum is impressed by people who actively mentor other workers, such as one of his brokers who helped with onboarding. “Every time we hired new brokers,” says Wasserstrum, “he made an extra effort to ensure they understood the nuances of our business model and how to perform with a different type of motivational mindset, essentially becoming our mentor in residence and a valued leader in our company.”
If you’ve noticed one common theme among these steps it’s that company leaders care about what value you’re bringing right now, not what you accomplished in your past. Could you use some more advice to help you shine at work? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can sign up to get career advice, industry trends, and job search advice sent directly to your inbox. “It isn’t about pedigree,” Berthume says. “It’s about action. Leaders want to align promotions with performance, at whatever pace the person is performing. There are no rules, only results.”