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3 Non-Negotiable Steps to Cultivating a CEO Mindset

I’m constantly asking my clients, “Do you want to be just a business owner, or do you want to be a CEO?” While you can definitely be both, being a CEO is more about feeling confident in your business decisions and embracing your power. And in order to truly live, work, and feel like a CEO, you have to cultivate a CEO mindset.

What Is a CEO Mindset?

You hear it all the time from business bros and LinkedIn influencers: “Not everyone has what it takes to be a CEO.” While I don’t think that’s necessarily true, I do believe that successful and fulfilled CEOs who build sustainable businesses share some common mindset traits, all of which you can cultivate through mindset work. No one is born to be a CEO or even an entrepreneur. Everyone has the ability to do it if they truly want to!

Let’s be clear, though: CEO is not synonymous with millionaire. To me, a CEO is anyone who confidently runs their business and consistently works to grow, both professionally and personally. Sure, that might eventually land you on the Forbes Billionaire List, but there’s a lot of privilege behind the scenes of most of those success stories. Anyone can start a business, anyone with a business can be a CEO, and any CEO can cultivate a CEO mindset.

3 Steps to Cultivating a CEO Mindset

STEP 1: Define and operate according to your values.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of running your business. But CEOs are always looking at the big picture. That means defining your values, understanding your mission, and operating every day to serve that end.

If you’ve never done a value-defining exercise, grab a pen and piece of paper. Then, think about these questions:

  • What do you want to be known for personally? What do you want your business to be known for?

  • When clients reflect on their time working with you, how do you want them to feel?

  • When future or current team members (employees and contractors) think about working for you, how do you want them to feel about the experience?

  • What impact do you want to make in your community or in the world?

  • What impact do you want your business to have on your life? How do you want your business to benefit your daily life, and vice versa?

Once you’ve sat with these questions for a while and done some brainstorming, try to distill your values down to five to eight words. (If you need some inspiration, check out this list and this list.) When you feel happy with your list of values, write them on a piece of paper and display them somewhere you’ll see them often, like above your desk or on your nightstand.

Keeping your list of values close at hand will remind you to abide by them in your everyday life and work. When you need to make a big business decision, are struggling with a challenging client, or lose touch with your why, return to this list. It will act as your compass.

STEP 2: Keep your goals top-of-mind.

I’ve never met (or read about or heard an interview with) a CEO who wasn’t growth-minded. That means they’re always looking for ways to reach their next goal. Whether you’ve got your sights set on a six-figure launch or just a little extra padding in your savings account, your goals should remain top-of-mind as you do the day-to-day work of running your business. Here’s how to get started.

Break big goals into smaller goals.

A large goal like “launch a new course” or “hit six figures in revenue” sounds intimidating, and it really gives you no roadmap for reaching it. Instead of setting just one large goal, break that goal down into smaller, more manageable and actionable steps. For example, you might break down your goals like this:

  • Big Goal: Start your own business.

    • Smaller Goals: File for an LLC, land your first client, match your corporate income, quit your job.

  • Big Goal: Launch your first course.

    • Smaller Goals: Complete the course outline, write the modules, create the marketing materials, sell 5 seats.

  • Big Goal: Book a solo vacation.

    • Smaller Goals: Save $3000, block off a week in your client calendar, book your plane tickets.

These smaller goals then become achievable milestones on the way to your end goals.

Create systems for chipping away at your goals.

Setting goals is easy, but reaching them is hard. The best way to keep your momentum is to incorporate your small goals into your daily and weekly work routine.

For example, say your big goal is to launch your first course and you’re currently in Phase 1, completing your course outline. You might block off 10 minutes in your calendar every day to brainstorm module ideas or write notes for each part of the program.

As another example, maybe your big goal is to hit six figures in revenue, which means signing on five more clients. But before you land those five clients, you’ll need to outsource some of your current work to make space in your calendar. You might set aside an hour this week to research contractors, get your systems in order, or set up a project management software for your eventual team.

Remember, goal setting isn’t just about vision. It’s about action, and that means actually putting things on your to-do list.

Celebrate as you go!

Every small goal, every milestone, every hour spent working towards your goals is worth celebrating! Not only is it a great confidence booster, but celebrating even your smallest accomplishments creates a good-feeling feedback loop that keeps you motivated to work towards your next goal (and your next and the one after that). CEOs celebrate growth in all its forms, no matter how small!

If you want a full break-down for setting and reaching your goals, check out this post.

STEP 3: Manage your money like a CEO.

And no, I don’t mean go out and buy a yacht or transfer all your money to an offshore tax haven. (For real, never do that.) Managing your money like a CEO means doing so with confidence and clarity so you can get the absolute best return on your investments.

Of course, it’s easier said than done! Here are a few places you can start:

  • Get familiar with your finances. Ask any high-powered CEO what their business is worth, and they’ll answer without blinking. That’s because they spend time with their numbers and work to gain a complete understanding of their finances. You can do the same! Take time every day to review your finances and check in with your money goals. Like I always say, knowledge breeds confidence.

  • Invest in growth. That goes for your business growth and your personal growth. The most successful CEOs spend time, energy, and money improving themselves and their businesses. Why? Because they know it pays off in the long run! The more confident and capable you are in your entrepreneurial and leadership skills, the more effectively you’ll be able to run your business. That means more money, a greater impact, and a whole lot of personal fulfillment.

  • Improve your money mindset. You’ll hear a lot of famous, insanely wealthy entrepreneurs say things like, “It was never about the money for me.” I call BS. What they probably mean is something more along the lines of, “I didn’t focus solely on the money because I had faith that the money would come.” We can recognize that not worrying about money is a privilege, but we can also work towards creating a money mindset of abundance rather than scarcity. And when it comes to money mindset, you really do have to fake it ‘til you make it.

Managing your money like a CEO is far more about mindset than it is your actual routine. But if you do need help developing a sustainable, effective bookkeeping system, I’ve got you covered there, too.

Want to feel calm, cool, and confident when managing your money?

Who doesn’t?! Confidence is key to a CEO mindset, and the key to confidence in any area is education and understanding. In terms of money, start with The Ultimate Accounting Checklist, your guide for managing and maintaining your business finances with ease.

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