Five tips on how to stop being a helicopter CEO and scale your startup

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Five tips on how to stop being a helicopter CEO and scale your startup

Business Strategy


by Justin Reynolds

You may have heard of the "helicopter parent," a mom or dad who hovers over their children all the time. These folks want their kids to succeed, and they play as big of a role in their children’s lives as they possibly can to make that happen. Think of a mom who accompanies her teenage son to a job interview for a barista position.

In a recent Entrepreneur article, one startup CEO coined a related term that applies to the business world: the helicopter CEO. This is a leader who’s always lurking over their employees’ shoulders, telling them what they need to do and what they could be doing better.

This is often especially a problem when startups are starting to scale — the time when leaders need to start stepping away from the day-to-day details and expand their team to drive growth. While it can hard to let go (just like that overprotective parent), here are five ways to stop being a helicopter CEO and make sure your company is built to scale:

1. Hire the best workers
As the CEO of a company, you care a great deal about making sure everything is done perfectly. That’s why you’re curious about the progress your employees make each day and the way their approach their work and handle customer requests.

But having a managerial approach that’s too hands-on can be a turn-off. Hire the best workers for every position and you won’t have to worry about anyone doing less than a great job — which means you’ll be able to give your employees the space they deserve.

2. Make sure they stick around
It’s one thing to hire the best workers. It’s quite another to get them to stick around for a while. Losing a key employee can stunt your company’s growth as you scramble to backfill for lost talent.

Do everything you can to make sure your employees are happy and engaged. Makeemployee recognition a top priority. Plan regular team-building activities. Hire for culture fit.

3. Support professional development
Professional development is one of the perks that employees appreciate the most. But according to our latest Employee Engagement Report, only 26% of workers feel as though their organizations offer adequate opportunities for career development.

Make professional development initiatives a top priority at your company. Your best employees will be able to learn new skills and take on more responsibility with less oversight — helping your company grow faster.

4. Invest in technology
A recent study found that 44% of employees feel overworked. Part of that may be due to the fact they have too much on their plates. Another reason may be because they aren’t using state-of-the-art infrastructure and applications to make their jobs easier.

Invest in new tools and technologies that were built to make modern workers more efficient and effective. Migrate to the cloud. Use a collaboration platform. Equip your staff with mobile devices.

5. Give your employees autonomy
An easy way to avoid being a helicopter CEO is by letting your employees work from wherever they want to work and allowing them to create their own flexible schedules. In addition to proving to your team that you trust them and respect them as adults, taking this approach can almost certainly improve work-life balance across the board.

You hired your employees to do specific jobs. Let them do what they were hired to do. That way, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on your own job: making your company an even better place to work and, by extension, providing even more value to your customers.

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