Working ON the business - A necessary CEO transition | Compass Point Skip to main content

The very thing that gets a CEO to the top can also be their Achilles’ heel. The transition from ‘player mode’ to ‘coach mode’ is a mindset that at first glance sounds easy, even refreshing – “Hey, I’m no longer responsible for doing all the work around here.” Yet a CEO transition usually never happens that way nor do they make the transition. Instead, they get drawn into ‘doing the work’ as if there were some magnetic force pulling them back into the trenches.

It’s not that the great CEOs don’t work hard, but it becomes a different kind of work. Remember: your job isn’t making the “donuts.” Your job is making a great company that makes great “donuts.” Easier said than done.

When your company gets in a bind, the natural reaction is to jump in and fix it (and in some cases, that certainly makes sense). However, in my experience working with CEOs, this failure to transition responsibilities and accountability isn’t due to a lack of talent. It’s usually their own head trash – and it creates havoc in the organization.

This first step in a successful move from player to coach requires a CEO to understand their role. Just like a coach who works on filling his roster with the seasoned pros and up-and-coming players, CEOs should be working on finding, recruiting, and retaining the right people, in the right positions, so the right work is done well. These hires should be very intentional because they impact the performance of the entire team and organization.

I recently worked with the CEO of a manufacturing company who had a goal to double revenue. When I asked him how he planned to reach that goal, his answer was, “I’ll work harder.” Sound familiar? His heart is in the right place, but his plan was destined to fail. Where was he going to find double the time he was already putting into the company? The company doesn’t need him to work harder in sales, the company needs him to recruit the right people who can make the sale, so he can keep the vision of the organization alive and moving forward.

Certainly CEO leadership is critical, but great organizations don’t rely solely on the CEO to be great. An organization achieves greatness because it is loaded with equally and diversely great employees, who share the vision and deliver results.

Working ON the business versus IN this business. Seems so simple, but it’s not. It is far easier to stay – or fall back into – the trap of ‘doing.’ Yet, dedicating time to working ON the business can pay off in spades, just ask our client. Then see how to put Executive Coaching to work for you.


Tom Garrity profile picture
Tom Garrity

Tom has family business in his DNA. His entire career was forged in family-owned companies. This extensive experience in business development, key leadership roles, and practical financial analysis fueled Tom’s quest to help owners build successful businesses while maintaining a strong family unit.

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