I posted this story on Linkedin yesterday. You can view it here or read on below...
Someone once told me:
Never miss out on a chance to talk to a CEO.
His take was that even if you’re an intern or miles away from the CEO on the organizational chart, if she or he is in your office or you have any chance of seeing him/her, why not start a conversation? Share an idea. Come up with something smart to say about the industry you're in. Ask for his/her take.
Choosing to approach these leaders puts you top of mind and shows that you are ambitious, proactive, and interested in learning and solving problems. It's great practice figuring out how to approach and start a good conversation with a leader.
Many of us (including myself) have never thought of approaching the CEO at our place of work, even if her door is always wide open. And if the thought has crossed our minds, we’re often scared as hell to start a conversation.
Once being one of those scared employees, I now know to never miss a chance to have even a five-minute chat with a CEO. These conversations have helped me grow and build confidence, and led to me working side by side with these leaders.
And now I have some great takeaways and learnings. I thought I'd share what I’ve learned from talking to and observing CEO’s. Feel free to add to this list:
They are great listeners – The best thing I’ve learned through CEO’s is that you don’t make it to the top by talking. You make it by listening and making keen observations. The CEO’s I know and admire are active listeners.
They ask a lot of questions, even ones that they should know – Not only have I noticed a lot of listening, but also a lot of question asking from the CEO’s I know. Asking a lot of questions usually means ditching your ego. Asking questions tells others that you don’t have an answer, and many people have a hard time asking questions because of this. I’ve found that CEO’s are fearless about asking questions, even ones to which they might know the answer. Why would they do that and risk looking dumb? Good CEO’s know that it’s worth it to hear from a variety of people and get the chance to hear many different answers. In this way, they are constantly learning and obtaining information.
They read a lot – This coincides with asking a lot of questions. CEO’s read a lot to continue the learning process and obtain as much information as possible so that they can solve problems.
They are great conversationalists – I think it takes great people skills to get to a CEO position. Talking with a CEO is always a good time. Even more reason to start a conversation!
They aren’t afraid to recall and talk about their failures – The CEO’s I know never miss a chance to discuss and even laugh with others about their failures. Smart CEO’s know their failures are the only reason for their success. Brilliant CEO’s know they need to remain humble and remember where they started, when things weren’t always going so great.
Now of course other leaders in your office can have similar traits and habits. But when it comes to CEO's, I think it’s worth it to not just read about the greats like Jack Welch, but to take any opportunity to chat with the one sitting right in front of you. You never know where it may lead. Would you agree?
I'm Kim. I like to work hard but not enough to stop having fun and enjoying life. I hope I never stop learning and exploring. Other people inspire me to be and do better every day. Read on for reflections on work and play.