This is what makes an impactful CEO

When you're the CEO of an organization, you need to be able to keep going strong through the good and the bad times. An executive position involves high stakes and high pressure. In this episode of The ROI Podcast, Dave Steele breaks down the traits the most impactful CEOs carry and explains some of the daily tasks of a CEO.

Show Notes:

(The ROI Podcast Music)

Shane: We are back! Welcome in, everyone to The ROI Podcast Presented by the Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI Campus here in downtown Indianapolis where, Phil, we're showing signs of spring.

Phil: Spring is coming, Shane. That means sunshine and more profits if you're a business, right? People are out more, they are spending money, it's time to get out of the house and have fun.

Shane: I am your host, Shane Simmons. I’ve got Phil Powell beside me – Phil’s the associate dean of academic programs at the Kelley School. We’re back with a CEO interview today – and today we’re chatting with Dave Steele, who is a Kelley faculty member with an executive background – and he’s also an entrepreneur – advising officers within large organizations…

Dave: The companies I advise - I can’t divulge clients, they are Fortune 100 and 500 companies at the officer level, and sometimes the CEO level – what’s great about that is I’m able to stay current and understand the challenges that CEOs are facing in their companies.

Phil: Dave has lived the executive life – serving in leadership roles with numerous companies including Citizens Gas & Coke Utility among others. And to start off, our podcast -- Dave walks us through a typical day for a CEO.

(Alarm Clock Sounds)

Dave: When you get up in the morning, a lot of people probably think that CEOs just reads the Wall Street Journal and [then] they’re ready for the day – not the case at all, nothing could be further from the truth.

Dave: Their day starts generally 7:30/8, and you’re going to 5:30/6, and many times a business dinner after that.                       

(Traffic sounds in background)

Dave: Most CEOs will start their day at 9 o’clock at night - that sounds absurd, right? What I mean by that is the Asian markets are going to be opening in the next hour – that’s how global CEOs start thinking about their day. If you’re a domestic CEO, the Asian markets are going to open and close, and then you have Europe opening, and then the U.S. opens at 9:30 [am] – you have to think about [that], even if you’re just a domestic CEO, how that’s going to impact your organization’s opening price and your stock - it’s a different way to think about things.

Phil: And one of the biggest challenges that a CEO faces on a daily basis is the unexpected that always finds a way to pop up.

Dave: There are constant interruptions, although you do have a planned schedule, it’s generally very tight – it can range from meeting an employee who just did something extraordinary for the company, meeting a board member for lunch, or it could be a crisis that’s occurred in the company - somewhere around the globe – that is a distraction because that wasn’t on your schedule!

Shane: So you can see already – a CEO has so many things to look at and consider… Especially for these really large organizations, you have to pay attention to what’s happening in Asia where the day is just starting while yours is ending.

Phil: And not only that but you’ve also got the political climate within the U.S. and internationally to consider and watch daily. For example, if you have a trade partner on the other side of the globe, and there’s hostility there politically, that could hit your product supply, which delays deliveries, and ultimately, hits your bottom line. So how do CEOs deal with what seems to be overwhelming stress at times? Dave breaks down the traits a good CEO needs to have.

Dave: Well you know, I had Jeff Smulyan, CEO and Founder of Emmis Communications in the classroom just this fall, and students asked him that very question, and I thought he gave a very thoughtful response: He talks about having grit and having to keep grinding out every single day, regardless of what Wall Street’s saying about your earnings, regardless of whether you have employees talking about going on strike – all those activities are happening in a given day, and you’ve got to keep grinding it out.

Phil: Have grit! Like any job, you’re going to have good days and bad days – but the decisions you make can impact the entire organization and all the individuals inside it. You’ve got to know that, but you can’t let it weigh on you and cause you to make a bad decision…

Shane: Here’s tip number two from Dave.

Dave: I think it’s critically important. Communication has always been important in companies and in years past, it was pretty innovative in the 90’s to do town hall meetings - you would get your employees together and the CEO would give a state of [address] and field questions. That was a big step change for organizational culture to hear the CEO talking candidly about the company and fielding frontline questions. Now, we’ve moved to Twitter, Facebook, and all kinds of communication channels. You have one extreme, our President, Trump, tweets constantly, we haven’t seen that before and used in the manner that he’s using for influence, gathering support, and stating his position; then we have Jeff Bezos, who thinks that small snippets of information that has some meaningful content about the company and where it’s going are the way to communicate. There’s no right or wrong way, a lot of the technology-based environments is based on your own style, belief, how you want to communicate and what makes sense, but at the end of the day, I think you also have to be face-to-face with people, certainly at different intervals. If a company is going through a crisis, you need to be out in front, talking and helping people understand what the issues are, and that’s probably an area that many CEOs don’t do very well.

Phil: Be transparent, approachable, share the mission, but also share the challenges with those in the company. Many organizations are moving away from the top-down approach, and are being much more strategic and open about how they communicate with the members of the organization. And as Dave has shared with us, it’s those CEOs who earn the trust of their employees, and ultimately, can help the organization thrive.

Shane: That was awesome – and I really like this idea of still communicating face-to-face with those in the organization, especially with how much we now communicate online where we lose a little bit of that connection of face to face communication.

(The ROI Podcast music)

Shane: That’s going to do it for this episode of The ROI Podcast. We want to thank Dave Steele for being on the show and giving us his insights on the CEO life. We’re going to be talking manufacturing next week with Gregg Sherrill – Executive chairman of Tenneco. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave The ROI Podcast a review on iTunes. Keep up with everything we’re doing! And we’ll talk to all of you next week here on The ROI Podcast!

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