Evolving into a premiere executive can feel overwhelming. The good news? CEOs are not born; they can be made. With the right executive coaching, an open mindset, and commitment to scaling, you can grow into the role of CEO you want to be.
Founders of emerging tech and startup companies start with a unique idea that blossoms into a booming business. While founders may have a unique ability to make a vision into a booming business, sometimes they’re lacking in team leadership skills and executive presence simply because they’ve never done it before.
Starting a company often feels like building a plane while flying it. You’ll need to start by managing the chaos but quickly transition into being an executive. You want to empower your team in a way that inspires them and helps the company.
After you’ve launched the company, it’s time to scale effectively. During this transition period, many founders struggle with the transition to CEO. For example, the growth from managing five to 100 people. CEOs also need to manage any co-founder and investor stressors.
Going From Chief Chaos Agent To Executive
When a company launches, chaos frequently ensues to help birth the product or service. As an early-stage CEO, you’re gladly putting in long hours to fix any problems. You even fill the gaps by taking out the trash to keep the office clean. But now it’s time to become a true executive who envisions the future growth of the company.
“The CEO can see opportunities that others don’t see and, as the one person whose boss isn’t another company employee, make the judgments and the tough calls others are unable to make. The CEO is the only one held accountable for the performance and results of the company — according to not just to its own goals but also to the measures and standards of diverse and often competing external stakeholders.,” A.G. Lafley, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, wrote in Harvard Business Review.
To grow into the role of CEO, you need to make decisions about how to allocate resources and people. Every decision affects the entire company. During this phase of your journey to executive, your communication skills need to shine.
Another important tip: don’t be afraid of feedback. Hard-hitting truths will help you grow. Humility and ownership go a long way. Some staff may feel timid about giving their boss feedback. So conduct 360 on yourself often to teach others to be open to learning.
Your journey in entrepreneurship is a crash course in personal development. What led to success in the initial stages of your company may not be the most effective leadership style for the next phase.
You’ll need to explain your ideas to your team in a way that’s clear and concise. This allows them to execute without you working on lower-level projects. Simultaneously, you need to communicate to your investors, board, or shareholders your vision for the company and plan for the future.
How To Empower The Team
The most successful CEOs possess strong people skills or “soft skills.” These soft skills will help you communicate your ideas effectively, empower your team, and help each employee reach their potential.
In practice, this looks like designing strong communication channels; for example, maybe your team sends one cohesive “end of day” email with quick updates and questions for you to answer all in one place.
Strong leaders also have high emotional intelligence. Some people naturally have high emotional intelligence, which is the ability to perceive, manage and understand one’s own and others’ emotions. But it’s a skill you can hone to help your team. In practice, this means giving people on your staff attention, even if you don’t have time.
An executive coach can help you practice your active listening skills, arm you with the best questions to ask people to get the answers you need to assist the team.
Empowering the team also requires you to give valuable feedback to help your staff learn from mistakes and improve processes. Giving feedback can feel daunting, especially if you like to avoid conflict. But practicing with an executive coach can help you craft this necessary skill.
How To Effectively Scale
Now that your product or service has launched and revenue is flowing in, it’s time to scale. When not scaled thoughtfully, companies can grow too quickly, which results in chaos, and the product may suffer.
The core of the business, such as company culture and hiring at speed, will always require your attention as CEO. But to scale effectively, you now need to concentrate on raising more capital and honing your presentation to investors. You’ll also need to map out how many staff, how much money, and other resources you’ll need.
At this stage, you need to promote the best people into leadership roles. Don’t be afraid to outsource collaborators and hire experienced industry professionals into high-level roles to help you flush out your leadership team. It’s on you to identify senior executives that can bring experience and can thrive in a fast-paced, high-growth environment.
It may feel nerve-wracking to bring in outsiders. But you need to trust your gut and hire based on values and those who have the right skill set for your needs. If someone doesn’t live up to their potential, fire quickly to avoid a costly mistake.
How To Manage Co-Founder Stressors
Managing your co-founders’ stress on top of dealing with your own stressors feels like a full-time job in itself.
First, take care of your mental health. If you’re feeling depleted, you won’t be able to help your co-founders. Manage your stress behind closed doors. Learn how to harness your emotions and be a source of stillness and reason in the room. Tending to yourself is all a part of growing into the role of CEO.
Next, practice your active listening skills to assess the root of what is stressing your co-founders. You may need to provide them with additional support in the form of resources or staff to take things off their to-do list.
Spend some time reflecting on if you’re doing a good enough job sharing important updates with them, developing their skills, and have the proper people overseeing the right functions.
- Image by Priscill Du Preez
How Executive Coaching Helps
Executive coaching helps provide you with tools to manage all of these areas with ease. Reading books and listening to podcasts offer valuable insights, but these don’t dive into your specific situations and challenges.
When you work with an executive coach, you receive one-on-one attention to work through decisions, problems, and opportunities. Allowing an executive coach to shadow your meetings and observe you in action will help the coach cater feedback specifically to you. This helps you grow.
CEOs need to be humble and look at their shortcomings. It is the most effective way to scale and become the leader you need to be.
What I Gain From Executive Coaching
Through your work with an executive coach, you’ll grow into the role of CEO. You will become a more effective leader, gain a competitive advantage that will be clear to investors, improve your self-confidence, learn to trust your team, and help yourself stay focused on your goals.
Remember, executive coaching isn’t just for founders; everyone in your C-suite team can benefit.
Choosing to work with us will help you cultivate personal, professional, and business growth. Our best clients are passionate individuals who want to invest in themselves and their teams. We require our clients to commit to this work. Understand going in, there will be bursts of growth and sometimes slow change. But our journey will help your business, and most importantly, you grow.
McKinsey & Company’s late founder Marvin Bower said the CEO’s role was so specialized that he felt “executives could only prepare for the post only by holding it.”
Learning on the job comes with the role, as many of the challenges you’ll face are unique to you and your company.
When you hone your soft skills — especially your communication skills –, concentrating on company growth and helping your co-founders manage stress, you’ll naturally grow into the role of CEO. To help accelerate this process, enlist a seasoned executive coach to help you reflect and problem solve.
What’s the difference between a startup CEO and an executive?
In the early stages of a company, a startup CEO spends time working on the product, problem-solving and filling in where there are gaps to help the company launch. As the company and CEO grow, the CEO needs to morph into an executive who makes high-level decisions that affect the entire company. CEOs need to plan for future growth and raise capital.
What soft skills does a CEO need to be effective?
A CEO needs soft skills, such as communication skills, listening skills, and social skills, to excel in their role. Communication skills will help you communicate your ideas and plans to your staff and investors.
Listening skills will help you empower your team and make them feel valued. It will also aid in you identifying problems. Social skills will allow you to navigate personality conflicts in the workplace and make your team feel excited to be at work.
How do I become a better CEO?
You can hone your skills as CEO by working with an executive coach, who will give you one-on-one attention, to practice giving feedback, pitching investors, and dealing with issues among your team.