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A CEO’s Confession

  • Mike Kaeding

Mike Kaeding

2 min read
A CEO’s Confession

Not every day can be perfect.

Today, I screwed up.

I wish I hadn’t.

But I did.

We had an interesting story about an employee in our company. Some news media outlets reached out to us wanting to share the story with the world. I was so excited that I immediately said:

Yes, let’s do it!

Did you catch the mistake?

If you didn’t, don’t worry I didn’t notice it either. But it will soon be painfully evident.

The reporter called the employee to get the employee’s perspective on the story. The interview went well, and we were scheduled to have the press out in a couple of days.

Then I got a call.

One of my managers called me and said, “Mike the employee doesn’t want to do the story.” I had totally missed it. In my quest to get this really interesting story out there I forgot to think about the person who matter the most: the employee.

This was the biggest press coverage we had ever received. And I was so close. I so desperately wanted to be selfish and push the story at the employee’s expense. I wish I didn’t feel that way, but I did. Luckily, I have great staff around me who reminded me what was the right thing to do.

So, I called off the story.

It was so hard to do, but…

It was the right thing to do.

Employees don’t serve their managers. Instead managers serve their employees. My failure reinforced three principles of what great leaders do.

Principle 1

Great leaders put the needs of their employees above their own.

This is where I failed the most in this story. I was so caught up in getting this incredible media coverage that I forgot about the employee. Our company’s passion is to create a better way for people to live. Media coverage may come or not. But I need to make sure I’m treating our employees well and putting their needs first.

Principle 2

Great leaders encourage their employees to tell the leader when the leader is wrong.

I’m more often wrong than I care to admit. In fact, it feels like I screw something up every single day. But do you know what has saved me time and time again? My employees. They are so good at telling me when I’m wrong. I’m thankful for that because otherwise we wouldn’t be the company we are today.

Principle 3

Great leaders listen to their employees and then correct course.

It’s not enough to have employees who are willing to speak up. The leader has got to be willing to listen. And I mean really listen. The leader needs to listen with the intent to change and improve. It’s pointless to have great employees around me if I’m not willing to change. Leaders must be willing to listen and change.

I’ve learned long ago that I’m not the smartest, fastest, or wisest person around. But if I can be humble enough to let the people who are tell me what we need to do, then we can make a real difference.

Thank you to Jacquie, David, Marie, Alyssa, and others for holding me accountable to be better.