In my last article I addressed the topic of the CEO of the company having a dual role as the Chief Executive Officer as well as the Chief Encouragement Officer. The basis for this dual role is that the CEO must be a source of encouragement to the management team as well as all levels of employment. Although in a large multinational or multi-locational company the CEO may never see the entire base of employees face to face, the need still exists. If you are a closely held company or regional enterprise, as the CEO you will interact with your levels of management and staff on a regular basis this becomes all the more important.
As the CEO of two companies I have come to realize the significance of my role in providing an atmosphere and attitude that encouraged my staff and managers. Unfortunately, I did not always understand how my leadership required me to also be a source of encouragement. The old adage that “If mama ain’t happy, then nobody gonna be happy!” rings true for the CEO as well. If you either bring your bad day with you or allow the stress of your position and responsibility to permeate the office environment you are likely to infect the office with a less than encouraging outlook.
During my tax seasons as the CEO of my CPA firm I knew that the stress of serving 500 to 600 business and individuals in a 3 ½ month window of time many times got the better of me. There were times my night’s sleep was only 2-3 hours long. On rare occasions I stayed up all night to get through the workload. I also rushed home to eat or out to a restaurant to grab a bite with my wife and four young kids. At the conclusion of the meal they went home and I went back to work. They would even bring fast food to the office for a meal with me during times when I felt it was impossible to leave my staff behind and take a meal break.
Those are seasonable examples of how I mismanaged my role as father, husband and CEO of the company. My thought was I needed to get the work done, show my staff my personal sacrifice of time with family and be there to help review their work and assign more if need be. What did I end up with for all this after 15 years of running my firm? Well my wife and kids knew when tax season came around that I was not much fun to live with or even my attempts to be a loving husband and dad were not as effective as I intended.
One year my oldest son Jason asked if I was going to make it to his basketball game. That seemed like an odd question, but one that I still remember to this day. I was the coach of his team and had never missed a game. He was wondering if my busy schedule would allow for me to attend his game that week. That was the point where after 20 years of public accounting and the stress I allowed in my life and my family that I knew it was time to find another occupation.
Did I need to leave the CPA world or did I really need to learn how to manage my type “A” personality, the stress of the job and enjoy life more. I remember a friend of mine who was also a CPA with a similar sized practice. His goal every tax season was to take a week-long vacation out of the country with his wife to pace himself for the grueling schedule that we worked. I marveled and assumed he just didn’t see how important it was to keep the work flowing. I was proud to be the CEO….but not aware that Encouragement was lacking.
If that is the impact to my wife and kids, I can only imagine the lack of encouragement my staff felt when I was operating on little sleep and not pacing myself to get the work done without the insane compromises that I made. How did I reflect and offer encouragement to staff or my family when I was allowing the career choice and the workload to rule my schedule. Rather poorly is the answer. My kids grew up aware of my stress level, my wife and I grew apart due to the lack of intentionally dating her and although I was able to earn a nice income, it pales in comparison to what I exchanged for allowing myself to get caught up in the position of running the firm.
Why share this in a newsletter, because at 54 years old I can say, “I am not the man I used to be.” That is actually the lyrics to a song by Brandon Heath I have come to identify with. I now see my role to encourage others as my privilege and my responsibility. I still own a company with a partner and I make sure to express gratitude to the employees and my partner each time I am in the office. I know that for years I just expected my staff to know that I appreciated them; I paid them their salary, provided an annual review and on occasion would utter some type of thanks.
Being the Chief Encouragement Officer has more to do than just managing busy schedules or lack of sleep and thanking your employees for their service. The purpose is leading with a vision, empowering the management team and staff to make important decisions and driving the process in a way that reflects the TEAM nature of the organization. The Trust Employees And Managers approach is just another way to use the letters in TEAM to mean something greater as their CEO.
When you entrust your team with responsibility it reflects that you are comfortable with their leadership. When you let your son or daughter take the car out by themselves after they get their driver’s license, they realize that you are trusting them to return safely, with the car in the same condition you saw it last.
It does not mean that all trust must be given at one time but age and competency based trust being transferred to your children is the same concept of empowering your employees. When they are ready, let them have the car keys. You will be amazed how much that provides encouragement to those who serve alongside you.