How to Hire the Right People to Free Up Your Time as CEO

Entrepreneurs of growing companies often spread themselves too thin. Like many, you may be in the stage of your business where you’re still running it “solo” from daybreak to sundown, and well beyond. You may recognize the need to hire one person or more, but you don’t know where to start. In this article we will talk about how to hire the right people to free up your time as CEO!

Even though you may not be quite ready to let go of wearing all the hats, I encourage you to look at the priorities of your role and accept that your business has likely gotten too big for you to accomplish alone. It doesn’t stand still—and with growth comes the need to redefine your role as CEO.      

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Growing Your Team

As an entrepreneur who doesn’t yet have a team, it can be a challenging shift. Because you likely started the company as one person—you have been a “solo act” from the beginning, have total control, carry the responsibility, and wear all the hats. There is a short window of time that an entrepreneur can pull that off before it’s no longer sustainable. As well as this works in the short run of a start-up business, it causes burnout and inefficiency in the long run. 

As a CEO, you must learn how to increase your own value by identifying specifically what you should be doing for the companyand the answer isn’t “everything!”

The best and only solution to doing it all yourself is to hire skilled people that develop into Self-Leaders who collaborate as a team, working for and with you. A trained, cross-functional ‘A’ Team of people is the goal. This is a choice that has to be made. However, I know what you’re thinking. As an entrepreneur you are creative and independent, and you have taken the financial risk, and initially you might not have planned to be hiring, developing and managing a team. Believe me, you’re not alone. 

A CEO I’m currently working with is facing the dilemma of doing too much for far too long: “I know I spend too much time working ‘in’ the business. I get frustrated when I feel like I’m losing touch with my industry. I need time to network, to stay in tune with the pulse that ignites my creativity that began all this in the first place—it’s a challenge to get the time and space for my vision and planning to stay fresh. Right now, time is eaten up with everything but those things!” 

Just HOW does this CEO get back some of his space and time, so that he is free to do what is important in his role?

Steps to Free a CEO

As an entrepreneurial CEO, a first BIG step is to fully accept that you are only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day and work cannot fill all of the hours in your life; you have specific constraints in your role that include time

The second step is to hire at least one other person (if you don’t already have a team) that has the skills and expertise to cover areas that are not the CEO’s strong suit, or areas that they should not be spending the time to do any longer

All of this said, CEOs in the habit of the old model of top-down authority, tend to want to hire “another me,” a COO/Chief Operations Officer to TELL people what to do. This does not work. 

There is a better way…

To avoid top-down authority, control of responsibilities has to shift to one other primary person, then others take up specific functions and tasks as you continue to hire and build an aligned team. Clearly, it takes a change in mindset for CEOs to let go of doing it all.

In my client's case, it’s important that he prioritizes his time for his talent to focus on holding and further developing the vision of the company, and to lead and inspire the team. He needs time for critical thinking, new ideas, high-level strategizing, goal-setting, and his presence at events. Those things are primary for his role. Simultaneously, as he further clarifies his role, he also has time for a personal life.

He has learned to rely more on a cross-functional model of leadership that hires and trains for collaborative thinking. This will help free him up for his priorities as he begins to trust his team to deliver outcomes and achieve business results.

The Right Person

SO WHO is the right person (or people) to take on those responsibilities that the CEO, up to this point, felt only he could do? 

I advise CEOs to look at who shows the most leadership and ownership for outcomes that currently is working within their company (or to hire someone who is a good fit for this role). This is the person to develop as the one to hand off to and rely upon to problem solve and get it done. In this client’s case, a partner is now taking on the responsibility to perform the tasks and functions of the business, and is the “go to” person who is at the center of all that is happening on a daily basis. She is evolving to handle the balls that are in the air, not him. What cannot be handled by her is posted on the agenda to discuss at the weekly meeting with him (unless it is urgent).   

JUST WHO IS the cross-functional team in the beginning?  

Typically, after developing a secondary person who leads operations and teamwork, you continue to hire and build your team with this person leading. How this happens or who you hire obviously varies based on the needs of the business. 

(Need help hiring? Read my “Entrepreneurs Make the World Go ‘Round” blog here for more tips)

That said, the central role of the secondary person to the CEO is not for telling other people on the team what to do, by using the worn out model of top-down authority, but to actively help to hire, train and develop skilled people, who can take on specific tasks. The business then grows as your team continues to align and achieve your business outcomes.. They function as peers in collaborative discussion and decision making. They freely take initiative and feel free to speak out in their role and express viewpoints based on their responsibilities and expertise.   

Think about your own business needs and what you need to let go of and begin hiring for. Here are some questions to help you to start thinking about where you are now and what you need to consider as you plan for your next steps. 

  • Who on your team may be able to take on a higher level responsibility?
  • What areas in your company do you need more help?
  • Who is driving the execution of outcomes?  
  • How does your company team work together, then communicate up the triangle to the CEO for what they need to know?
  • Who are those that you can develop further to think and lead? 

Here are some additional tips for hiring the right people to free up your time as CEO:

  • Be clear about your expectations. When you're hiring new employees, make sure you're clear about your expectations. What are the responsibilities of the position? What are the goals of the company? What are the desired skills and experience?
  • Hire for attitude over aptitude. It's important to hire people who have the right attitude, even if they don't have all the skills you're looking for. People with the right attitude can be trained and developed to learn the skills they need.
  • Create a culture of trust and empowerment. When you create a culture of trust and empowerment, your employees will feel more confident and motivated to take on new challenges. This will free you up to focus on the big picture.

By following these tips, you can hire the right people to free up your time as CEO so you can focus on what matters most.

The fact is, you will keep learning as you move forward, and I’m confident you’ll find that you are even more brilliant with a team!

 -Barbara

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