This is What Being a CEO Feels Like

Building professional skills in any job is crucial to meeting the needs of employers. Jobs nowadays want professional profiles that look fresh, clean with new ideas and ambitious goals. Through formal education, work experience, internships and/or apprenticeships, these skills are being taught to the next generation of business owners and CEOs.

The Adecco Group has been a leading New Zealand recruitment agency for placing talented Kiwis into the workforce. Every year, Adecco announces the opportunity to work alongside NZ CEO, Mike Davies and become ‘CEO for One Month’. The group works nationally and internationally to ensure the right people have the right connections so young job-seekers can reach their full potential. Young businessman and champion-rower, Toby Cunliffe-Steel, was awarded the title this year and got the opportunity to liaise across every level of business. ‘CEO for One Month’ program caters to many skills. The programme teaches HR solutions, staffing business, marketing principles and effective leadership practice, gaining them confidence along the way, boosting employability and capitalising on ensuring new clients. We spoke to Cunliffe-Steel about success, the CEO experience and what motivates him in the boardroom and out.

What does success look like to you?

I see success in the moments where others benefit from a contribution I’ve made, irrespective of the environment, scale or intent. I strongly believe that people are what’s most important in the world and that one of the most noble causes one can undertake is bringing value to the lives of others.

How would you describe yourself in and out the boardroom?

I like to think I am a life learner that is constantly looking to draw on the knowledge and experience of others in all environments so that I can be the best version of myself.

What’s it like being titled Adecco’s CEO for One Month?

An incredible honour. To have been selected as the single individual from an entire nation to take on this challenge was very humbling. It is an experience that I will be proud of for the rest of my life.

Have there been any challenges so far? If yes, how did you overcome them?

The content of the program is comprised of challenges varying in nature as a means of facilitating our development, and so Adecco can get a good appreciation for our capabilities. They will then use this information to inform their decision on the final 10 CEO’s they will select for the global bootcamp. I overcome them by seeking and drawing from the knowledge and experience of my colleagues.

What does a day in your life look like?

During my in-office part of the program, I would get up at 5:30am so I could start the day right and get in an hour to an hour and a half of exercise. I’d then ride to work, Mike Ross style, to get into the office by 8:30am. I’d then spend the day working on the challenges set that week by either the global or domestic office. I’d also try to balance that with my post-graduate studies and part-time work commitments that I still had. This would easily chew through the day. I’d then bike back home from the office some time after 5pm before spending the evening either catching up with friends or colleagues or getting some more exercise. I’d try to be in bed before 9pm but it was often around 10-11pm.

As well as the CEO of the Month, you are also a very talented rower. In 2013, you rowed competitively in the Kazan Summer Universiade, and in 2015 in Gwangju. Do you still compete? If so, how did you balance being Adecco’s CEO and rower?

I retired from rowing in February this year following a medically mandated extended break from training due to illness. Between this and the strong likelihood that my discipline will be removed from the Olympic program had me believe that it was the right time. I obviously still have the training addiction through so I’m currently looking for new physical challenges that I can put my mind and body to. Balancing sporting endeavors with other commitments is never going to be easy but I think there is so much value being involved in sport, be it mental, physical or other, and so will stay involved in some capacity.

Do you think that your success in rowing has helped you succeed in the corporate world?

Most definitely. There are so many transferrable life skills developed through sporting involvement that can be applied in any environment if you have the nous for it. I’m just fortunate enough to realise and capitalize on this potential.

What did you hold to being your top aspirations in working with Adecco?

Of the numerous learnings I was hoping to get out of the program, the most important were to 1. Get an apt appreciation for how business works in this environment that is completely foreign to me, and 2. Get to understand how leaders within the organisation operate in producing the success that Adecco has had to date, with consideration for the numerous challenges they’ve faced along the way.

What inspires you?

Being the best version of myself that I can be to benefit the lives of others.

What motivates you?

The success of those that I try to surround myself with and my own achievements.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

In the grand scheme of things, life is short and not guaranteed. Find a worthy cause that you are passionate about, give it your all and have fun doing it.

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