A User’s Guide to Your CEO

::: nBlog :::

One of our board members put it well last week: It’s all about the team and track. When you know you’re doing the right thing, you just need to continue executing on it. Sometimes things take time, and sometimes everything happens like an avalanche. Just always maintain a clear path.

While the CEO has the primary responsibility for assembling the team and maintaining its coherence and performance, it is often overlooked how the CEO, as an institution, should be utilized by direct reports and senior managers.

I have always maintained that any of my direct reports must be able to run the company during my absence. In practical matters it has always worked well, but there’s a more important aspect behind it: A direct report must also be capable of maintaining the institution – towards staff, customers and the world in general. This is the essence of coherence I’ve learned during 20 years of management, not least from the Air Force. It took a while to grasp how important it is.

Most CEOs I know (including myself) sometimes slip from the principle, as it requires a lot of trust, confidence and accountability both from the CEO and direct reports. The tiniest badmouthing, questioning or nasty comment can shatter the trust, resetting the team into autopilot – everyone just minding their comfort zones. Fixing it requires much more effort, so better keep the coherence – through fierce debates, not giving up on your peers, and above all, mutual respect.

As a direct report, when you’re managing your own area of responsibility, always consider the CEO as reserve firepower, which you can utilize to get your things done the best way possible. Think of your department or unit as a whole company whose CEO you are. It’ll always be useful to temporarily stand in for the CEO, also voluntarily. As the acting CEO, you’re suddenly responsible for all the other units too, which forces you to take a very different perspective. Suddenly all the inefficiencies you had noticed, but kept politely in your head only, are on your table, for the time being. How do you help the executive team to solve them while maintaining their self-esteem and professional pride?

Lastly, the CEO always has time. If the CEO tells you that a call or meeting with you can’t be arranged in a week, it is your duty to gently remind the CEO that he/she is doing something wrong. There must always be time for your people.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More to explore