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January 24, 2024
4 Min Read
Judith Collins via Alamy Stock
Most people will never get the chance to be a CEO, much less lead a 6,000+ person company. Nonetheless, you’d be surprised what opportunities can come your way just by asking.
During a team building exercise at my company Genesys, I was asked what role in the organization I’d most like to switch places with. Thinking nothing of it, I said, “CEO.” Little did I know that word of my selection would reach the ears of Tony Bates, the actual CEO of Genesys -- and to my surprise -- he said, “Let’s do it!”
Tony and I quickly found a day when I could step into his shoes as CEO (with his guidance and advice), and next thing I knew I was leading a town hall, participating in executive strategy sessions, meeting with the C-suite officers, discussing strategic business opportunities and so much more.
There are quite a few leadership lessons to be derived from this experience that leaders can implement within their own companies. Here’s what I learned:
A few hours into my day as CEO, I realized how important context switching was. My day was completely packed with back-to-back meetings, and while I’m used to being busy with my normal schedule, each of the meetings for the CEO had a drastically different topic. I went from meeting with the full C-suite to talk through various initiatives, to discussing strategic business opportunities, to having 1:1s with other C-suite executives to discuss their specific areas of responsibility, to leading a town hall meeting, to attending a team dinner, and many things in between. I was amazed at how quickly I had to shift my mindset to embrace new topics and speak to them confidently. Clearly, the best leaders can switch from topic to topic deftly, stay engaged, involved, and offer sound guidance, no matter the topic.
Secondly, I noticed that Tony is always thinking strategically and constantly aligning some of the more tactical conversations with the bigger picture. He pushes his team to think longer term -- not just a year in advance, but five years, or even a decade ahead. He also considers the impact of their leadership decisions on the company employees and leads with empathy. This further reinforced the importance of strategic thought in a way that employees are top of mind.
And finally, being CEO for a day gave me extra appreciation for the sheer amount of work and time commitment that comes with the role. Sitting in 10 hours of meetings and making strategic decisions all day can be exhausting. I realized the amount of mental fortitude and vision required for a position of this magnitude.
For tech leaders thinking of kicking off that next great world-changing startup, be prepared for a tremendous time commitment and a massive amount of context switching. And for leaders like me, maybe VPs or C-suite executives, consider widening your strategic aperture as you interact daily with your peers as well as your CEO.
Advice for Business Leaders
As leaders of IT companies, we need to constantly look for ways we can improve and connect with our teams. Job shadowing, or swapping roles for a day, can be a tremendous way to improve as a leader.
It’s common to think of job shadowing as something that more early career professionals do, rather than more established leaders -- but this perception should change. I learned a massive amount about leading a company from my experience, but Tony also learned from me. Bringing in an outside perspective and voice can be an authentic and effective way to bring in fresh ideas and approaches to things.
Additionally, trying new roles within a company can be a really good way to gain more appreciation for what other people do. It’s easy to become siloed in your current role and only view things through the lens of your own experiences and responsibilities. By trying out new roles, you not only gain a deeper appreciation for what other leaders do, but also a better understanding of how you can work together better.
Job shadowing also presents an opportunity to decide if you would like to be in a new role in the future. You can learn the day-to-day ins and outs of a job, without the pressure of fully committing to it. It’s a remarkable way to find the best possible career opportunities for yourself.
Being CEO is not an easy job, and it requires tremendous commitment, intangibles, and effort. From my perspective, CEO for the day was a wonderful learning opportunity and senior level job shadowing, in whatever form makes sense, is something more leaders at IT companies should model.
About the Author(s)
VP of IT Program Execution, Genesys
Janice Rodgers is the vice president of information technology, strategic program execution, at Genesys, where she is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of critical programs, driving overall IT transformation, and establishing agile best practices. She has over 25 years of progressive experience in planning, software development / implementation, and delivery of global large-scale complex technology solutions.
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