What Does a CEO Do?

By: Bob De Contreras

 One of the very important roles in a company is that of the CEO. A management staff ranges from group leader, to section manager, director, vice president, senior vice president, executive vice president and chief executive officer. Each of these positions has a different scope of responsibility, but they all have several things that they do in common with the CEO.

 The CEO has three fundamental roles. First, a CEO is a leader. As a leader, the CEO establishes and directs the vision and mission of the team. In this capacity, the CEO is the source of visionary strength of the company and keeps it on a consistent track to achieving the vision. Second, a CEO is a project manager. In this role, the CEO is responsible for directing the operational activities of the company by scheduling the utilization of the company’s resources, including people and capital equipment. In this way, the CEO gets things done through the efforts of the people in the company. The CEO is responsible for establishing and executing the company’s operating plan that is necessary to achieve the company’s objectives. Third, a CEO is a coach, and as such picks the people for the management team and improves the performance of people through ongoing counseling. As a coach, the CEO works with people to help them become greater contributors by helping them improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

 In these roles, a CEO performs several duties that are very important to the successful functioning of any management team.


  • The CEO puts the strategy in place to achieve the company’s vision and mission. In this capacity, the CEO works with team members to develop a strategy and plan. Then a process is put in place that will be used to execute the strategy.

  •  The CEO gets the company organized to implement the process and guides all the project activities using the process. All the schedules are established, laying out the tasks that have to be performed to deliver the company’s product and services and assigning the necessary resources to the people on the team.

  •  The CEO establishes priorities for projects and tasks and makes decisions required when they have to change.

  •  The CEO makes sure that the right people are placed in the right job assignments, and that people get further training to do their jobs.

  •  The CEO facilitates problem solving, as needed, by directing the process of problem solving with team members, lending expertise to the process.

  •  The CEO has an important duty to delegate responsibility and accountability. In doing this, the CEO gives people a clear role and a set of responsibilities, empowers them to act, and holds them accountable for results. This is the art of management. In getting the best out of people, a CEO gives people the responsibility they deserve, and then coaches them in their work in order to make them the best they can be, and finally holds them accountable for producing the results that are expected.

  •  The CEO takes care of people’s needs. The CEO is an enabler for and ensures that people get what they need in order to do their jobs. This includes equipment, training, assistance, coordination, and time.

  •  The CEO has the very important role of communicator. The CEO not only communicates important information needed for people to do their jobs, but also information that is necessary for people to understand the context of their jobs. People generally want to know what the company vision and strategy is. They want to know about markets, customers and competitors. They want to know about key company initiatives and how it affects them. The CEO’s job is to make sure that people know what is going on and how they are affected.

  •  The CEO represents the company and its policies. To the people in the company, their CEO is the company. CEOs are familiar with company policy, communicate policy to employees, and represent the policies of the company.

  •  The CEO builds relationships. The CEO’s job is to establish positive and effective working relationships both inside and outside the company. One of the value-added aspects of a CEO's role is that the CEO knows people and can call upon their assistance to help the company achieve its goals.

  •  The CEO establishes and supports working relationship principles by creating an environment where people can count on each other. It is important to know what one can expect from another. The CEO’s job is to coach people to help them understand how the team operates and to give them the understanding of each other’s role on the team.

  •  The CEO establishes goals and objectives for people as a key part of being a coach. As part of the performance management process, the CEO establishes performance goals and objectives for people. This is a very formal part of the CEO’s job. Establishing the objectives for people and then letting them know how they are performing in meeting the objectives is management’s bread and butter. To get their best performance, people have to understand how they are performing and be given the coaching necessary to improve. Ultimately, CEOs have to formally appraise the performance of their people. This formal review becomes the determining factor for additional coaching, compensation and promotions.

  •  The CEO makes sure that people are recognized for their contributions and extraordinary efforts on the job. The recognition should be timely. Recognition can take the form of anything from a sincere thank you to a substantial monetary award. The important thing is that people feel that they are appreciated for their extra effort.

  •  The CEO is a mentor. In this capacity, the CEO advises people on their career goals and helps them get the job assignments needed to move their careers forward. Although people are responsible for their own careers, the CEO can be a valued advisor in career planning.

  •  Finally, a CEO manages upward. That is, the CEO keeps board members and shareholders informed of the company’s progress.


This is not an exhaustive list of CEO duties, but represents some of the most important ones. These are the kinds of things that one should regularly expect from their CEO as they play out their three roles of leader, project manager and coach.



What Does A CEO Do Case Study

By: Bob De Contreras

Sometimes when CEOs do what they are supposed to do, they still don’t get the results they expect.  What follows are a few examples from real life situations Paladin have been involved in solving.

 This CEO developed a new vision for her company and shared it with her team not once, but several times.  She even gave each of her employees a book on the topic of vision and mission with solid reasons for and benefits of a vision and mission focus.  We later met with several of the key employees and asked them to state the company vision and mission.  Not a single person could give us the answer.  The moral of the story is that the CEOs can’t just tell the vision; they need to live the vision and demand that all the employees do the same.

 Another CEO could not figure out why productivity was sliding away.  The company was working into new markets and delivering new products.  They had the right people – people who had been successful with other products in other markets.  We asked about training and the CEO said that every employee knew they had the ability to get two weeks of training each year.  The CEO didn’t know how many employees had taken advantage of the training allowance, so we asked him to check.  To the surprise of this CEO not a single employee had taken advantage their training allowance.  The moral of the story is that the CEO must motivate people to go to class, not just offer the opportunity.

 Then there is the CEO who swore he was delegating responsibility and accountability.  We asked him to give us a few examples of real situations where he delegated.  Then we talked to the employees he had delegated to.  They all confirmed that the CEO delegated well and that he said he was delegating responsibility and accountability.  Some said he said he was delegating responsibility and authority. They said that the CEO wanted the employees to review their decisions and actions with him before they took action.  But, then we heard the bottom line.  The employees felt that the CEO “always” changed the employee’s decisions.  The moral of the story is that by changing the decisions, the CEO really had not delegated the accountability or authority.

One CEO we worked with a few months ago told us how she was a great relationship builder.  She talked about her skills in sales and business development.  We were working with her on sales volume issues and asked her about her networking activities.  She said, “networking?”  She didn’t attend any networking events or business associations.  The moral of the story is that she didn’t use her relationship building skills to the fullest – to grow her opportunity base. 

 Last, but not least there was the country gentleman who ran a substantial family business.  He was also having trouble with sales.  We started investigating the situation and discovered that the sales force did not have a sales quota.  We asked him why the sales team didn’t have objectives.  His answer was a simple, “they know what we need to do to keep the door open.”  On further discussion we found out that there was a sales quota for new sales people that went from $5,000 to $20,000 to $50,000 per month for their first three months on the job. The problem was that after that, they simply had to do “their best” to achieve better than $50,000 per month.  Are you surprised to hear that his sales volume was flat for the past three years?  The moral of the story is that the CEO must set goals and objectives – in this case some stretch goals each year.

 The bottom line is that in completing your CEO job responsibilities, there is usually a better way or a next step you can take to do better.


Brought to you by:                                                         [BACK]

            Bob De Contreras                                                  
            Rich Kramarik                                                     


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