Skye Khilji: Many CEOs I think feel that they’re working way too hard and the team’s not pulling their weight. And I’ve heard you use the phrase ‘the CEO is not allowed to do any work.’ What does that mean?
Rajesh Nagjee: Many years back I built, owned and operated a critical care hospital. I found myself in the same space where I was working very, very long hours and I had over 40 people in the top executives. It was a large hospital, critical care hospital, that nobody was pulling their weight. And then I got this thought that I have employed these people and now they’ve employed me right back.
Skye Khilji: Right.
Rajesh Nagjee: And I’ve said, what is my job description? And I found that my job description was that I am the key and the biggest problem solver in my organization. And I love to solve problems. Suddenly I realized that I’m an addict, I’m addicted to the energy that flows into grappling with problems and finding solutions and it takes hours and hours and hours. What’s the end result? The end result is I’m not giving anybody an opportunity to solve problems. And then I look at them and say, hey, you guys are not pulling your weight. Damn right. I don’t give you an opportunity to pull your weight.
The point is, if we start empowering people, enabling people and giving them a way to contribute, a way to participate, what begins to happen is that you start getting a lot of the problems getting solved. And as a check and balance you can ask people to process whatever problem or issue there is and come up with a solution and share that solution with you. And sometimes there could be A and a B, shall I do this? Shall I do that? Come up with that and then ask them to choose one of them and then ask them why. All the time constantly you’re coaching them in the criteria to take the right decisions, the assumptions to take the right decisions and create a hypothesis and then test that hypothesis. Hypothesis, assumptions, criteria. Hypothesis, assumptions, criteria. And as you are working with them, they get to a place where they’re able to solve more and more complex problems. And that is really the role of the CEO.
If you really step back and think carefully about this, the context that the CEO brings to that core team is where the problem is. And most CEOs bring a context called ‘you’re not able, I’m able.’ The moment they flip that context to ‘you are able, and I’m standing right behind you, take the call. What if you make a mistake, I’m right behind you. If you don’t take a call, you get into trouble. If you take a call and we lose money or something happens, no problem, learn from it and move on.’ As long as they’re sincere, they’re hardworking, they’re good people, then this begins to work. So, the real secret that solves this whole dynamic is where are you coming from. Are you coming from, you are able and I’m here standing behind you, or you dumb guy, you’re not able and I’m the only guy who can solve the problems. That’s the dynamic that I see and it’s quite strange. You are the architect of non-performance of your own core team.
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