How to Level Up Your Way to C-Suiteby@refocus
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How to Level Up Your Way to C-Suite

by Roman Kumar VyasOctober 24th, 2022
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The market grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to a projected whopping $16.4 billion industry in 2022. The idea of influencer marketing isn’t new, but its ways have had a great transformation over the time and development of technologies. First ‘influencer’ collaborations can be traced back to the 1700s, when a famous potter and entrepreneur produced a special tea set for Princess Charlotte, who was undoubtedly an influencer of her time. With Youtube it is quite simple, content creators receive on average 3-5 $ per video. Youtubers often collaborate with brands and display the products in creative ways.
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CEO, CMO, COO, CFO…  If you've been working in a certain industry for a while, you're probably willing to become a Chief Officer in your area especially if you are already tired of “working with your hands” and feel that you are ready to manage the team and plunge into strategy.

As a person who has been working as CMO and CEO in different companies, I’m sure that aiming for such a position is ambitious but realistic. Regardless of what Chief Officer position you exactly dream of becoming, the skills you have to pump up are similar. I have prepared a list of skills and recommendations that will bring you closer to the position of Chief Officer in any business area or a Chief Anything Officer, as I’d like to call it.

Develop your Soft Skills

It doesn’t matter which sphere you’re working in and what your professional goal is: everyone needs soft skills. In a joint study, scientists from Harvard, Stanford, and the Carnegie Foundation learned that soft skills determine 85% of a person's success in a profession. Communication, empathy, and leadership — these qualities help a person to not only successfully cope with his or her tasks but to also lead a team.

A good Chief Anything Officer doesn’t have to know all the tools or solve all the tasks alone. But they must know how to find experts in a team, "sell" them to the company, train them, and boost their motivation. The most important thing here is efficiency: there are not as many fantastic specialists on the market as you might think.

One of the skills I have been developing personally is public speaking. It might look like I have plenty of other things to do as a CEO, but this skill is actually essential to me. It helps me understand how to present my ideas which are crucial for communicating with investors and my employees.

Similarly, I make sure that my team also develops skills that are not directly connected with their responsibilities. For example, I once bought a course on soft skills for our creative departments — and it turned out to have a positive impact on their workflow as it became a new source of motivation for them.

Learn how to hire the right people

The search for extraordinary specialists is only part of the problem you will face as a Chief Officer. And even if you’re not the Chief Officer — conducting interviews is a huge part of any manager’s responsibilities. You will have to determine whether the applicant fits in your team and is not lying in the resume. Here are the rules we have drawn up to avoid employee selection mistakes.

  • Use the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. At Refocus, we use this method during the final stage of the hiring process when the candidate communicates with the manager of the person who hires them or sometimes with the founder. It helps to distinguish fancy words from what was actually done in reality. For example, if a candidate says, "I increased my former company’s revenue," we have to clarify what exactly was the situation and what exactly were the steps they took. The applicant confirms his or her competence through examples, giving them no chance to provide empty statements.

  • Request recommendations from applicants’ last three employers. We call or write to previous employers and clarify how the applicant performed and the difficulties in working with them. We asked if they would hire them again and requested them to rate their work performance on a 10-point scale, which is actually a test of adequacy.

  • Ask “culture fit” questions. It’s vitally important to hire only like-minded people: those who are ready to work hard, take responsibility and risks, and be honest in admitting their faults. If we don’t share common values, we can’t work with them even if they’re the best in their field.

To hire a cool specialist in the team, you need to fumble in negotiations. A good negotiator usually "sells" positions in the company successfully and always sets favorable conditions for themselves.

You can boost your skills in real life and go to negotiation clubs, or you can learn from others and read books on negotiation, such as "Never Split the Difference" and "The Charisma Myth."

The author of the first book is Chris Voss, a top FBI negotiator who has been helping free hostages for more than 10 years. The second one was written by a business coach and recognized lecturer, Olivia Cabane. In the book, she reveals the secrets behind the most famous leaders’ charisma.

Be a Proper <anager

Even the most talented expert needs a good manager who will help with career growth and motivation. The Chief Anything Officer knows how to be a leader and team manager. For their team, he or she has to be:

  • The one who delegates. If you want to improve your leadership skills, forget about perfectionism. There will be no time to redo everything for everyone; you will have to trust the team.

  • The one who gives a person the opportunity to overcome bumps and grow from their mistakes. If an employee messes up, do not take away responsibility and allow them to find a solution to the issue on their own instead. Otherwise, they won’t be able to learn from the mistake and will have a tendency to repeat it in the future.

  • The one who gives honest feedback. In line with this, we hold one-on-one meetings every week. This is not another meeting about tasks but about an employee’s current state. Thanks to these conversations, we know for sure that none of the team members will burn out anytime soon.

I recommend the “Manager’s Handbook” from the Hardvard Business Review for those looking to develop their leadership skills. With the help of this book, you will figure out what types of leaders there are and learn how to be one yourself. It contains tips, exercises, and real cases from different fields: from the basics of strategy and financial instruments and the development of emotional intelligence to strengthening authority and trust in the team.

Don’t forget about hard skills

In contrast to my previous recommendation, this one is more specific and depends on which area you’re in. Indeed, if you want to be an authority in your team, you cannot do it without basic knowledge of the process. For example, you are much more valuable as a CMO manager if you know how to make target ads yourself. Or you’re definitely a better CCO if you have experience selling something yourself. Even if your skills are limited and reflect only a part of the tasks your team performs, it’s enough to transfer these principles to others and understand how the processes work in general.

When I used to be a CMO, it always helped that I had been setting up Facebook ads for 3 years. Because of my experience, I was able to manage promotions on Twitter, LinkedIn, and wherever because the basic definitions, metrics, and workflow are very similar. Moreover, my experience still helps me now as a CEO! Because of my marketing background, I know how to sell, and it works when attracting investments and building business strategies.

  1. Analytics

Chief Officers make strategically important decisions every day. Since you cannot rely on horoscopes or intuition, you must understand analytics: learn the numbers and be able to draw conclusions based on them.

This is crucial not only for long-term strategies but also for everyday difficulties. The Chief Officer should know what transpires within the entire department, and numbers are the best way to do it.

  1. Strategy building

The ability to think strategically is what makes a team leader a Chief Officer: they make a list of goals and deconstruct it into understandable actions. At the same time, they have to take into account everything that we have listed above and indicate the team’s work direction.

The strategy itself is the company’s digitized goals for let’s say, a year. If we talk about Refocus’ experience, we make a clear plan and know how much revenue we need to make, what our average check is, and what intermediate metrics will help achieve this. Every Chief Officer has his or her area of responsibility, and together, they form Refocus’ annual plan.

We set conversion goals in the sales department and on the website and plan which advertising channels we will use.

Next, we break down the goals for each channel to know how much revenue should be generated for each of them. Reaching out to each channel is part of the responsibilities of different Chief Officers.  For example, the goal of a CCO is to meet monthly revenue indicators. He has to constantly improve the sales team’s motivation system and increase the number of purchases. Meanwhile, a CMO’s responsibility is to generate a fixed number of leads for the sales forces to communicate with–enough to reach the revenue goals. If a problem occurs, he figures out how to solve it. The team can test more creative materials and improve them according to CustDev data.

How do you develop strategic thinking?

  • Widen your network, and communicate with other team leaders, especially with those who have more experience than you.
  • Teach them to focus and not be swayed by microtasks.
  • Play the Go strategy board game. It's not just for entertainment. It’s a powerful tool for pumping strategic thinking. The game helps people make important decisions regarding which country to open a new business in and how to behave in its market, and which projects to close and invest in.

  1. Creativity

Without this skill, it’s almost impossible to build strategies: you have to seek unique solutions and implement them. Of course, the Chief Officer does not have to come up with creative materials themselves. But they must be capable of easily distinguishing cool ideas from non-working ones and helping the team find a solution if it is at an impasse. It may seem that creativity is a talent that you either have or don’t have, but it’s actually just another skill anyone can develop.

To develop creativity, study the solution-focus theory method, and don’t be afraid to test the craziest hypotheses you have.

There are also various brilliant books on this subject:

  • “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon
  • “Creative Confidence” by David and Tom Kelley
  • “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp

And is it enough to reach the dream position?

Of course, it depends on the company you’re working at. In some cases, such career growth is simply impossible; in others, founders prefer to hire C-Levels from outside.

However, developing the skills above will definitely make you a more valuable specialist and bring you closer to becoming a leader!