What is ‘C-Suite’?
C-Suite, or C-Level, is a widely-used slang term used to collectively refer to a corporation’s most important senior executives. C-Suite gets its name from the titles of top senior executives which tend to start with the letter C, for chief, as in Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO). Also called “C-level executives.”
BREAKING DOWN ‘C-Suite’
The C-suite is considered the most important and influential group of individuals at a company. The suite is usually the top of the echelon at a lot of companies: the highest career point which cannot be reached without leadership skills. One who gets to the C-level may realize that the functional know-how and technical skills that were garnered from the bottom of the career rung, and that qualified that person for a position in the C-suite may not be needed once they get to the top. At the C-level, leadership skills and business expertise are what counts above all other skill sets.
C-Suite Roles and Titles
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – The CEO is the highest level executive in the corporate world. The CEO leans on the other C-suite members for advice on making major corporate decisions. The CEO serves as the face of the company, setting the strategy and direction that the company should take in order to achieve its vision. The CEO could come from any career background and must have shown great leadership and decision-making skills in previous positions.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – The top of the corporate career for a financial analyst and accountant in the financial industry is the CFO position. Portfolio management, accounting, investment securities, investment research, and financial analysis are examples of skills that are built over the years. The CFO has a global mindset and works closely with the CEO to find new business opportunities for the company, while weighing the financial risk and benefits of each potential venture.
Chief Information Officer (CIO) – The CIO is a leader in information technology and usually starts from a business analyst position, working their way up to the C-level while developing technical skills in programming, coding, project management, MS Office, mapping etc. The CIO should have a practical knowledge of these skills, and also how these functional skills can be applied to risk management, business strategy, and finance. The CIO is sometimes referred to as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), although in some companies, these two may be separate.
Chief Operating Officer (COO) – The C-level of the Human Resources (HR) career is the COO. The COO manages the operations of a company by ensuring that the company functions smoothly in areas such as recruitment, training, payroll, legal, and administration. The Chief Operating Officer is usually the second in command to the CEO as he or she works to ensure that the organization has a healthy corporate culture.
Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) – The CMO usually would have worked their way up to the C-suite from a sales and/or marketing position and would be able to manage social innovation and product development across brick-and-mortar and electronic platforms (a function which is in high demand as the world shifts to a digital era).
Other offices in the C-Suite may include Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Chief Human Resources Manager (CHRM), Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Happiness Officer (CHO), Chief Content Officer (CCO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), etc.
The number of C-level positions vary from company to company, and may depend on the size of the company, its mission, and its operating industry or sector. While a larger company may have need for both a CHRM and a COO, a much smaller company may only need a COO to oversee human resources. Likewise, a healthcare company would require a CMO, who a food and beverage company may not require.
Responsibilities at the C-Level
C-level members are the most influential employees of a company. They work with each other to ensure that the company’s strategies and operations are aligned with the established plans and policies. Public companies, for example, are in business to make profit for shareholders. Any plan in place that does not correlate with this objective will be terminated.
Being a member of C-suite comes with high-stakes decision making, a more demanding workload and high compensation. As “chief” titles proliferate, however, job-title inflation may decrease the prestige associated with being a member of the C-suite.
Soft Skills for C-Suite
What are ‘Soft Skills’?
Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills. Sociologists may use the term soft skills to describe a person’s “EQ” or “Emotional Intelligence Quotient,” as opposed to “IQ” or “Intelligence Quotient.”
BREAKING DOWN ‘Soft Skills’
Soft skills have more to do with who people are, rather than what they know. As such, soft skills encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others and are usually a definite part of one’s personality. Whereas hard skills can be learned and perfected over time, soft skills are more difficult to acquire and change. The soft skills required for a doctor, for example, would be empathy, understanding, active listening and a good bedside manner. Alternatively, the hard skills necessary for a doctor would include a vast comprehension of illnesses, the ability to interpret test results and symptoms, and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology.
Soft Skills for Workers
Employers look for a balance of hard and soft skills when they make hiring decisions. For example, employers value skilled workers with a track record of getting the job done on time. Employers also value workers with strong communication skills and a strong understanding of company products and services. When communicating with prospective clients, workers with employee skills can put together compelling presentations even if their specific job is not in sales or marketing. Other valued soft skills are the ability to coach fellow coworkers on new tasks and cultural fit.
Soft Skills for Leaders
Company leaders are also most effective when they have a strong set of soft skills. For example, leaders are expected to have strong speaking abilities, but good leaders are also good at listening to workers and to other leaders in their fields. Negotiation is a big part of the job for company leaders. When negotiating with employees, clients or associates, leaders need to be skilled in staying considerate of what others want, while they remain focused on pushing for what they want. Good leaders also need to know how to make their own work most efficient by strategically delegating tasks to workers.
Soft Skills for Organizations
Soft skills benefit businesses when they are practiced on a company-wide basis. For example, a collaborative spirit among workers is important. Efficiency and output improves when workers collaborate by sharing knowledge and tools to get jobs done. The ability to learn new methods and technologies is also a desired soft skill for all workers. Companies that value learning as a soft skill recognize various learning styles and encourage workers to pursue the methods that work best for them. Good troubleshooting is a soft skill that is also valuable to companies. For example, companies can operate more efficiently when all workers know how to troubleshoot software problems instead of relying on the information technology (IT) department for every fix.
Hard Skills for C-Suite
What are ‘Hard Skills’
Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify, such as etiquette, getting along with others, listening and engaging in small talk. In business, hard skills most often refer to accounting and financial modeling.
BREAKING DOWN ‘Hard Skills’
Hard and soft skill sets are highly valued in the workforce for performing at top levels.
Characteristics of Hard Skills
Hard skills are quantifiable, such as proficiency in a foreign language, earning a degree or certificate, operating a machine, or programming a computer. Hard skills are often listed on a job applicant’s cover letter and resume so employers know the applicant’s qualifications for an open position.
Characteristics of Soft Skills
Soft skills are more personality-oriented interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, flexibility, patience, persuasion and time management. Because employers have an easier time teaching new hires hard skills, employers often look for job applicants with specific soft skills instead.
Differences Between Hard and Soft Skills
Possessing strong hard skills typically requires the left brain, or logic center. In contrast, strong soft skills are typically formed in the right brain, or emotional center.
Hard skills involve rules remaining the same regardless of what business or circumstances a person is in at any given time. Conversely, soft skills involve rules that change, depending on company culture and colleagues’ expectations. For example, the rules for how a programmer can create the best code are the same regardless of where the programmer works. However, a programmer may communicate effectively to other programmers about technical details but struggle when communicating with senior managers about a project’s success and necessary support.
Hard skills may be learned in school and from books. There are typically designated levels of competency and a direct path for excelling. For example, a person may take basic and advanced accounting courses, gain work experience and study for and take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. In contrast, learning most soft skills is not taught well in schools and does not have a set path, and soft skill are learned by trial and error. For example, a person learns patience by effectively communicating with others and quietly waiting his turn for an activity.
Hard Skills in Accounting
Hard skills in accounting include proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite, especially Excel, and familiarity with industry-specific software such as Great Plains, QuickBooks, Peachtree, SAP and tax preparation software. Accountants should know how to prepare and interpret financial statements and other accounting reports, develop efficient financial reporting mechanisms, and plan and implement accounting controls. Accountants need to collaborate with regulators and external auditors, stay updated with current issues and changes in industry regulations, and ensure strict adherence to regulations, procedures and practices.
Interpersonal Skills for C-Suite
What are ‘Interpersonal Skills’?
Interpersonal skills are the skills used by a person to interact with others properly. In the business domain, the term generally refers to an employee’s ability to get along with others while getting the job done. Interpersonal skills include everything from communication and listening skills to attitude and deportment. Good interpersonal skills are a prerequisite for many positions in an organization.
BREAKING DOWN ‘Interpersonal Skills’
The term “interpersonal skills” is somewhat of a misnomer because it refers to character traits possessed by an individual rather than skills that can be taught in a classroom. Within an organization, employees with good interpersonal skills are likely be more productive than those with poor interpersonal skills because of their propensity to project a positive attitude and look for solutions to problems.
Interpersonal skills are closely related to the knowledge of social expectations and customs, and they take into account others’ reactions to adjust tactics and communication as needed. Some describe interpersonal skills as a type of social intelligence that relies on paying attention to the actions and speech of others and interpreting it correctly as part of forming a response. While they are based in part on an individual’s personality and instincts, these skills also develop as a result of life experiences and knowledge.
Interpersonal Skills in the Job Search
Many job seekers cite interpersonal skills on their resumes, knowing their importance in success and productivity in the business world. Among the interpersonal skills often required in business are active listening, or the ability to elicit information from a speaker, and negotiation, a skill that is useful in sales, marketing, law and customer services, among other fields. Additional interpersonal skills seen as valuable include public speaking, conflict management, team building and collaboration.
Improving Interpersonal Skills
While many people believe that interpersonal skills are, to some extent, innate in each person or acquired at an early age, job seekers and those looking for promotions can take steps to improve their interpersonal skills and thereby make themselves more valuable to an organization. Steps individuals can take to hone their interpersonal skills include expressing appreciation for team members and support staff, practicing empathy, moderating disputes quickly so they don’t get out of control, and planning communications rather than saying or writing the first thing that comes to mind. Active listening is also a skill that can be learned through the process of repeating back to a speaker what she has said to make sure true communication is taking place.
Technical Skills for C-Suite
What are ‘Technical Skills’?
Technical job skills, also referred to as hard skills, are specific talents and expertise an individual possesses, helping him perform a certain task or job; these skills differ from soft skills, which are character and personality traits. Technical skills are abilities an individual acquires through practice and learning. For example, an individual who possesses a particular proficiency or skill set, such as excellent computer coding skills, is a qualifying candidate for a computer or technology company.
BREAKING DOWN ‘Technical Job Skills’
Technical job skills are ideal to list on the skill section of a resume because they shine a light on abilities and strengths. However, it is important to realize not all technical skills at an individual’s disposal should be listed. The list should be tailored to fit the job. This gives the individual a greater chance of getting hired.
Technical Skills vs. Soft Skills
On job applications, cover letters, resumes and in person during the interview process, employers seek out applicants with both hard and soft skills. Hard, or technical, skills are those abilities or skills sets that are teachable and can be quantified easily. Examples of hard skills include certificates or degrees in specific disciplines; mastery or fluidity in a foreign language; efficient operation of specific machinery; and the ability to generate computer programs.
Soft skills differ from hard skills in that they are subjective and can be incredibly difficult to quantify. Soft skills are inherent skills relating to an individual’s character or personality. These skills are sometimes referred to as “interpersonal skills” or “people skills.” Examples of soft skills include effective communication; working well with others; time management; the ability to be persuasive; flexibility; and patience.
What Employers Want
Technical job skills play a vital role in getting hired. Certain hard skills are necessary for a variety of jobs, and some positions require a specific set or combination of these skills. However, some of the more basic or intermediate types of technical skills are fairly easy for an employer to teach to a new employee. Soft skills, because they are essentially inherent, are extremely difficult to teach. In some cases, soft skills cannot be taught. For this reason, employers constantly look at potential employees with a bouquet of soft skills that allows them to complete tasks in a fast and efficient way. Because customer service/satisfaction is one of the most important aspects for any company or organization, soft skills are often considered of greater value.
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