Collaborate with your managers
Your direct reports are senior managers. You’re not going to do their jobs for them and you’re not going to interfere. But you do need to be their collaborator and facilitator.
Forming a real relationship
You need to establish a real connection with your managers. You’re not interested in how they’re spending their time or how busy they might be. You’re interested in what’s going on in the areas that make the biggest difference in results.
You’re not intruding or meddling. You’re playing your CEO role — being a collaborative resource for them, just as they are for their team members.
Agreeing on the facts
You’ve got to develop a feedback process, to ensure that you and your managers know how things are going.
Start with a short list of the issues and items you’re interested in:
- Objectives (what will success or completion look like?)
- How are they doing on their time line for completion?
- If completion is in doubt or delayed, what’s going on?
- Are there obstacles that need to be addressed?
- Can you help them in addressing or removing those obstacles?
If you’re surprised by anything, ask yourself: “Should I have known about this before? Why am I hearing about it now? What can I do to help?”
Having the right conversations
It’s your task to work closely with your managers in agreeing on performance objectives — helping them to know what success will look like. Then you’ve got to develop a feedback process — to ensure that they and you know how things are going.
You’ll need a certain structure for conversations with your managers. I suggest starting with a quick scan of some metrics — specific operational results that will serve as indicators of progress. Take special care in selecting your metrics. I’ve seen too many CEOs get diverted by focusing on the wrong things, or setting goals that are too modest to ensure real success.
Be careful not to let your conversations turn into detailed show-and-tell exercises about metrics. The metrics should just provide a starting point, and you can go on from there — discussing progress, obstacles and issues in whatever manner seems appropriate for that encounter.
Avoid nasty surprises by finding out which important activities are on track and which ones aren’t. That way, you can determine whether interventions or adjustments in plans might be required.
Ensuring clarity and better thinking
Your attention to major issues will confirm their importance, and your own continuing focus will help your managers maintain their own focus. You’ll be helping them gain a more complete understanding of your thinking, which will further enhance their thought process and their sense of alignment with your goals.
It will take time for this to become comfortable — for you and for them
If you’ve been a hands-off CEO, it will take time to build a comfortable collaboration with your managers. It will feel unfamiliar and a little awkward at first, until you become familiar with the new approach.
If your managers are used to being left alone, it will take even longer for them to get comfortable with the new process. Some people might feel you’re interfering and a few may even feel that you don’t trust them. You’ll have to work hard to help them see it differently — that you’re trying to be the CEO your company needs — and you need to build an effective collaboration with them if you’re going to succeed.
However unfamiliar the process may feel at first, there’s no substitute for you becoming a real collaborator for your managers.
However much you want to delegate certain things, you’re the CEO, and you can’t delegate that role to anyone else.