5 things startup CEOs do to set their CTO up for failure WITHOUT even REALISING

  1. When they don’t acknowledge or spell out that the company hasn’t found product-market-fit and this is why there is a constant moving target for engineering.

This is why what was important last month, is no longer important now.
Without having this acknowledgement and agreeing with engineering that this is how they have to operate for the short term (and the CTO conveying this to the engineers), this approach of constantly changing what is important makes engineering feel blindsided and demotivated because what they worked on last month doesn’t seem to matter. People often forget that most engineers seek a sense of mastery.

2. When they don’t give the CTO honest and constructive feedback that their tech presentation made no sense to the rest of the board and just consider the CTO a second class CxO because of their geek speak.
It would be helpful to lean in to help the CTO translate engineering into business (and making targets for the CTO around that).

3. When they offer coaching or mentoring to the CTO with a board member.
Let’s be clear — because of the conflict of interest, the CTO will rarely be able to open up about their shortcomings, struggles and fears with the board member, often making this an exercise where they just go through the motions.

4. When they give a CTO title to the most experienced / longest standing engineer without any offer of long term one to one support from someone who can help them transition from an engineering mindset to a business mindset.
This often has disastrous consequences for the engineer’s career as well as for the long term scaling ability of the company.

5. When they create fear of speaking up in the C Suite because of their own insecurities and feeling unable to control their emotions.
The CTO and other CXOs then convey that same fear to their teams — which means that the company never finds out early about issues.
I have seen this blowing up in the company’s face many times, with them losing contracts worth millions of dollars because engineering didn’t feel safe to raise issues early.

No CEO wants to set their CTO up for failure but it’s often done without any malice.

#ceo #cto #board #reengineeringleadership

Adelina Chalmers



Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer

Helps Engineers who are Leaders (CEO/ CTO/ VP) get buy-in from their peers/teams/investors by transforming Communication techniques into Algorithms