Believe me, I’ve been yelled at by my fair share of CEOs. My job has been threatened. I’ve been accused of mistakes I didn’t make and received zero credit for work I delivered. But, for the most part, CEOs are just like everybody else—they put their pants (or skirts) on one leg at a time.
Still, there are some characteristics unique to CEOs. Here are six things you need to know to make communicating with, understanding or convincing them a lot easier.
- They mean well; they’re just too removed from the day-to-day. The majority of CEOs don’t want to eliminate positions, raise prices or cut off suppliers. They’re just doing what’s best for business. But because they’re focused on the big picture, it can be hard for them to see how their decisions impact individuals.
- They want to hear about what isn’t working. Unfortunately, they’re often surrounded by ego-strokers who’ll agree with anything they say or do. Most CEOs crave honest feedback from individuals willing to say things such as “Here’s what’s at risk if we don’t change our strategy.”
- They sometimes let fear drive their decisions. When it comes to communicating bad news, CEOs struggle to be fully transparent. The possibility of audience backlash often usurps their willingness to keep stakeholders in the know.
- They don’t mix well with the masses. But it’s not their fault. It’s lonely at the top. So, like most people in leadership positions, CEOs feel more comfortable when they’re in the company of those who best understand their situation—namely, other CEOs.
- They move at lightning speed. Because they’re used to everyone jumping when they say jump, they have very little tolerance for risk-adverse turtles that might slow down their momentum. Conversely, CEOs place high value on breakthrough thinking.
- They like to laugh. In fact, laughter is frequently one of the only ways they have to relieve the stress of 24/7 decision-making. A word of caution, however: Use your commonsense filter to make sure your attempts at humor don’t offend.
Before you act . . .
The next time you approach a CEO, remember that they respect candor—not sarcasm. Stick to sharing fact-based information and avoid bringing up a problem unless you have a suggestion for fixing it.