On Executive Management: The Best Advice You’re Not Taking



Wise men don’t need advice.  Fools won’t take it.

~ Benjamin Franklin

Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As a CEO or top executive, have you ever had a board member, investor or advisor suggest you need to boost sales in order to scale as quickly as planned?  How about, “your first priority as an executive is profitability”? Did the thought cross your mind in response, “thank you Captain Obvious!”?  I’m fairly confident most executives have had this experience. I know I have.

I recently read a good commentary in Inc. magazine by Eric Paley, an entrepreneur and a managing partner of Founder Collective, a seed stage venture capital fund discussing this topic.  In the article Mr. Paley points out that most CEOs often receive obvious business advice.  He believes that it’s rare that a CEO will get a suggestion they haven’t considered.  In fact, he predicts the advice is probably already being implemented at some level.  Then why do these smart people even suggest it when it is so obvious and basic?

“No matter how obvious these suggestions may seem, take a minute to really consider the earnestness of your efforts” Mr. Paley suggests.  “When it comes to operational issues, your [company] often succeeds or fails in accordance with the degree to which [it] embraces these seemingly obvious ideas or suggestions.  The advice may not seem earth shattering, but very often it is the successful companies that embrace that advice and put forward a serious effort in following it…..The advice typically reflects the investor’s concern about the scale of your efforts.”

Mr. Paley points to Zappos as an illustration.  Zappos’ formula for success is obvious – putting the customer first and offering delightful customer service.  “The difference between Zappos and most other companies is one of magnitude.  Zappos manages to put the customer first and offer delightful service at a completely different level than almost everyone else,” Mr. Paley concludes.

That’s the key takeaway for today.  Although you may be getting obvious advice from many places, take a moment to consider the degree you are embracing it.  At what level are you actually following through on that advice?  Is it just a checkmark on your list of CEO tasks or is it the focus of what you do?  To differentiate yourself and become great, you will need to execute at the Zappos level of obvious.

Mr. Paley closes with a great quote, “just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”  I completely agree.  I encourage you to think about the obvious advice you have been receiving.  What more can you do to raise your game?  Check out the complete article by Mr. Paley here.

Choose greatness.


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