4 Minute Read

5 Things You Hear in a Conversation with CEOs

This month, I’ve been having CEO conversations. And it’s been fascinating. As I talk with clients, prospects, colleagues and friends, I try to glean as much knowledge as I can about how to be a good leader, how to run my own company and how to create an exquisite culture.

We tried to break down silos.

Early on, one CEO noticed that people within the company were quite closed-off, with product focusing solely on product and marketing doing its own thing. He started the weekly meetings as a way of getting service, sales and every department in the company on one page. Slowly, the employees started making their own contributions, funny stories or news, an inspiring quote and culture updates. Now, he says, the meetings run whether anyone from the executive suite is there or not and it’s a huge win for the company.

Sometimes you can’t pay people what they deserve. At first.

Initially, if you’re a bootstrapped company, you simply hire the very best people you can and you hope you get to the place where you can compensate them accordingly. You see, not every company gets funding right away, pointed out another CEO. There are thousands of companies who start with savings, or one really big client, who make payroll by doing whatever they can. The tradeoff, it seems to me, is trying to make it up when you hit it big.

I’m not always nice.

There is no such thing as the perfect boss said one very smart CEO. Some are hands-off until they aren’t and others have a micromanagement style that while annoying, brings success to the entire company. Some refuse to set parameters, making their employees wonder about their jobs and some assume technical knowledge they don’t have, demanding things that aren’t reasonable or even possible. Perfect bosses don’t exist, but that doesn’t prevent great leaders from trying really hard to get better, which brings me to…

I was wrong.

This is a really difficult one to do and it was pointed out to me by a great CEO. You see, you can’t just keep saying you were wrong. You have to actually start changing the process that brings you to a place of “wrongness”. You have to say you were wrong and still find the right answer, because no one else will. When I speak with CEOs or great leaders, it’s a near uniform thing for them to tell me about some of their greatest failures or biggest screw-ups…right before telling me how they want to increase their revenues over the next few years (and by exactly how many dollars too!)

I don’t want to deal with it.

Weirdly, this is one I’ve heard a lot lately. And it’s a great thing. Whether it’s a CEO that has no clue how his website is coming along to a CIO who gives full latitude to his technical team, “letting go” is an art that is only perfected when you truly trust your people. If you cannot trust your executive or leadership team to handle things in your absence or without your presence (two different things) you are building your company incorrectly. Just make sure you pick the right things to wash your hands of.

What interesting things have you heard come out of the mouths of CEOs lately? This is just a small sampling of what I keep learning during my conversations with people. Best advice you’ve received this month?