Professionally I need to get into the mind of the C-Suite all the time. I not only need to understand what the decision makers in a company need but I also need to assess people’s ability to cut it in a C-level position. Both angles need a quite detailed understanding of what it takes to succeed in the C-Suite. Don’t get me wrong – we’re talking about very different people in very different companies and even industries, so there is not a single type that fits. But there are certain traits and tendencies that occur more often in C-level positions and a certain mindset that helps a lot along the way.
On the spot and everywhere
One of the things I have observed in C-level roles is that you need to master the art of being two opposing things at once. You need to be open-minded and very focused, you need to let go and be in control, you need to constantly develop and be consistent. It continues to amaze me that successful leaders are actually able to do this.
They are open and skimming information for something interesting or relevant to their work. They look for breadth as opposed to depth to keep up with what’s important for their industry. They are highly engaged, trying to learn as much as possible about
relevant topics and they can be looking for a very specific piece of information that they need. Most importantly: they can switch from one perspective to the other between these (supposedly) opposing mindsets.
At the core of decision making
A key factor of being in the C-Suite is obviously “being in charge”. Executives make decisions. That means they need to be able to think vertically and horizontally and constantly build and drive their organization. It takes a process oriented approach and a very thorough knowledge of (and interest in) literally all parts of the company. And the interest can’t just go away.
Taking the time where needed
The mindset of the C-Suite is largely characterized by the fact that time is always of the essence. These people have all the time in the world if they need it and oddly never have time. Of course they don’t! Look at their schedule! That’s why they absolutely need to be great at the highly efficient use of peak times. And they are. More importantly they are usually highly engaged at these peak times, taking a maximum out of time.
A loyal kind
I have observed that executives tend to be quite loyal when they found something that works for them. That actually makes a lot of sense. For someone who doesn’t have the time, finding something relevant is worth a lot. It pays off to invest in relevance when C-Suite members are your target group. It can pay off greatly and be the basis for very strong relationships.