Expose Confessions of CEOs– A Peek into the Corner Office: Lesson Learned From– Failure, Crisis, Fear, Chaos, Uncertainty…

Expose Confessions of CEOs– really; but could it be that executive leaders who appear boldly confident are wracked by personal doubt? Aren’t the men-women who spend their days in the C-Suite immune to human foibles that plague most mere mortals?

According to Jan Hill; I bear witness that the inner world of many organizations’ most senior leaders, and many have confirmed, that these executives doubt themselves more often than you might think…  Here are a few CEO confessions that I’ve heard: *Every day I’m disabled by an overarching irrational fear that I will fail… *I’m just sitting here playing with broken toys. Why doesn’t my executive team get it? Where did I go wrong?… *I feel like I’m an imposter. What if they find me out?… *We all scream in different ways: I just scream softly, but no one hears it…

According tomicah; I confess that the lessons learned from getting punched in the face, as a CEO, is life changing: I am not a CEO today. I know now what a CEO should be, and I am not it. I don’t have the love or understanding of structure to be effective. Instead, what I am really good at is introducing people and finding ways for companies to work collaboratively, which is my current role and I am happy with it… I often think about what I could have accomplished if I had a bit more maturity about the management of the business. While the sale of the company certainly was a success, in terms of being a CEO, I failed…

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As producer of ‘The Motley Fool Radio Show’, Mac Greer heard a number of CEOs fess-up to their failures– business decisions that didn’t ultimately make for great business. Here are a few favorites:

  • According to Jim Keyes, 7-Eleven:We packaged a more convenient pantyhose for ladies and it has helped us to bring more female shoppers into the store, but we were a little bit out-there when we introduced fish-net hose at 7-Eleven Stores. I would say that was one of the dumber decisions…
  • According to Dick Kinzel, Cedar Fair: We put a $4 million building around this dog ride and named it ‘Disaster Transport’. I remember on opening day a gentleman walked out of the ride and came over to me and said; You named that one right– that’s a disaster. And you know what, he was right. That was by far the dumbest thing I ever did…
  • According to Bob Davies, Church & Dwight: In the mid-’70s, we went zooming into the personal deodorant and antiperspirant business with an aerosolized can of baking soda. We had two huge problems. Many of the cans clogged, and those that didn’t clog did worse– they massively stung people’s underarms. We lost around $6 million in that venture and that was back when we were a tiny little company. I almost lost my job…
  • According to Jack Soden, Elvis Enterprises: We licensed a company that made bedroom slippers. They were big, furry slippers and they had a rubber image of Elvis’ head on the toes. It was one of those things that when you saw them in the store, it was like: What were we thinking? We pulled the license and got them off the market as fast as we could…

In the article Confessions of Remarkable CEO by Kevin Song writes: Our experience at coaching, advising CEOs has allowed us to distill key insights into challenges that confront many CEOs. While CEOs encounter countless obstacles, we have found truth in these four confessions, with our added notes:

  • Confession #1: I am frustrated with politics and discord among my leadership team. They do not seem to get along, and we are not achieving the execution we need to grow the organization… When an executive team does not function well together, the organization suffers– sometimes, individual executives may simply not work well together or seem to be working from ‘a different page’. Other times, an individual executive is simply not performing at a level worthy of the organization’s highest leadership team. In any case, an under-performing executive team should alarm the CEO…
  • Confession #2: We lack effective planning sessions that generate real and desirable results — our meeting sessions lack passion, direction, and focus, which are needed in order to produce action and positive outcomes… Does your organization wrestle to gaining advancement in executing strategic goals? Maybe your organization is slow to act on a new plan. One manifestation of this confession is unlikely in your strategic planning process. Or, it might just be the feeling that– we don’t need more knowing, we need more doing; for some reason, you are not performing on the fundamentals you already know well…
  • Confession #3: We cannot seem to get ahead of the competitors– after all research and money we spent; we did not gain much competitive advantage… No one sees this more clearly than CEOs. No matter how good results of the organization happen to be, you see weaknesses, breakdowns in systems and performance. An opportunity exists to tighten process, remove waste… while continuing to optimize business results. There are numerous gaps that, when closed, produce strong financial performance…
  • Confession #4: We tried many ways to improve bottom-line, but they don’t seem to give us the results we need; I know we are not producing the most effective results from our talents and resources… At some point, it’s natural for CEOs to wonder if they have hit personal limits as leaders. They may express feeling of swimming in water that is over their heads. While the feeling is more personal than organizational in nature, it can impact the organization’s ability to produce results as greatly as any of the other challenges…

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In the article Top CEO Challenges by Dominic Barton (McKinsey Partner) with notes by McDwight Frindt writes: As someone who spends much time with many CEOs from the world’s leading companies, I have gain interesting insights, which are very consistent with the overall CEO population. Here they are:

  • Struggle with loneliness: The higher you get, the harder it is to find the right sources to trust… Having access to a peer group and being able to work issues with people who face the same types of challenges you do every day can be amazingly helpful for a top leader…
  • Lack of time: CEOs continue to balance an overflowing plate and prioritizing becomes key… This is something everyone is facing these days from the top office throughout an organization. We have found that the key issues here are in the ‘human dimension’– meaning that things often get slowed down between people through miscommunications, misunderstandings and upsets…
  • Appetite for cross-sector knowledge: CEOs and companies across the globe are looking at what can be learned from industries, companies… other than their own. Cross-pollination at its best. What can marketers learn from HR? What can IT learn from sales? This is another area we find that communication is critical and is not happening at an optimum level. Often groups, teams, and departments become ‘silos’. There is usually a lot that can be learned by an organization and its leaders from within, from its own people. The challenge is opening up the flow for that to happen…
  • Understanding transitions: Leaders transition in and out of positions, jobs, and companies. They are consistently looking for help with these transitions… Transitions are often fraught with emotions and complexities…
  • Battle for talent: The biggest competitive advantage of any company in the future is going to be people. Often CEOs don’t know the scope of talent available to them within their own company. This is a source of frustration for many… It’s amazing how much knowledge and information inside a company does not flow. Again, challenges in the ‘human dimension’ often hinder this flow. Fear, politics and other factors can keep key information like ‘how talented is your talent pool’ from being clear to those at the top…

In the article Confessions of a Natural Born Follower by Kelly McCausey writes: I don’t consider myself a natural-born leader; in fact, I’m exact opposite – I was a natural-born follower… Being a leader was so ‘not’ natural for me. Any time I found myself having to make decisions, I naturally sought guidance from other sources to figure out what I need to do, next... I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my experience, and just desperately wanted someone to tell me what I needed to do and where I should be headed, e.g.: What if I led people in wrong direction? What if I made mistake and hurt someone? What if I wasn’t smart enough to handle the job? What if, what if, what if???

You may not believe me, but still today I sometimes have to force myself to ‘be’ the leader. When I was a follower, I saw leaders as– confident, powerful, popular people who seemed to be naturally gifted in the art of– perfect words, actions… What I am finding more and more is that most of the time, even with a plan, experience and even guidance, we (leaders-CEOs) sometimes feel like we are free-falling off of a cliff…

However, what I’ve learned is that perhaps none of us-CEOs are the kind of leaders that I assumed existed; none are perfect and none found success easily. All of us are often scared, even terrified from time-to-time. All of us have faced and overcome our own; What Ifs… Most of all, I got the realization that it doesn’t matter if you aren’t born and bred to be a leader. In fact, most people aren’t… What does matter is how much you are willing to face your fears, and do what you must do…

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All too often, we see CEOs make critical mistakes that can lead to dangerous repercussions for them and their organizations… According to Ken Sundheim; since I started my firm, you could say that my philosophies and practices have changed dramatically. But rather than ‘change’, my business philosophies and skills have a more positive– ‘evolutionary’ trajectory… whereas, ‘change’ is more abrupt  manifestation of motion, improvement… In the end, my ‘confession’ is that as a young CEO, or in any state of business leadership, you can never stop examining yourself, and you can never be afraid to try, and fail…

At a layer barely below the conscious surface, we all know and recognize the key behaviors that separate effective leaders from train wrecks… Rarely do we get such crisp opportunities to observe and learn… and that old cliché about– crises being the true proving grounds for leaders will never become obsolete… According to Andreas Souvaliotis; it all really comes down to the three classic; ‘Cs’ of leadership, when faced with a sudden challenge:

Confront! Leaders are human and the vast majority of humans are actually afraid of confrontation. Our instincts guide us to avoid conflict for as long as possible and yet, when a crisis is headed our way and we’re in charge of any kind of human organization, our best bet is to confront the crisis early…

Communicate! Leaders who rely on ‘spokespeople’ at a time of crisis are abdicators. That’s a catastrophic misstep and, sadly, a very common one…

Care! Don’t just say you ‘do’ — show it; prove it, own the problem… Empathy counts for more than just about anything else at a time of crisis… Failure is in the eye of the beholder and confessions are for wimps… You should not ask; Who am I to do this? but rather; Who am I ‘not ‘to do this? A great CEO is someone who can live in uncertainty, chaos… and say: I know there is a better way