Doing it all yourself will limit your growth and drive top employees away

We have probably all seen or experienced this concept first-hand – we can do it ourselves faster and better than anyone else! This is especially true of rookie CEOs and new managers and leaders. We move up through an organization’s functional group because we are excellent performers, but when you become the boss it all changes. On top of this, new CEOs own all functions and are not typically experienced within each functional group. Former sales executives get involved in sales details. The same for former marketing executives and former engineering executives and so on. Some readers will recognize controlling CEOs and micromanagement by CEOs in this post.

Ideally, as a CEO you will get to know the entire leadership team, key employees and become the best listener and asker of questions in the company. If you choose to continue to micromanage and make every decision, you will impede growth and frustrate your leadership team. Your behavior matters. In today’s environment, your leaders will either leave, back down, and become less effective, or the best will challenge you. Does this sound like you?

I have had many 1-on-1 discussions with rookie CEOs that believe only they can lead and drive everything making each and every decision because no one else is capable. I say this is a fallacy. I do say to CEOs, “your behavior matters” because your employees listen to every word you say and watch every move you make. This drives company culture. I discuss this in my book, “The Rookie CEO, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”, a 2-time award winner in 2021.

Time to take personal inventory

To do a deep-dive analysis of yourself requires you to take a step back and look at the big picture. This is one of the most difficult things that a rookie CEO or leader has to do. As a CEO, you set and own the vision and overall strategy, but you also are accountable to your board of directors and shareholders to “lead” your team to success. When I meet a new CEO for the first time, I almost always tell them that your answers are already here within your company. It’s you and your employees that know your customers and partners. It’s your leadership team that knows who the “go-to” people are within the company. I hold a long-time view that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. Who are the 20%? Of course, this does not apply everywhere – not in startups or very small businesses but in most companies this is true.

Once you have the bigger picture, you can begin to see who really makes stuff happen. Meet 1-on-1 with these key team members and get their input. You can typically get a broad but detailed perspective by listening and asking the right questions. In this quest, you will be able to create a methodology to improve delegation skills, trust, and take projects off of your plate allowing both you and your team members to grow. It will improve your relationships with your team, and it will engage senior leaders in the business. You still need to lead, but you don’t need to do everything and make every decision that your functional leaders are experts in! Your behavior matters.

Why is it so hard to let go?

CEOs I talk with about this topic are consistent with their perspectives on “letting go” as they typically believe it is faster and easier to just do it yourself rather than having to explain your thoughts and provide direction to their senior leaders. How else will the CEO truly determine the capabilities of his/her leadership team and build trust between each other? How else will you get buy-in and teamwork amongst senior leaders if you control it all while ignoring senior leaders’ expertise and input? Executive coaches can guide CEOs through this process which can help ease the transition to “letting go” and empowering their teams.

Develop a process

As CEO, you already have a full plate already without taking on every decision and project. The ability to delegate to your team does take time and discipline, so develop an iterative process to make sure everything is on track to your satisfaction – but be careful, do not change everything your team is doing. This behavior of overruling their work drives frustration and can have the opposite effect you are looking for. A 15-minute briefing with your team member allows you to ask questions to gain confidence in the direction and their progress towards the overall goal. Over time, once trust is built, you will not need these iterative briefings unless it proves to become part of the company culture and you and your team like and appreciate this process. If you choose to hire an executive coach, they may have similar suggestions to create and implement this process.

A byproduct of this process is accountability, employee satisfaction, and company success. Each empowered leader can apply their expertise to solve the company’s challenges and will be a more engaged and happy employee! The CEO will become the coach and respected leader. Another byproduct of empowerment and process is the ability to scale. In startups and smaller companies, scaling is one of the challenges CEOs face. Strong execution, process, and team empowerment go a long way towards growth and scaling.

Summary – Empower Your People!

The empowerment of your leadership team brings an abundance of benefits to you, the team, and the company. It creates a culture and environment that is collaborative, positive, healthy, and engaging. Rather than the employees and leadership team talking about you behind your back being a controlling micromanager, they will be talking about the teamwork and encouraging company culture of people helping each other to achieve success!

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2 thoughts on “CEO Tip: Empower your People

  1. Truly fascinating information! If one is handling this position that means the person needs to support employees to maximize their output and minimize weaknesses.

  2. A true leader’s goals should always include enabling his/her team to be leaders themselves – one of the key roles of a leader. The action is to provide direction, clarity and desired outputs to the employee, but do not do the work for them. Guide the employee(s) to get the job done as required. If your guidance and support still do not get the employee(s) towards your goals, you will either need to further coach and educate them or move them either to a role better suited to their skill sets. The leader’s last resort is to move the employee out.

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