Coming in as a young CEO you have to walk a fine line. You want assertive and hyper capable senior executives, but you also want them to support your play and fall in line without having to threaten their job to coerce submission. Further, you will find yourself in the position of offering guidance and direction, even on issues where they likely agree with your perspective.
There are quite a few dynamics to consider, but there are a few basic tenets you can practice that will help you before, during and after these conversations and confrontations.
There is absolutely no substitute for clear expectations and communication. And there’s no one but you who can set the perimeters for that clarity. You set the tone others will follow. Don’t think of it as defining what will be tolerated, though that’s necessary. Approach it, instead, as leadership by example.
Be proactive in listening by starting conversations and asking insightful questions. Don’t pretend ignorance, just express interest. Some leaders suggest anonymous suggestion boxes and passing out surveys. Whatever works best for you, but there’s a lot of power in simple, one-on-one conversations. These are your top people, your most valued team members. Treat them as such, and they will respond.
Don’t Back Down & Don’t Roll Over
If you’re lucky, you have a pack of strong, driven, self-assured people supporting your vision. Be informed. Be direct and don’t be afraid to make the tough decisions. You will need to make a lot more in the future. Get used to it now.
Set the Tone for Your Relationship in the First Meeting
When you bring on a new staffer, don’t let someone else do the final interview. You, more than anyone else, embody the culture and personality of the company. Live in that, and wear it proudly. Never let anyone join your top leadership team without personally observing their comfort level with these realities.
Bottom line, you’re in charge because you earned it. Extend to your team the same sort of respect you expect in return, but make sure to define your limits clearly and fairly.
Roman Temkin is an entrepreneur living on the Upper East Side.