“What’s the most difficult CEO skill?” asks businessman and writer Ben Horowitz. “Managing your own psychology.”
Being a chief executive officer (CEO) is hard. It is an emotional roller-coaster. The growth of your company depends on you. During the scaling-up stage of your business, it is easy to adopt bad habits. You can always fix things later, you say to yourself. But things do not get any easier, and bad habits tend to get worse. In this article, I share the seven mistakes I have seen CEOs make most often.
1. Isolating yourself.
There is no denying that running a company is a lonely job. You may need to put up a facade of positivity for investors, customers and employees. Most of your friends and family cannot understand what you are going through. There are burdens you feel you cannot share with anyone around you. Many CEOs retreat into themselves.
This can backfire. Find a group of fellow leaders where you can support each other. Engage a group of mentors and advisors. Hire competent people and lean on them. Do not do entrepreneurship alone. It will break you.
2. Neglecting your health.
Your business’s health will be a reflection of your own health. You cannot have the stamina needed to build your empire if you do not take care of your body. Sleep, eat well and exercise. Do not skimp when it comes to your health. It is better to pay money to a nutritionist or a personal trainer now than pay money to doctors later.
3. Avoiding play.
Play is usually the most neglected area of my CEO clients’ lives. Play is about doing something for the pure joy of it. Not because it will move your business forward or because your family needs it. It is something you do for you. It could be time with friends, creating art or even playing videogames. You need to play to recharge from the pressures of building a business.
4. Always being in action-mode.
When you “move fast and break things,” you can miss opportunities or changes in the environment. As a CEO, your top job is strategic thinking. To deliver on that, you need to protect a space for reflection. Book an appointment in your calendar for thinking, and treat it as sacred. During that time, either journal on your most strategic questions or talk them through with someone who can help you think better, if you are an extrovert. You will be surprised by the stream of ideas and insights that can propel your business if you give yourself time to think.
5. Being the bottleneck.
One of the biggest mistakes a CEO can make is not creating a team under them, but instead simply having a group of individuals reporting to them. I see this all the time in growing companies. The founder acts as the epicenter and everything passes through them. By not building a team, your executives do not hold each other accountable; they do not build on each other’s ideas; they do not share information or collaborate effectively. This creates even more pressure for you, and you become the bottleneck for your company.
6. Overworking your team.
I know the stakes are high. I know you need to move faster than your competition and capture the market. That said, business is a marathon, and if you constantly put pressure on your employees, they will either leave or burn out. Establish a healthy culture with boundaries and work-life balance from the beginning. It might look like it will negatively impact your growth, but it won’t.
7. Firing slow.
This is one of the mistakes that most entrepreneurs regret. They usually know from the first week when they have made a wrong hire. But they are too hesitant to let someone go. They may leave toxic employees to damage the culture or allow a low-performer to drag all the team down.
Often, what seems to be slowing you down, like time for play or for thinking, is exactly what you need to accelerate. As a CEO, you need well-being, clarity and a solid team to succeed.