Three Ways Not to Be a Great CEO

Dr. Earl R. Smith II
DrSmith@Dr-Smith.com
Dr-Smith.com

(Read More From My Blog)

The challenge of encouraging employees to do their best at work is a major part of many of my coaching engagements. Here are three ways that CEO’s routinely sabotage themselves and accomplish the opposite:

1. They fail to provide a proper vision of the company for the employees to follow: Even though nearly all companies do have a vision they are often the sort that end up as nicely written statements on wooden plaques on the wall of the reception area. These are usually the visions and missions that employees make fun of behind the CEO’s back. Without a clear and compelling company direction, employees have no real freedom of action and the best that these employees will ever do is only what they are ever told to do.

I assist the CEO to develop a clear vision and put in writing. Most of my efforts begin with a push to get the CEO to stop ‘strategizing’ and focus on the tactical needs of the company. I refer to this process as ‘getting the CEO’s feet to begin to touch the ground’. Such a vision that will connect with its tactical implications. It is not just having a vision that is important, or sharing that vision with the employees. The vision needs to be compelling and relate directly to the challenges that the employees are facing. When employees align themselves with the company’s vision, they are then able to improvise, to innovate, and to inspire each other.

2. Not holding their employees accountable: CEO’s often fail to hold their employees accountable. As a result, they end up with employees that do not keep their word or meet their obligations. These employees fail to finish the task in the preferred manner and by the preferred time. The executive, who obviously expects results, fails to follow up with them. Either staff members are accountable for their actions or they are not. Either they keep to their word or they do not. It is up to the CEO and other senior management to make sure that all employees are accountable.

3. They fail to act on their employees strengths: CEO’s sometimes attempt to improve on their employees’ weaknesses by testing them, evaluating them and training them. Instead, these CEO’s should be focusing on improving their employees’ strengths.

As an Executive Coach, I bring a variety of management assessments and leadership development analysis that determine exactly what each employee is truly good at. The problem that I frequently encounter is that the CEO is either conflict averse – does not want to have the assessments conducted – or sees the entire process as beneath them – does not relate to the everyday function of the company. Often I have to insist on the need to ‘get down on the ground and deal with the realities of the situation’. Negotiating this understanding can produce some tense conversations. However, the need is often so severe that the CEO eventually either accepts the new role or leaves the company – to be replaced by one who will engage.

A friend of mine is fond of observing that ‘it is always the CEO that is the problem’. After years of working with companies and CEOs, I tend to agree that most – but not all – of the challenges a company faces have their roots in the leadership style of the CEO. That is why most of my executive coaching engagements focus on this issue of leadership and the need to change in order to meet the needs of the company. Once the CEO begins to meet the needs of the company – rather than pursuing their own vision of what a CEO should be, the impact on the company’s fortunes is generally massively positive. Investments in executive coaching are often the highest return ones that any company makes.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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