The Hardest Thing I Have To Tell CEOs

It seems all through my working life, I have had to tell CEOs how it is…

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

As some of you would be aware, I have spent a reasonable amount of time as a CEO. So, I do have some insight here regarding what I am about to say next.

The bottomline: you should always tell your CEO or leader how it is, but in a constructive manner. However, that is not the purpose of my post today (but, this is something you need to ruminate on 🤔)

These days as a consultant, as it was for me when I was a humble employee, I have/had to tell CEOs how it is.

The hardest thing to tell them though is this: “no I cannot do that for you, as you are the only one, the only person who can undertake that particular task.”

There are certain tasks that only the CEO, the chairperson, the leader, director, team manager and so on can do, because it is to do with their experience, their perspective. Although you may assist them through understanding them and teasing out what is inside their heads, ultimately, you do not know their true underlying sense of being, despite appreciating the type of person they are, including the values and ethics they have and so on.

So, how do I let them down gently? Firstly, in an even handed way (I have reviewed this matter for you, however, I need to let you know…). Secondly, with the facts (As you know, you have been involved with this matter from day one, whereas there are some matters I have not been exposed to, including…) and lastly with sound reasoning (this is an issue that only you can respond to as you are the one that has the required insights the others need to know..). Your explanation doesn’t have to be overly long, but it does need to be balanced (perhaps these are some of the pros and cons that you need to consider…) and in a cooperative tone (I am happy to assist you further where I can). They may not appreciate what you say at the time, but over the long haul, you are the one they will trust when the chips are down.

CEOs Are Human Too…

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15 Comments on “The Hardest Thing I Have To Tell CEOs”

  1. Hello SurePaw,

    Decisions, decisions!! How to make them – and how to make them stick.

    I remember a prickly situation as a national Chair where I commissioned my own research once I realised the delegates had no fat in the game. In bringing Australia’s perception of aerosols into the international framework, we adopted a sound position that gave industry the certainty they craved.

    Sean, we were blessed by the tuition of the Jesuits, Ignatius’ wisdom imparted to us the gift of discernment.

    Warm regards, Seano, keep those banjo-playing, off-spinning fingers supple,
    Laney of the Undercroft 👌

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you for your comments, Stevo and sharing a wonderful insight regarding your time as national Chair. You inspired me to pull out the banjo and play a very rusty bluegrass tune. Self awareness is key, and you have summed up what Ignatius had to say beautifully – discernment.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for the feedback. If only some CEOs were as enlightened as both of you are. It is never easy letting others tell you how it is, but you must. As you say, improvement won’t happen otherwise!


  2. Great read and sound advice, as always Sean. It’s never the easiest thing to tell more senior colleagues what they must but it’s a necessary evil sometimes. And yes, they’ll appreciate it – even if they don’t actually tell you they do 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a hard lesson for all of us. It’s important to be able to ask for help, and to be open to benefiting from the wisdom of others. But some tasks cannot be shared, and anyone who wants to be a good leader has to be prepared to take those leaps and make those commitments.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. Another classic piece, Sean. Thanks for visiting today and sharing your awesome leadership thoughts on Formal Education. I appreciate it immensely.
    Thanks for breaking the hardest thing to tell the CEO down in a professional manner. Love it.

    Liked by 2 people

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