The 3 Most Annoying Habits of CEOs


Over the years, I’ve worked with many CEOS – mostly great ones and a few not so great. Here are three annoying habits they all display at times and how you can deal with them.

ANNOYING HABIT #1: Every idea is the CEO’s

My first experience of this phenomenon came at home. Being the bright and generous person she is, my wife occasionally shares an important observation that helps me deal with life. What happens too often is that, after ruminating on it for quite awhile, I walk into the house one day and share my newfound brilliant discovery with her – except that “my” discovery is what she’d told me weeks ago!

CEOs exhibit similar behavior at times, and it may annoy you as much as it does my wife. Good CEOs are passionate about their business. They continually return to it in their thoughts, internalizing the business with all its challenges and triumphs. When you share a good idea, they may recognize its value and work to fit it into their mental model. It then becomes part of the process they use to run the business. They care most that the right ideas get acted upon, and they may not spend much time worrying about where the ideas come from.

Dealing with it

If your CEO listens to your idea, absorbs it, and repeats it later, you have two choices: take offense because you’re not being recognized for your genius, or rejoice that she listens to your thoughts and incorporates them into her thinking.

ANNOYING HABIT #2: The CEO doesn’t listen

You’re in the middle of discussing something important with your CEO, but his mind keeps wandering back to an unrelated topic. Even worse, he keeps looking at something on his computer screen while his head keeps nodding as you talk!

Why does this happen? It’s rude and it would be nice if it didn’t occur. Realize that new challenges are coming at the CEO every day. Before you walked into his office, he may have just heard a news story that could negatively impact the company’s success. If he were superhuman, he’d file that information away and give you his full attention – but he’s not superhuman. Don’t immediately conclude that the CEO finds you boring (although anything is possible).

Dealing with it

Maybe your topic isn’t passing the CEO ROI filter. In a previous post about creating content that CEOs will read, we mentioned principles to help you communicate with a CEO: (a) keep the return on their investment of time high, (b) assume they are up to speed and don’t overexplain, then (c) get to the point and get out. If you find yourself losing the CEO’s attention, you have two choices:  excuse yourself and suggest a later meeting on your topic (perhaps over lunch), or go with the flow and offer to help with his overriding issue of the day, knowing that you can return to your pet topic another time.

ANNOYING HABIT #3: The CEO seems impatient

If a company were a nuclear submarine, the CEO would be the commander. However, many CEOs are also the nuclear engine, propelling the business forward with their energy and drive. Watching over every operation regardless of the competence level of her reports, the CEO never rests when it comes to ensuring progress of vital initiatives. Any obstacle that can’t be removed quickly reveals her impatience.

That doesn’t mean the CEO is a micromanager who needs or wants to hear about every detail of your project. If too much detail alerts her ROI filter, you may get tuned out or hear an expression of impatience.

Dealing with it

When sharing information with your CEO, focus on answering two key questions: (1) What are the odds that the project will finish on time? (2) What is the expected level of quality upon completion? Don’t provide unnecessary detail – she will ask for more if she needs it.

CEOs have their own peculiar ways of annoying us that result from the responsibilities they carry. No matter how your CEO annoys you, manage communication with him/her effectively and success will be yours.

About Bob Barker
Bob Barker is a trusted advisor to CEOs, helping them identify, define, and execute new growth-accelerating opportunities. He also shares ideas on LinkedIn (robertgbarker), in guest posts on related blogs, and in industry publications. Contact him via email at bob@2020outlook.com.

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