In “The E-Myth Revisited,” a book written by Michael Gerber for small-business owners, a small-business owner named Sarah is spending too much time working “in” her business, and not enough time “on” it. Her coach directs her to spend more time as the strategist, entrepreneur and systems designer rather than the worker-bee.
Related to this concept of working “on” your business and not “in” it, there are two extremes among chief executive officers. The most prevalent is the CEO who is constantly working “in” the business and who has little, if any, strategic inclination.
The other type is the one who is working “on,” or even “above” their business, so much that they are actually missing important components of their operation. Some of these CEOs either spend significant time away from their businesses or have created so many layers beneath them that they are unaware of important details of their operations.
To make this point, here are a few examples that I hope will cause you to reflect on what, if anything, you may be missing in your business’ operation.
The CIO Smokescreen
Several years ago, a bank decided to build a data warehouse in order to make its customer data more accessible and useful for employees. This was a significant multimillion-dollar decision originating at the executive committee level.
The project languished for several years and became a classic story of a failed data warehouse initiative. It failed because the CEO didn’t hold his direct report, the chief information officer, accountable. The CIO was allowed to “blow smoke” at the CEO, while the CIO failed to provide executive direction and oversight to the project.
This project, which was recognized as having enormous strategic potential, died because the CEO did not demand key metrics, deadlines and accountabilities from the CIO.
The Disillusioned Executive
According to Gallup Research, about 65 percent of American executives are unhappy with their work, so chances are good that within your ranks are highly positioned people who are unhappy, and as a result are holding your business back.
Executives get to this point often because they stop growing. Their jobs become routine and boring, and new and exciting challenges are infrequent.
Disillusioned executives can be re-engaged by CEOs helping them create professional development plans as well as providing challenging new opportunities, such as leading a new division or overseeing a new product line.
I frequently give a presentation titled “Six Ways to Maximize Executive Performance.” I conclude by reminding CEOs that they have blindspots and need to understand what they are and how they can account for them.
Some CEOs do not take this notion of having blindspots or weaknesses seriously. They do not challenge themselves to grow professionally and are content with knowing what they know.
Conversely, many CEOs aggressively push themselves to grow in their leadership and strategic skills. For example, Paul Trylko of Amplify Credit Union in Austin, Texas, used a professional coach to help him grow in his effectiveness as a CEO. Amplify has grown significantly since that decision Trylko made to invest in his own growth as well as the growth of his fellow executives.
These are just a few examples of the concept of “what you don’t know can hurt you” as it applies to CEOs who are not appropriately engaged with their operations.
CEOs who focus on building good strategic management systems, complete with their accountabilities, are far more likely to have extraordinary success than those who don’t.
Scott McClymonds is the founder of Fayetteville-based strategic consulting firm CEO Velocity. He can be reached at email@example.com, 479-263-0774, or linkedin.com/in/scottmcclymonds.