There comes a stage in every growing start up where CEOs have to do more than just delegate tasks to their managers. Once the business reaches a certain scale these managers need to become leaders in their own right, making different decisions to the CEO as long as it is aligned with strategy.
Your managers are not mini-yous and they have different perspectives, experiences, relationships and personalities. If you are going to leverage these capabilities it has to mean that they will reach different conclusions to you. Building your managers into leaders requires that you allow them to reach these conclusion and put their plans into place with your full support EVEN IF YOU THINK THEY ARE WRONG!
The caveat here is that the company must be able to afford the mistake if one is made.
Failure to do this and every decision will be deferred to the CEO, leaving the CEO overloaded and suffering from decision fatigue. Your managers become little more than problem reporting robots rather than empowered, innovative problem solvers and will soon become disillusioned as you make poor decisions in areas of THEIR specialisation and supposed responsibility.
CEO / Manager Discussion
Manager: There is a problem/opportunity and here’s how I plan on addressing it
CEO: Why, why, why, why, why
Manager: provides rationale and backing information
CEO: Provides overall business context/resources that manager may not be aware. Suggests a different approach that the CEO think has merit.
Manager: Explains why their approach is superior.
* At this point the CEO doesn’t agree with the manager’s approach, however it falls within the company’s overall strategy and the company can cope with the impact if the manager turns out to be wrong
CEO: Okay, great – let me know how you get on
The important aspect of this conversation is that the CEO never tells the manager that they disagree. There is no undermining of authority, just support. If the planned course of action fails, the CEO should never disclose that they disagreed in the first place. It’s not important that the CEO was right, it is important that the manager knows that it is their responsibility and that they had the CEO’s support.
In this way the manager owns the success and failure of their decision. It will only be through their mistakes that they learn and grow. If you don’t do this then every mistake will be your mistake not theirs and that will only create a dysfunctional leadership team.