As a company grows in number of employees, there are different things the employees and the company need from you as the CEO. If you ignore these changing needs and just try to run the company the way you always have, you’ll set your company up for failure.
One of the most obvious shifts in the company’s needs occurs as your company grows beyond 20 employees. Up to this point, it has been your passion, your vision, your blood, sweat, and tears that have laid the foundation for growth.
With the addition of employee number 20, a strange phenomenon occurs. I liken it to when your preteen, who use to think you walked on water, now thinks you’re dumb and dumber. You’ve got a full-blown teenager on your hands. You’ve felt the changes – your employees are a bit harder to manage, they push back more often, their attitude hits you in the face when you least expect it, you seem to be at odds with them on a daily basis.
You are just a few months away from a staff revolution. Unless you can respond appropriately.
At this size, there is a critical force in action: The fact that you, the CEO, can’t manage and oversee everything anymore. The company has outgrown your wingspan. When you started the company, and when you still had just a handful of employees, the company was CEO-centric. Everything revolved around you and you had a hand in everything. You did all the hiring, training, managing, and even doing. As you add more and more employees, you can’t sustain that. As a result, your company must become Enterprise-centric. It’s now too big for you to be part of everything that is happening all the time.
I know it can be hard to let go of your “baby”. You’ve been so integral to your company’s success thus far that it may seem impossible to relinquish control of anything. You might be getting heart palpitations just thinking about it. But you simply cannot run it all by yourself.
This size of company has the highest CEO-burnout of any stage of growth and it’s not difficult to understand why. You’re living in a flood zone of activity, trying to keep up and keep tabs on everything, and you just don’t have the capacity. You’ll quickly lose your joy in coming to work if you don’t start delegating and passing on some of your responsibility. It’s time to start giving some of the many hats you’ve been wearing to others at the company.
And if you don’t, you’ll have no one to blame for your company’s stagnation except yourself.
Building up the next level of management will not only help to ensure that work continues to get done effectively. It will also ensure the continued engagement of your employees.
People stay at a company because they respect their manager. If you can begin to provide your employees with managers who know how to manage the work of the company, as well as manage the people, your employees will feel less frustrated, work fewer hours, be much more productive and receive solid input on their performance on a regular basis.
As you work to put these new managers in place, you also have to help each manager feel confident about their team, their work, and their own identity as a leader. You have to help build them up and help them discover their own leadership style. You’ll need to work with them to be accountable as their team evolves and matures. You will avoid a lot of growing pains if you let each manager build a stronghold in their department and develop their own sense of commitment and team-ness.
But this isn’t just about training qualified people to move up in your organization. If you are growing too quickly, your internal managers in training won’t be able to develop at the pace necessary. You’ll have to start looking to hire managers from outside the company who already have the experience needed. That is often even harder work than developing new managers. Finding experienced, trained people, hardwired to help you grow your business can be a challenge. But it is well worth it once they are in place.
Successful CEOs surround themselves with knowledgeable, experienced people.
They want to be challenged on decisions, knowing that the more diversity of ideas and perspectives they bring on board, the more depth they create in their organization.
In addition to delegating and bringing in reinforcements at the managerial level, you also have to start being much more intentional about your communication. Another symptom of the company no longer revolving around you is that you don’t interact with everyone every day.
While you were small and CEO-centric, everyone knew what was on your mind at all times. They knew your plans and vision just from working closely with you day-in and day-out. Now that there are more employees, and more structure, you can’t pass that information around as easily. You have to start being more intentional about what and how you communicate with everyone.
As your company grows, you have to be prepared to grow with it. Make sure you have a plan in place to do so. To help, here are four critical areas to focus on in order to continue your growth through your company’s teenage years:
1. Strive for clarity in job roles and responsibilities.
In the early stages of your company’s growth, everyone could pitch in and simply ‘do what was necessary’ to get a job done. But as you grow you need to clearly define what is expected of every role. Engaging employees is much easier if they know what is expected of them every day. It’s important to drive clarity in order to drive performance.
2. Develop and implement a communication plan.
Nature abhors a vacuum and so do your employees. If you aren’t providing critical information fast enough they will make up their own versions. And experience tells us that they aren’t filling in the blanks with positive thoughts. Remember, your employees don’t live in the same world you do. They are not in control of their destiny and without a consistent stream of information that keeps them informed, they will default to negative thoughts which are one cause for low productivity.
3. Put training and development on the front burner and keep it here.
Believe it or not, on-the-job training is not all it is cracked up to be. Yes, people learn by doing, but without an intentional training program, every employee will have to learn the same thing at a different time. And whenever a new person is added to the team, their frustration level will escalate quickly when told the “training” is just to ask a more senior member of the team for advice.
4. Identify areas that require processes.
As your company matures, so must your processes. Most companies don’t identify and name specific processes. Processes already exist at some level within your company, i.e. financial processes, human relations processes, sales processes, but without identifying them and being intentional about their creation, adoption, and revision, they will languish within your company. Like an old book on a forgotten shelf gathering dust.
If you’re stuck in the teenage years, give us a call to help you grow out of them.
Written in part by Laurie Taylor of Flashpoint! LLC with edits and additions by Clay Eure.