Addressing the CEO’s dilemma, growing your career

The top three things that keep a busy CEO up at night include: (1) Disruptive technology management including ICT security issues; (2) Great talent

The top three things that keep a busy CEO up at night include:

(1) Disruptive technology management including ICT security issues;

(2) Great talent that is trustworthy; and

(3) Business development, client retention and profitable growth

Whatever you are doing today, how are you fixing these or making it easy for your CEO? To get ahead, you must make it easy for your boss to shine. You can easily transform your career by writing down a memo to your CEO of how to grow the business with 1-2 clear; practical and innovative ideas that do not require huge investment.

Disruptive Technology management including IT Security risks

Are you investing in technology on a ‘beidi’ basis ie. ‘Because everyone is doing it’ or it is informed by your strategic growth agenda.

Technology is the topmost business driver today.

All major business processes are automated. And today we are moving from a software to a platform strategy. Which is the best solution for your business? What is the next tech company likely to disrupt your industry and what are doing about it. This is what worries many CEOs I interact with.

Take an example of a financial institution. Their core banking application is a critical one as it can make or break the bank. What would happen if the core banking application is off? People are not able to access their money. It could cause a run on the bank. The CEO must ensure that such a thing can never happen.  IT fraud is on the rise estimated at over 70% of all white-collar frauds. CEO’s are worried about this. How are you helping the CEO and the top management fix their IT challenges? Do you give them a daily briefing report? Do you advise them of your career progression in the ‘hot’ areas? Are you looking at growing your career by understanding IT security. It does not matter which department you are in. If you are going to succeed, you must engage in areas that worries your CEO. Understand your operations and what has been done to make the processes efficient. Find secure ways of doing so.

Success insight

If you want to get ahead, invest your time and resources to ensuring gaining skills (not just certifications) in the areas that drive business. If you are an auditor, invest in IT security audit, risk management and technology. Read books, research or undertake a course. As technology becomes a business ‘cross cutting issue’, you cannot afford to ignore it.

Great talent

It is great people that make winning businesses. CEO’s are always on the lookout for that wonderful talent. That is why I don’t believe in making job applications only when the company of my interest advertises for vacant positions.

All I need is to research about the CEO – his interests, how s/he spends free time and the top friends or influencers. I will track them down and meet informally.

My experience has shown that HR managers can say NO to a decision but not YES. Don’t waste a lot of your time in those departments. Just go to the real employer (CEO) and short cut the process.


Changing career should not take you long. Just invest in knowing who your employer is. Meet them informally and get their feedback. If he says yes, everything else you will go through will be just formalities. Don’t spend a lot of your time in departments where people cannot take the decision you need.

Business development

Every business needs cash flow. If you are not generating revenue, you should be helping to cut costs. That is what is called top line and bottom line. Everyone is worried about the bottom line because they want to report profits. Growing your revenue is key and that’s why the CEO takes big pay cheques.

To attain this, you must understand the business strategic plan. Which are the areas of the company focus to day and in future. What is the company vision, mission and values? What are the key result areas (KRA)? You must ensure that you are in a department identified as key result area. Where is the biggest company budget going to be spent? If you are not in that department, you shouldn’t be working.

Case in point. While working at a big four audit firm, I was recruited in the audit department. I did auditing for 3 months and found it routine. I had to get close to my boss. I made sure that I helped him beyond my job description. I noticed he had kids that he had to pick and take home. At times he would urge with the wife to pick the kids. I requested that since I leave early, I could help pick the kids in my car as I stay the same place. You cannot imagine what this did to my career progression. I don’t this is fraud. It is strategy. What is your boss’ pain? If you can fix it, you are sure to succeed. Most of the time their pain is not directly related to job.

He was able to tell me that the firm plans to have 80% of their revenue from consulting business instead of audit. And asked me to join him in the new IT and fraud management business line. I joined him. Within the first week, I was asked to travel abroad for training as the firm was developing skills and capacity in consulting. Keep in mind that for audit, it was routing and there were hardly any training opportunity. Hope you get the point.

Know your boss’ business. What products to you sell, where and how? If you can bring in revenue, ensure your boss knows. At least, help your boss shine and you will become invaluable. Above all, never get one-on-one with the boss. It does not matter that you don’t agree to their strategy or ideas. What matters is that you give them resources to improve on their thinking. Write for them reports/ papers that show to others that your boss is smart (yet you wrote the reports for them).

When you disagree with the boss, ensure you don’t do so in public. Protect their ass. Only tell them of your true position when you are just the two of you.

While in public, error on taking any blame your boss does. As s/he struggles to answer, and you are there, come up and say, I did it and I am sorry.

Also read: Want to succeed? Change your view


Success in corporate involves lots of politics. It is obviously not about brains or talent. It is about who plays better corporate politics. If one is your boss, there is reason for that fact. Respect them for that and you will get ahead. Fools what to show others that they are good, only to stagnate in their career. Are you living for today or tomorrow?

Mustapha Barnabas Mugisa, Your Success Partner. © 2019. All rights reserved.

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