Sunday, December 15, 2013

Self-Evaluation is Important

Self-evaluation is important as part of the learning curve, and an important skill of being an entrepreneur in general and a C.E.O. in particular. Sometimes it's easier said than done. Time is evasive when you're knee deep in development and juggling a multifaceted effort. The other day I had an associate evaluate my management style. He offered insight to what he thought were my strengths. Then he asked if I'd mind hearing the negatives.

Part of being a leader is knowing what you do well, what you don't do well, and being able to adapt to both. And this requires being able to take constructive criticism, evaluate it, and adapt accordingly. At the same time, the words of others don't define me: only I can do that. Their words about me only define them.

I have always believed that leaders should empower their employees and strive to provide the assistance, information and support to help them rise up and become better than they  ever knew they could be. But it is equally important not to overwhelm them. As such, this becomes a case-by-case evaluation that only I can make on behalf of my company (and you with yours), and then be responsible for the outcome: you can only be successful when you rise above excuses.

My current company is young and growing. I assembled -- with the assistance of others on my team -- a
young, inexperienced team. What they lack in experience I believe they make up for in their aptitude to learn. They can be taught how to do things, but they can't be taught how to be smart: they are or aren't. And it's because of my belief in the core team's intelligence that I see their great potential to improve and rise.

As such I have to pinpoint where to focus my attention. I can't work with them all simultaneously. And as I've said many times, one of the keys to growing a business is balancing growth with cash-flow, knowledge by doing, and the stabilization of the company foundation by getting things done.  So I have to set priorities because I only have 16 work hours a day!

This may at times mean that you can't do it all. You have to make a decision of what to stabilize first. To the on-looker, they may want to apply business theory to what you're doing, set the infrastructure, hierarchy, and business processes all at once. But in practical reality following theory may undermine the progress.

To that end, in some cases I've thrown the baby in the deep end of the pool forcing them to sink or swim without burdening them with where I want them to swim if and when they stay afloat. That comes later, once they're dried off and absorbed the knowledge that they can in fact swim. It might not be the only style, or the best style, but in this instance, it's my style. I'm betting that it will get us where we want to be: individually, and as a team.

It was suggested to me that I was probably very good at deal-making, vision strategy, corporate structure, and  marketing strategy, but that my management style might not be engaged enough in feedback. He might be correct. Being a C.E.O. and being a manager are two different things; they require different disciplines and have different objectives.

While interactive (and even anonymous) feedback can be a good thing that keeps you grounded and connected to what's happening in real time, it can also at times cloud the strategy and current objective of the trajectory that you're seeking.

Intensive involvement in a single area can produce fast results. But being a C.E.O. requires a multifaceted approach to ensure the company's over all growth, financial health, and stability.

My own style is one that is focused on step-by-step mastering in stages. There are certainly employees in my company that have not gotten the attention that they deserve or, that I would like to give them. Yet I believe that as C.E.O. my first obligation to my employees is to provide them not only with knowledge and advancement, but also with a paycheck. Thus I need to do the things that secure that first.

In response to my recent outside assessment, an entrepreneur has to wear many hats. They can't be great at them all. So we have to as C.E.O.s decide what we're good at and focus our effort. I've always recognized that being a great manager and being a great C.E.O. are not the same thing. With hard work and a little serendipity I may in the near future have the luxury to hire a great manager to supplement my efforts.

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