Learning to think like CEO

I have been honored to be a member of the Board of Advisors currently for two companies, and it’s been an educational trip.

At first, let’s try avoiding a mix up here. An Advisory Board gets mixed up with the Board of directors.  The job of the Board of directors is to make sure the administrations of the company like financial affairs are taking care of, and it’s organized according to rules and regulations.  Advisory board can also spar with CEO but the task it to advise. Advisory Boards are not bound by laws or regulations, only by moral and integrity.

Coming from a background with rather big companies, taking a step towards smaller companies and start-ups can be quite a cultural shock. Suddenly you have entirely different game fields to operate.

For me, the first shock came earlier., I was participating in a workshop concerning strategy, like many times before during autumns. It was proceeding like it had done last year and during previous. This time though I started thinking where was the results of the past year’s strategy workshop and had something ended up in the company’s strategy. I started digging and found the PowerPoint slides but didn’t see anything that would have come from our workshop — neither on the company nor country level. I started slowly realizing I was doing an exercise to get a feeling I was part of creating a strategy- not to have an impact on it. It was one of the most demotivating moments that I can remember. So yes, I was a bit naïve.

I have a tendency not to stay in my box, so understanding a big picture was something I wanted to do; Why this is done? What resulted in this?  Of course, I was happy, honored, and a bit surprised when a friend of mine asked me to be her companies new advisory Board, along with some other people. A few months later, I ended up in a similar situation and agreed to another advisor position.

What have I learned?

Big picture without silos

This month we agree about the direction, everything changes, and so does that direction, and in a heartbeat, we’re defining the path all over. That’s what sometimes happens with start-ups. There’s no other place or position where I would have had a holistic view of the company’s value chain. In the Advisory Board, you need to understand the company like the CEO does.

You’re allowed, and you should act

Positions have responsibilities, and unit’ s/teams/people have business areas to follow. There can be situations where you’re not entirely sure if you can, nor are you allowed to act upon a task at hand just because it’s something new or you’re not sure if it’s someone else’s responsibility. It comes clear in the Advisory Board that you can, and you definitely should act.

You know more than you realize

At first, I had doubts about whether I have what it takes to be an advisor, but found our that I knew more than I realized. In a company where you work in the unit or any silo-like organization form, you’re comparing yourself to your colleagues, which is not necessarily the right group to examine. In most cases, like you, your colleagues are specialists in their field, so comparing is not even possible. From the first discussion I understood, I had underestimated my knowledge level.

Sharing is caring

There are many forms of leadership. I have been talking a lot about entrepreneurial leadership. An excellent example of it was an after-work -session for start-ups participation in EEXjourney program. Two CEOs, who hadn’t met before, started chatting and within minutes they were sparring each other how to tackle their current problems. Giving them advises helping someone else’s business without any fear or jealousy.

Getting to know awesome people

For me being an advisor is bringing people who could have mutual interest together. (Copying with pride) –  Connecting people. That means I also get to grow my network with incredibly talented people.

One more time, thank you for the trust, Carita and Tapio.

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