Six Things That Drive Your CEO Crazy and What to Do About Them

March 20, 2019

Everyone has things that irk them and leaders are no different. From annoying behaviors like lateness to real differences in workplace culture, CEOs have their lists of do’s and don’ts. New Ocean’s Chairman and CEO, Hal Rosenbluth outlined some of the things he has run across over the course of his career. Here is the shortlist:

  1. Pocket vetoes:  When your CEO makes a company decision and directs executives to follow a strategy, the reason may not always seem clear and although it is incumbent on the CEO to explain as much of the “why” as possible, reasons often remain confidential.  But trust me, your CEO remembers his/her directive and ignoring or overruling it can not only negatively impact company’s overall strategy but, is grounds for discipline, if not dismissal.  A better approach: Share your concerns and make a case for an alternative direction.  A good CEO loves to be challenged and hear new ideas. Perhaps you’ll bridge a hybrid solution. The bottom line is that you may not succeed in changing his/her mind, but not adhering to direction is unacceptable.
  2. Sugar-coating the truth: Mistakes are bound to happen. But all too often colleagues who fear the wrath of their leader will tell half the truth in hopes of avoiding a conflict. But cover-ups surely unveil themselves and the result is often worse than the truth. A better approach: Brace yourself to come clean but prepare to present alternative solutions and next steps to remediate the situation. Your CEO will appreciate your candor, see that you care enough to fix the issues and you can show off your creativity and problem- solving skills
  3. Insincerity: Nothing is more cancerous to the culture of organization than insincerity because it breeds mistrust and establishes fear that can spread through every department in the organization. Once in place, fear and mistrust are difficult to dispel. I have always preached that an emotion cannot be delegated.  Likewise, a colleague or leader finds themselves unable to be an authentic, genuine version of themselves, it’s a tell-tale sign that mistrust will eventually rear its head. For that matter, human beings intuitively know when another is disingenuous. To get real again: think deeply to get to the reason for the insincerity and make some changes from both the top and bottom as your company will benefit culturally and financially.
  4. Excessive Meetings:  CEOs schedules are too busy to begin with.  Too many meetings requiring CEO attendance not only destroys productivity– they’re a buzzkill on company morale and often lead to an even more frustrating work issue of overburdened calendars.  Many CEOs intuitively know when appointments and meetings are excessive and usually the result of a poor communication creating unwarranted meetings. Some meetings are called to deal with self- inflicted issues resulting in cleaning up of mistakes, laying the groundwork for re-work which in turn, causes more meetings to check on the status of re-work.  Back-to-back meetings and appointments often leave no time for what typically pops up during the day as more important than what’s scheduled. Suggestion: Reduce meetings and appointment overload by determining a clear need for each. Give your schedule some wiggle room by adding two 30-minute blocks of time –one in the morning, and one in the afternoon for the potential crisis du jour so other meetings need not be cancelled in order to tend to the more important issue at hand.
  5.  Groupthink: Risky decisions made in high powered corporate circles can kill an organization. In 1972, Yale psychologist Irving Janis coined the term groupthink to refer to the psychological phenomenon of intelligent people who will strive for consensus within a group. This happens mostly when they fear that their objections might disrupt the harmony of the group or that their ideas may prompt other members to reject them. Constructive conflict in a controlled atmosphere can reduce the instances of groupthink and bandwagon bias.

          Here are some tips:

          1) Level-set the conversation by acknowledging obvious biases.
2) Bring different personalities together and draw on various departments.

          3) Encourage debate and insist on culture that promotes fierce conversations.

          4) Avoid Haste.  Making speedy decisions seems efficient but often leads to need for further debate.

       6.  Workplace bullying or intimidation of any kind: Workplace bullying is a true culture killer. The list of highly corrosive effects of this in the workplace is long:

  •  Higher absenteeism, employee turnover
  • Decreased productivity and eventual loss in profit
  • Lowered morale
  • Loss of time dealing with bullying or intimidation incidents
  • Increased costs due to turnover including training
  • Negative impact on company image
  • Legal costs from potential law suits brought by employees

I’ve always believed that Human Resources is the most important department of every company. Talent retention often depends on the happiness and well-being of employees. To prevent workplace bullying and intimidation even at leadership level: HR leaders should ensure there is policy that clearly defines such, outlines a process for reporting and dealing with the situation while maintaining a “zero tolerance” clause and “no retaliation” rule.