Can you still be a hands-on CEO when today’s new norm is remote working?
In a recent article for Forbes, Carl Rodrigues, SOTI’s President and CEO, discusses how he was able to refocus on the company’s vision, and make the most out of his time out of the office. Learn how you can continue to be a hands-on CEO during a crisis.
How To Be A Hands-On CEO In A Time Of Social Distancing
By: Carl Rodrigues, President and CEO, SOTI
Disclaimer: This article originally appeared in Forbes
As the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Right now, we are being thrown a lot of lemons.
We're a global business. So, when this all started, we talked to our customers and people in Europe. It was clear that the COVID-19 crisis happening there would hit us next in North America. We knew that "business-as-usual" would be to work remotely.
As a tech company, working remotely is not a huge stretch. I knew our team would adapt quickly. But, what about me? I'm not a typical CEO. I'm a hands-on guy. I like to focus on details at a depth most never care to. Can I still be a hands-on CEO if I never go into the office?
Time For Innovation
The first big surprise was that after thinking through the situation and throwing a few lemons around, I saw an opportunity. When you can't go to conferences or meet customers or partners, and you're not busy traveling or in meetings, you gain time that's just not there when you're moving at 1,000 km an hour building a global company. I saw a rare window of opportunity that does not come along often. (My wife calls me the "eternal optimist." I don't agree, but don't tell her.)
We've been busy. We've taken the extra time to fix and improve things that we did not have time to do before. We're working longer hours than ever (remotely of course), rethinking every aspect of the products and services we deliver to our customers. It has been a 25-year sprint getting to where we are, so this is rare. We're turning over every stone to see how we can do things better. When the lights come back on, we're going to be stronger than ever before.
My DNA is product, so it feels natural to put my head back into the area that I love most. It reminds me why I started this company in the first place. In many ways, this challenge can make you more creative, allowing you to zero in on things that matter and make the most impact. The work you're doing now will help you and your customers for years to come.
Remote Team Building
As we've grown, the demands of the company have pulled me in different directions: on a treadmill that spans the world. Being in one place, working with our teams, presents an opportunity to get to know the newer members of our development teams. Everyone has a preconceived notion of who the CEO is. As we've grown, it's become difficult to meet everyone. It's good to get to know our people better and to let them decide if I'm really as crazy as they thought I was. I'm sure my passion for product development has surprised a few. It's good for them to know how much I care about getting the tiny details right and that I'm willing to put in the work to perfect our products.
I've always found it eye-opening to see how our products are used by our customers, and to understand their vantage point. I've had the luxury of dealing with many of our customers over the years, seeing and learning from them. I can use those experiences to challenge our thinking. Are these really the right features? Is this the best architecture? Can we do this better? I've always found that creativity comes from challenging people.
Getting The Vision
I think a lot about our products and try to communicate the vision of where we are going. But the bigger we get, the more the message gets watered down. By the time it gets to the end of the line, it doesn't make sense, even to me.
It's no good if people follow robotically. Their hearts and minds need to be in it. What's great about changing the way we've been working is that people get to hear directly from me — unfiltered. They can ask questions and get a sharper understanding of how and where their efforts fit into the picture.
We're getting more out of our people because they get the vision and they're "feelin' it." They feel connected to the products they are building. Developers can be shy, and sometimes introverted. It has been a great gift to work with them, joke with them and build with them. I always knew we had great people but getting to know each other is fun.
Making The Best Of It
There's nothing about this pandemic that any of us would have chosen. The media fills the air with the negatives. But a crisis can be a wake-up call to appreciate what you have and the people around you.
As a hands-on CEO, it has helped me refocus. I hope you're finding a way to make lemonade too.