4 Signs a CEO is 'Holding the Stick Too Tightly'

The best shots in hockey come from a firm but relaxed grip on the stick. Business leaders need that same sort of hold on their organizations.

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By Ken Dunn


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past 15 years, I have acted as a management consultant for the founders of nine different international $100,000,000 companies, I have been a co-owner of three companies that have surpassed 50 million dollars in revenue, and I have contracted as the lead-distributor in three other companies that have produced $750,000,000 in sales.

Suffice it to say, I have been around a lot of founders and CEOs. From these experiences, I have identified four personality-based red flags that founders who are driving their ships right off a cliff have -- but they don't realize their personal red flags exist. If you are offended by any of these points, then you are likely the CEO who needs this advice the most. Even if you don't think I'm describing you, commit to steering away from these traits. If you read this article and feel like I'm describing your boss, then do him / her a favor -- share it!

I'm from Toronto. In hockey, if you squeeze your stick too hard, you will actually hurt your shot. The best shots in hockey come from a firm but relaxed grip on the stick. Similarly, the best businesses are grown from the warm, nurturing and firm grip that the CEO has on the organization.

Related: 9 Things Managers Do That Make Good Employees Quit

Here are four instances where I have seen CEOs holding the stick too tightly in their businesses.

1. Over managing

I once worked with a CEO of a $150,000,000 company, who insisted that she meet with each of her C-level executives on a daily basis for 10 minutes. In this meeting, the senior managers were expected to review their quarterly goals and explain what they had accomplished the day before. I think regular meetings with your top executives are a great way to build a strong trusting culture -- but everyday?

It is difficult for independent CEOs and founders to know where the fine line is in managing other people, but I would suggest that more then half of managers in American companies are over managed. The danger of doing this is that you will never give your managers the room to make mistakes, independently realize their mistakes, fix their mistakes and grow. You will hurt the manager's ability to become independent.

The CEO who over manages is most likely covering up a personal insecurity they have. If you fear that you are over managing and don't know how to fix it, consider hiring a management consultant or get a mentor.

2. Decision making

Do you have policies in your business that there are decisions in your company that only you can make? Do you find yourself constantly criticizing the decisions of your subordinates? If you answered "yes" to one or both of these questions, your grip on the stick is likely turning your knuckles white.

Your number-one goal as a CEO is to make yourself redundant. The greatest CEOs I have studied are constantly pushing decision making down to lower levels of management. Great companies have guidelines for decision making established, so that the CEO does not have to constantly be the one making choices.

I have witnessed several organizations where the founder insists that he / she be the key negotiator, that he or she if the only signing authority on checks and that all departmental major decisions must be brought to the CEO's office.These companies are always struggling, because the managers have a natural desire to lead, and leading involves making decisions.

Do yourself a favor: Quit being a control freak! Start trusting your subordinate leaders, and let them make decisions.Why not teach your leaders to make decisions -- and watch your company grow?

Related: How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team

3. Over pressuring

Over pressuring your key leaders could be the biggest mistake that a CEO can make in his / her company. Leadership is an art. The best CEOs I have studied are all voracious readers, they all have business coaches and they lead every day with a "I need to learn more" attitude.

On the other hand, I have seen some absolute tyrant leaders who don't even realize they are pressuring their people. You don't need to remind your key leaders that you own the company, what their annual goals are or what the deadlines to key projects are. Constantly pressuring your people will only destroy their natural desire to serve you.

Try turning off your natural ability to pressure people for one month. Instead of pressure, in that 30 days, focus on telling new subordinates every day how much you appreciate them, ask them about their families and show a genuine interest in them.

I've realized that these over-pressuring CEOs, in most cases, are just really nervous about the business' success. If you are running a business in the middle of cash flow problems, human resource issues or other challenges, just be aware that your stress could be causing you to over pressure your people. Even in the most taxing business environment, make a personal goal to love on your employees every day.

4. Over working

Study after study has revealed that all work and no play makes Mr. or Ms. founder / CEO a crappy leader. Never forget that your team is comprised of human beings with emotions, feelings and minds. They want to know that they are really part of a team.

As the leader, you are going to need them to burn the midnight oil occasionally -- but don't make it every day. The companies that I have seen growing the best are the ones that work hard and play hard. I have been very careful to make sure that this point is woven into the fabric of our company's community.

Make sure you arrange times to play with your team, and always make a big deal of little things and big challenges in your employees lives. Make celebrating birthdays and special occasions a part of your culture and give your subordinates a little extra latitude to deal with a personal challenge like the passing of a loved one. As the CEO / founder, you should be the hardest-working employee, but make sure your staff gets a chance to play with you too.

I would guess that the people who need to read this article the most will likely never get a chance to see it -- they are too busy being jerks! That is the way their employees will think of them. If you are an entrepreneur who dreams of having your own company or are already a CEO / founder, then think about these points. Make sure you eliminate them from your life.

Remember, every superstar needs a coach. There are hundreds of amazing management consultants in America. If you think you are struggling with one of these issues, then hire a good management consultant to help you along the way.

Related: 7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity

Ken Dunn

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Founder of Authority Factory

From his original days in police investigation and interrogation, Ken developed a fascination with the human subconscious. Ken now teaches entrepreneurs to build coaching business in the new Knowledge Brokering industry. He has helped hundreds to build six-to-seven-figure coaching businesses.

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