But first, let's get on the same page about what that term means.
What is a C-level executive?
A C-level executive holds a senior role within a company. In general, the "C" designation applies to those who are the absolute head (strategic level) of their team — the chief. These positions are above vice president and report to the CEO. C-suite execs are the:
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Operation Officer (COO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
- Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
- Chief Content Officer (CCO)
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Chief People Officer (CPO)
- Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)
Now, not all companies have each of these positions, but almost all will have the baseline CEO, COO, and CFO roles.
Sitting in a C-suite might seem like the pinnacle of a career — you make the decisions, you lead the team, you have an office with comfy chairs, plus an assistant who may help your personal scheduling, as well, not to mention a probably hefty salary and perhaps some equity or stock options. But senior executives' jobs also come with immense responsibility, stress, accountability, and people always asking to take C-level professionals' time.
So how do executives juggle the demands of their time? Of course they often have years of experience, many times excellent educations, strong emotional intelligence, and stellar leadership skills. But some of the best leadership and executive skills from C-suite executives are simpler than we expect. How’s that? Because these simple tricks C-suite executives make are meant to make the busy lives of an executive more streamlined.
Curious what skills these C-level jobs require? Read on for five simple things executives do on a daily basis that we can all copy, even if we're not in C-level jobs.
Prioritizing is a key competency of any successful executive or any C-level employee. When you’re responsible for tens or even hundreds of associates, and millions or even billions of dollars, you have a lot of demands on your time and attention. All executives, but C-level senior executives, in particular, are able to set their own priorities, as well as the priorities for their teams, and manage against them.
2. Distill down to the main point.
Along with prioritizing, busy execs know how to get to the point. They are clear communicators and expect their teams to be the same. They simply don’t have time for anything else.
3. Ask good questions.
So how do these execs distill down to the main point, and how can C-level execs stay up-to-speed on topics when they are not involved in the day-to-day work? C-level execs ask strong, thoughtful questions that will yield helpful information. Questions like, “What do you recommend?” and “What brought you to this recommendation?” When connecting with their teams they may ask questions like, “What is the top impendent to your success right now? What can I personally do to help?”
4. Always consider, “How does this impact the business?”
Along with prioritizing work and time, C-level executives are constantly considering how their decisions and work impact the business performance — be it positive or negative. Bringing daily actions back to business is a key habit and skill of an executive that we can all do at any level.
5. Trust people.
Executives in C-level positions are only as good as the people they lead — all C-level employees will say this if they're good at their jobs. They need strong teams and they need to trust those people. They get out of the way, they empower, but perhaps most importantly they are able to do these things by trusting those on their teams.
Now does C-level management seem simple? That’s because these are simple tricks for C-suite management that can be applicable to all levels of employees. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that we neglect to do, despite the fact that the simplest things can make our lives much easier.
Jane Scudder is a certified leadership and personal development coach; she helps individuals and groups get unstuck. She builds and leads original workshops and training programs, consults with organizations of various sizes, and is Adjunct Faculty at Loyola University Chicago. Find out more at janescudder.com.