A record number of CEOs have been front page news in 2019 for all the wrong reasons. High profile dismissals and resignations at some of the world’s top companies are putting all business leaders on notice. Any CEO who still does the job by acting like a cartoon king isn’t going to stay on the throne for very long.
Today’s best CEOs aren’t modeling their management styles on outdated ideas about acting “in charge.” They’re mastering internal and external communications. They’re creating more inclusive and more positive corporate cultures. They’re looking for guidance and accountability when they need it.
And they’re learning from these 4 fatal CEO mistakes so that the only news about their companies is good news:
1. Poor crisis management.
There had been rumblings about internal tensions at Boeing for quite some time. But what finally led to CEO Kevin McAllister’s firing was his poor handing of the fallout from two plane crashes. The lack of clear communication from the top led to some serious questions about Boeing’s safety and manufacturing standards that only made the public – and the federal government – more outraged.
Few companies have the level of responsibility that Boeing does for the well-being of its customers. But even though most of us don’t operate on that same life-and-death scale, the crisis management lessons still apply. All CEOs need to be aware of their major risk areas so that they can prepare for – and hopefully, prevent – worst-case scenarios. When something does go wrong, your C-suite has to be in command of the company’s response, with the aid of a professional PR team if necessary.
And that response had better be quick, clear, and transparent enough to diffuse the inevitable negative chatter on social media.
2. No awareness of blind spots.
McDonald’s fired CEO Steve Easterbook over a relationship with an employee, which also led to him resigning from a nonprofit that promotes workplace equality.
When we hear stories like that, a common response is, “What was he thinking?” And the sad fact is that too many CEOs really don’t think through these decisions. Many of them don’t realize that they have significant blind spots that are affecting their work in a negative way. They let personal matters cloud their business judgement. Or they’re so enamored with the power that comes with running a company that they slip into tired CEO stereotypes, thinking they can do whatever they want and rely on their position to mitigate the consequences.
I don’t have to tell you that dating a subordinate employee is a really bad idea. But your blind spots could be hurting your company in smaller ways that can snowball into BIG problems.
Do any of your relationships blur personal and professional lines in ways that could be inappropriate? Are you unfairly favoring the employees who occasionally round out your golf foursomes? Do you make an effort to check in with every staffer, and not just the one who loves the same hockey team you do?
WeWork co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann found out the hard way that just because you founded the company, it doesn’t give you a license to self-deal and get greedy. This “imperial king” blind spot got him bounced out of the company, albeit with more than a billion dollars as a going away present.
Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to identify and address your blind spots. Achieving that critical self-awareness and accountability is a big benefit of working with an entrepreneur coach.
3. A lack of transparency.
Not that long ago, Kevin Plank and Under Armour looked poised to grab a huge share of the sportswear market. But as the company struggled to keep pace with competitors like Nike, shareholders went so far as to sue Under Armour because they didn’t believe the company was being open about its finances. There were also some lingering rumors about Plank’s relationship with an MSNBC anchor. Finally, this year, the axe fell: on jobs, share prices, and the CEO.
During moments of crisis, secrecy and misinformation only make bad situations worse. Employees who feel like they’re in the dark get paranoid. Rumors take on lives of their own. Bending the truth can break key relationships. And if you wait too long to admit there’s a problem, it might be too late to fix it.
When CEO Coaching International’s Michael Maas was staring down bankruptcy, he went to his key stakeholders with the raw numbers and a plan to upgrade his COO. The result? A $100 million turnaround.
When Platinum Capital was struggling, I rode into our annual meeting on an elephant to get my team thinking BIG. The next day, little elephants popped up on desks all over the office, telling me, “We’re with you, let’s get through this together.”
Admitting where the company – and you – have gone wrong isn’t easy. But in my experience, honesty and transparency from the boss are rewarded with appreciation and commitment from the people who matter the most to your business.
4. Failure to close the “boys club.”
Negative workplace culture is a common theme in these stories, and too many others across the country right now. Nike and Under Armour were both accused of fostering “boys club” environments, particularly when it came to entertaining famous athletes. Nike is still taking additional heat for some of its advertising and sponsorship arrangements abroad and for working with a track coach who was banned for doping violations.
I’m hopeful that these kinds of workplace cultures are going to become less and less common as the next generation of employees climb corporate ladders. Millennials demand respect for themselves, their peers, and everyone that their work impacts. They want to work for companies that project inclusiveness, positivity, responsibility, and equal opportunity. Companies that don’t live and breathe these values are going to have an impossible time recruiting top young talent and appealing to consumers.
And CEOs who let harmful cultures and glaring blind spots ruin their companies might find that bad business is the least of their problems.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 200 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, become better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 500 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 40 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 66.4% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.