C-suite career advice from Andreas Pouros, COO & Co-founder of Greenlight Digital
What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received?
The best piece of career advice I ever received was to leave everyone in a better place than where I found them. Bosses, colleagues, subordinates, the cleaners, failed interviewees. Everyone. Call it good politics, emotional intelligence or just karma, but living to improve everyone's position means your position improves as a result - and people are happy for you as opposed to resentful when you progress.
What was the worst piece of business advice that you received?
"If you want it done right, you should do it yourself." This works every now and again but if you get into the pattern of not trusting people, delegating and managing to outcomes, then you will spend all your time working FOR the business as opposed to ON the business.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the tech industry?
Do whatever you need to do to get into a small to medium-sized independently-owned and growing business. You will learn more and be given far more responsibility than if you joined a larger business. Your impact will be more readily noticed and the business will be small enough for the CEO to know who you are - and he/she is the one whose rewards that you need and want. Every year in an independent SME is the equivalent of 3-5 in a larger one when it comes to your growth and what you can put on your CV. And work hard - who knows how high you can climb in a business that you have joined in its infancy.
What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position?
Five main tips:
- SACRIFICE: Make sure that you are willing to sacrifice things to get there. I don't know any c-level execs that haven't spent years working evenings and weekends to get to their positions. Becoming both an expert in your field and an effective leader takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It isn't for everyone. Are you willing to sacrifice your social life, sometimes your relationships, to get there? My tip is to get in the right frame of mind; it's going to take inhuman levels of effort and that's okay, I can do it and I can be patient if that's the prize.
- BE NICE: You can get to c-level by being nice to people or treading on them. Don't believe business books that tell you that you need to be Machiavellian to get anywhere. Do it the right way, be nice to people, fair and supportive, and karma will come around and help you get to C-level and help you stay there.
- LEAD & MANAGE: You need to be both a leader and a manager - they are entirely different skill sets. Work on both. Switch from leader to manager, and back again, when the situation requires it.
- SAY YES: Say 'yes' to things. That's how opportunities appear that provide routes to your different possible futures.
- NEVER COMPLAIN: Take action to fix things. Take solutions, not problems to your boss. No exceptions.
Are you particularly proud of any career advice that you've given or the career route/development of anyone you've mentored?
There's a speech I give when any of my staff are losing their path, thinking short-term rather than long-term, and in the process of sabotaging their futures. I've used it for about 10 years and whilst it's always a bit different each time, it sounds something like this (it's quite long, sorry):
"Life is short. If you're lucky, you have 50 adult years on this earth. You're at your best physically and mentally for perhaps 30 of those years. So you really don't have much time. You will make probably around 5 decisions in your life that will decide your entire life's trajectory.
The first is what you decide to learn and be better at than 90% of the population. That could be the guitar, business administration, anything. You get one choice there because being an expert in something takes a very long time and a lot of energy. You can only really choose one thing. It dictates how much money you make in your early years, it dictates how happy you are at work, sometimes how people treat you, and it also takes a hold of you and dictates much of your life's direction. Who you meet, where you socialise, the lives you witness, the wealth or poverty you see. That choice has strong implications. It sets a path that is very difficult to change.
The second choice you make that decides your life is usually who you choose to marry (or spend the rest of your life with). Make the wrong choice there and you could end up living in your car and lose 10 years in depression. Choose well and whatever happens in your life, you will have an embrace waiting for you that feels like home, forever. I've seen the biggest changes in people when they find their soul mate as that person's influence on your life's trajectory is very powerful. Choose wisely (it is ALWAYS a choice regardless of what Hollywood has told you, sometimes a very hard one, even when you are in love).
The other choices that affect the trajectory of your life can be counted on one hand. They are those moments where an exit appears on the road and you can go left or continue straight ahead and that decision changes your whole path in life. Some left turns are great and put you on a spectacular new path. Some don't turn out so well. When you are about to take a left turn, you have to ask yourself whether you are taking it through bravery (to find something better, to take that intelligent risk) or whether you are taking it because you are lazy, angry, frustrated, tired or because it's just the easier road. If you are taking a left turn for any of those reasons, you need to stop and reflect on whether you need to shake yourself off, be an adult, and keep going in the right direction instead. This may only happen a few times in your life but it decides everything."
This article was first published on the IDG Connect website.