Self-management lessons from Harvard Business Review: The power of I-boss, the CEO of me

Summary: If you view your life as a complex corporation and are in need of management advice, then Harvard Business Review’s article about the unique role of the CEO (“What Only the CEO Can Do”) gives some great ideas on connecting that little voice in your head with the outside world.

I cannot resist Harvard Business Review for two reasons: It allows me to explore the high-level facets of running a business before attempting to do so and, applying a heavy metaphor filter as an English major, I enjoy interpreting the articles as advice columns on personal behavior and attitudes.

So when A.G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble, quotes Peter Drucker saying this:

“The CEO is the link between the Inside that is ‘the organization,’ and the Outside of society, economy, technology, markets, and customers. Inside there are only costs. Results are only on the outside.”

I think, “Yeah, that sounds like the self-centered little me in my head trying to find a meaningful path intertwined with the other-centered reality outside the skull case.”

Lafley, working off Drucker, lists four tasks only the CEO can perform (with key points from each in parentheses):

  1. Defining and interpreting the meaningful outside (consumers and customers — and everybody is a customer — are the boss)
  2. Answering, time and again, the two-part question, What business are we in and what business are we not in? (analyzing strengths, weaknesses and opportunities on an ongoing basis)
  3. Balancing sufficient yield in the present with necessary investment in the future (define realistic growth goals, deliver short-term, invest mid-term, experiment long-term, flexible budgeting process, allocate human resources not just to problems but to opportunities)
  4. Shaping the values and standards of the organization (values must move the business forward, orient to external constituencies)

Jamming all of that through the liberal arts filter, I come up with this list of what your internal CEO — the big I-boss telling you how to spend this limited life — should be up to:

  1. Understand the needs and wants of others more so than your own, and in that process, satisfy your own needs and wants.
  2. Looking at what you’ve done and hope to do, and at what you want to change in the external and internal world, take stock of the options for action.
  3. Live life on a daily basis, and make a daily balanced effort to create  an alternative future(s) in categories of: today, three months from now, one year from now, five years from now, 20 years from now and 50 years from now.
  4. Test your values and standards against others. Talk to a lot of people, read voraciously, ask many questions of yourself and others, and understand how your contributions merge with those of others.

That’s all quite abstract. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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