When the coaching firm BetterUp announced that Prince Harry had been named their Chief Impact Officer it begged the question—what’s that? It sounds very important—you’re the chief one having impact on the company, on the customers using the services and, in the parlance of so many online outlets today, “on our community.” To my understanding, impact is all about outcomes. My impact on you means you have grown, been loved, behave differently, or run away whenever you see me.
What I really wanted to know is what does being the CIO mean in a tangible sense? What is Prince Harry doing from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday? At 9 a.m. you sit at your desk in your home office, open your computer, click on Outlook and then what? What’s on your calendar? How do you start making an impact and then how do you turn that into daily tasks? How do you measure your impact? What impact does being CIO have on your day?
I remember back in the ’80s when Roseanne appeared on Johnny Carson, she cracked us all up by saying she wasn’t a housewife, she was a domestic goddess. In college in the ‘80s becoming a housewife as still a thing. An unstated goal with an undercurrent that I felt. I wanted to work and have a career. I also wanted to get married and have babies, but back when I was wearing gasket bracelets, these things were mutually exclusive. We just didn’t have a word for it. Housewife sounded wrong for the time. And it really is wrong. It was wrong then and it’s just wrong.
While it’s definitely wrong now, the pandemic has shown us that women largely take on most of the home tasks. We drive the agenda for the day. Organize the meals. Carry the burden for the family schooling and scheduling. Manage all the extra unseen work (setting doctor appointments, knowing how many rolls of toilet paper are in the closet before we run out, having some clue about where the vaccine cards live.) Dare I say it? We have the chief impact on running the household.
Yes, I do dare. In fact, I decided this is something I have in common with Prince Harry and I promoted myself to Chief Impact Officer of our family, our home and our way of life.
While we choose the vision collectively, it is I who carry it out. In the weekly tasks—making the breakfast mini quiches on Sunday nights so we have protein and veg every weekday morning. Heading up the stairs with baskets of folded laundry. Setting appointments on the computer calendar and emailing invites to the people two rooms away. It’s me who comes up with a way to remove the ingrown toenails on my 25-year-old, 200 pound son whose autism makes him ultra sensitive and screams “Go away, go away!” when you come near his foot with a clipper. I clean the bathroom every morning in his aftermath before I go to work in my home office.
But being chief cook and bottle washer, or in my case chief cook and poop cleaner, isn’t all that being a Chief Impact Officer is about.
It is mostly about being the tone-setter. My husband is a vision caster, naturally born. He sees something and shares the image with us and it is usually very motivating and we climb on board to head that way. When I share ideas with him, he gives me insight on how to make a plan to get myself there. That feels like CEO behavior to me. CIO behavior, I have decided, is setting the tone for how we get there.
It is also my role to empower the other members of the team. Empowering my son Henry to make his own choices is a major part of the job description. Recently, his dad sent me this text: “Henry’s been very aggressive this week, he even pushed me.” I was on my way to pick up Henry for his half week with us.
When we got home, I asked Henry, “What do you want for lunch?” Then, I unlocked the snack closet and said, “Pick out your snacks for lunch and if you like, tell me which snacks you want for dinner.” We have to lock up food or Henry will eat it all. And by all, I mean all: a dozen cupcakes, a family size bag of chips, a twelve pack of hot dogs, a bag of sliced cheese. (And now you know why I clean up poop every morning.)
Usually, I go into the closet and pick out Henry’s snacks, lock it back up and run before he sees me. I never let him go into the closet himself. One night my husband and I went up to bed and I forgot to lock the closet. We heard this joyous cry, “Yay! It’s my birthday.” I wasn’t aware until that moment that Henry tries the locked door every night. I ran downstairs and saved the family pack of Oreos from being devoured.
But on this day , when I invited him to make a plan and get what he wanted, he came back with the day’s snacks and a list of what he’d like for lunch and dinner the next day. Nice. The aggression did not re-appear. I shared this back with his dad and we put into place more opportunities for Henry to be in charge of his own life. Empowered, he was back to his delightful self.
I’m not sure if Prince Harry will agree, but I think this is the essence of the Chief Impact Officer’s job. Setting the tone and empowering everyone along the way towards a shared vision. Chief Impact Officer of our family, of our way of life, feels like a right description of my days.
Next level in my career will be a promotion to Chief Impact Officer of my own life—though I hear the onboarding for that job is tough.
Categories: Alice's Voice