Listen to Learn and Learn to Listen

4 Words Every CEO Must Learn To Say

When a new CEO comes into the organization, the expectations are so grandiose that the person might as well ride in dressed as a knight on a white horse. If you’ve ever joined a company in a highly visible role like this, it’s not unusual to feel an air that you’re going to come in and do great things from the likes of board members, employees, customers and others closely connected to the company. All the pressure is at your back. Your confidence is at an all-time high.

This is exactly where a great big ego can take over even before you do.

If there’s one big mistake new CEOs make as they assume the mantle of leadership in a new company, it’s that they think all situations in all companies are the same. Yes, you’ve left your mark of positive results on a previous company and your experience is superior. If you just do exactly what you did at the last job in this new job, the fixes should be relatively simple, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The “this is how we always did it there so it should work the same here” mentality doesn’t take a lot of variables into consideration that could make the situation profoundly different this time around.

Such as? Even if it is within the same industry, you are obviously entering a different type of company. Within that company, you will have a different culture, different talent levels, different financial resources, different technological capabilities, different goals and more. With so much that could be new, why would you approach it the same way as you did before? At the very least, why would you assume you know all the answers before getting to know the new environment and the people in it?

We’ve previously mentioned that the 5 worst words a CEO can say are, “I can do that myself.” But if there are 4 words that people never expect a CEO to say, it’s “What do you think?” The more enlightened leaders are not afraid to admit that they don’t know it all and they’ll ask others around them for their opinions.

Contrast this with the CEO who goes strolling into every meeting with a tone that they’re the boss and a visionary and because of that, they’ll never ask for input and instead tell others what they should do and think. Which one is more likely to be seen as an enjoyable person to work for and viewed with respect?

Knowing The Answer Actually Frightens People

Believe it or not, in our conversations with clients in the early stages at Value Drivers, we’ve seen occasions where some leaders don’t want to know the answer and don’t want data to support their position. Why? They fear learning what the answer actually is because they’re afraid that they won’t like it or will showcase a shortcoming to their client.

For example, one of the biggest, most common areas of conflict and confusion with a client can be in regard to their bills — as in being surprised by bills and their amounts. All they have to do is…ask the client if their bills make sense, if they have a question on anything, etc. It’s fairly straightforward, common sense for being on the same page and ensuring the relationship is not rocky. Yet the question doesn’t get asked out of fear. If you’re in a situation where you can be capable of leading a client or prospect’s business for the next 2–4 years, why wouldn’t you want to know if your service is better or worse?

Let’s take new business pitching opportunities as another example. So often, if you ask, “How many other companies are you considering,” the fear is that it opens up a can of worms that might cause the client to think, “Come to think of it, I should really shop this around for multiple bids. Excellent point.” In reality, they’d have had this thought anyway and it can even show confidence in one’s services that the company welcomes the opportunity to convey its competitive differences and advantages.

From an internal perspective, it’s easy for a new CEO to come into the organization from their past successes and say, “I know why all your problems exist.” This is the same as any doctor making a prescription before getting to know your symptoms! Not always a good idea to make such assumptions, right?

Whether internally with employees or externally with customers and clients, here are some key traits that an incoming CEO has to put on display as often as possible:

  • Listen, listen and then listen some more
     
    If you are to lead others, you need to have your finger on the pulse of what makes the people tick and keep an open mind. A new executive coming in from the outside can’t walk in and assume they know everything. 
     
     So take ample time to understand the landscape you’re about to lead by asking others and listening before even thinking of recommending anything. That includes knowing about the problems that have existed before, the positive traits the company has, what the culture is like and more.
  • Get buy in and support
     
    Listening gradually builds a sense of trust and communicates that you are going to incorporate what you’ve learned from feedback into your next steps as a leader. So when you’re finally ready to show some of those next steps, convey the link between what people told you and why you’re doing what you’re doing going forward. This provides a greater likelihood of them buying into what you’re “selling.” Don’t just do what you want to do — it doesn’t work well to unilaterally cram what you’ve learned on your own elsewhere down your employees’ throats.
  • See the opportunity to educate and upsell customers and clients by asking questions
     
    Asking questions of clients on your services can enlighten them on what other services you offer. If you assume they know all of that (which they usually don’t), you’ll miss out on additional revenue. Just because you have it on your website doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near top-of-mind with them. 
     
     So as you ask and listen to their thoughts, consider a natural bridge to a “Did you know we also offer…” statement that points them toward something additional your company brings to the table. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen customers do this and then say, “They said they never knew we did that!”

How do you get thorough feedback but still make change happen in a timely manner?

It depends on how you’re Setting Leaders Up For Success.

Often when a C-level executive enters the role, the clock is ticking. Fortunately, you can have the best of both worlds if you have a real process for understanding feedback and what the next steps for implementing change should be. Value Drivers can give you that process through our Setting Leaders Up For Success onboarding program. In just 6 to 8 weeks, we can help you identify the key areas of business that may not be in alignment or perceptions of the company (even from within it) that may call for your attention. From such discoveries, we can clearly define objectives, goals and tactics that will help you increase your business value.

Let’s have an introductory meeting to see if this Value Drivers program is right for you by calling 312.827.2643, emailing info@valuedriversllc.com, or arranging for a complementary consultation by clicking here.

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