Are you a new CEO, or ready to be a more powerful one?

Here are two essential relationship skills every new or game-changing executive must master.

1. Secure acceptance from the executive team

Acceptance from the executive team is crucial to every CEO. The top CEO mistakes here are:

How do we prevent them? It’s a question of “inquiry vs. advocacy.” Ask tons of questions-focus on five inquiries (questions) per advocacy (order given). The executive team must see from the start that you won’t support a culture of order takers. Rather, you support a culture of leadership, which you create via inquiry. Ask your executive team members individually (or get outside help to for others):

  • What frustrates you the most? Have you tried to change this? If so, what happened?
  • What motivates you the most? What motivates your team the most?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and have the culture be any way you want, what would that be like?
  • What is the company’s vision? Do you feel aligned with it? Do you think the entire exec team is aligned with it and executing toward it?
  • What are our top 3 priorities? What should they be? 

Once you’ve asked the questions, you can create a People Plan that will win the hearts and minds of your team post haste. In it you’ll need:

  • Individual Development Plans
  • Leadership Development Programs
  • Lean Training
  • Accountability Structures and Rewards/Consequences

If you’re looking for sample templates, download our Leadership and Accountability kits at

2. Secure acceptance from the team overall

Successful CEOs frequently take the pulse of their culture. Avoiding the “regular people” and only spending time with the exec team and board makes employees feel they aren’t safe and that you don’t care.

You can remedy this by having a key team member assess and engage outside help in performing a complete Cultural Assessment (see some sample questions above), and then follow it up with a People Plan to optimize your culture

Hold quarterly Town Hall meetings where a brief company update is provided, a vision for the year and quarter is reinforced, team members are celebrated, and a 20-minute educational session is provided. End with a Q&A session where anonymous questions may be submitted in advance; no topic is off limits. A culture of candor with kindness is key. Remember, your team needs to feel safety, belonging, mattering….

You can continually foster this culture by establishing a baseline to:

  • gain insights into how to grow the company in a healthy, optimal way supporting core company objectives,
  • improve and expand a unified company culture;and discover any silos or warring factions,
  • effectively motivate team members (what truly motivates them may surprise you), and
  • identify the next generation of leaders-and determine who is your best investment.

When we’re brought in to help a current or new CEO take the pulse of their culture, we’ll look at the company’s org chart. We’ll pick a sampling of 5 percent of the employee base or 15-25 people (whichever # is smaller) to interview across different departments, roles (up and down the org chart), and tenures with the company. We’ll then ask them a series of questions including:

  • What is it like to work here now?
  • What frustrates you the most?
  • What motivates you the most?
  • How do you feel about your role and responsibilities?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and have the culture be any way you want, what would that be like?
  • How would you describe the executive team’s leadership style?

Be sure to add a number of additional questions based on what you learn from the above. When we do a Cultural Assessment we gain tremendously valuable information that helps us:

  • reduce CEO direct reports by up to 50 percent,
  • increase CEO and key executive strategic/high value time by five to 15 hours per week,
  • increase annual profit per employee by up to 40 percent,
  • increase revenue and profit by up to 210 percent, and
  • increase accountability and team performance by up to 50 percent.

Whether you do it yourself or get outside help, be sure to keep your eye on the ROI bullets above. Simply interviewing the team won’t move the needle. Interviewing, assessing, creating, and executing a plan, and generating results are all crucial.

Published on: Feb 19, 2014