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Of Evil CEO’s and the TV Interview

I’ve been working to promote The Reluctant CEO. A half dozen book signings, all local, complemented by social media advertising have had the desired effect. Still, there’s a way to go to achieve the sales goal.

Finally, a breakthrough!

My publicist arranged an interview on a local morning show, Good Day Rochester. It was set for Wednesday, December 21.

Then came the preparation. He sent a few probable questions my way. I sent my draft responses. He made suggestions and so on.

We correctly anticipated most of the questions. Here’s one:

Q. Your book is different. You’ve written a business fable. Tell us about that.

A.  Life isn’t perfect. Plans never work out the way you think they will. I wanted to write a story that conveyed the ups and downs of the journey of this one individual – the reluctant CEO.

Then there are those for which you haven’t prepared (although in retrospect, I should have known this was coming).

Q.  Do you have any CEO’s out there that you think are doing it right?

There are a lot of CEO’s who have done a great job for their shareholders. Some have left a great legacy like Jack Welch, the retired CEO of GE. But, he laid-off a lot of people and earned the nickname Neutron Jack. (A neutron bomb theoretically kills all the people but leaves the building in tact.)

In the latter part of the 20th C., CEO’s like Welch were revered in business circles. Perhaps the worst of the lot was Al Dunlap, a turnaround specialist whose tactics were brutal. He was featured on the cover of BusinessWeek with his nickname, Chainsaw Al, in bold letters. He ran such well-known companies as Scott Paper and Sunbeam before his lousy attitude caught up with him.

For a brief moment, I thought I should answer “Bill Gates”. After all, America’s most successful entrepreneur has given away most of his fortune and now devotes his time to the good works of the foundation that bears his name. But, there are still videos of Gates going ballistic in staff meetings bouncing around cyberspace.

Instead, I did what every publicist wants his client to do. I pivoted.

A.  I work mostly with small to mid-sized businesses. When you run a small business you’re very connected to the people who work for you and you know a lot about their families. And, you care about them.   Actually, in the work that I’ve done, I’ve found that the biggest concern that CEO’s have is ‘what happens if I have to let people go, what if there’s a downturn? They don’t want to let people go. They want to hang on to them.’

Really, John? Is that the best you can do?

The best CEO’s understand that their employees have lives outside of work that depend upon their jobs. They endeavor to learn about their wishes, hopes and dreams. And, they support those dreams.

They also understand how people are motivated. We all have a need to feel connected to our families, friends and our mission at work. We all enjoy a sense of accomplishment when we have done a job well. And, we all respond positively to recognition.

Every CEO – every leader – should to build a culture around those concepts.

Next time, I’ll be ready for that one.

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