The One Where: What we did today, Helped us Tomorrow

I was conducting interviews with CEO’s for my Master’s degree, when the CEO I was interviewing, started asking me questions:


“Why are you doing a Masters?”

“How is what you have done so far, in your career, helping you in the next 5 years”?


It was an interesting shift in the dynamics. I had answers to the questions, but they weren’t good answers, especially in relation to the second question. I wanted to be a CEO – my career to date wasn’t bad, but it lacked structure and direction. Ironically my Master’s degree was in the Execution of Business Strategy, with CSF, KPI’s and all that jazz. I was good at applying this to companies, but it wasn’t something I had ever applied to my career.


If I was aiming to become CEO, without CSF’s and KPI’s, how would I know if I was closer to becoming CEO now, vs 5 years ago?


This got me thinking and something I want you to think about.


To become a CEO, you need a number of skills and experiences. Public speaking, leading teams, managing budgets to name but a few. How had I actually prepared myself to work towards that goal? I should have been setting targets for what I needed to achieve, and then set a plan on how I would achieve each target. Each week would get me closer to achieving that goal.


In reality, I wasn’t doing that. I looked at my calendar over the past year, I had weekly meetings, go live dates, month end, firefighting issues to resolve. This was repeated, quarterly, monthly and weekly. Before you know it, I had done this for 3 years. Do I have 3 years’ experience, or one years’ experience repeated 3 times?


Had this experience, what I had done in the past 3 years, contributed towards my end goal of being a CEO? On reflection, some of it, absolutely, but a lot of it, hadn’t. Especially all the firefighting activities which seem to drain time – some weeks that’s all I had done. Nothing in that week had helped me to achieve the end goal. A week like this occasionally is OK, but it needs to a rarity, not a familiarity.


So, I challenged myself, and I challenge you.


Ask yourself, ‘what do I want to achieve in the next 5 years?’ Write it down. Then ask yourself, ‘what do I need to do, to achieve this’? Write it down. Before long, you will have a plan. The next step is to apply timelines to this plan.


From now on, everything you do, should be to complement one of these targets. Learn how to say “no” to anything that doesn’t complement one of your targets and do everything you can to progress each week. Use my three years as an example of what not to do and start asking yourself ‘what did I do this week, to help me towards my 5-year plan?’