Going from an operator to a leader – this 6 step team exercise is a good start!

I have a vivid and quite painful memory from my early career when I suddenly realized there was not enough time to be the instant remedy to all matters in my team. I had just returned from parental leave and had the opportunity to lead the Microsoft Internet Explorer market expansion in the Nordics. Up until this point I knew tech, sales, marketing, customer needs etc. sufficiently to dive into all aspects of my assignment. But at that time my daughter Matilda had to be picked up at kindergarten every day and there was suddenly a limit to all the hours I could put in. I had to start trusting others on a new level – and thus learning to lead instead of being the operator myself.

The transition above is quite similar for many entrepreneurs. Their reason for starting their business is not because they want to lead people and teams. They have solved a problem or created a product and they focus on building a business.  And they frequently know all aspects of their company and have all solutions at hand to all the problems that arise.

What does it mean going from operator to leader?

Rather than working around the clock and being hands-on with all aspects of the business, it is time to let go. Focus on what you do best and where you add most value. Make sure your role reflects this. Let others take on clear areas of responsibility without you interfering with the details.

Why do many fail here?

It may feel like putting the future at risk when letting others run crucial aspects of the business. Maybe you have already had a bad experience where things did not go as expected, maybe you have a need to control details or maybe you are thin on resources and the team has serious gaps that need to be filled in order to start assigning new roles.

How can you go about it?

To shift from operator to leader you have to build a team around yourself, who can then build successful ways of working within all business functions. Secondly, you must ask yourself  “what role do I have to take within 1 or 2 years?” and “who do I need to recruit in order to build my dream team?”.

Rosebud Note! The goal is to lead, not to operate. This is a ball game when you have a dream team who understands the vision and the tactical goals.

6 steps to support founders and teams to go from operators to leaders:

  1. Find time to sit down with your team and a facilitator who has experience and understanding of the challenges of operations in a scale-up.
  2. Jointly draw a function by function (including subfunctions) mindmap of how your business should operate two years from now.
  3. Ask everybody in your team to mark into the mindmap which functions take their time today and how much.
  4. Ask everybody in your team to mark into the mindmap which functions they should be spending time on in the future.
  5. Jointly discuss the current gaps and future role changes and additions and create an action plan for precise recruitments.
  6. Go Go Go

Rosebud has created the Rosebud Method & Toolkit to facilitate CEOs and founders to transform from startup to scale-up in an efficient and fun way. Contact us, if you wish to know more: 




Leave a Reply