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A Beginners Guide for Managing Directors

As a managing director (or Chief Executive Officer), you’re likely the most senior in the company, and – as the title suggests – you’ll be busy managing and directing your organisation in a way that aligns with company goals and objectives.

What do you do, however, if you’re new to the role and perhaps have a bout of imposter syndrome? After all, the responsibilities that fall on managing directors are immense and often stressful, so it can be intimidating having so much on your plate.

It’s important to remember though, that you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in if you didn’t have the knowledge and skillset required to deliver results. That said, here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate through those first few months in your new role with our beginner’s guide for managing directors.

Two woman planning and organising workload

Communication is key

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, communication is vital within every working relationship – otherwise, it has the potential to all fall apart. You’d be surprised at how many conversations senior members of staff miss out on, especially if they’re working in a separate office and not in a communal working environment.

While you may have your own away from the hustle and bustle of the main office area, it’s important to take some time to think about how you’re going to keep those lines of communication open, to make sure those around you feel that you’re still as present as you were, and for yourself, to feel connected to those you work with.

A few strategies to consider, include:

  • A monthly open-door policy – where staff have the option to drop in and speak to you on a one-to-one basis
  • Regular companywide townhalls – with time for updates and Q&A sessions
  • Making use of the communication tools and portals available to you e.g., creating a Microsoft teams chat between yourself and each wider team
  • Monthly drop ins – where you drop into a selection of meetings once a month to gain some insight into the nitty gritty of what is going on amongst teams
  • Set monthly sessions between yourself and each team/function, giving all staff fair amounts of exposure and opportunity
Professional woman sitting in office with laptop

Remain empathetic

Good leaders know that the best way to foster any kind of positive relationship amongst staff, is to be truly empathetic. When those working for and around you feel that you are trying to empathise with them, they’ll feel supported, encouraged and motivated to work hard.

An effective and empathetic leader should:

  • Show a genuine personal interest in their employees, and their various situations
  • Be willing to offer help and support to those with difficult personal issues – leaving judgement and criticism behind
  • Implement an employee feedback service, AND show you are taking steps to improve based on the comments made
  • Encourage the quieter ones to speak up, and be aware of body language
  • Be as present as possible – truly listen, don’t interrupt and try to avoid distraction when speaking to others

In other words, remaining empathetic and open to learning from others is essential to your success as a managing director. Some of today’s leading successful managing directors and CEOs started out in companies as younger, less experienced members of staff, and essentially worked their way up the corporate ladder with this in mind.

An example would be Alison Rose, the current CEO of leading bank, NatWest, who started her career journey back in 1992 as a graduate and is now one of the first women to lead one of the UK’s four largest banking corporations.

Man and woman being supportive in working environment

You can't be everyone’s best friend

As important as it is to build strong working relationships, and make friends with your colleagues, a managing director must be able to make those crucial business decisions, big or small. This isn’t always an easy process, so to help you with those particularly difficult ones, we’ve listed some thoughts to bear in mind when a situation presents itself:   

  • Find a sounding board, someone who you can trust and is impartial and unbiased
  • Make yourself aware of all the consequences and impact of each option available
  • Weigh up what is realistic vs idealistic
  • Try to give a bit of explanation so that everyone is aware of your thought process. Often when you leave gaps or unanswered questions, people will fill them themselves

At the end of the day, not everyone is going to like the decisions that are made – or agree with them – but as the manging director you need to make them in the best interest of your employees and organisation, and most importantly, see them through. Colleagues who trust and respect senior management’s actions will stick with a company through the challenges and changes.

Managing director in office making decisions

Ask for feedback and help

As a managing director, you’ll have a team of close-knit colleagues, most of whom will likely be senior members of staff.

It’s important to build on these relationships and turn to these people if you need a second opinion or some advice. It’s also important to ask for feedback on your training style (if applicable), your ways of communicating, and how you work. This is a great way of finding out what your staff is responsive to, as well as providing you with insight into what’s not working well and why.

If you are new to your role, and you feel you are either missing the mark regarding happy colleagues, or you’d simply like to hear more from those around you, you could consider rolling out an anonymous survey, with space for staff to voice their concerns.

Two professionals discussing feedback in meeting

Be prepared for compromises

Not often discussed are the compromises you’ll have to make as a managing director. The role requires a serious level of commitment and dedication which means that, ultimately, there may be parts of your life that will sometimes need to take a backseat.

Going into the role knowing these things will help you prioritise your busy schedule – both in work and in life – planning ahead will also help avoid missed opportunities and disappointment. Not to mention, you’ll be much better equipped to look after yourself properly during the tougher days, mentally and physically.

After all, especially after the pandemic, employee burnout has become more real and recognised, and because of this, it’s important to regularly check-in with yourself and your team to avoid becoming overwhelmed. A few quick tips, include:

  • Blocking out time and managing your diary (i.e., setting boundaries)
  • Eat a well-balanced meal whenever you can, and get moving on lunch breaks
  • Regularly check in with your manager and voice any concerns you’re having
  • Getting involved in team activities/initiatives to make friends and build a support system

Now, it goes without saying that everyone works differently, and what works for one leader may not work for another. However, practice – and lots of tiny mistakes – makes perfect, and soon you’ll find a routine and structure that works well for you if you keep this beginner’s guide in mind.

If you’re an aspiring director or in an executive leadership role, enrol on a 100% online Diploma in Corporate Governance today.