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The Alternative Board Blog

Employee Development: Getting Employees to Think Like a CEO

Dec. 3, 2019 | Posted by The Alternative Board
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Employee development is generally aimed at improving a person’s skill at their job or expanding their range of responsibilities. Sometimes, the most promising employees are groomed for future leadership roles. But a case can be made that, in order to advance the growth of a business, all employees should understand the challenges and opportunities a CEO faces, and learn to think like one, whenever possible.

The process starts by ensuring that everyone within the organization comprehends its vision. Ideally, from an employee’s first day, he or she should learn how, for example, “an entry-level sales job directly affects the company’s annual goals,” notes Entrepreneur, adding that when employees “start to envision how their actions lead to overall company success, they will better understand how a CEO strategizes.”

Other action steps include:

Practice transparency.

To get employees thinking like a CEO or business owner, it’s necessary to share as much information as possible about the company’s status. This sometimes runs counter to the executive team’s inclination not to share news of any problems, mistakes in judgement, or other negative developments.

But a lack of transparency often leads to the spread of rumors and misinformation, which helps no one. Consider ways to actively share the company’s ups and downs through a range of venues:

  • Weekly or biweekly all-staff meetings
  • The use of collaborative apps
  • Financial progress reports delivered via email
  • Internal blogs from the CEO or COO

No one suggests disclosing sensitive business or customer data or going deeper into financials that aren’t relevant to the situation. But many businesses can still move a lot further in the degree of transparency they currently practice.

Want additional insight? Read 9 Tips for Motivating Your Employees now 


Encourage independent thinking.

If your goal is to “cultivate a problem-solving culture,” as Teamwork notes, “don’t be afraid to show your employees the big-picture problems” so they can start “thinking like an owner and start growing into a leadership role.” In this way, business leaders “benefit from several heads working on [their] toughest problem, not just one.”

Promote active decision-making.

Even with the best of intentions, some companies keep a strict rein on decision-making responsibilities (also known as micromanagement). Not only does this potentially damage employee morale, it fosters a culture where all decisions are pushed upwards. This causes unnecessary delays in production, completion of new projects or initiatives, and in other areas—at a potentially significant cost in money and resources.

Encourage team members to make key decisions within their departments. Let them know you support the decisions they make, and no punitive measures will follow should those decisions turn out to be the wrong ones. Emphasize that this is a learning process for everyone involved.

Appoint teams to address key issues.

Employees who get the chance to think about and act upon organizational issues usually rise to the challenge. This sets the stage for creative, outside-the-box thinking that can generate solutions senior leadership might have missed.

At the same time, employees’ confidence grows, as does their understanding of just how difficult it can be running a successful business. It also gets people thinking more about long-range problems and opportunities, rather than just the minutia of day-to-day job responsibilities.

Of course, employees must still follow through on their professional obligations. But why not seek to harness their energy and imagination, and steadily build a culture of employees thinking in “leadership-mode”? The potential benefits far outweigh any minor risks involved in granting employees more power in the workplace.

Learn more about molding your culture into one where employees think like CEOs. Register for our free TAB Boss Webinar, “Culture—If You Build It, They Will Stay.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board