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January 12. 2013 8:38PM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Worst CEOs of 2012 is only half the story


 

In "The Worst CEOs of 2012," published Dec. 13 in Bloomberg Businessweek, Associate Editor Louis Lavelle highlights examples of business leaders who exemplified poor leadership and made decisions throughout the course of 2012 that negatively impacted their company's performance.

I found the article interesting, as it shed light on many CEOs I hadn't heard of or followed closely in the past. Take for example, Brian Dunn, the former CEO of Best Buy, who was honored as being at the very top of the bad CEO list. He earned that dubious distinction for the company's declining stock price, loss of market share and share buybacks that cost the company billions. Interestingly, the article also mentions allegations of Dunn having an "inappropriate relationship with a subordinate."

Although Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook didn't make the top five list, he received an honorable mention for his "massive ego," immaturity and, of course, Facebook's sinking stock price.

Not being a CEO, it's very easy for anyone to point out the faults and poor performance of executives. After all, we have it pretty easy. We see their results and judge. That's simple, especially when it's based on black and white financials.

In business and life, it's extremely easy to focus on the negative. It's too easy to point out the faults of others. Nobody is perfect, and we all have things we aren't very good at.

While I found the article about the "Worst CEOs of 2012" entertaining, I would prefer to read an article about the best CEOs of 2012 that shares examples of behaviors others can adopt. I won't have time to take a deep dive on that today, but I would like to share my experience about a few behaviors of the best CEOs I have ever worked with or for. And forget judging CEOs on financial results. That's a given. If a company performs poorly or fails, it is most certainly a reflection on the decisions made by the CEO.

Be visible and available: When it comes to a positive perception of an executive at a company, I believe this to be high on the list. Sure, leaders have to make difficult business decisions that people may not agree with. But if they are available and accessible to everyone, it certainly takes the edge off. Don't live in your office. Walk around. Talk to people. Get to know their names. Ask questions. And create an environment where feedback flows and you are always willing to listen.

Communicate frequently: Lack of communication makes people wonder. It creates misunderstandings and skepticism. Communicate with the entire organization through emails, corporate-wide announcements, meetings and social media. And communicate with individual teams and departments to tailor your message to what is happening in their world and what is most important to them.

Empower people: The most effective CEOs I have worked with and for create an environment that empowers people. It's an environment where people are able to innovate and make their own decisions. But they are also responsible and held accountable for those decisions. Encourage people to make decisions and take risks, even if it means failure. We've all screwed up, and we all know that is the most effective way to grow and learn.

Recognize success: The majority of people are motivated by recognition and, of course, money. Recognizing people who succeed is the cheapest and easiest way to improve morale and create a culture focused on performance. Create formalized recognition programs. Recognize people randomly. Pick up the phone and thank someone personally for doing a good job.


Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.



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