“Tech is in my DNA. In the 80’s, before I could remember anything, my dad got me electric toys. I used to tear them apart in the garage to understand how they worked. I’ve been obsessed with Tech my entire life.”
As far back as he can remember, Eric Weiss has always been fascinated by computers. As a teenager, he used to hack computers for his classmates. His first job as a student was as Tech Support at an Internet service provider. He was even a hacker for a while, even if he does not shout it from the rooftops.
After a degree in computer engineering and a career as a Product professional, Eric became an executive coach for fast-growing tech companies. For the past 15 years, he has helped companies build products, engage with their customers, find the right product-market fit, raise capital and scale their businesses quickly. This experience has allowed him to analyze patterns present in most growing companies.
The Common Challenge for Startup CTOs
“Tech leaders can be a bottleneck to their company’s growth if they don’t let go of some activities.”
For Eric, there comes a critical moment in the life of a start-up when the Chief Technology Officer must let go to evolve his role. In his opinion, this is one of the crucial management challenges that can cause a real bottleneck in tech teams and mechanically slow down the growth of a company, since it relies partly on the ability of the product and technical teams to deliver the products.
Eric entitled a common pattern that he called the Hero Mindset. “A lot of CTOs have very high standards, they’re almost perfectionists," he states. "They really struggle to delegate in terms of trust and even in terms of leadership and communication, so somebody else can take ownership of a whole domain." This means that they are quickly overwhelmed. Eric remembers a CTO who managed a team of 40 people and did an hour one-to-one meeting a week with each of them, in addition to his CTO duties and handling IT on top of that.
As a consultant, Eric’s challenge is to calibrate the missions of a CTO so that he puts his time and energy where it is most useful and the company needs them to be.
And the end goal: “You’ve graduated as an executive when you become this sort of zen human being that floats around the office and starts checking people and helping along the way. That’s the highest form of leadership."
CTOs: Access the Highest Form of Leadership by (Re)Focusing Your Tasks
To avoid any bottleneck and keep a technical team moving forward, Eric offers the CTOs he accompanies a schedule that helps them define their most useful duties. He suggests listing everything they do all week long and categorizing it as follows:
Diagonal: good fit, where the company needs them to be
One side: tasks where their focus is too low although there is a high need. Those are the areas of growth
Other side: where their focus is high & the need is low: here, Eric helps them delegate.
Even though delegating requires a real learning curve, it creates space. To do it well, Eric has established a multi-step method:
Identify areas to delegate
Get somebody else in
Coach them along the way and give feedback
Feel good enough with this person to let go.
“It’s almost like an apprenticeship," Eric states.
How to Grow Even More as a CTO
To go even further, Eric advises to work on growth limiters. He notices that almost all CTOs are afraid of stopping the machine if they delegate too quickly. But they are the ones who seize up while refusing to let go. The challenge is to work on their mindset to make them understand that everything will not go wrong if they let go.
“Maybe a little bit of messy growth versus trying to hold back the pressure and limiting the growth of the company while burning them out."
Last but not least, Eric's advice is to never neglect the leadership development plan.
Due to lack of time or time from their hierarchy, CTOs may give continuous improvement goals to their teams but not have any for themselves. However, they need to articulate goals, defined in time, specific and linked to their objectives to become a better version of their professional selves. It's a version in which their talent will no longer be measured by their purely technical skills, but rather by their aura as tech facilitators.
“At this stage, a CTO’s value is no longer measured in his own productivity but in the productivity of others and how he can motivate, inspire, lead, manage, and coordinate his team. That’s the most scary thing for many people to let go of," Eric concludes.