John Ainley: No one enjoys working for a ‘meddling’ CEO

One question I’m often asked by CEOs I work with is, ‘how do I know when is the right time to intervene and when is the right time to let people simply get on with the job?’ At the heart of this issue is understanding how to best develop the people that work for you and give them the responsibility they need to grow, while knowing that the eventual outcome for the business will be the right one.

An oscillating intervention style

Let’s take an example of a CEO who talks the talk when it comes to developing his team and empowering them to get on with the job but harbours inner concerns that they might not be doing the job in the way he wants it done. As a result he regularly intervenes – what you could call an ‘oscillating intervention style’ – in the areas entrusted to his team, sending mixed signals and leaving senior leaders around the business unsure as to what exactly they have control over and when that unexpected and unwelcome intervention from above will happen.

Another classic example is a CEO who has been newly promoted to the role. Perhaps she is not 100% certain in her own mind about the demands of her own role and also unsure about the capabilities of the senior leaders in her team. Again, the consequence can be a CEO who gets too involved in areas she should decisively delegate.

Consider your own strengths and weaknesses

What’s the answer? From a CEO’s perspective, it pays to consider your own strengths and be conscious about what you delegate. Have in place a mindset that you need to grow and develop the next generation and, while they will make mistakes, you need to allow them to make those mistakes and learn from them without your intervention.

Of course, having the confidence to decisively delegate is largely built on the quality of the team around you and taking time to build a team that complements your own strengths and weaknesses is important. You should be thinking about the outcomes as a CEO that you are looking for and appointing a team that can deliver those outcomes. While you shouldn’t compromise on the end result, you should be prepared to compromise on how you allow your team to get there.

Consistency is everything

Above all, consistency is very important. Your team need to know what to expect of you. Only then will you get the best from them and ultimately, the best results for your business.