Conversations with the CEO

It’s important for your team members to not only understand the team’s goals, but also their roles on their team — which is an important part of the leader’s job, Ken Keller writes. (MC)
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Ken Keller

SCVBJ Contributor

When I meet with a CEO, my goal is simple: to help that leader identify the challenges being faced every day as he or she works hard to build a successful company.

Yes, I care about them as individuals who in their personal life are sons or daughters; parents; maybe even grandparents; uncles or aunts; cousins; neighbors, friends, taxpayers and whatever else they are outside of work.

But my “main thing” is helping the CEO to have a better business. After advising CEOs for decades, I have considerable experience facilitating what “a better business” actually is.

My conversations aren’t about me or the processes I use. 

My conversations are about the CEO and three things that keep them up at night. (What are yours?)

My conversations are about how the CEO perceives those issues versus how their team perceives those issues. (You’d be surprised at how few CEOs actually share their concerns with their employees!)

My conversations are about how many employees they had a year ago; how many they have today, and how many they expect to have a year from now. (Are you aware of how the complexity of your company changes due to the addition of people to the payroll?)

My conversations are about how clear each person in the company is about their roles and responsibilities. (It’s amazing how many people, managers included, who do not know what is actually expected of them at work.)

My conversations are about how that CEO feels about his or her team and why they feel the way they do. (Happy? Pleased? Frustrated? Angry? Disappointed? All of the above? None of the above?)

My conversations are about how the CEO can get better alignment with their management team. (Too many companies lack not just clear goals and priorities but lose focus because too many goals and priorities compete with one another.)

My conversations are about the CEO speaking regularly in one on ones with his or her direct reports. (In my opinion, these are the most critical meetings a CEO can have.)

My conversations are about making sure the CEO is a better listener. (Making sure that everyone’s ideas and concerns are heard and understood.)

My conversations are all about helping the CEO and the management team to identify the top challenges, concerns and opportunities holding back growth. (Sometimes just explaining what the word “growth” means can be a game changer.)

My conversations are about when the CEO leads meetings it isn’t about dominating the session but rather allowing everyone to have a voice in order to gain perspective on the different points of view around the table. (No one wants to be lectured to.) 

My conversations are about creating alignment, top to bottom and side to side) in order to get people engaged. (Engaged employees are harder working, and more productive than those who are disengaged or actively disengaged.)

My conversations with the CEO are often on gaining clarity about what the company’s strategic competitive advantage is. (Often this is the best kept secret in the company.)

My conversations with the CEO are focused on uncovering the Builder/Protector ratio so that the company has the right focus and energy on growth. (Some people make it rain, others count the raindrops.)

What comes out of these conversations? Honest, open discussions and decisions of insight and clarification about people, processes, opportunities, priorities and profit. (Email me.)

Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability. Email:[email protected] Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ. ν

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