I came across this article by Bill Lane who wrote “Jacked Up”. A book based on his experiences working with jack Welch at GE. Bill rcenlty wrote an article in US NEWs & World Report where he put down 4 things you should never say to the CEO. After working for several large companies and seeing many presentations go awry and walking on egg shells myself a few times I have to agree with every one of these. I’ve encapsulated the 4 here:
1. "I'll have to get back to you on that.": In other words, you don't know and didn't do your homework…………….
2. Making fun of a corporate program. Feel free to make fun of this stupid stuff--as long as you're willing to leave the company the next day………..
3. Something you find funny. If you're lucky enough to get on the CEO's calendar, get advice ahead of time about what he's really interested in.."
4. "That can't be done.": No CEO wants to hear that something he deems important is impossible. I like to recall this scene from The Godfather: Part II: The boss wants somebody killed. His lawyer says, "Michael, you can't do this. It's impossible." Michael turns to Torpedo, his right-hand man. "Well?" "Difficult," Torpedo answers. "Not impossible. Never say something is impossible.
I have to vouch for # 4 especially hard. I was in Mexico doing a sales meeting for one of my past companies. The business unit president wanted to get some product sent down to Mexico the day before the show. The marketing manager explained that this was “Impossible” due to customs. The CEO calmly stared straight ahead and said “There is nothing that is impossible, only a lack of will. Either you find a way to get this product down here or I will find someone new with the will to do it”. Needless to say a way was found.
I will take the liberty at adding a few more not to do's to Bill’s list:
5. Never debate the king at his round table. Never debate the king in front of his knights. These issues are to be resolved before the meeting. I have seen too much road kill along my career path to ever forget this rule.
6. Nemawashi (Nema-Wa-She) to avoid debate at meetings. To often people mistake the term “meeting” as having the connotation of getting together and hashing things out. While this may be true at the lower levels it is never true at the senior executive levels. In my Japanese experience I learned to nemawashi. Nemawashi is a Japanese terms that means “going around the roots”. In other words it means to “lay the foundation”. In Japan meetings are mere formalities where the decision and debate as happened long before the actual meeting itself. If there is one piece of advice I would give to all young executives it’s learn to nemwashi, as it will give you longevity.
7. Perception drives reality. It really doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. It matters what the perception is. Too many executives miss this fact and fail to address perception issues. Until perception changes you will never be given an opportunity to do the things you want to do. If it means focusing on some tactics before strategy, do it so you can live another day to develop your great strategy.
8. Rehearsal is a good thing. Central to point #7 is that you should always rehearse your formal presentations. Too many times executives don’t spend enough time thinking about what to say and how to say it. Every time you get up in front of people you are building your personal brand based on perception.
9. Don’t identify the problem. Propose a solution: How often do you have people do a wonderful job at identifying what we should be doing, or what’s not working, but never have a proposal on how to address the opportunity or problem with sufficient detail. I pay people to have opinions and to drive proposals on how to address our issues. If you’re constantly validating what the issues are and never coming up with solutions as to how to address them you will eventually hit a ceiling.
10. Always have an ask. Any time you get in front of senior management make sure you have some asks ready. If you don’t its just a power point pitch and you’re wasting their time. I don’t care if you have it handled 100%, you should always have a few asks ready to go. Besides, these guys need opportunities to make themselves feel like they’re doing something constructive anyway. Nuff Said.....