CEO Best Practices – Part 2

Updated: Mar 16, 2018

Original publication, Network Magazine Fall 2016 Issue of Network Magazine

In the Spring 2016 issue, I shared the first 5 of 10 best practices for CEOs that I have discovered by coaching CEOs and company leaders on business strategy, corporate culture and leadership over the last 15 years. All of the 70 small to mid-market organizations in over 40 industries that I have worked with are either privately owned businesses or non-profits. So my learned perspective is defined by the CEO/leader that in most cases has tremendous autonomy.

As a reminder, here is the list of the first 5 from part I of this series:

  1. Have a good partner

  2. Become aware

  3. Hire well

  4. Find leaders

  5. Focused execution

The second 5 is like the first in that there is no particular order. It is difficult to make a clear distinction on which is most important because the dynamics of every organization are so different and complicated depending on the leadership structure or lack thereof, company culture, size, industry, mission, ownership, family involvement, etc. Because of these factors, each client engagement is truly a customized approach to gain the most success for each organization. So here is the second list:  

6. Good Communication

Organizations rarely communicate effectively and often enough. Corporate communication is more critical then leaders realize. In the world of sports, botched plays are typically a result of miscommunication. Teams win because they have an internal communication strategy. Organizations are no different – they need one as well. In the process of implementing employee engagement studies, in almost every case, this is one of the most challenged corporate culture areas. Good communication does not happen accidentally, but from a measured strategic approach.

7. Marketing Matters

Unfortunately, in most organizations marketing is a haphazard practice. It should be on the list of an organization’s critical strategic initiatives, but that lack of it impedes growth. Marketing defines an organization’s ideal customer and then establishes a multi-pronged strategy for connecting them to their products and services.  Marketing is the epitome of delayed gratification. If you do it well and be patient, it will pay off in the end. Marketing is a long distance race.

8. Develop Executors

Organizational leaders need to surround themselves with “company-minded executors.” They are recognized by both their results and their character. These employees are the company’s greatest asset. Your best chance to win is to give them the ball as often as possible. When you recognize an executor, help them grow as fast as possible. They will be your A players and they want to carry the ball. If they do not get enough opportunities, you may find retaining them to be difficult.

9. People Before Profits

Profits are the means by which you take care of people. That does not mean people are exempt from being sacrificed for the sake of profits. However, organizations that practice an unhealthy appetite for profits will erode their culture and eventually their profits. Unfortunately, many organizations come up short on their risk tolerance and make decisions that end up impacting morale and hurting the long term bottom line.

10. Teams Win

Organizations do not win because they have good players; they win because they have good teams. It is imperative to build a corporate culture that feels like a team. This takes time, energy, and persistence but will pay real dividends. In the age where millennials are quickly overtaking the workforce in huge numbers, investing in team-oriented culture is becoming a key factor for staying competitive and winning.

David Olson is the President of Walton Consulting, Inc., founded in 2001, and coaches CEOs on business strategy, corporate culture and leadership. Learn more at


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