Entrepreneur

The top 22 mistakes of first-time CEOs

Making mistakes
Image Credit: Eugene Sergeev/Shutterstock

I have been building this list of CEO mistakes for many years based on my own experiences. This is not rocket science — some of these points may seem obvious when you read them — but it is really tough to know what you haven’t experienced, and I wish I’d had a list like this when I was a first-time CEO.

Although this is a list for first timers, folks in their second, third, or fourth gig also make these same mistakes.

In no particular order, here are the top 22 mistakes a CEO is likely make:

1. Does not begin to build a culture of accountability in the organization on day one
2. Fails to keep their mouth closed and their ears and eyes open
3. Does not build understanding, trust, and credibility with key stakeholders in the first three months on the job
4. Over-promises and sets unrealistic expectations early in the game
5. Makes decisions for change before having the understanding and credibility of the market, business, and people
6. Drives changes too quickly and fails to understand how much change the business and culture can withstand
7. Fails to establish a true vision and strategy working with the key stakeholders and employees of the company
8. Complains and vents to the board and others about problems of the past versus talking about solutions
9. Fails to drive a strategy and operating plan that creates a successful business model
10. Over-hires talent without having the right understanding of the needed people, processes, and technology
11. Fails to focus, focus, focus on the opportunities and key metrics and make the high impact moves to remove the unproductive pieces of the business
12. Over-hires sales and marketing well ahead of a proven sales model
13. Gets too involved in execution of the decisions versus leading the company to improve the execution
14. Lets the ego of being CEO get in the way of being a leader with a servant’s heart
15. Stops being self-aware, introspective, and continually working to improve who they are as a person, leader, and manager
16. Becomes reactive in a tough situation based on pressure to succeed in the new role
17. Loses balance in their life as a CEO when they need to exercise spirit, body, and mind
18. Fails to accept that he or she cannot possibly know everything when no investor or board member expects that of any CEO
19. Fails to find some strong mentors who can provide insight and accountability
20. Finds him/herself looking at numbers and emails instead of being with customers and staff
21. Is either too right brained or too left brained when a CEO must strike a balance, either in him/herself or through the team
22. Is too hard on people as the expectations for success are very high

Any mistakes you have seen (or have made) you can add to this list? Please comment.

Edwin Miller is a four-time CEO and an accomplished author on business innovation and creating high performance teams. Miller’s experiences with transforming both private and public companies in good and bad economies helped him create the 9Lenses framework, a social approach to assessing and optimizing a business through comprehensive insights into all areas of an organization. Organizations including HP, Raytheon, and George Mason University use the 9Lenses method.


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