October 19, 2007
Coffee By The Pound
This week I was at an engaging dinner in Belgium with my colleagues and distinguished guests. In addition to discussing how the reputation landscape is radically changing, we found ourselves talking about preparing CEO-elects for the media. One gentleman told the story about a brand new CEO who was asked by a broadcast journalist “How much does a pound of coffee cost today?” The new CEO stammered. The question could just as well have been: “How much does a quart of milk cost today?” The story is a good reminder of how the slightest slip up can smudge a new CEO’s reputation. The episode made me think of another new CEO who was asked on announcement day who had been most influential in their success. Unfortunately the new CEO did not mention the outgoing CEO who happened to be sharing the podium with him. One of those embarrassing moments that we all wish we could rewind and “do over.” Oftentimes CEOs are prepared to answer all those many questions on growth, balance sheets, share price and strategy. Little do they think that some media might ask them about their favorite book, movie or grade school teacher. Since new CEOs are often asked the oddest questions, here are a few that CEOs should be prepared to answer:
What word best describes you?
What’s the secret of your success?
What’s your motto?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What has been your greatest personal achievement?
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over the years?
- Who would you like to take to lunch, and why?