Management: 15 things every first-time CEO should know


So you’ve landed a gig in the management hot seat? They’ve given you a decent office; the key to the executive washroom; and on your office door there’s a polished plate engraved with the words THE BOSS.

It makes you beam with pride, doesn’t it? Well done! Allow me to offer you my congratulations. Your family will be truly very proud of you.

However before you get too comfortable in your high-backed, leather, executive chair let me offer you a word of advice. Enjoy the moment while you can because the honeymoon won’t last long.

You’re there to deliver results consistently and if you fail to deliver, you’ll find the sea in which you’re now swimming will become very unforgiving, very quickly.

Businesses exist to enrich their owners and your job is to deliver profit and growth, year-on-year. No one wants to hear why it can’t be done; or why it hasn’t been done; or that in some way you’ve been unlucky. Excuses count for nothing. Do or die, it’s that simple.

I’ve been in that management hot seat myself, so I speak from experience. Equally I speak with the benefit of hindsight because I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes along the way. However what I can say is that I did make sure that I always learned the lessons from my mistakes.

Management at the highest level is tough; very, very tough. They pay you well and provide excellent perks for a reason. You never get anything for nothing. They want their pound of flesh in return.

So let me offer you the benefit of my experience now with some observations on things I wish I’d known a lot earlier.

1. Find a decent mentor:

If you’re new to the job then you don’t have to make all the mistakes yourself. It’s a legitimate strategy to learn as much as you can from the experience of others. I wish I’d found myself a decent mentor early on. An experienced, friendly ear with whom problems and their potential solutions can be explored on a regular basis.

Being king or queen of the castle is not easy. Managing people and leading them towards achieving the aims of the business is a difficult task. You might think it’s just a case of issuing orders but it isn’t quite that simple, unfortunately. You must carry people with you. If they’re not working with you then in all probability they’ll be working against you.

So if I was in your position now, I’d find a decent mentor as quickly as possible. Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and a sign that you’re willing and able to learn from others.

Learning is a lifelong process. No one starts out as the finished article.

2. Relationships are everything:

When you’re the boss it’s your job to get the most out of every employee. Amongst other things, it’s your job to guide, motivate, encourage, mentor, counsel, discipline and reassure people as and when necessary.

Employees are individuals and different individuals will respond in different ways. Your job is to know the individuals and know which technique to use to get the best out of them as individuals; to get the response that you need at any given time.

In order to know people well you must develop a relationship with them over time. You must care about them and you must take an interest in them and their families.

Employees are much more likely to go the extra mile for you if they really think you care. It’s your job to show them that you care.

That’s not to suggest that you should be a pushover. You must always be firm with people but you should always be fair as well.

3. You can’t be everyone’s friend:

Now having a relationship with individuals in your team doesn’t mean you should try to be their friend.

When you’re the boss there must always be a little bit of distance between you and the people you lead. Your relationship with individuals can be cordial of course. However having close friendships with people who work for you doesn’t work.

There will be times when you have to come down hard on people; push people; and challenge them. There will be times when you have to discipline them too. Individuals must accept that they work for you and you’re in command.

At the risk of sounding a little dated, the relationship between you and the people you lead is essentially one of master-slave. You’re the authority figure and, whilst they’re perfectly entitled to express opinions and make suggestions, you must have the final say. And you must be the disciplinarian whenever necessary too.

By definition friendship is a relationship of equals. So I’m sure you can appreciate that it would be difficult to be switching from equals to master-slave and back again as circumstances dictate. In my experience trying to maintain a close friendship with someone of a junior rank doesn’t work, so don’t try.

Maintain a little distance, always.

4. You get what you tolerate:

If you don’t enforce the rules then the rules will be ignored. If you don’t insist on there being standards then there won’t be any standards. Tolerate behaviour that is less than acceptable and that’s what you’re likely to get, most of the time. Tolerate bad practice and bad practice is what you’ll get, most of the time.

As the boss it’s your job to ensure that your employees are in no doubt as to where the boundaries are and what the consequences will be for any transgression. And in the event of any transgression you must act fairly but firmly. That’s essential.

The transgressor must know that punishment follows overstepping the boundary.

However it is equally important for every other employee to see what happens should someone overstep the boundary as well.

Punishing one individual serves a dual purpose in maintaining discipline.

5. It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear:

Effective communication depends on you making sure that the receiver of your communication fully understands the message as it was intended to be understood.

Whether you communicate verbally or in writing you must ensure that your message is clear. It’s not what you say, it’s what you mean and making sure that meaning is interpreted in the way you intended is a critical skill for the boss to develop.

Just because you said it, doesn’t mean they heard it. It’s not for others to guess what you really meant. Be sure that your real message was heard and fully understood.

Effective communication is very important.

6. If you want to know the truth, walk around:

There are lots of things going on in the business that you won’t know about. There are lots of things going on that plenty of people hope you’ll never find out.

That’s a fact of life in any business but it’s your job to know. Should something go seriously wrong then you’re responsible and saying ‘I didn’t know’ is not an adequate plea when you’re being held to account.

If you spend your life locked away in your office then you’re not going to find out, until it’s too late. So it’s essential that you walk around frequently and ask plenty of questions and awkward questions too.

And when you ask questions, you must ensure that people provide you with proper answers to those questions. Don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off with some polite but meaningless response.

Keep asking questions until you know exactly what’s going on. If something looks odd, then don’t be afraid to challenge it. You’re the boss and you have a right to know.

I will often ask questions to which I already know the answer simply to see what response I get. It often provides me with an indication of whether people are being honest with me or whether they’re trying to cover something up. It provides a gauge as to whether I can trust them too.

7. Doing nothing is doing something:

There are times when doing nothing will prove to be the right strategy. A ‘do nothing’ strategy is fine providing it follows a reasoned analysis and is a decision based on a logical conclusion from your analysis.

However doing nothing due to indecision is incompetence. In these circumstances, in doing nothing you’re actually doing something. That is you’re acting in a completely incompetent fashion and potentially putting your business at risk.

As the boss, you’re the master of the ship. You’re meant to be in control and not simply being driven by events. Allow events to drive you and disaster won’t be too far away.

Indecision and inaction has the potential to damage your business and damage your reputation too.

Indecisiveness will do you no credit at all. In fact it will reflect very badly on you.

8. Hire for character:

Hiring people can be a tricky business. In my experience hiring people is one of the hardest parts of the job of being the boss.

Hire someone dishonest and it can be very damaging for the business. The consequences to the business, and potentially to your own reputation, can be very expensive it you hire the wrong person.

When I’m interviewing someone, I look for integrity first. I look for signs that the individual is honest, has a responsible attitude and has the ability to work effectively within a team. These are vital competencies I think.

Yes of course skills and experience are important. However if people lack certain skills then that gap can be plugged with training. If the candidate doesn’t have every skill you’d like then it’s possible to work around that if necessary. To arrange some training once the individual has settled into the team.

Whereas with good character, usually people have it or they don’t. If they don’t have it, then it might be a bit naïve to assume that they might develop it whilst they’re on your payroll. Better to make sure they have it right from the start.

It’s my opinion that good character is the most important factor to consider during the hiring process and it’s what I always look for first.

9. Do it right first time:

When you’re the boss there are always many demands on your time. Sometimes when you’re very busy it’s easy just to have a stab at a task and then leave the job half done. However if you can’t find the time to do the job right first time; when will you find the time to repeat it such that it’s done properly?

Allowing a bit more time to get it right first time is actually a sensible strategy. Once the job is done, it’s done and you can forget about it.

Not allowing sufficient time to do it properly is a false economy.

Good time management requires you to get it right first time.

10. Delegate wherever possible:

Identify those things which only you can do and which will allow you to make your greatest contribution to the business. It is on those things you should concentrate and into which you should channel all your energy.

Anything that can be done by someone else should be delegated. Don’t be doing what others could be doing for you. That’s not the best use of your time.

However delegation doesn’t mean just giving someone a task and then forgetting about it.

It means giving someone a task with clear deliverables and timescales and then monitoring progress on a regular basis.

Delegated tasks should remain on your ‘radar screen’ and the individual so tasked should be providing you with a regular progress report until the task has been completed.

11. Everyone should know why they’re on the payroll:

Work is just doing stuff for other people in return for money. The stuff being done is an output to be delivered.

Every employee should know exactly what it is they’re meant to deliver. They should know why they’re there and so should you.

The business is not a job creation scheme. People are your biggest cost and costs must be managed if the business is to remain profitable.

Yes, skilled resource must be there to do whatever is necessary of course. However there is a balance to be struck between making sure you’re getting the most out of people and crossing the boundary whereby people are being overworked.

You have a duty to get the most out of people but you also have a duty of care to your employees, obviously.

12. Business is show business:

Business is as much about perception as it is reality. The perception you create for your business really matters.

You have to get noticed too. You can have the best products in the world but if I don’t know you exist then your products can’t be solutions to my problems.

However even if I do know you exist, trust matters too. A good reputation will help you but that must be maintained constantly.

And a good reputation starts with excellent customer-facing systems and a great level of customer service.

13. Adapt or die:

We live in a constantly changing world and businesses must constantly adapt if they are to survive.

Yesterday’s darlings of given business sectors can today be filing for bankruptcy protection. Brands that once dominated an industry sector can tomorrow be nothing more than footnotes in commercial history. Even major corporations can collapse without warning if their executives get their corporate strategy radically wrong.

If you’re business is doing well, that’s great but don’t make the mistake of becoming complacent. A technology change or a new entrant to your sector can suddenly make life very difficult for your business.

You have to be on top of what’s going on and what the implications may be for your business. And you must keep adapting.

Your business cannot afford to stand still. Adapt constantly or your business will die.

14. Make sure there’s a little ‘me time’:

Being in the management hot seat can be all consuming if you’re not careful.

Equally you can burn out very quickly if you’re not careful as well. You’re there to deliver results not to damage your health and well-being or the relationship with your family.

So make sure you factor into your schedule a little ‘me time’ on a regular basis. And make time for your loved ones too.

15. The best leaders are all readers:

All the most successful leaders are readers. Constantly broadening their knowledge and honing their skills by reading the latest books, listening to the latest audiobooks and seeking out information through professional journals and conference papers.

Make sure you spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day reading. If you can get through one book a week then over a year you will have consumed a PhD’s worth of knowledge. Over time you’ll become one of the most informed leaders in your field.

Here are five books you should consider having at the top of your reading list:-

The ONE Thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results by Gary Kemp and Jay Papasan

The premise of this best-selling book is that whilst multitasking may seem like an efficient approach, it is in fact better to focus on one objective at a time as this will boost your productivity and work wonders for your life generally. This book is a best-seller for a reason and you can check it out by clicking on the link.

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build your routine, Find your focus and Sharpen your creative mind by Jocelyn K Glei

This book will help your get the most from your workday and with input from 20 leaders you’re bound to learn something, so it’s well worth your time. Again, check it out by clicking on the link

Tools of Titans: The tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers by Timothy Ferriss

If you want to be successful then identify successful people and copy what they do. This book is a compilation of the best take away points from over 200 hundred interviews carried out by Tim Ferriss with business people, athletes and celebrities. Again you can’t fail to learn something if you read this. So check it out by clicking on the link now.

The 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey

This book has been on the best-seller list for quite a few years now and it’s a best-seller for good reason. Stephen R Covey explains that success is as much an attitude as it is about lifestyle. His themes range from self-mastery to being proactive. This book will mould your attitude and outlook towards achieving success. Check it out by clicking on the link.

Start with Why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek

Challenging your team to achieve their full potential can be a rewarding experience. Simon Sinek studied some of the most influential leaders in the world, looking at what they do, and documented his findings. This is an excellent book and well worth the cover price. Check it out by clicking on the link.

Other Articles:

Money-Making Tips from the 50 Smartest People

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How to save money with Amazon Refurbished

Money and How to Get Rich

How to save money

© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.


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