Editorial: Put your CEO back to work
By Mark C. Zweig
I may make many folks mad at me with this week’s editorial. But too bad. I never wanted to be one of those CONsultants who tells his clients what they want to hear and hopes he never gets fired. I am much more interested in being an INsultant who tells his clients what they need to hear. And what a lot of CEOs of firms in this business need to hear right now is, “Get back to work!”
I’m not saying we don’t have many fine, smart, well-intentioned leaders out there at the top in the majority of firms in the A/E and environmental business. Most of these people put in long days, too, that don’t stop when the sun goes down or the weekend arrives. They work— but they are not working on the right thing. What many need to do may sound completely counterintuitive. They need to spend LESS time on top management, and more time doing the work of the business. By “work,” I am talking about working on more projects, selling more jobs, meeting more clients, working alongside employees who are working, and really getting into the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts of it all.
Too much “top management” stuff is making them out of touch. Too much top management stuff is hurting their credibility with clients and employees. Too much top management stuff is not making the firm any money. Too much top management stuff is making them disconnected with what clients really want and with what their firm’s employees are good at and not so good at. These CEOs need to get back out there and get back to work.
Maybe you should take a look at the next 20 proposals going out. Maybe you should go on the next 20 business development calls. Maybe you should attend a project meeting for 20 jobs your firm is currently working on. Maybe you should personally sell, do, and deliver some projects this year. There’s nothing like good, honest work to help pay the bills— and more importantly, to learn from. Instead of spending 10 hours reading Good to Great, make a project great yourself. Make a presentation great. Make a project team great. Do something great instead of just reading about it and telling others what to do. You may find out it isn’t as easy as you thought but then again, you may just reaffirm your belief in yourself and your power to make a difference in your firm.
If you are the CEO, you need to ask yourself if you should get back into it. I can tell you from personal experience that when I failed to do the work of the company, things went off course. The wrong people got hired. Proposals that didn’t really sell the right things went out to clients. Projects were done that could have been better. And I felt removed from who was good in the company and who wasn’t because I wasn’t working with them.