I am Matteo Cervelli, and I’m a CEO. I help teams and organizations achieve extraordinary results. I aim to trigger talents to build a more beautiful world.
As a leader, I often get the question: “What should I do?”.
It’s a typical question to ask your boss, but I don’t think it’s the right one. In my trajectory as a leader, when people act by autonomy, they surprise you and build extraordinary results.
Autonomous people bring scale: they build the company’s bricks and facilitate the growth of talents. Imagine multiplying the results without going into burnout. Cool, right?
This post is a guide to understanding how I prefer to interact with people to help them be autonomous, align company culture, and describe a proven approach to train other leaders to spread the behavior.
I will cover:
- How I prefer to manage relationships
- The structure of a problem-solving dialogue
- Communication ways
How I prefer to manage relationships
The value of a leader in a cultural change
When I started to transform my first company as a CEO, I was involved in every decision because I entered every meeting. But the number of problems I could solve was limited. And I have been receiving hundreds of e-mails per day asking me to decide.
That’s why I decided to change my urgent reaction. It was hard. I made lots of bets, and every day was a deep breath hoping that we would have succeeded in the end.
And we did it! I love my team, who solve problems, make errors, and learn from them.
I learned that the leader must skim operativity. Instead, the leader aligns the efforts and focuses on the next talent in the line. More talent and training lead to a higher outcome. It’s a simple flywheel.
Dialogue through questions
Each person has a preferred way of acting. Mine is not to manage things “from above”. My point of view ends up being less thorough than that of those who live in the flow. The truth is that I can’t know the material as deep as the people who do the job day-to-day. I’m not an oracle.
I learned the value of asking questions to facilitate the search for the solution (initially, the truth) by the person I interact with.
My natural tendency as a perfectionist would be to overmanage. But when I focus on others, we can learn something together and solve more problems! So, I have a mantra: never give answers.
I don’t want to solve problems for you.
I’m not a micro-manager, and I don’t want to get lost in your details unless things seem out of the way. In that case, I help people see the situation from another perspective.
It helps me see and remove obstacles for my associates and foster their development.
I expect you are making many decisions without me, and if you come to me, I will help you generate a solution by asking questions to define a management plan.
However, I like to know what’s going on, and if there is something significant, I want to help others reduce the risks. When that happens, I highlight what could go wrong. Use me as someone to assess your idea.
The structure of a problem-solving dialogue
When I get the question “What do you think?” or his sibling “What should I do?” I activate a specific response mode, consisting of 5 main steps:
- Problem framing
- Cause analysis
- Solution proposal
- Solution validation
- Planning of the follow-up
It is beneficial, and I hope you can test it with your collaborators.
# 1 – Problem framing
“What is the specific problem”.
People underestimate that a well-defined problem is a problem that has already been solved. A good definition of the problem creates a self-evident solution.
I ask questions to clarify the problem from your point of view, and I expect the dialogue to be close and very specific. I will ask you to rephrase it until you feel I have understood the problem well.
# 2 – Cause analysis
“Who did something that generated this problem?”.
As a result of the first phase, I understand your point of view of the problem.
Also, if controversial, people usually see the mistakes of others very well, which allows you to focus on the content rather than defending your actions, building empathy.
# 3 – Solution proposal
“What could you have done to avoid this problem?”
You cannot change others in this dialogue. To be autonomous, you can only focus on your actions.
I will ask you in-depth questions until you formulate a solution with an action verb.
# 4 – Solution validation
“If you had done this … would you have avoided the problem?”
Once the solution has been defined, it’s time to validate that it is related to the cause problem.
If the answer is yes, you can go on.
If it is negative, we repeat the structure.
# 5 – Follow-up planning
“When will you let me know what happened?”
This question leaves you both responsible for putting the plan into practice and telling me how it goes.
I will mark the moment of verification. I expect to be contacted.
1:1 in person
I use it as the best way to solve non-urgent problems.
I love it, but it’s harder to schedule it. It requires planning it in advance.
I use it as my favorite way to discuss a problem. My preferred duration is 15 minutes.
It must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.
You can book them by using this link: Book me.
It is the best medium for urgent conversations.
I always answer the phone during a meeting to do the triage.
However, I don’t particularly like it. I don’t like phone calls for non-urgent things or when it hasn’t been chosen as a medium for a scheduled conversation.
It is my favorite way to handle any conversation over 15 minutes.
Two reasons why:
- Writing emails clarifies thinking
- It allows me to focus on understanding
Every day I read every e-mail I get, but I only answer direct questions or any questions to ask. I don’t keep notifications active, but I read e-mails in specific time slots to facilitate concentration.
It is not a suitable tool for urgent conversations.
I don’t want to be made aware of everything because I can block people’s freedom of expression, but I like that FYI e-mails are forwarded to me.
On the other hand, I don’t like e-mails without explanation or addressed to an indefinite number of people, excluding communications.
I prefer separate e-mails by subject.
It is the medium I prefer the least because it does not allow structured management.
This is why I use it mainly for conversations that are neither important nor urgent.
I have no active notifications, and I only check it when I can and remember.