3 High-Level Communication Tips for CEOs and Business Owners

ceo and business owner communication

CEOs and business owner must possess a wide range of talents to lead their organizations. Being able to communicate clearly and across a spectrum of audiences might be one of the most important to cultivate.

Unfortunately, in the hectic rush of daily operations and other “putting out fires” activities, honing one’s communications skills sometimes gets overlooked. This can lead to internal confusion, cultural dysfunction and other undesirable business outcomes.

To build and maintain your abilities to clearly communicate, keep these high-level tips in mind:

Know your audience. In the course of a day or week, CEOs come in contact with different teams of employees, different departments, customers, and other key stakeholders. Don’t make the mistake of adopting a “one-message-fits-all” approach.

Always be mindful of adjusting your language, depending on the audience you’re addressing. Avoid specialised jargon that no one in a particular audience can understand. This doesn’t mean talking down to people, only that communication gets hindered when the speaker fails to use wording that’s coherent and understandable to the people being addressed.

Take time to rehearse important speaking engagementsCEOs often speak before groups of employees and/or fellow CEOs or at industry events. Regardless of how strong a public speaker you consider yourself, it never hurts to rehearse your speech (or informal remarks) in front of the mirror or before a small, select audience, like your spouse, perhaps.

Practice what you intend to say, then rehearse how you’re going to say it. Pay close attention to the speed with which you talk, the cadence of your voice and the ways in which your body language either reinforces your message or distracts from it. Yes, rehearsing and observing your speech patterns takes time and effort, but your various audiences will greatly appreciate better understanding what you have to tell them—and your leadership efforts will benefit, as well.

Speaking of public speaking, you can enhance your efforts through these venues:

  • Quarterly town hall meetings. Schedule events at which all or most of your employees can attend. Share as much as you reasonably can about the state of business operations—recent triumphs, setbacks, opportunities to come, etc. Leave time for an employee Q&A afterwards and prepare yourself, as much as possible, to be thorough and honest in your responses.
  • Weekly status email updates. Consider sending a concise weekly message to employees throughout the company. The message can reference important ongoing initiatives or simply be a short statement of gratitude. Let people become accustomed to hearing from you on a regular basis.
  • Explore industry-related or trade show speaking opportunities. As owner or CEO, you’re the “face” of your company’s brand. Making clear, articulate presentations to audiences beyond your office walls helps build brand awareness and can lead to prospective client opportunities as well. As your experience grows, you’ll be invited to public events of greater dimension and significance, bolstering your communications skills while also enhancing the quality of your brand.

Work on your one-on-one skills. Some CEOs are more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation, while others avoid it at all costs. Not surprisingly, the need for “difficult conversations” (with clients, executives, etc.) comes up from time to time. Take such opportunities to strengthen your ability to handle conflict, discuss solutions to nagging issues and being as transparent as possible about what needs to be done in a given situation.

Becoming more adept at high-level communications will make any owner or CEO a more effective leader. People want to hear what you have to say. Saying it clearly, the right way, can inspire and motivate them to new heights of performance.

Want to learn more about the power of communications? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Effectively Lead the Follower’s Needs

I have learned from Ken Blanchard that, when we lead people, we need to match our style to the needs of the follower. If they need a great deal of support and not much direction, we are supportive. If they need a lot of direction and not just support, we are directive. If we delegate to these individuals or, worse, to the people who need both support and direction, we are not going to be effective. Delegate to the people who are highly competent and have a high commitment.


Are You An Entrepreneur?

Sometimes a Person Defines the Term

The word “entrepreneur” might get tossed around, but it doesn’t fit everyone. According to an article from Business Insider, some words used to describe an entrepreneur would include: Passionate. Resilient. Self-Possessed. Decisive. Fearless. Financially-Prepared. Flexible. Able to Sell. Neither Business Insider nor I can necessarily define for you if you are indeed an entrepreneur, but what I can do is share what I see as the makings of one.

I know an individual who once saw his child playing a centuries-old game, Tic Tac Toe.  In that snapshot, he imagined a different way of playing it. He has since then taken that glimpse of what could be and obsessively worked on ideas that could turn what is a relatively boring and unstrategic game, but yet a major part of the world’s game playing experience, into a promising – and may I even say brilliant – game app. It’s even a new board game which I not only play on a regular basis but so do many people with whom I have shared it.

There are thousands of stories just like this one, right? Countless apps for countless mobile devices causing countless ripples in the pond of innovation. But I didn’t share this example to send you off to try to develop a mobile app.

The point of my example is it could have been anything. But not just any person can see what this entrepreneur saw and then imagine an entirely new take on it.

If you’re still asking what I see as the qualities of an entrepreneur, I’d say it goes far beyond simple imagination and effort. An entrepreneur has the capacity for vision, willingness, and desire. An entrepreneur pushes forward not knowing if their idea will succeed or not, but they sure can see the success in their mind. An entrepreneur might not even know she is being an entrepreneur… all she knows is the drive to see an idea through, and the satisfaction to see it succeed (if it does).

I don’t know if you specifically are an entrepreneur. What I do know is this individual’s  idea for a new mobile app has become a brilliant game. Kudos to you, Mr. Appleblatt. You’ve got my attention.

So what do you think now: Are you an entrepreneur?


6 Personality Traits that Make a Successful CEO

6 Personality Traits

Wherever you fall on the scale, here are six personality traits that virtually all successful CEOs display in their careers:

1. Passion.

Being a CEO or business leader is among the most challenging and demanding job titles out there. Some say the most successful leaders are born with the “right” skills and personality traits. Others contend a strong-willed, ambitious individual who wants to succeed can learn and acquire the necessary attributes for success. Call it “drive” or “a thirst for success,” but it’s hard to think of any effective business leader who doesn’t display a clear-cut passion for his or her work. Passion keeps you focused on getting things done, rather than finding excuses not to act. Passion means aiming at an objective and attaining it and then moving beyond.

2. Quick and bold decision-making. Top-performing CEOs aren’t daunted by the fact that they have to make critical decisions on a daily basis. They become adept at sizing up a situation, analysing the pros and cons, and deciding on a course of action to keep the business moving forward.

“Clear decision making also sets off a positive chain reaction,” notes business writer Will Yakowicz. “When a leader makes a clear decision it inspires confidence across the company, sets priorities and decreases the chance of competing goals getting in the way.”

3. Refusal to make excuses. Effective business leaders understand making excuses is a waste of time and energy. If things go wrong, they accept responsibility and look for ways to learn from the situation. This also means they’re unafraid of failure. Without taking risks, change and innovation simply aren’t possible.

4. Willingness to learn everything about the business and industry. While it’s not necessary to be an “expert” in all facets of the company, successful business leaders possess more than a passing knowledge of every department and operation. This not only helps when it comes to making key decisions, but it leads to a dynamic, all-encompassing vision of growth that integrates different functions into a cohesive whole.

5. Outstanding communications skills. Great CEOs know how to communicate their message without getting lost in company jargon or by puffing up their own egos. They understand the need to be absolutely clear when addressing various stakeholders—and how to frame their message so different audiences (investors, employees, customers, vendors, and so on) “get” what’s being said and know what to do with that information. They know how to inspire and motivate—essential qualities of leadership, regardless of your business or industry.

6. Unafraid to get in the trenches. Effective CEOs refuse to hide away in their executive suites. As much as their schedules permit, they take every opportunity to work (or at least observe) their teams in action. It’s the only way to get first-hand knowledge of what’s happening on the company’s frontline.

These business leaders “are right there” with employees, “balancing the priorities and inspiring their team to help win the next opportunity,” says Jeanne M. Sullivan at VentureBeat. “They are quick to sort out mistakes in a ‘blameless autopsy’ so that success may be achieved the next time.”



84% of Entrepreneurs Are Working Overtime, Here’s Why

According to The Alternative Board’s most recent Small Business Pulse Productivity Survey, 84% of business owners are working over 40 hours per week, and 1 in every 10 feels continuously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Considering the majority of entrepreneurs don’t just get into business for the money, but also for the lifestyle, freedom, and flexibility, these numbers suggest that most business owners are not getting what they want out of their businesses.

So how can business owners better manage their productivity for improved work-life balance?

The first step is identifying time-wasting habits and then replacing them with proven time management practices. Fortunately, TAB’s May 2017 survey illuminated a lot of these productivity-sabotaging habits and found a few key solutions for how business owners can reclaim their time. 


1.  The average business owner spends 10+ hours a week in their inbox.
When asked about the breakdown of their day, business owners reported spending the most time on email – 25% of their time, in fact. That’s 5% more time than the surveyed entrepreneurs report spending on in-person meetings (20%) and customer service (15.7%) – two primary functions of business leadership.Considering these numbers, it’s not surprising that the surveyed business owners agree the best strategy for improving their productivity is scheduling finite time to answer email.According to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, three times a day is the sweet spot for checking your email. Use that scheduled time to delete anything unnecessary and respond to what needs to be responded to.Resist the urge to respond to emails as they arrive. “Switching between tasks requires realignment of attention and emotions, which can be taxing on the mind,” writes Samantha Murphy Kelley (@HeySamantha).If you fail to resist the urge to instantly respond to every message, you’ll be giving into the very dangerous “tyranny of the urgent” and wasting your time on day-to-day fires, rather than long-term strategy. Take it from time management expert Steve Davies, CEO of The Alternative Board Nassau: “It is essential to keep your priority items to a minimum. If everything is important, nothing is important and if you have too many top priorities there is a very real danger that none of them will get done.”

2.  If you’re going to spend 53% of your time on meetings, you better make them productive.
The average business owner spends 20% of their time on in-person meetings and 13% on phone/video conference calls — that’s nearly 55% of their workweek. While meetings are a critical function of business leadership, only 4% of the entrepreneurs surveyed believe their meetings are 100% productive.“Meetings are a necessary evil,” writes Bob Pothier (@Bob_Pothier), Director of Partners in Leadership. “How you manage your meetings says a lot about how you’re managing your organisation.”In order to stay productive and lose as little time as possible Pothier suggests starting every meeting on time, having an agenda, starting with a “culture moment” (i.e. telling a story or giving recognition), and ending the meeting with a “who’s-going-to-do-what-by-when” list.

3.  You can blame it on a hundred other things, but at the end of the day, your productivity boils down to your time management.
Business owners cite poor time management as the #1 productivity killer for their business (35%) — above poor communication (25%), personal problems (18%) and technology distractions (16%).Fortunately, the survey offered some tips for better managing your time. For example, the large majority of entrepreneurs (81%) feel most productive in the morning, with 87% opting to get the most important tasks out of the way first.“First thing in the morning your mind is clear, the office is quiet, and you haven’t gotten pulled into six different directions — yet,” writes Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani), author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of com“It’s your one opportunity to prioritise the thing that matters to you most before your phone starts ringing and your email inbox starts dinging. By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment before 10 AM.”

4.  64% of entrepreneurs believe they could be delegating more responsibility.
39% of the business owners surveyed reported that paperwork is the #1 waste of their time, followed by manual labour (37%). If you are doing either of these tasks, there’s a good chance you are working below your pay grade and not delegating properly.“The biggest obstacle to successful delegation is the persistent urge to not delegate anything at all — or ever,” writes business consultant Larry Alton(@LarryAlton3). “Sometimes, it’s a point of pride for a boss to retain as much work as possible, but more often, it’s created from the mentality that your workers wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that they wouldn’t get it done the right way.Learn to overcome your fear of delegation, and you’ll feel an enormous sense of relief once you let go of the menial tasks that are preventing you from long-term planning and exploring development opportunities and keeping you glued to your desk chair day in and day out.

Work-life balance is not a mythical notion, but a very real possibility for entrepreneurs who are willing to devote a little extra time to planning and prioritising. Keep an eye out for the little things — like email, meetings, procrastination and those silly little administrative tasks — that add up to leech your hours away — hours that you could be spending with your family and friends.

If you’re among the 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurs that feel constantly overwhelmed by work, you may want to take a look at your time management practices. Its a common business challenge that our members tell their TAB Strategic Business Coach when the get started with TAB.  Getting an outside perspective is often the best way to start. The Alternative Board provides you with the unique opportunity to meet regularly with a board of fellow peer business owners who can help you overcome challenges, such as overworking and poor time management. To take advantage of TAB’s peer advisory model, find a local board and get in touch.