INNOVATE

Maybe CEOs Need a New Title

Chief Executive Officer doesn't reflect the CEO's most important responsibility. Here's a title that does.
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I propose dropping the "Executive" part of the CEO title. To me, it would make more sense if CEO stood for Chief Environmental Officer—because all CEOs are environmentalists. Not tree-hugger types. But environmentalists all the same.

What I mean is that the CEO creates the environment for his or her company. It’s a hugely important task and it’s critical to be intentional about it.

Your words, actions, demeanor, and mood set the tone for the entire company. Do you say you value innovation, but then come down hard on failures? Do you respect honesty and candor from your employees—or do you just want them to do what they’re told? Before you answer, consider this: The way you treat your employees is the way they’ll treat your customers.

What sort of personality have you given your company? Is yours a creative, innovative company or a cost-cutting manufacturing company—or something else? I think of mine as a collaborative, authentic company that values people, and I do my best to model that every day.

What does your personality look like in your office? We’re serious about our performance, but we try never to take ourselves too seriously. For example, we’ve hung street signs from the ceilings that identify all the offices we’ve occupied over the years, including my own garage, where I started the business in 1996. It’s a great way to show our collective history together.

How you use your space matters too. Do you have the big corner office or do you work closely with everyone else? Do you have large, open meeting areas, or instead do you need to cram into seldom available, small offices? Perception is everything. If you’re all about cutting costs and yet your furniture is costly, then you are not setting the proper example.

We encourage collaboration between marketing and IT by putting their departments side by side with a sliding glass door in between. It encourages quick, stand-up meetings. At the very least, it’s a constant reminder that one department must consider the other—in fact, they’re codependent.

And our call center is right smack in the middle of our office with glass offices surrounding it. It’s important for the support people (i.e. CEO, CFO, COO, CIO) to be able to watch and hear customer interactions all day. If you say you’re customer-centric, then why not put your customers in the center?

How do you rank on this kind of environmental awareness? And would your employees’ answers differ from yours?

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Dec 7, 2011

JAY STEINFELD | CEO, Blinds.com

JAY STEINFELD is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window covering sales that was recently acquired by The Home Depot. Jay is a passionate advocate for amazing (and profitable) company culture.




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