Jim Schleckser, CEO and Managing Partner at The CEO Project, is a seasoned leader with over 20 years of professional experience in leading technology businesses. With extensive global experience in Europe and Asia, Schleckser currently helps high-performance CEOs in middle market companies. Schleckser sat down with WashingtonExec this week to discuss what The CEO Project is, the three most pivotal moments in his professional life and how he defines a successful CEO.
WashingtonExec: Before becoming CEO and Managing Partner at The CEO Project, what were the three most pivotal moments in your professional life that you either learned from or that got you where you are today?
Jim Schleckser: There are a few things that I think were pivotal in my professional career. The first is hard work. Particularly early in my career, I worked harder than almost anyone at my level. The first 40 hours a week were for the company and the balance was to get ahead. The second factor was showing up, which yielded lucky and fortunate work assignments and positions. The final factor is failure. Early in my career, I had a particularly spectacular failure in a start-up business. This humbled me and made me appreciate the fragility of success. Since I was able to recover, it inoculated me to a degree from fear of future failure.
WashingtonExec: How does The CEO Project help those who are about to take on such a substantial leadership role in the workplace?
Jim Schleckser: Focus and time management are the two most critical factors for the CEO. Given that everyone has the same amount of time, how do some achieve more than others? The first element is identifying the things that really matter, such as the transformational opportunities or business constrictions. The second is spending 35-50 percent of their time engaging with the most important things and minimizing everything else. This sounds simple, but is devilishly hard to do while running a company with multiple stakeholders.
WashingtonExec: Fill in the blank. The most important characteristic(s) of a successful CEO is/are ________________ because ___________________.
Jim Schleckser: The most important characteristics of a CEO are the ability and desire to learn because things are going to change and the key differentiator is the ability to learn, which allows the leader to adapt to inevitable changes.
WashingtonExec: The CEO Project uses the Growth Priority System as its underlying philosophy. Could you elaborate on what that is?
Jim Schleckser: The Growth Priority System is a framework to help CEOs focus on the area that matters the most. It looks at the business model, talent in the business, processes and systems used to deliver value and time management. Getting the business model right is the first order of business, since everything else is easier with a great approach. The second is excellent talent that can execute since they will help take care of the processes and systems. Finally, as indicated above, how the CEO allocates time to each of these areas will ultimately determine their success.
WashingtonExec: How do you find time as a CEO of a company to balance your professional life versus your personal life?
Jim Schleckser: Scheduling personal and family time is central to creating balance in my life. It feels a bit too business-like, but if you don’t put a vacation on the calendar and work towards it — other important events will conspire to push it off your schedule. I have friends that schedule a “Date Night” every week with their spouse to maintain that balance in their relationships. So, if you want more family time, put it in your calendar.