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A CEO Stood Me Up!

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Srinivasan

I was asked to come over to a coffee shop in the middle of town, to meet this CEO who was commuting between customer meetings, and this was the only 45 minutes he had to spare. At the coffee shop, after 30 minutes of my waiting, the CEO sends a message saying that his meeting with the customer is yet to start, and he is waiting outside the customer’s cabin, in the corridor, for the past 45 minutes. In an update an hour later, he was still waiting. “It is quarter-end, and we are at the mercy of the customer” said his last message that apologetically called off our 45-minute meeting.

There are several things wrong in this CEO’s situation.

First, if he had 3 meetings lined up (including mine), shouldn’t he be cognizant of meeting those pre-agreed obligations? Now, he has got 3 different parties who have been told, not so subtly, that this CEO has no control over his time. Especially with CXO-level people, the perceptions they create and leave behind are far more telling than all the telling they do about their companies. The CEO should keep his self-esteem intact at all times, at least for the position that his company has bestowed on him.  If he does not respect his own time, why will the customer?

Second, by waiting outside a customer’s door for over 90 minutes, what message is he conveying to the customer?  With the CEO waiting outside for as long as he is made to wait, the customer gets an immediate upper hand in the timing and terms of the contract. The CEO has absolutely no bargaining chips to negotiate here. Being a CEO, he must remember a Japanese proverb: “No good agreement is ever reached when sitting across a table that is slanted in favour of one of the parties.”

Third, why is a CEO doing a sales person’s job? What is he trying to prove? He is now a General. His job is to marshal his troops, and lead them to victory. He must never forget that while every General is also a soldier, every soldier does not become a General. When made a General, choose a vantage point from where you are visible to all the troops, and find ways to exhort them to do better. It is pathetic when a General is compelled to prove to the world that he can do a soldier’s job.

Energy, Commitment and Example – according to this CEO, this is what he is conveying to his employees. He may be surprised to know that his three noble intentions are getting read as – ‘Ants in the Pants’, ‘No confidence in his team members’ and a ‘Busybody’. It is laughably juvenile on the part of any CXO to give more importance to sales only because they visibly ‘touch’ the customer, and bring in the moolah.

Not a single dollar of revenue for any company anywhere in the world can happen without all functions of the company working for it. Making sure all of them do work for that dollar is a CEO’s function,

What is a CEO to do? Only three things:

Seek Solitude to introspect on all that is happening in his/her regime. How aligned are all the happenings to his/her style, and to the legacy that he/she wants to leave behind, and be remembered for?

Take Helicopter Rides – metaphorically, of course. Look at your company from a height, from an ‘outside in’ perspective, before swooping in to make repairs and corrections in the organizational machinery.

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