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A Chief What Officer? The Truth About Titles

I have been a Digital Marketer, a Genius, a Business Representative, and a Shift Manager. I have guided through the titles that life has graciously provided me, without a true understanding of what it meant. Now, I find myself in this position again as a Chief Innovation Officer. When people ask me, “Brody, what do you do?” I tell them my respective title. When they look at me with a puzzled ‘yeah right!’ face, I say something to the effect of – “That means I sit in a chair and think about things.” It’s not wrong, that is my job, and for those only seeking your title, that’s all they care about.

When I give my standard response of sitting in chairs and thinking, 9 out 10 will nod their head and say “Wow, that’s really great!” But that 1 person of every 10 who says – “Well what do you think about?” – they’re the one I want; they represent the batch of people who I can help, and who can help me.

The truth is that titles’ get you in the door, but by no means does anyone understand why. To attempt to articulate my job is a job in itself. My responsibilities stretch wide, however it all boils down to one over-arching idea… To create solutions before people know they need one. Now take your management or C-Level job title, whatever it may be, and truly define your role. My guess is it will turn out very similar to mine, accept, instead of future tense, it may be present or past tense.

We all have responsibilities – it says so on the Job Specification sheet for each job you apply for. I call that the “If you do these things, we will give you this name” agreement. In my experience, there are a lot of people that live and die by that specification. Here’s the secret though… the title that you’re receiving is not what you’re working towards, it’s what you’ve already worked to accomplish – so in a sense, the title you have is already old and outdated. It is only showing what you have done, not what you will do – and that is the entire problem with titles.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe titles are necessary. They are an essential part of the business world to create order in a chaotic jungle. The problems arise when you start classifying your job as your title, and your title as your job. Thinking back to some of the best and worst leaders I have ever encountered, I can distinctly remember that the best followed no title, and the worst couldn’t manage without it. Many think it’s ego – it’s not. The need for an important title is a mask – a cloak for insecurity – the only way to prove that what they have done in their life has amounted to a spectacle of importance. It is in this logic that leaders fail and the 9/10’s of us who accept titles at face value are the driving force for that.

In the comments, I’d love to hear from you about your job title and a one-sentence summary of your position. I also encourage everyone to spread the idea that when someone tells you their position in a company, do not leave it there – dig deeper, ask them what their job is, ask them where they are going instead of where they’ve been, and help create a culture of progress leadership. To think ahead is to not think at all, it is just to do… as small or petty something may be, if it creates positive change – just do it – the world will not wait for us.

@brodyclemmer | LinkedIn

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