To help keep you from saying the wrong things to key stakeholders, we asked CEOs this question for their insights. From saying statements like “it’s not my fault” to “don’t waste my time,” there are several critical things that stakeholders should never hear a CEO say.
As a CEO, here are 10 key things to avoid saying:
- “It’s Not My Fault”
- Devaluing the Statements of Others
- Separating Yourself From Company Errors
- “This Solution Is Not Worth Investigating”
- Attempting to Run It Solo
- “I Don’t Have Time for This”
- Infusing Humor in Communications
- “Your Input Isn’t Needed for This”
- “You Don’t Need to Understand Why Just Trust Me”
- “Don’t Waste My Time”
“It’s Not My Fault”
Never say it’s not your fault when something goes wrong. Great leaders are accountable for themselves, the people who work for them, and their investors. Your team’s mistakes are your mistakes. This is why it is important to take the time to properly train your staff. While it is easy to hire experts for their expertise, even experts need to be trained to know your expectations and organizational values, one such value being accountability on all levels.
Sundip Patel, LendThrive
Devaluing the Opinions of Others
A CEO should never say something that devalues the opinions or thoughts of others. In our case, it’s extremely important that we listen to the parents that look to us to educate their children. We never want to tell a parent that a concern they have isn’t important or valid. By taking time to listen to parents’ concerns in our schools, we can provide assurance that their children are in the best hands and that we are an open line of communication for them. Doing so allows us to build better relationships and make sure we don’t leave any issues unresolved.
Jeanne Kolpek, Cadence Education
Separating Yourself From Company Errors
CEOs should never say anything that attempts to completely absolve them from any errors or bad press that may occur. No one wants to have to deal with things going wrong. However, when it comes to a CEO addressing such things to the stakeholders of the company, it should always be addressed in a way in which all parts of the company can learn and grow and make sure the situation doesn't happen again. Showing accountability is a really great trait for anyone to possess, but especially for CEOs as they do hold a certain level of publicity and face for the company. And they should wear that label with grace.
Carey Wilbur, Charter Capital
“This Solution Is Not Worth Investigating”
CEOs will be empowered and empower others if they continue to believe in innovation. A CEO should never become stuck or tell their stakeholders that a possible solution is not worth investigating. Even if the possibility brought forth doesn't help or has already been tried, opening up for discussions will prove to be more useful than shutting down one idea. Your key stakeholders want to ensure that there is longevity in their investment, so being open to innovation and knowing how to create a dialogue will make sure that priority is maintained at the top. Ask questions like, “What other options do you see?” or “I appreciate the point you've brought up. What ways do you see to expand on that?”
Spiros Skolarikis, Comidor
Attempting to Run It Solo
One of the main roles of a CEO, and for anyone in leadership, is to identify risks and develop strategies that could protect the business. From there, they can work with their teams to design action plans to act on those strategies. It’s not a solo sport running a company. You need buy-in and a team to support any program.
Nick Santora, Curricula
“I Don’t Have Time for This”
Work cannot be done in a silo, so prioritizing communication within your company is critical. As a business leader, one cannot fail to recognize the teamwork it takes to make a business thrive. Threads takes collaboration a step further by streamlining inter-office communication with shared inboxes. Bespoke filtering and privacy settings allow colleagues to share and search information needed for projects and communication on all levels.
Francesca Yardley, Threads
Infusing Humor in Communications
Stakeholders look to a CEO to lead. For better or worse, I've learned that incorporating humor or attempting to be funny isn't something employees or customers want from the CEO. They just want the facts, the truth, and the vision. They don't want jokes. In fact, the same jokes have a different delivery and impact when told by an executive versus an employee and can actually be detrimental to how a stakeholder feels about a company. Call me jaded about jokes, but I've learned that it is more beneficial to be a straight-shooting executive than a stand-up comic.
Brett Farmiloe, Markitors
“Your Input Isn’t Needed for This”
CEOs are under a lot of pressure to make decisions and are constantly pressed to make the right ones for the company. However, to say that no one else's insights matter can lead to incredibly negative morale and cause people to not want to bother working with the team anymore. If they don't believe any of their insights will be taken into consideration, especially as a stakeholder in the company, it's unlikely they will continue to value the company as a whole.
Nancy Belcher, Winona
“You Don’t Need to Understand Why — Just Trust Me”
You might as well say, “because I said so,” don't treat your stakeholders like children! If you want them to feel like they’re part of a business where their thoughts actually matter to others and add value to the organization, take the time to craft a better way to phrase this sentiment.
Tim O'Brien, The Healthy Place
“Don’t Waste My Time”
I firmly believe that communication skills are crucial for any great CEO, and knowing how to encourage your team can mean the difference between getting fantastic results and ends up losing them altogether. Because it involves using language that asks and encourages rather than orders, the coaching management style has grown in popularity in recent years. One thing a CEO should never say to stakeholders is, “Don't waste my time; we've already done that,” because this will discourage creativity and make your team hesitant to bring you new ideas. Instead, say, “What options do you see?”
Saskia Ketz, Mojomox