As the company grows, so does the role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). First, the CEO takes a lot of things into his own hands: accounting, sales, organizational development – everything is done by the CEO. Later he or she can and must delegate more and more tasks. But handing over responsibility correctly is a challenge for many managing directors.
When should entrepreneurs start delegating?
Delegating is one of the basic skills of successful entrepreneurs. It gives them time to concentrate on the strategic development of the organization and the business model instead of getting lost in the tasks of day-to-day business. Delegating therefore starts with the first employee. However, the way in which and how a CEO ideally delegates changes depending on the level of development of the organization.
First, it makes sense to group recurring tasks and hire qualified employees to do these tasks better and faster. Gradually, teams are being built up for all corporate functions such as sales, HR, marketing, and product development. They all pursue goals derived from the company’s goals. What measures they use to achieve this and how they organize themselves – this responsibility belongs in the hands of executives who report to the CEO.
Core elements of successful delegation
“I have to readjust the result anyway, so it’s best to do it myself.” That’s just one of the many reasons why CEOs don’t delegate tasks. Another: “If I do it immediately, it will be done the quickest.” On closer inspection, both statements are excuses that have a common root: a lack of trust.
If a CEO does not believe in the competence of his employees and does not delegate enough, he blocks the company’s success. Because employees are more motivated when they notice that their CEO trusts them when it comes to solving challenging tasks. Only then will they improve their skills and become more effective in reducing their manager’s workload. At the same time, it is the task of the delegator to assess which employees can cope with the task or to enable them to complete the tasks successfully with corresponding training.
Giving employees room to maneuver is often perceived by many CEOs as a risk. What if the decision is not made in one’s favor? However, if the company values are clear to every employee and concrete, measurable goals are agreed, a secure framework for delegation is created. Employees can make decisions faster and managers can delegate responsibility with a clear conscience.
However, completely foregoing performance checks is reckless – because in many cases it has a demotivating effect. If nobody is interested in the work results, employees shift down a gear. Feedback is also necessary so that employees can develop professionally and personally. In addition, clear limits for action and time requirements should be communicated in advance.
Which tasks remain a matter for the boss?
Some business advisors recommend that CEOs delegate unimportant tasks and focus on the important strategic decisions. This formula may be correct on an abstract level but does not provide much orientation for everyday business. It seems more effective to work with the following key questions:
- What can only I do?
- What can I do better together with others?
- What can others do better?
A CEO cannot delegate certain tasks – be it because they are too important for the company’s development, or because the individual departments are not responsible. The bigger the company gets, the more of these tasks the CEO must deal with.
A critical point is reached when the CEO hardly manages to reliably prioritize the numerous to-dos. In fast-growing companies, this occurs sooner rather than later. The result: The CEO makes worse decisions and the effectiveness of his leadership decreases.
Delegating 2.0.: The CEO Office
In order to be effective as CEOs despite increasing complexity, more and more start-ups are setting up a CEO office. Certain staff members support the CEO in prioritizing the right decisions, maintain contact with the organization and stakeholders and they function as an early warning system for emerging challenges.
The CEO Office cannot make the decisions for the CEO, but it supports him in assessing the relevance of topics, preparing decisions, and making them based on the best possible information. The staff members are also sparring partners for the CEO: They bring in new perspectives, point out blind spots in decision-making and are valued for their independent thinking. The CEO Office sets up appropriate processes and routines so that decisions are effectively implemented and integrated into the corporate functions.
For employees, the establishment of a CEO office can be a signal that their concerns will be heard, but that the CEO, thanks to staff support, is taking care of all important issues despite all the strategic challenges.
The composition of the CEO Office
In the German-speaking market, the CEO Office is still a peripheral phenomenon. Best practices for the organization are therefore rare. How many people should a CEO office employ? There can be no general answer to this question. The decision depends on the size and complexity of the company.
Possible roles for supporting the CEO:
- Chief of Staff: This person is the link to all external and internal stakeholders. The Chief of Staff takes on both strategic and operational tasks.
- Executive Assistant: This person is a close confidante of the CEO. The Executive Assistant supports the prioritization and coordination of tasks, is the contact person for employees and takes on various to-dos in day-to-day business.
- Senior Business Operations: This person supports the CEO in the future development of the company in strategic and operational terms, for example in the preparation of financing rounds, the evaluation of M&A opportunities and partnerships.
- Senior Communications: This person manages internal and external communications that affect the CEO or the company. The Senior Communications staff develops central elements of corporate storytelling, for example on the company’s vision and values, and orchestrates communication in the event of crises and change.
Whatever the personnel organization, ideally the CEO Office coordinates four areas: the strategic control systems, management processes, issue and crisis management. The employees in the CEO Office work closely with the managers of the departments. For example, the Chief of Staff with the Head of HR and Senior Business Operations with the Chief of Finances.
The CEO Office is not a universal protection against mismanagement and disorganization, but it is a way of relieving the CEO so that he or she can show his or her leadership and decision-making strengths.