The CEO’s First Responsibility

by Dr. Donald N. Sweet:  First and foremost, a CEO must actively develop her/his management team. The strength of a team is that collectively it provides perspective that one or two people just can’t have alone. Important issues require multiple viewpoints to improve our probability of success. So developing the team to make and execute better decisions is critical to the health of the business.

Practically speaking, the CEO begins developing the team which is already in place. Sure someone may be in the wrong seat and that should be fixed. In smaller organizations that often requires some time to accomplish. Nonetheless, progress can be made with most anyone who currently sits in a management role.

We believe that the management team, not the CEO, should manage the business. We have seen teams become more effective when the CEO is just one more member of the team making decisions. Yes, they should have a veto vote on any issue. That said, we suggest veto votes be used sparingly. Good teams make better decisions.

Don’t confuse this process with consensus. This is not about everyone agreeing on an answer or direction. This is about everyone passionately debating important issues to arrive at a better solution. Once the direction is set, the entire team must support it. That is part of the CEO’s team management job, too.

When working with CEOs we often use Pat Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team book and process. Helping folks put aside their egos promotes healthy organizational results. In essence we want management team members to say something like, “I don’t need to defend my turf/silo any longer; I’m in this for the best of the team.”

We also want them to say things like, “Yes, I have functional responsibilities, but they’re not my first concern. Running the business as part of the team is my first concern; my second is how I bring my functional resources to bear to improve that effort.”

We believe developing management teams is the greatest leap forward any business can make. We believe the CEO’s main job is developing his or her management team. It all really does start at the top.

The next post will provide some guidelines for team selection and improved effectiveness. Making sure you have the right people in the right seats is critical to organizational success. Finally, clarity regarding priorities, expectations and responsibilities greatly improves team effectiveness.