For most of my career, I have either worked for myself or for a CEO. I have worked for the CEO of a big multinational, a medium-sized company co-founder & CEO, and I’ve been a startup CEO’s number two.
While everyone in the business world has a boss, reporting directly to a CEO is a completely different experience than reporting to a middle manager or even other C-Suite executives.
Yes, CEOs are people like everyone else with different personalities and leadership styles but they do tend to share a few traits like being great visionaries, having insanely busy schedules and being really good at reading people, just to name a few.
All this makes for a great learning experience and I thought I’d share some of the hard lessons I’ve learned so far.
1. Respect his time
I still remember the awkward silence during my first meeting with a big company CEO. I had only met him twice during the interview process and I was hired to start a new department so I was pretty much clueless about the whole process. I sat down waiting for him to start the conversation and he just silently stared at me, until I decided to wing it and started asking questions.
Coming from a startup, I was used to discussing everything with my CEO all the time but I quickly realized that he was never going to set a meeting agenda. It was MY job to run the show on those weekly meetings and make the most out of the short face time we had.
The same goes for email. Ever complained about how unmanageable your email gets? Just imagine a CEO’s inbox. Write the shortest emails you can and don’t always expect a reply. Most of the times all I got back was a single word: OK.
2. Never go to a CEO with a problem
Instead, go with a solution. Unless shit is about to hit the fan, chances are the problem you’re facing is not really a problem so you need to figure a way out before going to your CEO.
This is a great way to keep him informed and to have him approve YOUR way of doing things. If you need guidance, come up with alternative solutions and ask his opinion, but as a rule you should not expect the CEO to give you the answer to an open-ended question.
3. Don’t be afraid to disagree with your CEO
CEOs are extremely smart people, but they also value honesty and are usually pretty open to being challenged. If you are certain of something, stand your ground and be persistent but you better have data to back it up or they will rip you apart. Read More…