Don’t Be A Pinewood Derby Dad CEO

When I was a kid, I remember the Pinewood Derby. Do you remember?

It was a Cub Scouts thing.

All the boys got their instructions at some Cub Scout meeting and then came home to their parents to excitedly plot out how their Pinewood Derby car would be the fastest, coolest, most ridiculously bad ass piece of Pinewood with four wheels the world has ever seen!

Invariably, Dad and son would go to work together on it.

But given it required complicated weights, use of saws, machinery and intricate painting, over time Dad would usually take over.

Dad was supposed to be his son’s coach. Instead he turned into the player.

It was just easier that way. More efficient.

And the night before the race, Voila! Dad had the Pinewood Derby car of his dreams!

The next day, all the Dads and their sons would get together to race their creations in the Pinewood Derby.

It was The Ultimate Test of Suburban Machismo – all the Dads and their Steve McQueen fantasies rolled into a tiny pinewood boxcar.

The Dads would race their creations, living and dying with every victory or defeat.

Meanwhile, the sons, with little ownership in the process or the end result, would passively observe from afar, watching their fathers become engulfed in the throes of competition.

Sure, the son would receive his Cub Scout merit badge in the Pinewood Derby.  But was that the point of the exercise?

Was winning more important than learning?

Was the Dad really supposed to DO all that work?

Or was the son?

As a CEO and as a father, there are a lot of parallels between the Pinewood Derby and being an effective CEO.

As an entrepreneurial CEO, it’s important to understand the difference between playing and coaching.

For instance, I know that I am biased towards action and involvement, so I tend to want to help DO ALL THE THINGS.

But that’s not healthy for me or the development of my team.

As a CEO, It’s important for you to let people do their jobs.

Sure, if your company has fewer than 30 employees, you’re probably acting in other roles – like Acting Head of Product or Acting Head of Sales.

But it’s important to understand very clearly that you’re doing more than one job.   And over time, your job is to fire yourself from these ‘Acting’ jobs and find people better than you to fill them.

As a CEO, it’s about less DOING.  More BEING.  (This is particularly hard for me, given that I coined the term Doerocracy)

As a CEO, it becomes about asking the right questions and letting your team find the answers.

As a CEO, it’s important to give people a job, the resources to succeed, and let them go do it.

As a CEO, you’ve got to have your eyes on the big picture.  You can’t do this if you’re constantly doing other people’s jobs.

Will it test your patience?  Absolutely.

Will it be difficult to not jump in and take the wheel?  Absolutely.

But will it make your company better in the long run?  Absolutely.

So next time you’re tempted to jump in on something and do someone else’s job – remember:  Don’t be a Pinewood Derby Dad CEO.


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