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A meeting of minds: CEOs and networking

4 min read


I’ve been a CEO 10 times. I can’t say that I know all the keys to success, but I have a lot of experiences with what CEOs need and more importantly, their greatest fears. For it’s these fears that single out the CEO from other roles in business.

When things are going great, it’s the CEO who is often singled out as the hero. Much in the same way we often spotlight quarterbacks on winning teams as MVPs. When things go awry, the CEO is also the one who gets the blame. It’s the fear of being blamed for failure of their business that motivates and stresses-out most CEOs.

Today’s business is filled with a level of uncertainty that none of our training could have prepared us for. Business from the 50s through the 90s was relatively predicable. If you followed a set of practices in your business you had a high probability of success. No more!

CEOs are faced with issues from the impact of a government shutdown to difficulty in acquiring capital to technology that strain their company’s competitive ability. Leadership skills that worked in the past are no longer viable.

Most people in business, when faced with challenges, have a network of co-workers and managers they can consult with. This is not the case for the CEO. They are the one with the final accountability and they are reluctant to talk with those with whom the work the closet. CEOs, for the most part, don’t feel comfortable in talking about their biggest concerns with their colleagues or board members.

This is why there has been a rise in networks for CEOs, such as The CEO Network, which I co-founded. These networks provide leaders with a community of peers to talk over their problems and get feedback that is unbiased and from someone who knows. In these networks, CEOs have a chance not only to deal with problems but brainstorm new ideas. They can gleam the wisdom of their colleagues, who have tackled the new areas of business they are considering. Their participation in CEO networks becomes a clear competitive advantage.

The small number of CEOs that actually take advantage of these existing networks fascinates me. Of the approximate 7.5 million CEOs in the U.S. less than 5% belong to CEO organizations. Why?

It’s hard to break old habits. As CEOs, we hunker down and take on the worry of our business success. Many of us were taught as children that we need to “buck up and get on with it” when things are difficult. This background has many CEOs feeling reluctant to talk about their worries with others.

If you are reading this blog and are a CEO, I have three questions for you to consider:

  1. Do you find yourself facing business problems that you don’t have good answers for?
  2. Do you find that the way you are running your business is not working the way you want?
  3. Do you feel that your team is not performing at its best?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, find the closest CEO organization and become a member. They’re easy to find by making a simple Internet search. Give them a call and find out how you can get involved. All that’s needed is for you to step out of your comfort zone and you’ll receive immediate benefit.

Thomas White is a co-founder and the CEO of The CEO Network, a company designed to enable thought leaders, CEOs and other professionals to maximize the potential of peer networks and social media to expand their audience, increase revenue and grow their personal and business brands. Connect with The CEO Network or with White on Twitter.