Executive Coach Eric Weiss discusses the impact of organisational growth on CTOs, why tech leaders are like athletes and when you should start working with a coach. At our CTO Craft Winter Con, he’ll talk about, Scaling the CTO: How to become the right leader at the right stage of your company.

CTO Craft Conference
Eric Weiss
Hi Eric, welcome to the CTO Craft Spotlight Q & A. You’re a day two speaker at the CTO Craft November conference, Executive Coach, and the Chaos to Clarity podcast host. Can you give us a teaser about what you might share with our audience at the conference?

Absolutely. I’ve developed a maturity model for the CTO role where I’ve created a handful of personas describing the strengths, challenges, KPIs, and areas for growth as the CTO moves with their company through various stages of growth. So, from start-up all the way up through the enterprise.

I’ll give an understanding of where they are, where their company’s at and what are some of the things they need to focus on. Also, I’ll discuss where are some areas CTOs need to grow to reach the next level or even to meet the company’s needs today.

In your experience, how does the speed of a company’s growth impact a CTO’s leadership/challenges?

In a big way. Exponential growth requires exponential change. Therefore, all the systems, processes and teams must be able to scale rapidly to meet the demand. 

I work with my clients to create systems that scale exponentially to overcome bottlenecks. In many cases, the CTO themselves become a bottleneck or, at best, scale linearly with the business. I help my clients step out or remove themselves as the bottleneck and create an organisation that can scale rapidly.

Thanks Eric. How do you think the pandemic has added challenges to the role of the CTO?

It’s forced many of us to work remotely and the most significant impact is the lack of team cohesion. It’s split teams apart because they’re just not spending as much time together in a casual context, so people leave. They’re becoming more transactional and not as committed to the mission, so that’s created conflict. It’s also created communication gaps and attrition.

The C-suite is the first team, and so basically, as companies have become geographically dispersed, their relationships have become dispersed. It’s broken-down trust, communication and so on and hurt every relationship you can have.

How has your background in engineering, technology and as a CTO helped you to do the coaching role you do today?

Mainly it’s connected to a really deep sense of empathy and connection with my clients, especially my CTO clients. My background has allowed me to build trust and speed up communication because I understand and have lived through my clients’ challenges.

My technology background and experience are how I stand out as a coach. I don’t come from a psychological or HR background, I come from a product and engineering background, and coaching has always been my leadership style. I coached when I was an engineering manager and when I was a CTO, and then I  decided I didn’t want to do the building stuff anymore and only wanted to coach.

As we’re a community of peer coaches and mentors, and as one of our coaches, what do you think are the main benefits of coaching for technology leaders? 

My clients are intellectual athletes and high-performing professionals in an incredibly competitive game, and game time is every day. And what professional athlete do you know that doesn’t have a coach?

It’s not only become a competitive advantage, but it’s almost table stakes at this point that any executive wanting to win in this technology game needs a coach. They need someone to help to give them perspective and help them clarify their vision, goals, and strategy. They need someone to hold them accountable and who’s really there for them, who’s really in their corner, who’s thinking only about them and has no other agenda.

This may be a tricky question to answer, but at what stage in their career do you think an individual should work with a coach?

I think everyone should always have a coach, although they may need a different kind of coach at different stages in their careers. For example, a career coach, a life coach, a business coach or an executive coach. I believe we can always benefit from having somebody who plays that role in supporting and challenging us. 

I have clients at the idea stage who don’t have a product and are just beginning their start-up and clients working in large enterprises. And then everything in between.

And at what stage in their career do you think tech leaders should come to you as a coach, and what can you help them with?

I mainly work with growth and scale-stage tech and SAAS companies, helping people deal with major changes or significant growth spurts. So anyone dealing with runaway growth of their company or those who have just raised a sizeable round of funding and are preparing for growth – that’s the perfect time to come to me.

But the challenges I help them deal with are effective delegation, hiring and building effective teams, scaling up, team systems and architecture, managing their relationship with their co-founders and developing themselves as leaders (as more inspiring and more effective leaders). 

Can you tell us a few things about your podcast?

The podcast is Chaos to Clarity, where I interview technology and product leaders who have been through the growing pains and built, scaled, and sold companies. I try to understand what patterns, tools, and systems they used that unlocked their growth and allowed them to overcome those growing pains. Also, I try to help people earlier on in their journey either avoid or overcome pitfalls and growing pains.

Finally, can you recommend a book or a podcast that every technology leader should read or listen to either in the space of coaching, learning and development or leadership in general? 

I’d recommend my podcast Chaos to Clarity, and I also have a book called Build the Right Things, which you can find on my website

You can connect with Eric via LinkedIn or his website.


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