CEOs Open Up About Their Biggest Challenges
By James Mills, Mentorship Coach & Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
Last week saw the CEO and Co-Founder of Uber; Travis Kalanick, make a public apology for losing his cool when he was confronted by a disgruntled Uber driver. There were useful lessons for any aspiring leader or CEO to come from this. One of these was how there can be friction between a leader and those serving on the ground of any organisation when there is a lack of understanding between both parties.
Recently, Harvard Business Review published an article revealing the challenge of CEOs not receiving the information they need. Here are some powerful quotes and questions from CEOs participating in the study conducted by MIT that gives us an insight into their challenges and their success...
Walt Bettinger, CEO of Charles Schwab
A CEO's biggest challenge...
"People telling you what they think you want to hear, and people being fearful to tell you things they believe you don’t want to hear... Its grip is most intense in the top office.”
A question asked to any stakeholder to get a fresh perspective...
"If you were in my job, what would you be focusing on?"
What makes an executive successful...
"The difference between successful executives and unsuccessful ones is not the quality of their decision making. Each one probably makes good decisions 60% of the time and bad ones 40% of the time—and maybe it’s even 55% to 45%. The difference is, the successful executive is faster to recognise the bad decisions and adjust, whereas failing executives often dig in and try to convince people that they were right."
Nandan Nilekani, Co-Founder of Infosys
What happens when people are scared to tell leaders what's actually going on...
"If you’re a leader, you can put yourself in a cocoon—a good-news cocoon. Everyone tells you, ‘It’s all right—there’s no problem.’ And the next day, everything’s wrong."
Sara Blakely, Founder & CEO of Spanx
Encouraging people to learn from their mistakes...
"[Ms Blakely] actually celebrates failures to help people learn from being wrong. At a recent company-wide meeting, she highlighted a series of “oops” moments that she’d personally had since founding Spanx."
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc & SpaceX
The challenge in asking the right questions...
"A lot of times the question is harder than the answer. If you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part."
Ed Catmull, President of Pixar & Disney Animation Studios
Helping new starters to know he doesn't have all the answers...
"I talk about the mistakes we’ve made and the lessons we’ve learned….We do not want people to assume that because we are successful, everything we do is right... To be wrong as fast as you can is to sign up for aggressive, rapid learning."
Jeff Bezos, CEO & Co-Founder of Amazon
When you feel isolated - a leader stuck in the office...
“When you’re in a box in an office, you’ve got to invent a way out of the box,”
Diane Greene, Co-Founder And Former CEO of VMware
The importance of 'quiet time'...
"Quiet time is key to clear thinking and increases the likelihood of asking the right questions."
Alan G. Lafley, Former Chairman & CEO of Procter & Gamble
A playful question to keep him on his toes...
"What am I going to be curious about?"
Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP
The key to succeeding at the top...
"At the top layers of the organisation, the people with the most potential to succeed," he says, "are the ones who can 'take a difficult situation and bring it to its knees with questions'."
If we want to be a highly-effective leader, then we need to be committed to the reality of what is actually going on rather than what we'd like to be happening! You can read more in this Harvard Business Review about other ways that CEOs are finding ways to ensure they have their finger on the pulse as to how their organisation is really functioning here.
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