Over the past 62 years, Fortune Magazine has annually released its now infamous Fortune 500 rankings which illuminate America’s most successful businesses for any given year. When analyzing the companies that bestow the Fortune 500 honor, it seems as though the majority of top corporations in the United States share little in common. Well of course they all generate massive amounts of revenue, but many of America’s top companies fall into different industrial categories, sell dissimilar products and services, and have organizational missions completely unrelated to one another.
Walmart, Exxon Mobile, Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and McKesson, for example, were the top five companies in the 2016 rankings yet outwardly show no real similarities besides their substantial amounts of monetary gains. Coming to this realization, one must wonder what allows such a diverse set of companies to thrive and also if there is anything we can take from the findings to improve our own professional standing.
The truth is that although it is quite easy to point out the differences between these ultra-successful businesses, they all share a number of important similarities at the foundational level. Each company on the list was undoubtedly built from the ground up with the help of some tried and true business practices and methods, all of the organizations lay upon a bedrock of organizational structure that allows them to be successful, and every Fortune 500 company has been led through a process of natural evolutionary growth, by highly talented CEOs, which has cumulated in the companies reaching the pinnacle of their respective industries.
By gaining an understanding of the universally utilized business tools and strategies used by Fortune 500 companies, and creatively implementing them into our own professional development plan, we can assuredly move towards greater levels of personal success. Regardless of if you are a recent university gratutde, an aspiring entrepreneur, or a seasoned corporate employee, each of us can use the foundational principles of great businesses to lead us towards individual achievement. It is certain that by consciously becoming the CEO of yourself, you can finally achieve your loftiest professional goals. Moreover, by directing yourself through a systematic process of development and growth as the conscious CEO of yourself, not only will your career take off but your personal life will similarly flourish.
Before we move on to examine how we can become the CEOs of ourselves, however, it’ll be important to examine a variety of organizational concepts which allow businesses to thrive. In the next two sections of this article, we’ll illuminate these principles while also supplying you with an array of relevant ideas that you can implement as you work on becoming the CEO of yourself. Finally, in the last section, we’ll bring it all together and provide you with an actionable plan that will guide you toward the achievement of your professional dreams.
Strategic Planning & Organizational Growth:
While each and every company found on the Fortune 500 list has assuredly built a unique organizational culture and relies on a number of novel operational tactics, it is certain that all of them have prospered through a more universal process of development and growth. From the time of their infancy until today, companies such as Google, UPS, and Johnson & Johnson have become corporate empires largely because their respective leadership teams built the organizations using the progressive strategies of planning, implementation, evaluation, and change. In fact, for any startup company aiming to get off the ground, which every Fortune 500 company once was, there may not be a single growth factor more important than developing their operational framework around the cycle of strategic planning.
Although Fortune 500 companies utilize a wide variety of strategic planning methods and processes, an overarching universal framework can be broken down into four distinct stages. When you set out to become the conscious CEO of yourself, you’ll want to similarly develop a detailed strategic plan, that’ll push you towards professional success, revolving around these four phases:
It is certain that the most successful large corporations, small businesses, and entrepreneurs similarly take the time to develop business plans based on their vision of the future. During the planning stage, each and every organization should also aim to answer questions such as ‘Where do we want to go?’ and ‘How do we get there?’.
This may seem like something you don’t have to consider until everything is up and running, but thinking about all this in the initial stages will save you a lot of time in the long run. It is never too early. For startups, the planning stage is also used to define what success is, create a company mission statement and outline organizational values. Additionally, it is also useful to conduct initial evaluations and formulate operational strategies during this stage.
During the implementation stage, organizations will put their new plans into action while monitoring their results over a predetermined period of time. While the initial phase of the implementation stage will often be dedicated to education and training, it’s still imperative to have adequate systems set up for measuring a company’s success.
The third stage of the strategic planning and organizational growth process revolves around evaluating the performance of individual employees, organizational departments, and companies as a whole. During this stage, businesses will want to compare their goals and desired outcomes to their actual results. A variety of evaluation tools, such as a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) and 360 Degree Feedback, are often used to help organizations more accurately assess performance. Additionally, a variety of important questions should be answered during this stage: ‘How did we do?’, ‘What could we have done better?’, ‘What additional skills are needed?’ and ‘Can organizational change help us improve?’
After the planning, implementation, and evaluation stages, businesses will use the information and data they gathered to determine what if any, changes are needed. While organizational change is not always easy, it’s important for businesses to not become complacent and always aim to improve their operational processes. Depending upon what is learned during the evaluation stage, potential changes should be incorporated into the company’s next strategic plan. It should be pointed out that while additional revenue is desired by all, the smartest companies won’t put themselves in overbearing positions that hamper their overall operational capabilities.
Organizational Structure & Business Functions:
Just as every Fortune 500 company uses strategic planning to create a roadmap for organizational growth, so do they rely on organizational structure and a variety of operational functions to carry out their business agenda. Similarly, if we want to become the conscious CEOs of ourselves, we’ll have to develop systematic processes that keep us on the track toward professional success. While there are a number of different types of organizational structures and a seemingly endless variety of operational functions, that are carried out by specifically designated business departments, we’ll limit our examination here to the basics of these two important concepts.
The term organizational structure can be defined as “a system consisting of institutional rules and policies designed to outline how various work roles are delegated, controlled, and coordinated.” By specifically defining the responsibilities of both larger departments and individual employees, companies are able to lay out a specific framework for how business operations should function.
When the organizational structure isn’t designed for optimal effectiveness and efficiency, the likelihood of businesses achieving their goals becomes severely diminished. From a broader perspective, a company’s organizational structure will either be centralized with decisions flowing from the top down, or decentralized with decisions being made at numerous levels. More specifically, there are four common types of organizational structures (functional, divisional, futarchy, and matrix) that may more appropriately suit the needs of different companies. While new and innovative organizational structures at companies like Google have recently gained praise in business communities, we’ll have to use a more traditional top-down approach as we become the conscious CEOs of ourselves.
Operational Functions of Business Departments:
Within the framework of an organization’s structure are typically a variety of departments tasked with handling specific operational functions. To promote their company’s mission and increase revenues, individual employees from various departments will work together to accomplish a variety of predetermined objectives. Although AT&T sells a wide variety of communication devices and services to the general public, and Boeing sells airplanes to commercial airline companies and governments, both of these Fortune 500 companies rely on common organizational departments to manufacture, distribute and sell their respective products.
Generally speaking, the five organizational departments of administration, accounting, marketing and advertising, production, and sales are tasked with handling a company’s operational functions. While most individuals focus their professional development in a single area, someone who is striving to become a conscious CEO of themselves will aim to increase their understanding and capabilities in each one.
Achieving Professionally by Becoming the CEO of Yourself:
It should now be easy to see how each and every company found on the Fortune 500 list uses a variety of important business practices and methods to propel themselves towards ever-heightening levels of corporate success. By relying upon a number of these same business strategies for our own professional endeavors, we too can move towards greater levels of work-related success. Just as the immortalized CEOs of truly great companies successfully guided their organizations through competitive waters, we can take over the reins of our own careers as conscious CEOs and lead ourselves toward the realization of our professional dreams.
In order to become a conscious CEO of yourself, it’ll be vital to creatively incorporate the business strategies and models we’ve discussed throughout this article into your professional development plan. Taking charge of your own professional development can help you achieve what you want from your career. Although each and every person will need to consider their life circumstances when designing their own plan, it is certain that the following five strategies will move everyone closer to becoming the CEO of themselves:
Getting Off the Ground:
If you have never created a professional development plan, the first steps you’d want to take would be similar to the ones taken by startup organizations. To get yourself off the ground, you’ll need to define what success is for yourself, determine where you want to go in your professional life and brainstorm potential strategies that’ll take you toward your desired outcomes. During this initial stage, it can also be useful to perform a SWOT analysis on yourself and gather professional feedback from others you’ve worked with.
It should be pointed out that during this stage it’s important to keep in mind that happiness should be your primary objective and you’ll never be able to find it through monetary means alone. If you want to be truly successful, you’ll do yourself a great favor by focusing on objectives you’re passionate about rather than just the money.
Developing ‘Your’ Business Plan:
After you get yourself off the ground and have a clear vision for your professional future, you can begin developing a strategic plan that’ll take you to where you want to be. During the planning stages, you’ll want to fully commit yourself to your desired outcomes, outline an actionable strategy, and decide upon a number of tools you can use to measure your progress. One useful strategy you can use is to create SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound), as they’ll help you accomplish all three of these steps. It should be pointed out that as you go through the planning stage, it’s vital to consider the importance of work-life balance.
Becoming Professionally Versatile:
In the fast-paced professional environments of today’s world, there is perhaps no other perceptive employee more coveted by companies than those who possess a multitude of skills, talents, and capabilities. Now, more so than ever, those who have a diverse understanding of the various aspects of business operations and the ability to perform a variety of different tasks are being rewarded for the versatility they bring to organizations. Additionally, those who are well-rounded professionals are more prepared to explore entrepreneurial endeavors if they so choose. While it is certain that each of us will have a dominant area of expertise, it can be extremely beneficial to work on developing various skills from the five organizational departments we examined above (administration, accounting, marketing and advertising, production, & sales).
Taking on the Role of CEO:
To truly become the CEO of yourself, one thing you’ll have to do is improve your self-management skills. Depending upon the individual, this may mean learning how to push through the inevitable setbacks that naturally come with professional development or discovering how to more appropriately manage time. For every individual, however, it’ll be vitally important to increase their levels of self-awareness so that they can monitor progress and alter strategies when they aren’t getting the results they desire. Fortunately, by taking up a meditation practice and developing mindfulness, each of us can become substantially better at managing ourselves.
Committing to Lifelong Education & Growth:
For all too many organizations that’ve previously been on the top of their respective industries but slowly declined into mediocrity, an inability or unwillingness to keep up with industry standards and change with the times is most likely to blame. Because new technologies, practices, and strategies are being developed every single year, in every professional field, it’s imperative to commit to continuous education and growth. Only by yearning to learn, grow and evolve over time can you assure yourself of continued success. For this reason, it’s vital to develop a passion for your work and commit yourself to lifelong learning.
Whether you’re a longtime employee at a large corporation, in the process of switching careers, or hoping to start your own company in the near future, it is certain that you can improve your levels of professional success by becoming the CEO of yourself. By simply following the systematic strategies laid out here, it is certain that you’ll be on your way to achieving your wildest professional dreams.