For the first time in my career, I’ve worked with amazing first-time managers as CEOs. Before I was a CEO, I was a mid-level manager, a director. And then a VP. Across a few start-ups. Before I was first a founder. Those management team weren’t perfect, and I wouldn’t copy everything they did. But at least I got to observe how a few seasoned CEOs managed their executive teams. For better and for worse.
So … just one bit of advice.
There are two things you just gotta do, even if you don’t see the point or want to.
First, you have to have weekly Executive Staff (“eStaff” or just plain “Staff”) Meetings. Every week. At a set time.
Second, you have to find a way to do 1-on-1 meetings with all your direct reports. At least every two weeks.
These aren’t meant to be mini-performance reviews. In fact, I don’t care if you do performance reviews ever with your VPs and direct reports, at least.
But here’s the thing. Neither of these meetings are about you — or what you need. It’s about them.
First, if you don’t do it now, start a weekly, 30 minute (at first — then later, longer) staff meeting every Monday afternoon at 2pm. Starting next week. All your VPs and direct reports in each functional area (Sales, Marketing, Engineering, Product, Support, Success) should be there. And everyone should provide a 5 minute update on how they are doing versus goals. And then, share what you are doing this week yourself. So everyone knows. And yes, you need an agenda. Which you need to circulate before the actual meetings.
This won’t help you much. You sort of already know what everyone is doing. But trust me, your team — they don’t really communicate with each other as much as they should. Even if they sit 10 feet apart. This will force them to. You can tease out a status update from every functional area. Every week.
And make sure whatever the agenda is, what it means is there are No Surprises. Wherever any functional area is coming up short, it will be seen well ahead of time. When everyone else still has time to help.
Then second, find a way to do 1-on-1s with each VP and direct report. I know you do not have time for this. But, remember, it’s not about you. Your VPs and reports need an unstructured time with you, at least every 2 weeks, where they can provide updates. Vent. Share their fears and concerns. Their anxieties. And you can help them. Pump them up. Or just be their psychiatrist, sometimes.
You won’t learn a lot from these conversations either, per se. Not from the facts. But you’ll learn what your team needs help with to do Even Better.
And once you have a real management team, that’s your job. To back-fill the team. To help them — not where they are strong. They can do what they are good at without you. But you need to back-fill where they are weak. Sometimes, without them even realizing it completely.
eStaff meetings once a week, and 1-on-1s every 2 weeks. That enables you to make sure the team communicates. And to make sure you are helping the best on your team where you really, truly, actually can help.