After years of hard work, quite a few sacrifices and even some sleepless nights, the big reward is finally there: you’re appointed CEO of the company. But after finally being handed the keys to the castle, the question pops up: and now what? What exactly should my role as the #1 in the company be? Realizing that you don’t have a straight answer to these questions can actually be a frustrating experience. But also a useful one.
One of the first things I discovered after becoming CEO of Nedap was that it is a misconception that by landing the top job, I was automatically at the right spot for making all decisions. I quickly found out that quite often as CEO you just don’t have all the required detailed context information to reach a sound judgement. Also, by involving the CEO it almost always takes more time to reach a decision. And finally, by having one person making all the key decisions you find out that inadvertently your personal biases will have an impact on decision making and lead to less diversity in decision making.
So, I soon realized that being CEO is not about making the right decisions but all about creating the right decision process throughout the organization. To create an culture where people are empowered and able to make sound decisions. By creating this “distributed decision process” we found that decisions are being made by people that have more detailed insights in issues and take up far less time. And, by having different perspectives on similar issues we quickly learned that are more than on way to solve certain situations.
We believe we have succeeded in this ambition, by sticking to three fundamentals. The first one is to ensure that every employee has a deep understanding of our strategic guiding principles and keen insights in our strategic objectives and the way in which we want to reach our goals. The only way to achieve this is to invest a lot of time and effort in informing, explaining and educating the entire staff on these key strategic matters.
The second one is a very transparent flow of information within the company. In companies where access to information means power, you often see that information is not shared. That’s a guarantee for serious trouble and an indicator for a troublesome and even dangerous corporate culture. The only way in which people are completely able to make (critical) decisions is when they have access to every available piece of relevant information, such as data about clients, competitors, products, et cetera. A lack of information or – just as bad – the wrong information is like driving a car while wearing a blindfold. Although listed companies evidently have some challenges where it comes to sharing information – even internally – it should still be a #1 priority for the CEO in question.
For most CEO’s, the third fundamental tends to be the most difficult one to live up to. It’s the ability to ‘leave the room’ when people start to make difficult and / or important decisions. In other words: to not take over the helm and make a decision for them. This means that as CEO, you have to accept the fact that decisions will be made that you do not always thought about yourself or (entirely) agree with. But then again, a CEO is not always 100% certain if he or she is making the right call either. In general, even after lots of consideration, logical reasoning, research and experience, there’s still no guarantee that a decision turns out well. There are always the elements of bad luck and luck that can either mess up the execution of a perfect plan or make it very successful.
Being able to give your employees responsibility and the freedom to make their own decisions and allow them to take the lead is a crucial skill. It shows a mixture of confidence in your own judgment and the judgment of the people around you. If sharing mandates and responsibilities bothers you, you might want to reconsider taking the #1 job.
Ruben Wegman, CEO
Nedap is a technology company with a focus on people. At the heart of our corporate philosophy – Technology for life – is the intrinsic drive to truly understand what people need to excel in the workplace. This means we also need to have a clear view on what their personal talent and potential is.
In a series of blogs, Nedap-CEO Ruben Wegman shares his vision on leadership and gives a pragmatic insight in how to unlock talent within an organization, based on his personal experience.
Blogs in the blog series ‘Rules for unlocking and multiplying talent’: