The travails of a CEO

Published August 4, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Milwida Guevara

I am dumfounded by the number of individuals who are interested to become the Mayor of our small town.  These include barangay captains, relatives of the current Mayor, the nouveau riche, councilors, and pretenders to the throne.  A town’s  Mayor is ultimately its CEO.  He/she will be responsible for the development of the town, promoting the welfare of its citizens and solving a plethora of problems.  Our town is perennially suffering from flooding, lack of employment, inadequate water supply, the garbage problem and informal settlers.  The quality of health and education services has deteriorated.  Years ago, we had an excellent elementary and a private high school system.  It was manned by excellent and devoted teachers.  Unfortunately, their graduates have migrated abroad or transferred to the cities.  I hardly know the current residents of our town.  Like a typical town, the church bursts with devotees every Sunday.  But there was only a handful who attended a townhall meeting that discussed the flooding problem.   

I wonder whether those seeking to be CEOs know that they have to face and solve these problems.  Do they have an idea of   the work and responsibilities that the title brings?   Do they understand the skills, intelligence (both mental and emotional), and more importantly, do they have a good value system to manage an organization?  Or are they attracted to the glamour which the job brings and the power that it wields? I have been a CEO of a small organization for a number of years, and I still fall short of the responsibilities of the job.  Yesterday, I was so overwhelmed with what I needed to do   and I simply wanted to run away. Fortunately, a Cary Grant movie and pigging on ice-cream provided a temporary escape.  But there is no running away.  There will still be nights of tossing and turning to think of how to resize the organization.   There is no word of comfort and assurance that a CEO can provide when a staff member is terminated.  This is one decision that a CEO has to make under a Covid scenario.  Add to this the difficulties of imposing a new discipline to efficiently implement a “work-at-home” culture.  My staff members must think of what a bitch the CEO has become with the requirements to correctly log-in time spent for official work every day, complete with activities, outputs and outcomes.  A CEO needs to put a divide between friendship and discipline.  He/she must learn to treat every employee at arm’s length but at the same time maintain respect, kindness and fellowship.  This is easier said than done as I can imagine dagger looks and silent grumbling.  But, a CEO is hired or elected to make and implement difficult decisions. There are tough calls which a CEO needs to make which can make some people unhappy.  A CEO must not aspire to be popular but to be effective and fair.

Then, there are strategies, plans, and proposals to make.  Every donor has a different set of templates and requirements.  Not only do these tasks need humility but patience as well in rewriting and revising proposals for countless number of times.  The job brings with it the need to do extensive research to spur creativity and new ideas.   How does a CEO bring in a new stream of revenue-sources recognizing that the world of philanthropy is shrinking?  Like a business firm, the CEO must enable the organization to create services that the market demands and would purchase again and again.

Years ago, I latched on to the word “TOB” (Task Oriented Bastard) to describe an individual who is consumed by his/her work 24/7 and has no time for anything else.  I can only imagine our staff members and partners hating to see the text messages and emails I send to follow up the progress of our work program, reminding them of the reports to be submitted,   and informing us of the status of the assignments that were earlier defined.  How I hated to work for a TOB and now I have become one.  I always preface my requests on Saturdays and Sundays with “Sorry to disturb!”  Fortunately, our Vice Chair, Dr. Torralba assures me that through grace from prayers, I can scold but has remained loved.  Perhaps, that is a secret for being a CEO—calling people to task but at the same time being held with respect and affection.

 Last Saturday, I held a Zoom conversation with a group of students from Arkong Bato High School in Valenzuela City.  I casually asked them to rank their Mayor from a score of 1 to 10. Without batting an eyelash, one student said 19. A CEO who protects his people by delivering what he/she promised will always get a score beyond 10.  He/she may be tough but the people will see the results of his/her   toughness in terms of programs that give them a better life. [email protected]

 
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