Even CEOs can change!

Dear Geese,

In last week’s blog (360-evaluation gone bad!), you showed what NOT to do around the feedback process. If I may, I’d like to counter with a story about an effective use of feedback involving our CEO.


A couple weeks ago the senior management team had one of our worst meetings ever. The CEO, who is supposed to be running the meeting, seemed disjointed and preoccupied with his computer (not an unusual occurrence) and the rest of the team was not much better. At one point the tension over an issue got so bad that we had to take a break to cool down; but things only got worse. By the end of the meeting even the CEO lost his cool and began yelling and calling people out. Needless to say, whatever dysfunction we had as a team before the meeting clearly tripled by the end, thanks in part to the CEO.

During the next few days a lot of frustration was being expressed throughout the rank and file and much of the venting landed on the senior vice president’s desk. Although the primary problem was with the CEO, many felt the senior vice president needed to be the one to confront him about his behavior at the last meeting. Fortunately for us, she agreed and went straight into the CEOs office for a closed-door meeting that lasted well over two hours. When she finally came out, all she would say is that we’d all have an opportunity to express our concerns at the next meeting.

I think of all the options available at that moment, “having it out” at the next meeting was probably not the one most of us were looking for. The CEO in particular has never been known to ask for feedback and, as a result, none of us have either. We simply don’t do feedback at this company.

Fast forward to the next meeting.

With layers of tension engulfing the room, the much-awaited meeting began with the senior vice president talking about the importance of feedback and how it’s time for a culture-shift at our company around how we communication with each other. Just then the CEO stood up and said, “And it needs to begin with me!” He then proceeded to apologize for his behavior at the last meeting and took full responsibility for allowing the meeting to get out of hand. 

We all looked at each other in amazement, having never seen such candor and honesty before from him.

He then looked around the table and asked each of us, one by one, to give him feedback on areas where he could improve.

Now I don’t know about you Geese, but it’s times like these where body language and tone of voice are so important…and I found him to be relaxed, smiling, and as genuine as I’ve ever seen the man…and the feedback flowed as a result.

By the end, the whole group just sat there in silence, stunned over what just taken place. The new paradigm of open communication had begun, creating an aura in the room of love, compassion, and caring—and not just for the CEO but for each other as well. Finally, and for the first time ever, a real team was born that day!

-Ariel from DC

Dear Ariel,

Thanks for the amazing story. I have nothing to add other than admiration!


Greg “Geese” Giesen

The Laughing Leader



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Category : Leadership

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About the Author: Greg Giesen

The Laughing Leader

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