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7 things every CEO needs to start doing

September 12, 2015


Answer by Jason M. Lemkin on Quora.

This new phase of my life as a venture capitalist is really the first time I’ve ever worked with CEOs who weren’t formally (or at least, informally) trained as managers. My bosses all came up through the ranks. I went from director to VP to founder to CEO. Most of my SaaS CEO peers, back in the day, had management experience under their belts.

It’s fine. You can learn this stuff, and all that really matters is attracting a great team under you. Really, that’s all that matters post-initial traction.

But if you come up through the ranks — you at least get to observe how others do it. If you skip past all of this, you may have missed seeing some basic stuff in practice that just helps.

So if you haven’t hired or managed managers before, a few simple processes can make being a better manger as simple as pie.

Here are my top suggestions:

Have unstructured weekly, or at least biweekly, one-on-ones with all of your VPs
So many folks just don’t do this. The key is to have no deep agenda — that it not be a performance review. It’s the opposite. It’s a chance for each VP to raise thoughts on his or her mind, without structure or boundaries: to brainstorm, to get help, to show off, to get some love from Mom or Dad — whatever it is. It can be a 20-minute meeting, but you have to do this.

Then, try to get your VPs to have one-on-ones with each other
Your VP of sales and VP of marketing need their own one-on-one. If they haven’t done this before, get them to. The same goes for the VP of product and engineering, sales and customer success, etc. Yes, they work together every single day, but that’s not the same thing. Offer to pick up the tab for lunches or dinners.

Have weekly staff meetings
Yes, you need to do this. Every week, the management team gets together for 30 to 45 minutes and just updates everyone on what they are working on. I know you Slack and email, but this forces you to do it together. As a CEO, have a really basic agenda for this one (unlike the one-on-ones).

Have a core set of goals everyone tracks to
Make sure everyone in the company knows your top five goals and that they’re reviewed at every company meeting, every team meeting and every board meeting. Update them every time you’re together.

Have your VPs present — and present more than you — at board meetings
Board meetings in the early days can seem like a bit of a tax. Don’t let them be. Use them as a vehicle to push the team. Make sure each board meeting has sections for every functional area — and have the owner present, not you. Your board members talk to you enough. They don’t hear from your team enough. From them, they’ll learn a lot. And even more importantly, it will create external accountability for your VPs. They’ll know they have to be accountable not just to you, but to the board, too. This really works. So, as CEO, talk less in board meetings, and try to barely talk at all in the functional areas of your VPs.

Recycle your board meeting presentations as company meetings
Transparency builds trust. Take your board meeting materials, make a few edits, and then do it again in front of the whole company. Your VPs won’t have to do much extra work this way. The employees get more info than they would otherwise, and they’ll feel like the insiders they are and should be.

I’ve now worked with several startups that have gone from nothing to $10 million in annual recurring revenue, but where were the parties? You have to celebrate and spend some coin. Do it nice. Your team and employees may not remember a 2.34% bonus, but they will remember that amazing retreat you went on — that crazy outing. Do it, and not on the cheap. Make them feel special, because they are.

Most first-time CEOs I see do almost none of these seven suggestions. They are each relatively trivial to implement, and I bet they’ll have an outsized impact on communication and morale across the team while making you a better CEO — almost overnight.

This article originally appeared on Quora: 7 things as CEO you can do today to be a better manager

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