Finding The Courage to Confront Your CEO
Confrontation is never easy. Especially, when you’re face-to-face with your CEO. But there may come a time when they need to be confronted. The basis for the confrontation may be poor decisions or bad behaviors. Whatever the root cause, you, as a leader, should keep three things in mind.
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Be Prepared for Pushback: When you really get to the core of it, why wouldn’t you make the strongest argument possible with as much conviction and enthusiasm behind it. It’s your chance to deliver your message with a level of insistence that there be change. You may need to share that you will not relent. If the issues are egregious enough or potentially catastrophic, you may even seek to arrest the attention of the Board of Directors and work to ultimately change the mind of the C.E.O.
Reaction is normal and pushback happens, but despite initial obstacles, you would have opened the door that perhaps no one had dared open before. That’s a huge win. It means your CEO is listening. While they may not be ready to make a change, they are absorbing what you have to say.
Once the truth is shared, they may feel affronted or ashamed of this revelation. This may lead to heightened emotions and perhaps, the exchange of harsh words. But raw emotions may mean you uncovered something they’re afraid of. Fear is at the root of all angry words. Give them a moment to rein in their temper then press on with your request.
Be Poised and Professional: At what point does a leader decide that they must speak up? Not rudely. Not disrespectfully. Rather with clarity, courage, and with conviction. When the time comes, schedule a meeting where you can hold a private conversation away from team members and others who could interrupt or overhear. Then practice your presentation and work on containing your own reactions. Unnecessary words and emotional outbursts will serve to derail any confrontation, cloud decision making, and negatively impact your professional reputation. Instead focus on the facts and enter the confrontation as a leader who is there to serve and support while invoking positive change.
Once you have the full attention of your CEO, very specifically, layout whatever it is that you need and want. Entering a confrontation is the proactive beginning of a negotiation. Explore what outcomes you want and need. And how the CEO can also benefit from these changes should be outlined in your talking points.
Be Strong in Your Convictions: Be clear about what needs to change, whether it’s resources, decisions, strategies, or behaviors that interfere with the proper functioning and performance of the team. It's those matters that will ultimately result in negative effects on the organization’s bottom line. Allowing them to continue will only implode the culture and in time, lead to devastating loss in performance, people, and profits. This logic, when shared, may be the catalyst to change their mind.
You may find that confrontation is received with an open mind. Bringing to light needed changes could present an opportunity for growing a stronger working relationship while shepherding required adjustments. Confrontation may be a win-win for you and your leader. Not only will you invoke positive change but you're likely to earn the respect of your team and CEO.
Renwick Brutus' career has spanned roles as research economist, investment advisor, entrepreneur and consultant. He holds an MBA from Fordham University and has been recognized for his outstanding achievement in sales and business leadership. Today, Renwick applies his unique blend of business strategy and interpersonal skills to help individuals prosper and companies grow. He is actively engaged as an entrepreneur, advisor and executive coach to business leaders. Contact him by email and LinkedIn .