CEO = Chief Enabler Officer
As a Founder/CEO of a small (albeit growing) tech company one of my biggest issues — to which I’ve not been able to find a solution still — is time management. I end up taking up a lot of work (some of which I probably shouldn’t) and between financials, client management, product development, roadmap structuring, hiring, and the dozen other tasks I assign myself to, I barely have time to do any of it timely and effectively — let alone spare some time to myself.
So what is wrong? I could go on on a Inc or BusinessWeek “TOP 10 Tips to be More Productive” or “10 Time Management Tricks You’ve Never Heard of” kind of piece (and I certainly learned a bunch of things through good’old try and failure) but I’d rather focus attention on one of my biggest lessons back in 2016 and one that I set myself to influence and profoundly change what the future will be all about: my role and the role of a leader. I got it all wrong.
I’ve been doing stuff (or being an entrepreneur as the cool kids call it these days) for a big part of my life thus far. In almost all of those things I was in the cockpit, leading or co-leading. That meant the hard nights of work, the pushes, the investments and a whole bunch of other things that come with the responsibility. But that also meant that due to that pressure and responsibility over the end result, I pushed myself over every decision and every single important (or not-so-important) moment of those companies and projects. Big presentation for a client? I’ll do it. Budget? Let me take care of it. Design? Check. A hand with the code? Here. Product Roadmap? Me, of course. Right?
The logic behind this behaviour is actually pretty easy and it help justify the need to keep at it: if you’re going to be the responsible, then you have to be involved. But that reasoning hides the deep negative effects: less morale, more delays, less evolution, less scalability to name just a few. Looking back at 2016, I realised I needed to change this behaviour. And I think you should too. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved (you should). It just means you must not do everything and you must give the proper room, tools and dedication to make sure your employees — specially in the case of a still small startup— can learn and emerge to the best version of themselves. We need to enable instead of manage people.
Watching this brilliant TED talk I realised the role of a CEO is much like the role of a teacher. The quote bellow sums it up for me:
That’s the same for employees. Specially if at the beginning of a career and at a small company. You hired them for a reason (they’re good). They chose you for another reason (they trust you). The least you can do is dedicate every single minute of your working hours to make sure they can grow with the company and that they get the ownership and independence that likely made them choose a startup over a corporate career in the first place.
Again, I’m not advocating that we, as CEOs, stop being deeply involved in our companies. I’m making the case for that involvement to be one that teaches and empowers employees instead of one that limits and pressure them. I think we all need to be more enablers and less executers.