Every CEO needs a counterweight

gigcmo
10/05/2022
With great power comes great responsibility, so goes the saying, but it also tends to come with an awful lot of yes men/women. Whether you're the CEO of a large conglomerate or the founder of a flourishing scale-up, everyone needs someone they can rely upon to give an honest opinion about the matters of the day. In short, every CEO needs a counterweight. 

The power of a different perspective

In his popular blog, Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business, recently wrote:
 
"Everyone needs counterweights. Indeed, the more weight you carry, the more you need others to balance you. Some of the most valuable advice I get isn't about what to do, but what not to do. I've done so many dumb things in my life. But a number of 15-car-pile-ups have been averted because someone said, 'Hey, maybe … don't.'"
 
It sounds obvious, but the path to success is paved with many a business that faltered, sometimes fatally, due to a lack of perspective. 
 
Take, for example, Pepsi's advertising faux pas featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad showed the Keeping Up with the Kardashians star bringing an angry protest to a peaceful resolution by handing a cop a Pepsi.  
 
The principle was apparently to show that love and understanding solve all problems. In 2017's heated political climate, however, against the backdrop of some controversial decisions on behalf of the Trump administration, it was seen as a slap in the face to all those marching for highly charged causes.
 
On the other hand, as Galloway says:
 
"At Amazon, Jeff Bezos was obsessed with information flow and decision-making, and he expressly took actions he didn't personally believe in when he did believe in the team — he called it "disagree and commit." Bezos understood that Amazon's success was due in part to his genius but not entirely — that he functioned best when he trusted his team."
 
Read why all great business leaders have a mentor

Why CEOs are lonely at the top

Galloway says: "With great success comes great power — the power to stop listening. Which often results in a fall from grace and loss of power."
 
It isn't always that the CEO/founder stops listening; however, it's often that over time, and as a company grows, they become removed from the coalface of the company, and people interact with them differently.
 
This isn't usually the result of some caricature stereotype of a megalomaniac boss, drunk on power and unable to consider anyone else's opinion. It usually comes from one of a few places: 
  • Team members want to support their boss's decision.
  • Team members don't feel that it's their place to contradict their boss.
  • The boss is further away from the business's daily operations and is disconnected from the customer.
  • Other team members are unable to have a clear perspective because they are inside the company.
  • People within the team/stakeholders tend to see things from the perspective of their function rather than taking a holistic view of the company.

It's often said that it's lonely at the top, but there is a way around that. Call it a mentor, a non-executive director, an advisor, or Jiminy Cricket - in business as in life, having trusted partners to tell you when 'the emperor has no clothes, is game-changing. 

What makes a good CEO advisor? 

Most people within an organisation cannot get a clear perspective on ideas as they pertain to the wider market in which you operate. Having this perspective will help you make decisions that help buffer against industry disruptors and keep your customers at the heart of your strategic business objectives. However, an experienced external advisor also brings something else - a lack of personal agenda.
 
At gigCMO, our Fractional CMOs are at the top of their game - they don't have the ego that requires them to get the credit for a good idea, and they know that it's better to add value than to simply add more to the conversation. They have also been in your shoes - at the top of an organisation, not sure who will give them honest advice.
 
We're not an agency, so we're not trying to sell you a solution. We're not a consultancy that's just trying to bill you for a number of hours. We're priced in a way that's clear about our time commitment, so when we're with you, we're always giving our best advice on how to proceed. We're not 'yes' people, but neither are we inclined to diminish an idea because it isn't ours.
 
We offer our best advice based on our (global) experience - that's at the heart of our programme, whether you're using our CMO Whisperer, Talent on Demand, or CEO Whisperer services. It doesn't mean you have to follow our advice, but it does mean you can make your decisions based on two sides.
 
Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote: 
 
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." 
 
The good news is that you don't have to hold the two opposing ideas all by yourself - we will supply at least one (where relevant) for you.