It’s true. My last CEO did a great job of making me sure I wanted to leave.
He officially joined the company in January of 2008, but I personally never saw him being active until the middle of February. In those first 6 weeks, he went around the rest of the world on a very expensive road-trip, visiting every branch of the company, talking with as many people as he could to find out who they were, what they wanted, how they operated and what was important to them.
When he finally arrived in Belgium, he did the same thing with most of our staff, including me. His approach, it seems, was always the same: He would ask a few questions, listen a lot and then say what he had to say. When he spoke, everything made sense. With me, it even made me decide to leave.
What he did was the finest form of active empathy and it allowed him to better understand his people and better communicate with them. When listening to me, he got an idea of who I was, what I was trying to achieve, my career aspirations, turn-ons and turn-offs. Listening attentively, he picked up on what really got me buzzing. And he quickly understood that what he wanted to achieve was not in-line with what I wanted to achieve. In no uncertain terms and in a way that made perfect sense to me, he outlined his strategy and what would be the place for my function. I understood I wouldn’t fit in and together we looked for ways to help me move on. Perfect!
Communicating in this way is an art and if it is done well, it is not a bad thing when other people who understand you decide to get off the train. It is a much better result that staying on the wrong train thanks to manipulative or bad communication.
If you want to align with other people, you need to do the same as my last CEO:
- Listen first. Ask lots of questions and drill down for more information.
- Try to get a sense of the situation, values and needs of the other person.
- Speak to people on their terms, using words they understand and align to their needs wherever possible.
- Don’t bullshit. Get to the point and speak clearly.
- Answer the only 3 questions that count.
Thanks for reading.
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