Common Mistakes of First Time CEOs

Being a first time CEO is not an easy task. You are jumping in, usually head first, into unknown territory. You are expected and expecting to do great things in a short period of time. First time CEOs make mistakes. In this article, we’ll go over the top 15 mistakes first time CEOs make and see if we can’t help the next first time CEOs from making them.

1) Doesn’t keep their mouth closed and their eyes and ears open. Listening and learning first are important objectives. Before you try to fix everything wrong with your company, listen and learn about the culture, the climate and more. Listen first, talk later.

2) Does not build a culture of accountability in the organization from their first day. From the get go, you should make sure that your organization is accountable for its actions and you as CEO are the number one example of that accountability. Take responsibility for mistakes and try to rectify them. It’s not easy, but it is necessary. It will earn you respect.

3) Doesn’t build trust, understanding and credibility with key stakeholders in the first 90 days on the job. One of the things you should do right away is to make key stakeholders feel comfortable with you. Is it fun? Not necessarily, but it will go a long way towards making your tenure easier.

4) Makes too many promises and sets unrealistic expectations early on. You should not try to change everything within the first few months or year of your tenure as CEO. Pace yourself and do manageable, achievable tasks. No one is expecting you to be superhuman so don’t expect it of yourself. LivePlan is an excellent resource for business planning that can help you define and carry out your business ventures.

5) Makes changes before having the proper understanding of the market, the business and the people who work for you. As CEO, you can spearhead the changes of your corporation. However, should you make changes immediately? Not necessarily. Remember when we mentioned that you should listen and learn before speaking. This is the same type of thing. Listen and learn about the culture and the organization and what it can possibly stand before you mastermind a change of course. A good captain doesn’t change a boat’s course without good reason. You shouldn’t either.

6) Doesn’t establish a true vision and strategy working with key stakeholders and the company’s employees. You need to set a clear course for the company. You have to show others the way. You’re the one who has to know where you’re going and you have to express that clearly to everyone else. You also have to know how to get there otherwise no one is going to follow you.

7) Complains about problems of the past versus talking about solutions for the future. As a CEO, you are not supposed to engage in gossip about what happened before. You should be always willing to put forth solutions to problems. If you can’t, don’t talk about the problem. Not unless you’re in a fact-finding mission. Do not put down the previous leadership or the company. It doesn’t look good and casts you in a negative light.

8) Doesn’t drive a strategy and operating plan to create a successful business model. As CEO, one of your main functions is getting the organization in a workable mode. That means you have to create a strategy and put forth actions that drive a successful business model. You are responsible for this – yes, you can have help. Ultimately, it’s on you though.

9) Hires extraneous talent without having the right understanding of the needed people, processes and technology. Before you hire anyone, consider what resources the business currently has. Then, think about whether this person fits in with the overall business model and that there is currently a place for him or her. This position might be vital to your overall business objectives, but if the resources aren’t there, you’re going to have to wait to hire them. For more help with financing, we suggest you consider using QuickBooks Online to track payments as well as help with accounting and bookkeeping.

10) Doesn’t make the right moves to remove unproductive parts of the business. As CEO, it’s your job to make the business productive and profitable. If there is an unproductive part of the business, it must go if you can’t find a way to make it productive. That means that people will lose their jobs, but that’s part of the deal of being CEO – making the tough decisions. You have to have the guts and follow-through to do it.

11) Allows their ego to get in the way of being a leader with a servant’s heart. As CEO, you are there to serve the corporation and the people who work for it. You are not the end-all and be-all. Be the heart of the organization, not the head. Don’t let your ego trip you up.

12) Stops being self-aware and is not continually working on being the best person they can be. Just because you’re CEO, doesn’t mean you have nothing left to learn as a human being. You have to be incredibly self-aware to navigate a corporation correctly. You have to continually work on yourself to be the best that you can be so the organization can be the best it can be. You also have to learn how to keep you as CEO and you as a private person separate. Don’t sacrifice your personal life for being a CEO.

13) Doesn’t accept that they cannot possibly know everything. No one expects you to know everything. If you don’t have an answer, feel comfortable in saying that you don’t know yet, but you will learn what you need to. Be open to suggestions and to input from others. You can learn a lot from other people.

14) Becomes reactive in a tough situation based on the pressure to succeed in the new role. As CEO, you have to be proactive, not reactive. You need not be defensive, but rather willing and open to listening to others. You are supposed to be flexible. Be the CEO you want to be, not one who is in fear of everything.

15) Doesn’t find strong mentors who can provide insight and accountability. You may have reached the peak of your career, but you still need mentors to help guide you and show you the way. You may need them now more than ever before because this is such new territory. A good mentor will also keep you in check. That’s important for anyone to have.

Hopefully, these top 15 mistakes of first time CEOs have helped you put the role into perspective and given you some good advice on what to do and what not to do as a first time CEO.

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