As the founder you may hand over some duties to various leadership teams but make sure the cultural fabric of your company still represents your values.
As our company has moved through various growth milestones, we've struggled to redefine our leadership style and reinforce our culture. It seems that many of the big, important things, like the company's mission and values, manifest themselves in the seemingly small things, like holiday and vacation policy.
We wrote about this in a recent article entitled, When Core Values and New Ideas Collide. Many of you who have navigated companies through various growth paths, have experienced similar challenges, and were kind enough to share your thoughts with us via email.
A few readers spoke about the challenges of nurturing new leaders after the founders have stepped away, and allowing them to focus on important growth issues rather than petty operational policies.
"When people join from big companies they want to have a sense of control to feel secure, powerful and needed in their new jobs and also they need to prove to themselves and the management of the company that they are bringing value to the company by regulating, de-regulating, cutting costs and promising to increase revenue or efficiency. A founder needs to manage their insecurities and their need to perform and prove." – Salim
"No one will do things the way you do. When one creates a trust, that new entity can either continue with some or all of the grantor's mindset or it can be handed over to allow others to run it as the rest of the world would – making it indistinguishable from a general muck of others." – Robert
We agree that it is important to give new executives a platform to provide meaningful leadership. If this platform is not focused on growth and results, it manifests itself in less meaningful policies like holidays and vacation. It's also important to give new leaders real authority and reinforce that authority through broad communication and actions. But, the founders can often play a critical role by defining the cultural boundaries. These cultural norms maintain "growth mode" rather than allowing the company to morph into a larger bureaucracy.
The bottom line is that, as the company grows, the CEO needs to focus on the big issues - namely, building a team that is going to sustain growth. In many cases, this means that the CEO needs to be the Chief Cultural Officer, or someone who maintains and reinforces focus on what truly matters to the company. In our company, the number of holiday and vacation days has little impact on our success. I would guess that's the case at your company as well.
In fact, we've found that if you hire A-level players and focus them on creating results that contribute to the company's growth, you don't really need to micro-manage their time off. In contrast, strict management of effort-based priorities, rather than results-based priorities, distracts the team's focus from what really matters: driving value growth.
It's been a learning experience for us, and as a result, we've redoubled our efforts on driving focus on our core values and reinforcing our culture.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark