Three-Letter Leaders Create Clarity


In the age of 146 character tweets and 12-minute Ted talks, much can be gained by considering what three-letter titles can do to clarify roles and responsibilities. Everyone knows a CEO is the Chief Executive Officer, the COO is the Chief Operating Officer, and the CFO monitors profit and loss while the CTO concerns herself with technology. Let’s not forget the CIO who oversees information flow both externally and internally.


However, change the wording and a different picture emerges. Imagine a CEO tasked as the Chief Engagement Officer. Rather than issuing executive orders, engagement requires a relationship with employees that transcends performance to look at attitude, long-term commitment and personal growth. As the Chief Energy Officer of my organization, I look at what gives us energy (the capacity to do work) and what depletes it. Energy is gained through meaningful work, appreciation, collegial relationships, and fun.


Notice that all these titles use vowels. But there are three remaining vowels that are reserved for individual positions. Use your imagination and think what three titles might mean: The CAO is the chief accountability officer. We all have that title. What are we holding ourselves accountable for? Have we had a conversation with our colleagues and customers to make sure that what we THINK we are accountable for matches their expectations? At the end of the day, what did we achieve?


The CUO is the chief understanding officer. That’s another universal title. How well do you understand the customer? Your colleague? Your client? Without understanding, a function of deep listening, it is hard to move forward. The book of Proverbs was right: seek first to understand rather than to be understood.


And of course, the CYO is the Chief Yippee Officer. She is in charge of merriment, fun, and finding humor that creates a spark for creativity. Chade Meng Tan (Tan is 3 letters :)) is Google’s Jolly Good Fellow. According to Karyn Buxman, RN, MSN and a member of The Resiliency Group, "Meng is someone who changed his work environment for the better (Google) and is now changing the world for the better (1 Billion Acts of Peace aka Peace Jam)." Buxman describes him as “witty, wise and compassionate… a true leader of levity.”


I challenge you to create your own three-letter title. Write me what it means to you and why you selected it. I think we could have a fascinating conversation.

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