All technology growth companies are faced with the need to scale their organization in order to execute on the opportunity they have identified or created. Scaling the organization involves the ongoing modification of team, organization and processes; doing so also requires ongoing upgrade of infrastructure and methods.
I would like to focus on a practical dilemma; should the CEO focus on building the right management team? Or should they involve themselves in “doing the work” i.e. stepping in to assist a team member in their on-going tasks?
In a growth stage company every member of the management team is constantly challenged with things they have never experienced before; a typical CEO will coach his or her management team members as they face these challenges in order to assist them in scaling.
People that are on the team have tremendous advantage, they have been there for a while, they have domain knowledge, they have seen what works and what doesn’t; more than that they are part of the fabric of the company and are usually highly committed. The CEO should do his or her utmost to help them succeed but the CEO being cognizant of the growing needs of the organization must be crisp in determining whether an executive can scale fast enough and grow together with the company. A laggard will put the company and the whole team at risk.
When you as a CEO identify such weakness and you have exhausted attempts to develop and coach such an individual, I believe you should do the following: search for a replacement immediately, internally or externally. You should attempt to find an alternative position for the departing executive but under no circumstances should you start to do his or her job, hiring subordinates, executing tasks etc. If you fail to refrain from diving into a specific part of the business you will end up assembling a team that may not be to the liking of the eventual leader you will hire, and this will contribute to frustration, turnover, loss of knowledge and resources, and will affect the company’s performance. It may also distract you from your real job as the leader of the company. These kinds of decisions are not easy to make, and timing is of the essence in such situations.
The Board and the CEO are the owners of the big picture: the opportunity, the value proposition, the strategy to monetize it, the execution plan and financing. The Board and the CEO should never resort to doing the work.