Tuesday night I had the honor of being awarded “CEO of the Year” by the Technology Association of Iowa. Though the title of the award is aimed at me, I think it’s really just a reflection of my ability to build a team of really smart, passionate people that do great work. The Technology Association of Iowa is a fabulous organization that works tirelessly to help build the IT industry in Iowa and encourages math and science skills in Iowa schools. Several of our team members are involved with TAI, especially working with students – in fact, I just met a friendly high school junior who is touring our office to learn more about becoming a Web designer. The team at Geonetric really is an amazing group, and this award is recognition of our cumulative efforts.
An important lesson I’ve learned during the 10 years of running Geonetric is that in spite of awards, recognition and an amazing work environment, a CEO must always find the right balance between optimism and pessimism.
A good leader (CEO or not) needs to create the optimistic vision for the where the company will go and bang the drum constantly about the urgency of moving it forward right now. As a CEO, I have to exude passion and positive energy that infects the team and encourages unity around key objectives. I have to recognize the right behaviors and reward the best of the best, always seeing new opportunities and aiming for the next level. Innovation only happens when the target keeps moving forward and evolves in response to industry shifts and opportunities that appear.
But those same words can be viewed through a different lens: this is the constant recognition that where we are today might be considered by some as “good enough” – but it’s not where we want to be. No matter how many awards we win, or what recognition we get, or how successful we are financially, my job is to remind my team that we haven’t reached a stopping point. We never will, because I’ll move the goalposts before we get there!
That principle can be summed up as change for the better as fast as you can. It implies the fine balancing act between optimism and pessimism. And that balance can be hard, as it was last night. At the precise moment I was honored with the “CEO of the Year” award, my team was feverishly working after hours on a complex project to fix a problem that was entirely our doing. Somewhere a process didn’t go as planned.
It’s true that in any business, things sometimes go wrong. There’s a lot of complexity and challenge in what we do (it’s how we attract smart people to solve tough challenges). And “candor” is one of our company values – to face up to problems that every company faces and take them head on. Perhaps even to publicly blog about them. But the juxtaposition of winning “CEO of the Year” while at the same time solving an entirely preventable problem, reinforces that tough balance between optimism and pessimism: as good as we are, we can always be better.
If there’s any reason I should win “CEO of the Year,” it’s because of my constant drive and desire to reach a higher place. … To make my company better tomorrow than we were yesterday. Geonetric does that, day in and day out, and I’m proud of my team for keeping the fire burning.