Many companies are founded by individuals who were really great at their jobs. They didn’t plan on being an entrepreneur, but they knew that they were so good at what they did, that they could and would do it better. Often times they start with one customer and grew the business one step at a time.


Somewhere along the line, they had to manage the people. They had to deal with individuals getting to work late or not carrying enough of the work load. They had to deal with egos of the people they hired, and to resolve conflicts that naturally arise when people work together.


Somewhere along the way, they also realize that they also have to cast the vision for the company and to motivate the team to stay focused even during difficult times.  These aren’t skills that they had used before in their positions, and sometimes come up empty handed when trying to figure out how to handle these different but very important issues.


Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a CEO of a midsized company. This individual had had a very successful technology career as a programmer. He was successful finding solutions to complex problems and his customers grew to love his work. Finally, he went out on his own and recruited some others to join his company.


To meet this individual, you’d believe that he was smart. He just looks smart! But you’d have no idea that inside, is a very socially nervous individual who knows that he now needs to build relationships with the CEOs of other companies and needs to learn how to manage high level business professionals who even have more experience in the workforce than he does.


It can be intimidating! Even for a successful CEO.


When we spoke, I asked the CEO to determine where the biggest stress points in his business life were at the moment.  He felt like he had no relationship building skills when he first met a customer.  He always felt his sales staff had the upper hand and he wanted to appear to be confident like a CEO should!  His sales staff seemed so comfortable talking with strangers and he just didn’t know what to say!  Another issue was trying to develop a business strategy for creating a vision for where the company was heading and lastly, he felt he was bumping heads with his team because he knew how to do the work and they resisted being told what to do.


We started with the basics:  How do we want to treat the customers? I asked him to identify to consider the CEO as a person first, and to get to know the other leaders as people. What sorts of questions could you ask them?  What sorts of things concern them? Is it about leading his or her people or is it about the economy? Is there anything obvious about where they are meeting you can ask about?  Or something that you could congratulate him or her on about someone who works for the company? I presented the formula to my client of FORM (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Message= passion)  This is a good place to start when having a small talk discussion with anyone. I also shared with him that many people aren’t comfortable in small talk situations, but that it is important and just a way to break the ice before the real conversation takes place.


Next, we discussed leading meetings and the fact that he was always attempting to solve all of the problems and not allowing his team to do it so conflicts were arising on a regular basis. So, we discussed learning how to coach others. The main point that I drove home was that giving advice isn’t the best tactic because it’s always better for a person to come to the answer themselves and not to be told what to do. So, we practiced ways to get the staff to come up with the answers on their own instead of being told the correct answer. This takes practice, I shared, but over time, can become a very effective tool to getting more and more out of his staff.  It also allows them to feel they have some control over their job which is essential for any individual to feel valuable.


Lastly, as he was shifting into the visionary of the company, I challenged him to be more prepared for the meetings that he led. Instead of just asking for status reports, I asked what leaders inspired him and how they handled things. Then we discussed different stories that he could share about historical characters, or modern day success stories of how other companies were gaining success in their own businesses.  I asked if he had constructed a “mission statement” and did each of his employees have one for their own business life?  What were the values that the company was built upon?  Together we started constructing what will eventually be the mission statement and vision statements of the company.


Growing into the position of leadership takes time, but it’s important to understand that it is a shift of roles from worker to leader.  It may take learning and practicing new skills that aren’t so natural at first, but over time, the investment that the CEO makes in being a more dynamic and motivational leader and communicator, can only increase the morale and image of the company. And when the employees feel good about working at the company, they work harder and produce more.