Lessons from a First-Time CEO: Experience Matters

Experience matters. It is difficult enough for a first-time CEO to learn how to lead and manage all facets of a business as it grows. To do so without the assistance of an experienced team of direct reports is nearly impossible.

In the last 12 months, I had an “Aha!” moment. I have always been very deliberate about surrounding myself with experience. I built a board of directors early on, seeking to surround myself with professionals who had done what I was trying to accomplish. I have sought out mentors, advisors, and employees who know more than myself.

But it wasn’t until just a few months ago that I realized how critical it was that every one of my direct reports has experience that is directly relevant to the role I have asked them to play. A first-time CEO and a first-time direct report of a CEO simply don’t mesh.

The reality is this. As a first-time CEO, I am learning how to manage the role each one of my direct reports plays. Their roles change on a daily basis, as we grow and scale into new territory that I have never seen from the CEO perspective. To assume that I can coach an employee through this evolution is naive. I need someone that I can learn from, someone who has been successful in a similar role and at a similar stage.

No matter how smart or how good, experience matters when you’re dealing with a first-time CEO.

This is the first post in the series “Lessons from a First-Time CEO.” Read the second post, “Pick a Winning Strategy,” here.  

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