3

During a conversation between myself and the CEO of the small startup I work for; We had been discussing a particular area of the business that needed some additional processes. I was explaining how a software feature that I had designed to help the process run smoother had not been delivered because the other founders in the startup were not on board with my idea. The conversation went like this: he then said:

Me: That hasn't been delivered yet despite my repeated attempts
CEO: Why not? You know you are paid more than the founders!
Me: Easier said than done for x, y & z reasons

I brushed this off at the time and responded with a few reasons about why it is so difficult working with the other founders of the company to deliver changes.

I want to raise this with my line manager to find out why he made the comment and if they perhaps have an issue with my performance or lack of faith in my ability to deliver maybe. How should I approach the situation, directly with the CEO to find out why he made the comments or take it up with my line manager?

  • 3
    That quote is taken out of context and doesn't really stand on its own two feet. What is the "why not" referring to? – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 7 at 16:47
  • 9
    Although you ask "How should I approach", you should definitely consider doing nothing as an option. Some situations are best ignored. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 7 at 16:47
  • We can't mind read. You should have sought clarification on the spot. – AndreiROM Jan 7 at 17:01
  • That expanded quote quite notably changes the meaning. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 7 at 18:52
  • 6
    "You know you are paid more than the founders" ... who have all of the equity ;-) – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 8 at 6:35
13

The CEO's comment seems like a non-sequitur since the issue is your authority rather than your pay. ignoring non-sequiturs is a valid response. Asking them what they mean is better in case you missed something.

You could have asked them if they meant in future you should override objections from the other founders and how they suggest you get them to support you.

Founders of startups typically hope to make a large amount of money from the business in the medium to long term. How much salary they are taking at the moment isn't really relevant. Trying to make a, presumably, non-owner feel bad about their salary doesn't strike me as very classy move. If I were you I'd ignore that. Pointing out the difference between an owner and an employee probably won't go down well.

| improve this answer | |
2

I think you've handled this quite well. The comment may simply indicate that he was unsatisfied with the overall results, and you were simply there to take the heat. It does not need to mean that the CEO is unsatisfied with your performance - he would've made that more clear if it was really an issue.

Some CEO's shoot from the hip. In these individuals I observe an ability to cut the crap, quickly form an opinion, pick out problem drivers and pressure the right individuals. They judge situations and make decisions quickly - occasionally too quickly.

I find this type of CEO to be a bit... abrasive - and sometimes intimidating. But I also think that it makes them effective, at least in the small organisations I've been a part of. After all: The first thing you did in response to his comment, was open up about impediments.

In your position, I would feel hesitant to ask feedback on the specific conversation with the CEO, or to ask my manager what the CEO thinks of me. The manager wasn't part of that conversation and I'd be disinclined to give him a full play-by-play. (If you identified your manager as a blocking factor, he may have gotten an earful.) And I'd hate to come across as needlessly insecure (which you aren't). So I'd prefer to frame it as an investment in the success of future projects.

If you have the opportunity to talk to the CEO directly and informally, do so. I'd open with something like:

"I got the impression that you were not satisfied with the results. Is there something I could have done differently?"

But it isn't his job to manage your performance on that level. He may not be the right person to give you feedback. That is why I would definitely talk to my line manager about this. We regularly evaluate projects where either of us felt there was room for improvement. I would schedule a one-on-one and basically ask him the same question. Is he satisfied? What can you do differently? It helps to bring a specific issue that you would like his advice or backup (in future projects) on, such as your difficulty getting the co-founders on board. Prepare by listing how that was an issue and what you tried to remedy it.

| improve this answer | |
1

I had designed to help the process run smoother had not been delivered because the other founders in the startup were not on board with my idea.

If your idea is good, and yet people disagree with you, then the fault is at least partially on you. It can be because you didn't explain it well enough, spoke a different language than the founders (not in literal sense, but technical "better" is very different from business "better", and you have to make sure that people who speak business understand how it's better in their language), or just didn't push hard enough.

It's very easy to make remarks in style of "oh the idea I suggested 2 months ago would've saved us so much money now", it's much harder to, 2 months ago, make that idea a reality. It's even truer in small companies where the structure is simpler and it's easier to get personal times of the people making decisions.

And if you cannot get them on board still, sometimes gotta go rogue, deliver some proof for your idea and then try again. There are many ways to convince higherups to your ideas.

Me: That hasn't been delivered yet despite my repeated attempts

CEO: Why not? You know you are paid more than the founders!

Me: Easier said than done for x, y & z reasons

Seems like your boss is telling you that you should accept at least partial responsibility for not getting the feature delivered, despite beliving in it so dearly. Take a lesson from it, and next time you will have a similar idea that can help the business, push for it harder and get it done.

| improve this answer | |

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .