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So you’re CEO? Now what?

Writing my own job description with the power of the Internet

It was the day after we had shared with the team that I was now the CEO of Javelina. (Read the first part of that story here). All I had was a scrap piece of paper with the answers my team had given me when I asked them “What are the first three things you’d do if you had been named CEO?”

A scrap piece of paper and an empty pit in my stomach. You might be familiar with the empty pit. It’s where Self-doubt lives. It’s where the Fears hang out with the Voices that tell you that you don’t know what you’re doing and that soon, someone will figure you out. Self-doubt, Fear and Voices had a lot to say to me on that day.

One of my secrets to success is Google. If I don’t know how to do something, I Google it. I Google cooking tips, medical questions, news trends, weather patterns, travel deals, ideal foods for rabbits, and stretching techniques. Things I want to get better at, and things I know nothing about.

Some of my common Google searches:

  • “How do you write for impact?”
  • “Most popular blog titles”
  • “How to increase click rates”
  • “How to motivate employees”
  • “Best ways to track time”
  • “I’m CEO. Now what?”

It doesn’t always give me the answer right away, but it always sets me on a path to finding the answer.

Googling is a common habit that everyone, including you, does daily. But pretty often, a team member will ask me how to do something and I will always say “Did you Google it?”  Case in point: if you don’t know how to do something, start with Google.

When I became CEO, all I had was questions. Big, scary, important questions and no answers. Self-doubt, Fears and Voices were alive and well as these questions bounced around my brain. What does a CEO do? How will I communicate this to the team? What will we tell the outside world? How will I know if I am any good at this?

There were no answers, but there was Google.

“CEO job description” yielded this result near the top of the page. With one article, I went down a rabbit hole I’m still following. Truthfully, I don’t think I read the whole article, but it gave me the answer I needed in that moment. It introduced to me one vital concept that has forever changed how I will hire and evaluate employees, and myself.

The concept is simple: In any job, there are responsibilities and there are duties. What you are responsible stays the same, but your duties change. As Javelina grows and changes, so will what I do on a day-to-day basis. Today, my duties and tasks include opening the mail. I don’t intend that to be the case in a month, and it will change as we grow.

For example, today I am the person that onboards all new employees. I draw up their paperwork, set them up on payroll and design their training. Today, it makes sense for me to do this. As we grow, I intend to identify someone else on the team who can complete this task so I can concentrate on other areas.

So, if my duties are going to change on a fairly regular basis, how do I write a job description that will accurately capture what I do today, in a week, a month, a year, and five years from now?

Answer: Focus on responsibilities.

While my day-to-day tasks will change over time, the things I am ultimately responsible for as CEO won’t. I read two or three articles on what a CEO is responsible for, spoke to my career coach and came up with this list:

  •      Setting and communicating the vision of where you are going
  •      Determining the strategy for how to get there
  •      Hiring and managing the team that will get you there
  •      Setting the culture and rules that will govern that team
  •      Making sure there is money in the bank

From there, I thought: What is the point of a job description? It’s to know what I’m doing, and for the team to know what I am doing. With that in mind, I wrote out the full job description posted at the end of this blog.

At our next staff meeting, I shared this idea with the team. I didn’t exactly know how my day-to-day duties will change as we embark on this journey to the moon together, but I do know that they will stem from these five responsibilities.

I also shared that in the coming weeks, we will be writing a job description similar to this for every member of the team. Each person will have a written description of their role that clearly outlines what they are responsible for. As I talked all of this through, they nodded along, asked a question here or there. (Although my team doesn’t tend to be all that forthcoming with questions at staff meetings. The real analysis tends to play out in various Slack channels in the hours and days after we’re done meeting – something I intend to work on with them through a diet of personal over sharing and trust falls.)

With my written job description in hand, I had three more burning questions:

  •      What should I be doing today to ensure I am meeting my responsibilities?
  •      How am I measuring success in these five responsibility areas?
  •      On these metrics, how am I doing?

The revealing of these three questions happened to coincide with me boarding an 11 hour flight from London to Phoenix, after visiting my mom in Chesterfield, England. My 12 years of doing this journey have taught me the key to defeating jet lag is to stay awake on the return flight, as you can pretty much get dinner and go straight to bed when you land, ensuring a good, long night of sleep before getting back to life the next day.

Armed with these three questions, I started typing. It blossomed into my “CEO Blueprint” – a living document that I’m still working on weeks later, and the thing that has become my roadmap for doing a job I’ve never done before. It’s like a campaign plan for my new role.

I took the team’s answers and organized them into a date-driven task list. Next, I re-read the job description to see what I felt was most needed, and came up with these priorities:

  •      Work with the team to put into words what our vision is, and how we are defining success
  •      Announce my being CEO to our clients and friends of the firm
  •      Evaluate team roles and needs (write each team member a job description with distinct responsibilities and duties)
  •      Determine how I am measuring success in my five responsibility areas
  •      Hire someone to assist me in my role as CEO

In order to fulfill this role to the standard I want, I am going to need someone who is dedicated to making sure the rocket ship is running smoothly every day. Someone who is helping me manage my time and tasks, but also someone who is dedicated to operations, systems and procedures for the rocket ship. Currently, everyone on the Javelina team is dedicated to client work, and it became obvious that I was going to need help.

After this process, I felt the calmest I had since being named CEO. I didn’t have it all figured out, but I did have my first action item. And as I landed back home in Phoenix, the first views of cacti coming into view over the dusk-colored desert, Self-doubt, Fear and Voices were asleep.


The job of Javelina’s CEO

What does Javelina’s CEO do? Great question. Let’s take a look:

Here at Javelina, we are changing the world. And we’re doing it by bringing brand to life for our clients. In turn, our clients are changing the world.

We like to say that we are building the rocket ship on the way to the moon. We have a grand vision for our company – what we will be, the impact we will have, and the value we can bring for others. It’s not all figured out. We don’t know exactly what we’ll be when we grow up, and we don’t have all the systems and processes in place just yet.

We have a fantastic team and big ambition. And now, we have a Chief Executive Officer.

The CEO for Javelina is responsible for five things:

  1.     Setting and communicating the vision for where we are going. Let’s say, we’re going to the moon.
  2.     Setting and overseeing the strategy for getting us there. Perhaps we will decide to get there by building a rocket ship.
  3.     Building, leading and listening to the team who is going to get us there. Every rocket ship needs engineers.
  4.     Setting our culture, values, and behaviors. So the engineers know what to expect from themselves and others.
  5.     Setting the budget and making sure there’s money in the bank to meet it. No one is reaching the moon if we run out of fuel.

These responsibilities of Javelina’s CEO won’t change. Always and forever, even when the person in the job changes, these five things that sit on their shoulders will not.

What will change are their duties. Today, the CEO’s duties include bringing in and managing clients, creating and innovating our company’s systems, and coming up with fun games for the annual retreat. Tomorrow, their duties will be different – because the company will be different. The CEO will determine the specific duties themself, but those duties will always stem from the five responsibilities. Because if the five responsibilities aren’t being met, we’ll never reach the moon – or be sure that’s exactly where we’re going anyway.

Everyone’s understanding of responsibilities and duties is important – after all, the engineers need to know who is doing what – so if you have questions about your role, the CEO’s or anyone else’s, just ask. Chances are, someone else is wondering too.

Javelina Blog Author Ariel Reyes

Javelina Blog Author

Catherine Alonzo, CEO & Founding Partner

Catherine Alonzo is the CEO and founding partner of Javelina, a company that brings brand experience to life for non-profits, businesses, campaigns and individuals. Having played a pivotal role in growing Javelina into a leading branding and marketing firm, Catherine specializes in effective messaging, brand development and business strategic planning.


Email Javelina Blog Author Catherine AlonzoFollow Catherine Alonzo on TwitterFollow Catherine Alonzo on Instagram



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