Making CEOs

Getting everyone pointed in the same direction and working as a team can be hard.  There was great article in the New York Times, an interview with Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, about how he looks to people to the the “CEO of Something.”  It’s  a brilliant way to describe the best strategy of getting people to do stuff- give them something meaningful to do, that they control and can move forward.

In anything I’ve done, the secret sauce is to make people feel empowered and better after an experience than before.  As soon as we make someone ask for permission, we lose a bit of that enthusiasm and forward momentum.  So for example, if I teach someone how to manage their own website and analytics, they get a sense of control over what they’re doing online.  Every time they run an ad, they can  measure the impact of that media buy by tracking their online traffic, while also looking at other ways business may start to flow, like an increase in inquiries by phone, etc.  By teaching them to do it, it’s empowering for them, and I make them less dependent on third parties all together.

Likewise, if I’m tutoring a child, it’s important to give them stuff they can do, so they feel successful, but to also challenge them to do more.  But I also provide them with the “Why”- why things like math are really important later on, and even if the end goal seems like a long way away, the journey is worth the effort.

This sense of having control and power over your own destiny, of having a meaningful impact from your actions, is a feeling we all love.  We want to matter and make a difference.  And this is what Marcus Pincus is talking about when he says everyone should be the CEO of Something.  The more ownership and control people have, the more likely you’ll find them pointed in a good direction, making things happen, and contributing to your overall project and goals.  The minute someone feels like they are just moving endless piles of paper around with no change from day to day, moving pieces around a board but never making any real progress- that’s when you get problems of people disengaging and gradually ceasing to care about what they do.

I’m deeply concerned that in education, we are making teachers feel more and more like assembly line workers with little autonomy rather than the CEO of their classroom, empowered to make a real difference.  This change is largely attitude only, and not necessarily expensive to accomplish, but it might just make all the difference in the outcomes of the stuidents in that classroom.

But this is about more than education- it’s really about life.  And whether it’s running an event, or even running your household, one thing to remember is you get better results if you can make someone feel like a CEO, even if it’s something like the CEO of Dog Walking- it’s all about specialization, ownership, and making a contribution.

Who can you make a CEO today?