Personal Brands: Be CEO of Something, Anything

In Sunday’s New York Times, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus describes his method for swelling up his company with CEOs. Yes, he wants a company brimming with CEOs – people who are CEO of a plan, project, or program. On a wall, he tacks up a poster-sized white sheet for each employee – and puts the employee’s name at the top. Then, he gives everyone one week to commit to what they are CEO of, and it has to be “something meaningful” written in bold letters for everyone to see.

You’ve got to feel pretty stupid if your name is up there with nothing below it. And, it happens. Mark just doesn’t want people who don’t own their portion of the enterprise – or are afraid to take risks.

What if you were hired to be a drone?

There are plenty of companies that recruit people because they are followers, have little imagination and want to put in an 8-hour day for 8-hour pay. Personal brands don’t have to long suffer those circumstances if you’re managing your life, work, reputation, output and relationships. But you might use the salary to become your own patron. In other words, keep your day job.

You still can be CEO of whatever ideal venture, book, website, or business you do away from your day job. With your own income funding you, you don’t have chase down venture capitalists and beg for money. You can self-fund. That means keeping your day job because it provides the resources for your new project.

Fail upward

Mark Pincus also likes people who have excelled at something – perhaps athletics – and then FAILED. He’s looking for resiliency – and people who are hungry to get back on top of something big. Hungry people have unmet goals (that’s why they’re hungry). Hungry people exceed their goals because they set a bigger goal each time they see they’re going to make the last one they set.

What are you CEO of? Do you have it written down somewhere? Everywhere?

Is someone or something holding you accountable?

Do you have a roadmap, milestones and clear signs laid out to prove you’re succeeding (or not) on the path to your success?

Do you know what EVIDENCE you’ll need to see – not feel – that proves you are making progress?

Do you have alternatives ready if you can’t clear an obstacle with your original plan?

Do you know the people who must say yes, support you, believe in you and provide the resources you need? Are you establishing relationships with them?

Do you have all the skills, experience, judgment, and work ethic you’ll need – or a plan to get them as you go along the road? Just-in-time skill building is perfect, since almost everything is so dynamic, you don’t want to train too early – or too late.

Venture capitalist John Doerr is one of Mark Pincus’ advisors. John has a simple system for keeping you on track with your goals and roadmap. Here’s how you can get started on your CEO status, once you’ve identified exactly what you own.

On Sunday night, you write down your top three priorities along with three measurable outcomes you’ll achieve by week’s end.

It’s put up or shut up time for personal brand builders. Put up that big white piece of paper with your name on it. Jumpstart your progress by filling in these blanks:

I am CEO of:

This week my top three priorities are:

The three measurable outcomes I’ll see this week are:

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