What CEOs could learn from Simone Biles and George Costanza

Morrissey Goodale outlines how CEOs can "leave them on a high note" when interacting with internal and external stakeholders.

By Morrissey Goodale May 24, 2021
Courtesy of CFE Media

In a perfect world, a firm’s CEO embodies a firm’s values. She “lives the values” “walks the talk” – however you want to put it. In every interaction, with every stakeholder, every day.  Internally she inspires employees and managers – from the person answering phones at the front desk (do phones even get answered at the front desk anymore?) all the way to her direct reports. Externally, she’s the firm’s “brand ambassador” with clients, investors, strategic hires, M&A candidates, vendors, community leaders and teaming partners. She’s a catalyst for improved business performance and organizational development. In a perfect world, she positively reinforces the firm’s brand with every interaction with all internal and external stakeholders.

  • But it’s not a perfect world: CEOs do their best to bring it every day. But sometimes they fail. Many learn from those failures (“Going forward, I’ll delegate more low-leverage activities, so I can dedicate more time to develop my successor” or “I’ll deal with a non-performing principal directly and immediately rather than avoiding the matter and dragging it out as I have in the past.”) and improve.
  • However, many CEOs lack the self-awareness or motivation to improve:  They – like most of us – are stuck in learned patterns of behavior. Most are unaware of their blind spots. Most of them lack a feedback loop to coach them on their deficiencies (“Hey boss, things would be a lot better around here if you showed up for meetings on time” or “Next time try not to impugn the business practices of commercial developers in a meeting with an M&A target that does 50% of its business with commercial developers.*) Action item for Boards – get your CEOs a coach, your shareholders will thank you for it.
    *This is based on a real meeting that I was privy to. Not only did this happen but there was also a door kicked in as part of an entrance by one of the buyers. Needless to say, the two parties never consummated the deal.
  • The savviest CEOs understand the power of their personal NPS: What’s an NPS I hear you ask? Net Promoter Score. It’s a super powerful market research tool that basically boils down to asking customers “Would you recommend a company, product, or service to a friend or colleague?” Every firm has an NPS, and every CEO has one too. Many however don’t know it or haven’t sought it out. Savvy CEOs understand a powerful trick that allows them to consistently amplify their personal NPS and in doing so increase that of their firm. What’s their secret?
  • They focus on how things end: The highest NPS scores are achieved when customers or clients (for CEOs those are the firm’s internal and external stakeholders) feel a deep connection. While that connection has to be built consistently and over time, it can be “goosed up” at a transition point in a relationship or in a final transaction. Smart CEOs understand the “power of the ending” in increasing their NPS. They use how they “depart” or “finish” to “goose up” their NPS. Think about it. It’s how you leave a party that makes the most impression on the host (always make a point of saying a big thank you and how great a time you had). It’s your behavior in the 2 weeks after you give your notice at a job that resonates with your past employer and colleagues (always give 100% and help make the transition successful). Your life and career are a series of endings. The best CEOs use those endings to continually promote their individual brand and the brand of their firm.
  • The Simone Biles effect: Watch the best CEOs in action and they intentionally nail the dismount every time when moving on from a meeting or conversation or event. They end their leadership team and strategy meetings with a restatement of the important take-aways for all participants. They close M&A discussions by ensuring they own the final ten minutes to make their case and affirm the go-forward plan. They make sure that they are the last person in the room when leaving a client or teaming meeting so that they are the last voice to be heard before a decision is made. When recruiting or on-boarding new talent – they reserve the last part of the conversation to make clear the firm’s values and their expectations. They minimize what is left open to interpretation and maximize the clarity of their message.
  • The Costanza rule: The need for CEOs to represent the firm’s brand internally and externally is axiomatic. The end – of every relationship and interaction – provides each CEO with optimal timing for them strengthen their firm’s NPS. Or as George Costanza perfectly put it – always leave them on a high note.
  • One more thing: A growing number of CEOs are supplementing their regular all-employee audio or video meetings with an all-employee podcast. Why? Well first they understand that communicating only once about important topics is sub-optimal. More importantly, they recognize that the deep connection created though a podcast dramatically increases their NPS with their employees. Its ‘one to one’ format creates a deeper more meaningful bond between CEO and employee and reinforces important messages far better than a group call.

This article originally appeared on Morrissey Goodale’s website. Morrissey Goodale is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at www.morrisseygoodale.com.


Morrissey Goodale