Abbie Bernet via Unsplash

For the CEO: Things You Need to Think About As Your Company Scales

Allison Schultz
Nov 11 · 5 min read

What we’ve learned from completing 360 Degree Performance Reviews on leaders of companies at all stages of growth.

As a company scales, the distinction between the ”Being a CEO” and the “Doing of CEO” becomes important. Many of the issues leaders face when the company grows are challenges from shifting from “Doing of CEO” to “Being a CEO.” The difference between Being a CEO and Doing of CEO involves less hands-on doing, and more presence and being a leader for the employees in the company.

The challenges many CEOs generally encounter are diverse and directly influence the organization in adverse ways. Challenges such as delusion, merging their identity with the company, not understanding their role, being unclear and avoiding fierce conversations. Everyone else in the organization is subject to all of this — and more — which leads to confusion and tension within the company in many ways, in many departments, on many teams.

By contrast, the “Being a CEO” means holding fast to the most effective traits successful CEOs either do naturally or grow into. There are three things required in stance of “Being a CEO”:

  1. The CEO holds the vision of the company and make sure it’s well understood.
  2. The CEO builds and manages a great team and makes sure each person understands their roles.
  3. The CEO ensures everyone has the resources — the people, the money, the clarity — they need to succeed.

Note that getting coffee, doing sales, and coding are not on that list. Another big question that a CEO needs to keep asking themselves as the company grows is: What are the things that are keeping me from where I need to be putting my attention now? Another way to ask this is: What are the things that you do that are keeping you small now and that are keeping you from growing into the leader the company needs you to be?

There’s a growth curve for arriving at this stance in a CEO’s leadership, especially if s/he is a first time CEO. In the majority of the 360s we’ve completed, the leader’s self-assessment of their strengths are often more accurate than their self-assessment on their weaknesses. These are the trends we’ve seen in weaknesses that can trouble the company for leaders in growing organizations:

As a company scales, the leader has to scale too. This is often a substantial growth curve where learning the “Being of CEO” becomes more important than the “Doing of CEO.” In the hundreds of 360 Reviews we’ve completed of companies at various sizes, most common weaknesses of CEOs in scaling organizations show what’s needed to grow and fully actualize as a leader.

Leadership weaknesses in these areas impact the organization:

  1. Communication: Frequency of communication, as well as communication style, are part of good communication in meetings, consistency in sharing the vision of the company, sharing one’s thoughts regarding decisions that need to be made, and providing feedback to the team. Communication is a two-way street, and good listening is essential to good communication.
  2. Empathy: A key skill to master when it comes to managing direct reports and listening to others in the organization. The ability to really listen to employees not only allows for a humane presence in the company but also fosters greater collaboration.
  3. Trust and Delegation: Leaders often want to be able to trust their teams, yet they don’t reciprocate that trust. Instead, they give direction versus coaching the team to find the answers themselves. Many CEOs also struggle with letting go of the day-to-day hands-on task management and letting go of managing all the decisions themselves. This can contribute to poor time management and a lack of strategic thinking. For example, a leader can shift from doing all the work themselves and knowing the “right way”, to growing a team of people that are learning to find their own way. Giving up control or the need to do it themselves is a crucial change in the development path of a CEO.
  4. Emotional Intelligence: How do you manage anger and other emotions more fully? How can you know not only when you’re being a jerk, but what’s driving that behavior or reaction? A good leader seeks to understand what drives their responses and what fuels their overreactions. They are willing to look at their emotional tendencies and commit to an adult sense of self-awareness around their emotional acuity.

Imagine the impact of these issues on the team and the organization as a whole. A team experiencing a leader’s shortcomings in these areas may become frustrated, lose trust, and leave, which also sets the undertone of company culture. A 360-degree review and leadership development plan makes clear a leader’s blind spots that may be adversely affecting the company.

Imagine the impact of these issues on the team. (Perhaps you’ve encountered these at other companies you’ve worked at prior to starting your own.) A team under the influence of these shortcomings may become frustrated, lose trust, and leave. None of which are generative things for your organization that depends on humans who have bought into the vision of the company being productive in their clearly defined roles.

How can you, as a leader, gain a greater understanding about what’s happening for you as these various behaviors arise?

We all have blind spots. Seeing our strengths and weaknesses clearly as well as understanding how we are perceived is the basis for any leadership development plan. We cannot grow if we don’t fully understand what we do. A clearly-articulated and well-rounded performance review is the basis of this plan. This active manifestation of what we call “radical self-inquiry” is the best way to start rebooting your leadership.

It’s often said that feedback is a gift. But what’s rarely admitted is the fact that it’s often a gift we’d rather return. And yet our leadership prowess depends on our ability to identify what is true and what is not. Discernment, the ability to cut through our own delusion with fierce honesty, is one of the qualities that separates leaders from managers.

By seeking feedback from the team, co-founders, board members, and other stakeholders, you can make course corrections in your leadership that support your professional and organizational growth. You’ll be able to see clearly what’s working, what’s not working, and what impact that has on the team (and company). Once you know where you need to grow as a leader, prioritization, scale, and organizational change can follow suit.

Learn more about Reboot’s 360-degree performance reviews here.

Reboot: Leadership & Resiliency

Reboot is about work. We believe that in work is the possibility of the full realization of human potential. Work does not have to destroy us. Work can be the way we achieve our fullest self.

Allison Schultz

Written by

COO and founding partner @RebootHQ / Coach. Artist. Horsewoman.

Reboot: Leadership & Resiliency

Reboot is about work. We believe that in work is the possibility of the full realization of human potential. Work does not have to destroy us. Work can be the way we achieve our fullest self.

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