One of the best things about being the boss is that no one tells you what to do. Scratch that: Your investors tell you what they expect, and you had better meet those expectations. Your mentors tell you where you're screwing up. And your employees? They should be giving you feedback as well. But no one is writing up a performance appraisal.
You need to do this yourself. I'm positive that you're looking at your financials--in fact, you're probably poring over them with a fine-tooth comb. But, it's going to be up to you to evaluate the other areas of your performance. Here's what you need to look at:
Relationships: Are you getting feedback--positive and negative--from your direct reports? If it's all positive, you need to change something about what you're doing. Why? Because, despite what your mother told you, you're not perfect. In fact, you've got issues. We all do. If no one says anything negative about your ideas or the way you interact with your staff, chances are it's because you've somehow made it clear that you are not willing to listen. Remember, you're the boss, so people are sucking up to you. This is not the place you want to be. You need to hear the negative as well as the positive. So evaluate what you're hearing and, if it's true, suck it up.
Three things you need to stop doing. CEOs and founders have a reputation for doing too much. Now, granted, when you're a three-person outfit, every single person is doing too much. But once you've grown to have 10, 20, 50, or 200 people working for you, you're probably doing things you should have handed off to others. Sometimes that's because it's a task you love, but sometimes it's just because you've always done it. So sit down and figure out three things that should be done by other people--or by no one at all. This isn't meant to overburden your already overburdened staff but rather to make sure that your time is used to the fullest.
It's a great idea to ask your staff members to list three things they think they shouldn't be doing either. The ideal focus should be on things that don't really need to be done, but oftentimes workloads aren't evenly or logically assigned. The year-end performance review is an excellent time to address these issues.
Three things you need to start doing. Yes, I just said you were overburdened, but you've just gotten three things off your plate. What should you be doing that you're not? And by "you," I don't necessarily mean you, yourself, but the company in general. What things could make your company a better place to work? What things could make your company more profitable? What miserable task could be done that would then streamline a process, saving everyone time in the future?
Evaluate your employee turnover. Yes, in big companies, this won't fall to the CEO, but in your startup, it should. If you have an HR person, she can help go over this, but you need to understand why you are losing people. Assign every lost person to one of the following categories:
- Bad hire. These are people who didn't work out from the beginning. It's worth your time to figure out what went wrong. Did you make assumptions based on their résumés that turned out to be untrue? Were they fabulous at interviewing, but not very good at the actual skill? Every company makes hiring mistakes, but take a look and figure out what mistakes were (I'm using the passive voice on purpose. Don't punish for this; fix this) made.
- Bad manager. Did people leave because you were a jerk? Did people leave because one manager was an idiot? Did people leave because there was too much oversight? Too little? Even if you have managers who get a lot done, if they can't keep their people happy, you need to be aware.
- Growth opportunities. Look, some turnover is always going to happen, even if your company is awesome. No company can offer everything to every employee. In small companies you often have no real growth path because there aren't 14 different departments with layers and layers of people. So, the reality is, you will lose some people who want to advance in their careers but can't at your business. This is okay, but consider if you can give some growth opportunities that don't initially seem possible. You want to keep top talent at your place as much as possible. Additionally, don't rule out the idea of someone leaving for a few years to work somewhere else, then returning to you with new ideas and new skills.