The Critical Role of CEO as Facilitator

CEOs should think strategically, make tough decisions, communicate effectively, build strong teams, and produce positive financial results. The list of “being and doing” is much longer, of course, but suffice to say that it’s a big job!

Rarely discussed is the role of CEO as facilitator. 

There are different types of leaders in the CEO role, but the most effective ones aren’t lone rangers. They build a strong team that helps them make decisions and execute on them. 

There are some critical requirements for effectively making decisions and executing plans:

  • A general direction that the company wants to go (e.g., purpose, vision, strategy, etc.)
  • An agenda (i.e., what’s important right now)
  • A platform and process for discussions to make decisions and create plans
  • Someone to organize those discussions, ensure effective process, mediate disputes and sometimes break ties

I’ve written numerous times about how to develop a purpose, vision and strategy. I’d like to focus on the next three.

Agendas, decisions and planning are all part of meetings. If you aren’t having meetings (face to face or virtual), you aren’t leading effectively. As CEO, you and your senior team (Team One) make the most important decisions. To be most effective, you as CEO must facilitate those discussions. Abdicating that responsibility will cause problems; I’ve seen it repeatedly. Leaders who preside but don’t lead are the “emperors with no clothes” of the business world. 

Turf battles, shunned responsibility, lack of coordination and missed deadlines are all indicators of poor facilitation by the CEO. You might have a talented orchestra, but they need a conductor!

Facilitation is a learned skill. It’s a process. There are rules (HERE they are). If your meetings are ineffectual, painful events, you’re the problem! As a former client who is CEO of a global company said to me: “I used to absolutely hate meetings! And most of them were mine!” He fixed that!

CEOs sometimes still own some functional responsibilities, particularly in smaller companies. If there’s good reason for that (rather than control or a reluctance to let go) it’s OK. But the fact that you’re the rainmaker or top product developer as well as CEO doesn’t forgive you from leading, and leading requires you to facilitate. It’s relatively simple to learn, so what’s your excuse? 

With practice, you’ll become competent and comfortable. But you must start!