The majority of all CEOs I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and for, don’t really want to ‘boss’ anyone. In truth, some do but most truly want to help their team succeed. They have large responsibilities that can be overwhelming. This is particularly true if they’re leading a transition or transformation. It’s why so many, attracted to a challenge, high risk-rewards, and the authority to make change, are so intrigued by the CEO position.
Once you start, reality settles in fast. Everyone wants your time and attention to focus on what matters most to them. So how can you determine what to prioritize? What often occurs with less experienced CEOs is the law of the urgent. This law can be incredibly destructive. Whatever seems like it holds the greatest opportunity, or disaster, gets the attention. But what if the analysis is flawed in the first place? This is why it’s so crucial to begin with what is truly important to the entire organization versus what’s important to that specific person representing part of the organization.
There are several ways to address these situations and they are all required for a complete success.
Bring in newcomers. Within the organization there are probably people who have become true experts in their subject area. They may not be on the specific team you are assisting but their outside view can provide meaningful, fresh ideas to a team struggling with a challenge.
Though some people might become uneasy inviting an unrelated team member to join in, giving that team some extra think power can jumpstart new ideas and develop a new strategy. Even if you prefer not to include non-departmental or non-divisional team members, bringing them in can create solutions that have not been considered.
Ensure an adequate amount of time to develop a new idea. Any new idea or practice in an organization is disruptive to a certain degree. The more time you can allow the team to think through their plan and develop it, the more they will be able to execute it. I have advised clients in many different types of organizations that they need to fully understand both what they are trying to fix, and why. All too often CEOs and their team rush to put into action their new strategy without considering how best to introduce it. When this occurs people can become confused and even disillusioned by the process because they sense the idea has not been fully vetted or thought through.
Ensure you serve as a Coach and not just the CEO. No CEO needs to push his or her weight around to prove they are in charge. The grand majority of people want a CEO who will lead them. This can be a double-edge sword. On the one hand, you might know the best answer and direction, but on the other hand, it is always preferred if your team figures out their plan of action with you, rather you telling them what to do.
When leading multiple people and teams, it’s easy to get distracted by the sheer amount of decisions to be made — you can always count on having plenty of problems and situations to solve. Serving as a coach to your team members allows you to make the most of your time because the best coaches help others make the best decisions.
CEOs need to see themselves as coaches and be able to help their teams versus telling their teams what to do. Few team members enjoy being micro-managed, but most enjoy being coached and that’s what the best CEOs know how to do.