CollegeHumor CEO Paul Greenberg describes how he learned -- the hard way -- to take a step back, relinquish some control, and let his team members lend a hand.
A sales manager who worked for me once had a big meeting coming up with an important client, and he was worried he wouldn’t be able to close the deal. I spent time coaching him on how to present our product, and over time he felt much more confident. However, I wasn’t completely sure he was ready, and I didn’t want to risk losing the business. I told him I’d go to the meeting with him and make the pitch myself while he watched.
It wasn’t until later — when he was no longer working for me — that I found out how resentful he had been that I had stepped in and decided to try to solve his problem for him.
Early on in my managerial career, my instinct was to jump in and solve my team’s problems by myself. I finally realized that taking on too many of the issues they should be solving on their own made it impossible for me to scale my attention as the company grew. I also frustrated many of the people on my team.
Over time, it became clear that I needed to delegate if I wanted to run a growing organization and maintain morale. I knew I had at least followed the cardinal rule of hiring people smarter than I was, so I had to trust them to do their jobs while I spent my time on things that only I could handle. In fact, when there is a problem, I first ask if I have the right person in place; I don’t necessarily just try to fix the problem.
To sum it up, I only do what only I can do. And I realized that — as a CEO — I need to spend my time doing five things that no one else can do:
- Strategy: Make sure that I create a coherent strategy for the business (in conjunction with other team members, of course; doing this in a vacuum is perilous).
- Communication: Making sure that this strategy is communicated clearly to everyone on my management team and throughout the organization. Everyone needs to be on the same page about what we have to do.
- Hiring: Put the right people in place.
- Help: Remove any obstacles so that the team can succeed at doing the things at which they excel.
- Financing: Making sure we have enough capital to achieve our goals (and getting that funding in place if we don’t).
This does not mean I abdicate responsibility for any of the departments that report to me. I am directly involved with product, ad sales, editorial, marketing, PR, etc. on a daily basis to help steer them in the right direction. However, unless I believe those managers are making egregious errors in judgment (which rarely happens), I let them lead and only overrule something when I absolutely have to.
I have to trust my team to do the rest.
Paul Greenberg is the CEO of CollegeHumor Media