At Vincit, a software development agency, we believe that Mondays shouldn’t suck. So, we operate based on two key performance indicators (KPIs):
1. Employee happiness
2. Customer satisfaction rate
Our commitment to emphasizing a great workplace culture has led us to implement a program where, once a month, we elect one of our employees to be the CEO for a day. They are given the power to make a lasting choice for our company, with an unlimited budget to spend.
As a company immersed in development and the forefront of tech, our employees are some of the best and brightest; however, they can be apprehensive and sometimes even uninterested when it comes to taking on managerial and leadership responsibilities.
And who’s to blame them? They went to school and got into this career to develop and build, not to manage people. But we knew how important it was to cultivate and teach leadership, and our “CEO for a day” program is fun and quirky enough for our employees to get excited about it, while still instilling and developing leadership skills.
I’ll walk you through how we came up with this crazy idea and, by the end, you may start thinking about promoting your first “CEO for a day” program.
How The Idea Was Born
I make it a point to have one-on-one meetings with each employee annually. It promotes both a personal connection and a fresh look at our growing company. I asked one of the employees to set this up and add it to our calendars. He jokingly sent an invite with the title “Promote John to CEO?”.
And I thought, why not?
I promoted him to the role of CEO for the day with the following challenge: Make one decision that will help Vincit become a better workplace tomorrow than it is today. Here were the guidelines:
• Trust: The CEO of the day is given an unlimited budget.
• Accountability: Because there is no such thing as shared responsibility, it is his or her decision only. I have been asked several times for approval or an opinion, in which I refused to comment.
• Responsibility: Employees will use the company’s money as they would use their own. Whatever the CEO of the day decides, we all live with.
• Time-boxed: All decisions have a deadline. We set a date and time when the decision will be announced.
These rules are meant to give employees as close of an experience to CEO leadership as possible. No one feels like a CEO if they are told they can make any decision but are capped at $20.
The importance of this is not only to authenticate the CEO experience but to help teach an important lesson about leadership. More money and more autonomy doesn’t mean the decision is easier or effortless; in reality, it can make it more difficult to come to a final decision.
Why We Implemented This
Ultimately, we want to empower all of our employees, not just managers. We want every employee to feel important, influential and heard when making these impactful decisions. It shows that the company supports its employees and is willing to give them opportunities to develop.
It not only demonstrates that decision-making isn’t always black and white, but it very much highlights the fact that it’s OK to fail, as we all do. The CEO of the day makes their decision based on the information they have today and either succeeds or fails forward. The worst thing would be to not decide anything at all. Implementing something that fails teaches us just as much as something that succeeds, if not more.
What Employees Do As CEO For A Day
Once the CEO of the day has finalized their plans, the announcement is made during our monthly meeting for all employees. After the initial declaration of the decision, the torch is passed, and the next CEO of the day is chosen by the previous one.
Here are just a few examples of things we’ve implemented:
• Vincit branded GORE-TEX outdoor jackets for employees during the cold winter months and to defend against the office air conditioner.
• A company-paid Uber account for a safe ride home from post-work happy hour.
• A Udemy subscription to allow employees to broaden their horizons even further, essentially giving back to Vincit’s value.
• A monthly beer-tasting subscription — keg included!
The things your employees may want to help better the workplace can seem insignificant to a boss who is always looking at the big picture. These helpful ideas for the day-to-day are easy to overlook but promote a healthy, happy workforce.
Benefits To Employees
The CEO-of-the-day opportunity gives employees a sense of what true business decision-making can be like. This might be something they wouldn’t normally experience, at least not until they work their way up to a decision-making status. It involves all employees creating a community environment, prompting them to plan and think about how they can improve the workplace for one another — a selfless act, really.
This concept is truly a fun lesson in disguise. It teaches that decision-making is hard, no matter your experience level. It teaches that not all decisions are correct. All different kinds of people fail, and that’s OK, especially if you learn from it.
The CEO-of-the-day role gives employees perspective beyond their specific daily duties to create a better understanding of how and why the organization makes its decisions. The act of announcing the decision coaches employees about what goes into making big decisions and their impact, without feeling overwhelmed or fearful of judgment.
Promoting Your First ‘CEO For A Day’
This program is an easy one to start. I recommend thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your program. For instance, do you want to mirror Vincit and focus on workplace culture? Productivity? Or maybe you want it to be research-driven. There are a lot of ways to go, but the most important thing is to just start!