This habit got a lot of push-back last month. Readers complained: “Wasn’t Steve Jobs obsessed with his company’s image? He did ok, didn’t he?” But, like the other habits, this one is all about balance. The research clearly shows it’s not wrong to be obsessive about your company’s image (as Jobs was) but it is if you do that at the expense of paying attention to the actual operating performance of the company (as Jobs clearly didn’t).???
If you’re a CEO craving PR coverage and not focusing enough on running your business, you’re breaking this habit.
Habit #6: They underestimate obstacles
If you are constantly under-estimating obstacles about to knock-off your company from its perch atop of a market, it’s only a matter of time before that catches up to you. You’ve got to be confident enough to work hard to be successful in any business, but the research shows that ex-Intel (INTC) CEO Andy Grove was right when he said that “only the paranoid survive.”
You’ve got to keep a healthy sense of paranoia as a CEO. That’s what keeps you on your toes and in touch with the markets needs. Brushing off potential threats is usually a sign of a big blind spot for your company.
Apple has been one of the most disruptive companies in the world in the last 5 years. The iPhone wasn’t available 5 years ago and it now accounts for over half of Apple’s revenues and some believe over 70% of its profits.
Apple has left a trail of mobile phone company CEOs’ bodies in its wake, including those from Nokia (NOK), Palm, and RIM.
Steve Ballmer is still the CEO of Microsoft and the company has been doing well of late. At the time of this writing, its stock is at a 52 week high. However, Ballmer will probably go down in history for the CEO who most under-estimated the potential of iPhone because of this one TV interview:
Windows Mobile Phones were completely killed off in a few short years and now Microsoft is just coming back to market with its totally rethought mobile phone software based on what the market came to expect from iPhone.
To be fair to Ballmer, listen to this reaction from RIM’s Jim Balsillie about what he thought of the iPhone in June 2007:
Balsillie also brushed off concerns that RIM will face strong competition from the iPhone from here on in. Apple is launching the iPhone with only one carrier, AT&T, in one country while RIM is all over the world on dozens of providers.
“I’ve said before they did us a great favour because they drove attention to the converged appliance space,” he said. “The attention to it has quite frankly been overwhelmingly positive for our business.”
It didn’t work out that way.
Habit #7: They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past
Here is another habit which elicited strong reader reaction after the last post. Isn’t it a good thing for CEOs to do the things that have previously made them successful in the past? After all, if someone’s a good sales person, what’s wrong with continuing to sell as you’ve always done in the past?
The research did find that most CEOs has one or two defining moments in their career path prior to them be selected to become CEO. These successes might have been developing a winning product, cutting costs in order to turn around a problem division, or entering some new geography.
However, being a CEO is a very complex job compared to preceding jobs in a career path. If you’ve been a financial person all your career, you need to learn about Sales and Marketing. If you come from a Marketing background and become a CEO of a technology or financial firm, you have to ensure you deeply understand the other sides of that business.
By Eric Jackson (excerpts)
Posted in: Executive