The Most Sought-After Skills in the C-Suite
C-suite or better known as the pinnacle of the Ferris wheel in the professional world.
The word ‘C’ in C-suite denotes ‘Chief’ or even ‘Challenging’ for those that dare to dream.
A C-level position in a company consists of –
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Operating Officer (COO)
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)
You get the idea.
The 3-letter acronym on a wooden door, that gives us spine-chilling jitters just passing by it every day.
The power the C-suite roles hold is unparalleled but we are often left wondering –
What skillsets do I require to shift myself from my 6 x 6 cubicle to a swanky new corner office with irresistible privileges?
One day, I too will be in a position to command my minions to perform my duties.
Allow Cleverism to convert your devilish dreams into reality.
TOP 3 C-SUITE LEVEL EXECUTIVES SHARE THEIR SUCCESS STORIES
Before we share the skills and the grind required for you to land a C-suite position, let’s hear the successful mantras from the world’s top C-Suite commanders in their own words.
Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook
Our first C-suite name demonstrates that despite only 11% of women controlling executive positions in the favored Silicon Valley, it’s never impossible when our priorities are straight as an arrow.
Before attaining, the elite COO position at Facebook, Sheryl was the vice president of the search engine giant – Google. She held this position until 2008 and was the face of Google’s marketing and business development.
Sheryl’s loyalty and skills were noticed by the top administrators at Facebook, who made her an offer she simply couldn’t refuse. She became the first female executive to grace the board of directors and the rest is history.
Today, Sheryl holds a stake at Facebook making her a whopping billionaire and is among The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list for over a decade.
Top 3 Skills of Sheryl Sandberg
- Open Communication
- Compassionate Leadership
- Team Player
Satya Nadella – CEO of Microsoft
Satya led a simple life during his childhood with aspirations to sports and studies like any other average Indian kid.
How then did a normal boy, who was identified for his shyness, enter the tech industry and take control of Microsoft?
Through one undying desire – “To make an impact in the world.”
Satya dreamt big and took on the challenge of joining Microsoft in 1992. He began to solve many disasters and lead some of the major Microsoft projects including their cloud infrastructures.
His name began to spread around the tech world.
Once Steve Ballmer announced his retirement in 2014, the board of directors decided to hand over the reins of the company to Satya Nadella. Microsoft went from the 8th largest company to the 2nd largest company in capitalization in the same year that Satya took over.
Top 3 Skills of Satya Nadella
- Clarity in Leadership
- Energized Creativity
- Innovative Mind
Kim Stevenson – CIO of Intel
A golden opportunity that defined Kim and her career path was when she was tasked at EDS to cover for her boss. It was a temporary assignment.
During this time, her boss never returned and the company decided to let her handle the leadership affairs permanently.
One of the biggest challenges on her route to becoming a CIO at Intel was the fact that there weren’t any computer degrees available. In short, Kim Stevenson had to improvise her way through her leadership position.
She credits her own adaptive business and technical knowledge for her growth into a C-suite position.
Top 3 Skills of Kim Stevenson
- Multi-level skill fluency
- Courageous Leadership
4 SKILLS THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE TO GAIN ACCESS TO THE ELITE C-SUITE CATEGORY
Every CEO or COO started off exactly in the shoes you’re in today. Executive skills are what differentiate a C-suite position from the lower ranks.
Do you have the raw power to fill one of these elusive positions?
Let’s find out by taking a look at the top skills required by C-suite powerhouses.
1. Managing Workforce
Wearing a 3-piece opulent suit doesn’t automatically qualify you as a C-suite executive. Mastering the skill of delegating duties to your workforce is a prime skill every C-suite executive must possess.
Like the game of Chess, a C-level role requires management skills to maneuver your subordinates into performing the most critical of tasks. Building strong professional relationships is another aspect that is a necessity in this role.
Challenges such as knowing your employees and their strengths is crucial to effective management.
Employee happiness is everything.
A C-suite role isn’t about exploiting your leadership role and blatant misuse of your responsibilities.
“Claire, make me a cup of coffee and pick up my laundry before 5.”
“Mark, my car’s impounded for a traffic violation. Be a good lad and negotiate the release.”
Treat your employees like your personal errand slaves and they’ll immediately find you repulsive to work with.
A C-suite role is handed over to you to deliver the finest employee satisfaction while receiving optimum efforts from your workforce.
Appreciate your employees every time a project is complete. Throw a party when a big business deal has come through. Have a relaxed team outing and get to know your fellow coworkers.
Employees that love their boss end up boosting their productivity.
Set Realistic Goals
Think back at a time when you were a fresher, learning the ropes through good mentorship and adequate time. It’s time to return the favor.
A C-suite executive sets attainable milestones to their workforce. Don’t overwork your employees or steal their personal time in order to breach a quick deadline.
Professional growth is only possible if you’ve formed a deep bond with your employees and understand their side of the world.
Provide coaching sessions to your demotivated employees. Illustrate how they too can achieve their goals by breaking large goals into smaller ones.
Allow your employees to speak freely without fear of repercussions. You’d be surprised at how much there is to learn when your workforce is guided by loyalty instead of fear.
New recruits are usually the office introverts and often don’t socialize well with others. As a C-suite role, it’s necessary to perform a formal introduction among your latest recruits and the older ones.
Creating a social bond is everlasting and boosts productivity.
Here’s a video discussion of Drew Houston explaining how he went from programming in video games to becoming the CEO of Dropbox. His net worth is over 2.2 billion as of today.
2. Executing Strategies and Innovative Concepts
Without a doubt, a C-level executive is always setting new strategic directions for the organization. In modern times, a strategy combined with innovation is usually the defining point of an organization.
Don’t believe us?
Here’s a great example to put things into perspective.
At a time in the early 90s when youngsters carried bulky headsets attached to a Sony Walkman, a young Steve Jobs came up with an innovative idea.
An idea that would transform the music world forever.
He felt the cassette tape had outlived its usefulness and began research on a portable music player that could fit into a pocket.
At first, the concept was considered an impossible feat with the technology available at the time. However, Steve Jobs went to work with his sound engineers and rejected plenty of prototypes that didn’t satisfy his initial design.
Finally, the tireless pursuit bore fruit – the iPod was born. The impossible stood possible. The Apple CEO credited the success to his workforce and their undying efforts of trial and error.
Steve Jobs was known to be a workaholic and demanded the same from his employees. However, when the project was complete, he went above and beyond to reward his employees and give them their rightful credit. Making his employees fall in love with the scientific genius.
Strategy and Innovation are key skills required by every C-suite employee.
Here are a few tips to think strategically.
- Always question a strategy. Find the holes and stitch them up. Search for every hidden gap and utilize every angle. A foolproof strategy takes plenty of testing before execution.
- Thinking out of the box provides you with dynamic strategies that aren’t always apparent during your initial brainstorming phase. Polish the idea and you may have a unique concept.
- Always discuss with your workforce and have them input their ideas. C-role positions are about managing your employees to work with you.
- Always listen! Don’t dismiss people because their idea seems nonsensical. It rewards to spend time to understand why they came up with it in the first place.
- Always look to improve an existing concept. Compare a generation 1 iPhone to the current one. You’ll notice sleek improvements and design upgrades. Innovation never ends.
3. Must Possess Business Acumen
Every year the digital world expands and new knowledge floats to the professional shores waiting to be scavenged by eager C-suite executives. To master C-suite skills, it’s essential to possess a business brain for the longevity of your organization.
Successful C-role executives lead profitable organizations, that’s the absolute reality.
If you’re equipped with outdated information regarding your business aspects (operations, finance, marketing, etc.), you’ll certainly never make it to the much-desired C-suite elite list.
4 tactics to build your overall business acumen.
1. Research your Customer
Ask yourself –
How well do you know your regulars?
Who are your top 5 customers?
What are the percentage of recurring customers and one-time shoppers?
Do you track your patron’s buying trends?
Are you analyzing customer feedback and making changes?
A C-suite executive has the answer to these questions and is always customer-centric when strategizing.
Customers are the heart of the company while employees are the brain behind it.
Treat your customers well by training your coworkers in customer-satisfaction programs.
2. Acquire Business Knowledge
Unlike a sales manager who may or may not read business articles, a C-level executive is required to stay updated and informed by reading the latest business articles and magazines.
Another critical responsibility is to read news related to your competitors and their position in the market. C-level executives must pay special attention to the stock market to understand various surges and drops in the business news.
Business knowledge is helpful in safeguarding the organization from unseen circumstances that can affect the company negatively. As a C-suite executive, there’s no one in the higher ranks left to blame other than yourself.
3. Step into the Shoes of your Employees
If signing documents and meeting other C-suite executives is your main mission, it’s time to step out of your primary responsibilities.
It’s critical to know how your staffs toil and what makes your organization tick. You may have been a manager or a junior trainee once, but it’s critical to involve yourself in projects that your crew slog on and give them a hand when necessary.
Your knowledge of different skillsets increases and you’ll develop a closer relationship with your fellow coworkers.
4. Know your Company’s Financials Inside Out
A C-suite position requires you to understand every financial detail in your organization. Daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual balance sheets are your company’s metrics. This lets you know where your company stands at a glance.
4. Being Mindful of Your Weaknesses
It goes without saying, the higher you climb, the harder your fall. A C-suite executive has to understand they aren’t perfect. No one is.
Having the self-awareness of knowing when you aren’t perfect is the defining skill between a long-term C-suite executive and a soon to be demoted one.
Being in the upper berths of a corporate job tests your accountability.
Would you blame your employees for being poor during a board meeting?
Do you think you have the world’s worst employees working for you?
Do you think you’ve learned everything there is to learn about your job?
Does a C-level role allow you to pull rank and get any job done?
Answering ‘Yes’ to the above questions puts you in a spot of bother. A C-suite executive holds the entire accountability of his team. When your squad performs poorly, it’s necessary to absorb their damage as a leader.
Interpersonal skills are extremely necessary for upper management roles such as a C-suite executive.
Here is a checklist to help improve your self-awareness.
- Emotional triggers are everlasting. A C-suite executive should keep their emotions in check when reacting to a botched situation.
- Intuition is an excellent skill as a C-suite executive. Sometimes, going with your gut feeling triumphs over a calculated decision.
- Create a list of every weakness you possess. Work on improving them when you get the chance.
- Allow your coworkers to offer their personal feedback in a one-to-one session. The joy of working with happy coworkers is special.
- Control your own desires and practice self-discipline to accomplish team goals.
- Open-mindedness is the door to success.
- Motivate others but don’t forget to motivate yourself often.
- Practice a healthy sleep schedule to remain focused. Every decision you make can make or break the organization.
- Meditate to maintain a calm head and a harmonious presence
Being human, it’s often easy to lose control of our emotions and derail our goals. It takes a strong practice of willpower to ensure you practice self-awareness.
A C-suite role depends on trust and respect, one which your employees cherish with great joy.
Before we head to our conclusion, we leave you with a video by 2 leading leadership coaches – Mark Thompson and Marshall Goldsmith, discussing the strategies to get promoted to the C-suite.
We won’t lie, the journey to acquire a C-suite position is indeed hard. But ultimately, getting access to the golden throne is an enthralling experience limited to a small percentage of individuals.
Unlike other job positions, the C-suite role is an accomplishment. And if you desire it, it’s necessary to get every requirement listed in this article to a perfect O to increase your promotional chances.
Cleverism wishes you the best of luck in your pursuit to attain the envied C-role.
Which skills captured your attention the most? Are you vying for the C-suite position within the next 5 years? Share your thoughts in the comments below to let us know!
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