CEOs Who Ask Questions

April 05, 2011

CEOs Who Ask Questions

I am always fond of CEOs who ask questions of interviewers. Here is an example I just read about the CEO of IKEA Mikael Ohlsson. There was a CEO who I admired who used to always ask people what their impressions were of the company he led. What better way to learn about the reputation of your company.  Of course, for CEOs, those first 100 days are the best time to ask questions because you are not expected to know the answers to everything. Only on day 101 of a CEO transition! I try to ask as many people as I can about the reputation of Weber Shandwick where I work. I find that I broaden my perspective and get ideas on what we can do to communicate our story better. It is easy to live in a bubble today because we spend so much time at computers and absorbing information that we can easily lose that all important outside-in perspective.

At the end the Financial Times interview, Ohlsson asks, “I have two questions that I always ask in any interview.” Quoted below is the exchange between Ohlsson and interviewer:

The first resembles a box in a customer satisfaction survey: What can we do better at Ikea? I am tempted to complain about the paper-thin wine glasses that crack when you wash them. Instead, I ask why it has been necessary for Ikea to shroud itself in mystery for so long. Mr Ohlsson assures that he plans to ring the changes soon. He sees no reason why his company should not disclose more so long as the long-term vision of the Stichting Ingka Foundation remains intact. “We need to be much more transparent,” he says. “We need to simplify and inform more about figures and structure.”

The second question is more personal. What is your advice to me when doing interviews? I say: “Relax, be yourself and choose who you want to talk to”.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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