#053 How to become a CEO with Brenda Bence

#053 How to become a CEO with Brenda Bence

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Sharad Lal: Hi, everyone. Welcome to how to live. A podcast that explores ways to live a good life. I'm your host Sharad Lal. This is episode 53. How do we make it to CEO? And how do we succeed as a CEO? That's the focus of today's conversation we have with Brenda Bence, a top ranked executive coach member of the professional speaker hall of fame. And an award-winning author.

With offices in the U S and Asia, Brenda has coached thousands, senior leaders from 60 nationalities across 70 industries. She scored CEOs and board chairs of companies listed in the New York stock exchange, NASDAQ, LSE, and the Hong Kong stock exchange. Brenda has consistently been ranked a top 10 coach by various surveys. She holds an MBA from the Harvard business school and has been featured in fortune NBC financial times and more.

In our chat, Brenda and I are going to break down how you can make the big leap to CEO. We'll talk about when you should start planning, how to prepare what CEOs really do And how not to just survive the tribe as a CEO. Trust me, Brenda has some very clear insights, a great sense of humour and many interesting stories to share. You won't want to miss this conversation. 

But before getting to our chat, I want to give a big shout out to all of you for your incredible support. A podcast has reached folks in over one 20 countries. And we are honoured to be in the top 5% worldwide. If you haven't already please hit that subscribe button. And if you're feeling extra generous, Please give us that rating. Your support means the world to us Now let's dive into our conversation with brenda ben's

Sharad Lal: Hi, Brenda. Good afternoon. How are you doing this afternoon in

Brenda Bence: I am doing fantastic, Sharad. Thank you. It's great to connect with you.

Sharad Lal: Thank you for that. Great to have you in the how to live podcast and congratulations, Brenda, on all the good work you're doing. I know you work with the C suite. Marshall Goldsmith is a friend as well as a, as someone you've learned a lot from, and we all admire him in the executive coaching community.

And one of the books that he wrote was what got you here will not necessarily take you there. And I think that's So relevant when you talk about the C suite and CEOs. So making that leap from senior management to the C suite, what is the big shift that's needed to be able to become a CEO, to make it to the C suite?

Taking the leap from senior management to C-suite

Brenda Bence: There's so much involved in the process of getting into that C suite. And I think people often overlook it. They think it's going to be just like any other shift they've had in their career. What worked for us in the past in a particular job, it just isn't going to work for us anymore.

Some of our pretty obvious ones, like You stop being an expert. And you move towards leading experts, you have to lead the experts, not be an expert. That's part of one of the hardest things about being a CEO.

And that's not something that we often teach people within an organisation of how to do that. So that's one example for sure. And another big shift that happens, I think a lot is that you have to ask yourself.

What's my job as a CEO? Now that may sound obvious, right? But actually you have to pay attention to what it is that only I can do as a CEO. Don't be a doer. You have to stop being a doer and move into more of a thinker, more of a visionary,where we're going to go. What's the strategy?

Making sure you have the right people around you, that type of thing. I use a number of different models. We can walk through some of them if you want. But one is what I call the 4D model. Might be interesting to run through that with, as now, if you're interested in that.

Sharad Lal: Yeah, do that.

Brenda Bence: Let's say that you're... going to be the CEO or you are the CEO and something comes in that someone proposes to do and they think this is going To be a really good thing to do for the organisation. The first D is delete. Meaning we're not going to do this. It's not strategically correct.

It's going to take too many resources. It's not the right thing to do. And that's a tough call many times, is to say we are not going to do that. That's delete.

Now if you do decide you're going to do it, then you move to the second D, which is do. Now it comes in different forms. This is one of the questions I love to ask a CEO. What is it that you specifically do? Because I'm not much of a doer anymore, right? if it's something we are going to do strategically, then who's going to do it? Is there a function that's going to lead to this? Is there a right hand person that's going to do this? Is this the right thing for a particular individual to do because they will develop in it?

Or is it really something I and only I can do? It's fun to ask senior c suite leaders. So what is it that only you can do?

What can only you do and you have to be really tough on that because if only if it's only you can do it fine You do it, but otherwise you have to do the third D Which is delegate we delegate strategically Don't just delegate because the nearest person is here and can do it and think strategically Who's the right person to delegate that to?

Who is, because it's going to develop them, because they already know how to do it and we're short on time crunch. Whatever it might be, but you have to think about it strategically. It's too easy to just follow up, follow the same people over again. And then the fourth part is around what I call delay and delay is very dangerous because delay is a mind suck if we're not careful because we say, you know what, okay, we're not going to do it right now, but we're going to do it in three months time.

Okay, we won't do it now, but we'll do it in six months time. And what ends up happening is it takes mind share. It's constantly in the back of our mind and we're thinking, oh, do I need to? Oh yeah, I know we're going to do that. We're going to do that in three months.

It's still taking up mind share. And so what if I always say if something's been on the delay list for a while, you go back to the beginning and you delete. Those are those four D's that I think everyONE can really benefit from. It's just foundational, but really key.

Sharad Lal: The first D is delete, and it's more like the CEOs have to say no to more things. So then the choices are very strategic. And I also found the first point that you said, very interesting, where you may have got here being the smartest guy in the room, but you do not need to be the smartest guy in the room when you're the CEO. Or if you are, you need to fill the room with smart people. So how do you make that shift ? I'm not the smartest guy, I'm supporting people, but I want to get the right guys.

How to make the mind shift to hire the best people?

Brenda Bence: You have to recognize that, what does success look like? let's say they're the CEO of a 10, 000 person organisation or a hundred thousand person organisation. I always look them right in the eye and with all the love of my heart, I say, this isn't about you.

Real success is going to come from the other 99, 999 people. Getting them on board with your vision of where you think this organisation can go and making sure those 99, 999 people are the best that you can bring in the best capabilities that you can possibly bring in. The number one thing is that there's research that came out not too long ago.

McKenzie, we were talking about 90 percent of all CEOs regret not making tough decisions on people within the first year of their life. Tenure, we hold on to people when we could really aim for better people. And that's the number one thing I encourage CEOs to look at when they inherit, inherit teams or they've been peers with people and now they're suddenly their boss.

I always say, cut fire quickly, hire slowly.

Sharad Lal: You have to get your right team in place because time is limited. Before you know it, it's a year away. Maybe that leads us to what are the first hundred days? Like you become a new CEO.

What do those look like? What are the kinds of things you need to do to make, to set yourself up for?

First 100 days as a CEO

Brenda Bence: Yeah. The first thing I would say is the whole a hundred days thing, I actually think that's a bit of a fallacy. I'm not a big fan of that because all you're doing is putting more pressure on someone who already is feeling plenty of pressure, right? It's a pressure-filled job. They don't really need anymore.

Hey, you got to deliver in 100 days. The truth is, research shows that about 18 months in is when the board will know whether they made the right decision for a CEO or not. It takes about that time. I just was working with Silicon Valley, c e o the other day, he's been in the job about three months and he was feeling this a hundred day pressure, a hundred day pressure, and I said, okay, calm down.

listen, listen, listen, listen, listen. What's going on throughout the whole organisation that you may not hear because you're going to be filtered.

Right? That happens the higher up you get, the more you get filtered. So what's happening down in those lower levels of the organisation where the real action is taking place, right? Where the clients are being served, where the actual value is being created, right? This is where you spend some time first getting to know it from an objective perspective, like a curiously objective perspective.

It's not the time for telling so many CEOs that their first thing is going to tell them what they're doing wrong and how I can help them fix things and that is just not what people that's pushing. People don't want that. People don't want to be pushed. Who likes to be pushed?

We want to be pulled. We want to be pulled and we want to be pulled in a way that's exciting and you can see the potential of it. I also believe in managing up very quickly. Get to know the board, get to know your group CEO, wherever kind of CEO situation you're in, whether it's a large organisation with a G CEO that manages all the CEOs or whether it's a CEO job where, publicly listed company reporting directly to the board, go up, get to know those people individually, because too often we think that they're judging us as CEOs that we're busy being judged.

And so we don't, we want to put the perfect spin on everything. And the truth is they're just there to help you. They made it. The most important decision a board can make is who's, who are we going to hire for the CEO? They want to know they made the right decision. So you go up and you talk to them and you share with them some of the things you're seeing.

You share with them what your concerns or initial impressions are. It's okay, right? They don't have that lens through which to look, and they really appreciate that when you can be open and honest and talk and share what you're seeing and what you're thinking.

They're there for a reason, they're there to help you and they probably have some industry knowledge they can give you some perspective on as well. So leverage up, make sure that you go down into the organisation, you really understand what's going on. And then thirdly, honestly,

You need to do a vision overhaul first and then a strategy. The vision is what? What are we trying to achieve? The strategy is the how. And too many times we jump into the show because we're really comfortable. We've been doing the how for years, right?

Sometimes decades. And so we have to get really comfortable with redefining the what. What does success really look like? What does that vision look like? and then the fourth thing I would say is, don't go too fast. I know I said you need to fire people quickly. Yes, that's true.

Here's a typical scenario that I often see. Because, let's be honest, People who are CEOs are hungry, right? They're ambitious. They've gotten there for the most part because they really wanted to be there.

For them it is the future and that's what they've been given this job for, right? And they've earned this job to do that. And so they jump into a boat and they say, come on everybody! Get in here with us. We're going to go. And this person takes off across the water at breakneck speed in this boat, just excited and focused on their vision straight ahead.

Gets about halfway across the water, turns around and realises everybody's still back on the beach. They're putting their toe in the water to see if it's even worth getting in. You can't go quickly. You've got to get everybody in the boat with you. And that's why I say that's what I jokingly say, that's why they call it leadership. You've got to get all the people into the boat with you. That is the foundation. So even if it goes slower than you're comfortable with, by nature, The slower you bring people onto that vision, the more they're going to be bought into it, the more they're bought into it, the more those 99, 999 people are going to be all focused in the same direction.

And that's when you can actually go fast.

Sharad Lal: How many people are in the boat where they're not necessarily CEOs yet, but they're. Somewhere looking to become CEOs and C suite, what's the stage in your career that you should start seriously thinking about it and how do you prepare for it?

At what stage in your career should you start thinking about being a CEO?

Brenda Bence: It's important to remember that not all people... Our C suite material and not all people who end up in the C suite actually plan for it. So many clients I coach didn't necessarily set out to be in the C suite, but they focused on doing a great job.

They kept getting more and more responsibility and steadily they kept climbing the ladder and climbing the ladder. Just recently, a woman I've been coaching for a while suddenly says, If they want to offer me a c suite post Okay, that makes sense. You've worked really hard on this, but it's not so sometimes it's not always planned. Sometimes the best planning to do is simply do a terrific job. Just do a great job.

Now others do plan. I've got two people I've coached right now, one for eight years and one for ten years, all of them that I haven't been coaching that long But they've been planning years to be the CEO. That is their dream. That's their vision. And part of that is the work that we do together is to help them get ready for that.

And the other time, sometimes you're part of a long term succession plan. Like one company I worked with had an eight year CEO succession plan. They had eight different candidates in the running and one coaching client had planned for, during that time to get there.

the things I would say to share it as first You want to lead yourself? Now that sounds obvious, but I was just reminded of this recently. The other day I was talking with someone who works directly for the CEO of a 400, 000 person organisation.

And they were remarking how this CEO always without exception shows up on time to every meeting. Now think about that person who must be torn in a hundred different directions. But, and the person who was struggling with time management that I was working with said, you know what? It inspired me because of that person, that CEO can show up on time for meetings.

Then so can I, so it takes good self leadership. So get your self leadership down first, right?

And then secondly, as you can well imagine, It's part of those DS that lead others. Practice delegation. And there's two different types of delegation models. One I call, which is I'll see you at the finish line. We're at point a, we went to get to point B.

Here's what point B looks like, tastes like, feels like it looks, et cetera, et cetera. How are we going to get there? Good luck. I'll see you at the finish line. I know I'm going to delegate to you this too, because I know you can do that. And that's what about choosing the right people for the team who can manage that.

So that's one. And then the second one is really about, I call it metered with milestones. We're at point A. We want to get a point B. Here's what B looks like, tastes like, feels like, et cetera. Let's work our way towards that with regular milestone meetings just to make sure we're on track. And that works for people who are not really sure what they're doing.

Maybe it's a new project that hasn't been done before. So lead yourself well, lead others well. And another thing that's really important at the senior levels of big corporations, Sharon, is this. Manage up and across as well as you manage down. We often throughout our careers focus on managing down because we think that's where the value is going to be created with our teams who are doing this work.

But the truth is, the higher up you go, the more it's about managing across to your peers and up to superiors. And think about it. Those are going to be the people who are going to make the decisions about who's going to be the next CEO or C suite leader that you're aiming for. Are you getting enough airtime with the highest levels of the organisation?

Are you getting exposure with the board? Are you working on major projects where you can get visibility? All of this is really key as you think about working your way through an organisation. Let's talk about peers. Now peers are interesting. The higher up you get, too many leaders see peers as competition.

My peers in my competition, I better elbow them, right? And push them out of the way and prove that I'm better than them. I worked with a CEO, recently had this exact issue when he got to the CEO, he's in the C suite and he, that's one of the things people are calling him out for, he's too competitive with his peers.

And I, it took a little bit of reminding him that. Eventually, those peers are going to be one of two things. They're either going to be your boss, or it's going to be your direct report. So if you've had a combative, competitive relationship with them, how is that going to turn out, right? So really building relationships at those higher levels is so key.

We tend to focus more on tasks, getting things done so we can show that we've achieved, but actually at the higher ends. The relationships are what's foundationally important.

As people who come to me and they say, I'm ready for the C suite, I really want to get to that space. So here's, I think, one of the most important things we can do. It's a skills assessment, Sharon. If you're really aiming for the C suite, I encourage you to find out what I call the 10 Traits List.

So what are those? It could be 10, 5, 7, whatever, but the top 10 traits that organisation, that c e o, that company wants in a C-suite role is what they want in A C E O. You must find out. And then you do an assessment, you do a self-assessment and maybe ask your boss or ask someone else to give you their own assessment of how you do on those traits.

Where are you the strongest on those 10? Where are you the weakest? What should a plan be to develop those? lower ranked traits. And that gives you something to aim for. It gives you a clear direction that you want to focus on and say, okay, if this is what it takes to get to the top, these are the areas where I will work on the most.

And it sounds so elementary, but you cannot believe how few people ever do this. And so when I work with corporations doing their succession planning, this is exactly what I do.

We must stay on top of that, but at least be clear on what those lists of traits are so that you can at least set your North Star towards achieving those areas of excellence.

Sharad Lal: That makes so much sense, Brenda. And like I said, many people won't even think of asking. These lists exist.

Brenda Bence: Some companies don't know. When I often ask that question, what are the top 10 traits? It takes the CEO or the board for a little bit of a ride. They're like let's get back to, we'll get back to

Sharad Lal: But that gets them in the process. If you were to ask them, " Oh, we better get this in order. I loved your point that it becomes equally important to manage sideways and upwards and build those relationships.

And what struck me quite often was a belief that some people have that I am just managing optics? Am I just playing politics? Some people are not sure how to do that as they're moving up the organisation. So how should they, and quite often this can get a bad rap as well. How can people look at this part of the job and do it in an authentic way?

Do you have to use politics to go up your organisation's ladder?

Brenda Bence: First of all, at the base of all politics and using that word, a lot of people say to me, how do I manage these office politics? What's at the heart of all office politics? Sharon, I think it's relationships. It's relationships. So I always tell the people right up front, start investing in relationships.

And I don't mean relationships to get the work done. Relationships get to know people on a personal level. And the reason I think that is just so important is because people want to help people they like.

We really are at the base of ourselves just trying to support each other and do something right for the organisation if you really get down to it. So start to build relationships very early on in your career.

You know, It's so easy to get caught up in tasks, but it's really about building relationships from a very early age. I'll give another example.

When an ex ceo walks in or X C suite exactly walks in and says, Oh, my gosh, I just got sacked. I just lost my job. My number one question. How's your network? How's your network? So we really have to pay attention to relationships over a balance of tasks and I like your words about authenticity. Too many times we don't stop and think about values. What's really important to us?

I think of it as a foundation to building a house. So if you've got your values at the base of the house, you're going to build a strong house because you're going to be true to those values. And we know when we're not being true to those values because it doesn't feel good.

Just doesn't feel good. It's like our radar. If we don't feel good about something, we probably know we've gotten off track with our values. So just do the inside work to help us get clear on those types of things. I think that's important as well.

Sharad Lal: You also touched very interestingly on leadership, as you get senior, leadership gets a lot more complicated. What's the stage where you figure out your leadership style?

And is there just one style, or you have multiple styles, or how do you think of this whole thing of leadership as you move up the organisation?

Where do you figure out your leadership style?

Brenda Bence: I have four styles I'm going to share with you.

I call them the ABCDs of leadership styles, Sharon. So I'll take you through each of these. And as we go through, just for fun, you can do this yourself. And people listening can do this too. Ask, what you're going to do is you're going to rank them from number one used down to number four used, okay?

Which one do you use most? Second, third, and fourth. And this is something I do with my coaching clients. So let's get started. A stands for autocratic. So autocratic style is when you tell someone what to do without getting input from them first. You just tell someone to do it. And by the way, this isn't necessarily bad.

I was coaching an emergency room physician once And we did the assessment and I talked about autocracy and he started laughing. He said Brenda if I'm not autocratic people will die. Okay, I get it. I get it, right? Sometimes autocratic is perfectly appropriate. Okay, when there's a crisis autocratic can help too.

Alright, so autocratic B stands for bureaucratic Now, it sounds negative and I always am cautious using that word because people have a negative kind of feeling about it, but bureaucratic simply means there's a process, a system, a structure that's put in place that people can follow and that will help you achieve your goals.

Bureaucratic. More process oriented can be very helpful in organisations that are highly regulated, like banking and insurance, for example. And then C stands for charismatic. When you use your personal charisma, your enthusiasm, your excitement towards helping people get excited towards a goal, right?

That charisma that you have and get people pumped and jazzed. And this can be very helpful in times when say a company has just been taken over. And there's a lot of fear in the organisation. If you have a charismatic leader that can lead you forward and help you see the good things and what's happening.

That's the kind of thing where it can be very helpful. And then D stands for Democrat where you only make decisions after asking other people what they think and taking into consideration their points of view. Which, by the way, can be very helpful. For example if a CEO just got promoted and their former peers are now their direct reports, that's when democratic style can be very helpful.

Yeah. So there's autocratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, and democratic. And I encourage listeners or yourself to think about, okay, what's the most used, the second most used, third and the fourth. And then the second part of that, that I ask people to do is say, okay, now we're going to add them up.

To a hundred percent. What percentage of your style is that number one style? What percentage is that second, that third, and the fourth? And it has to add up to a hundred percent. But then more importantly, I tell them, keep those answers, stick them off to the side for you. Now go ask your team what they think.

And it might be very different. It might be very similar, but you get at least an understanding of your self awareness of your leadership styles and the awareness of your Team that you're leading and others how they see it.

Sharad Lal: As you were saying, I was also trying to put my numbers out there and

Brenda Bence: And how'd you do? How'd you do Sharad?

Sharad Lal: I've got a larger share of autocracy and I was a little ashamed, but I'm happy you mentioned to the surgeon that all these styles exist and they may be needed for different things.

And I, like a CEO, run a small shop. It's okay to have that. What I found interesting in these styles is that we can have all four styles. As you evolve as a leader, is it important to build expertise in all styles so you can bring up whichever style is important to an environment?

Brenda Bence: Absolutely, and it's situational leadership, isn't it? Like I said, if you're a surgeon in an emergency room and someone's dying, you're gonna do what's autocratic. Step, put the blood in now, do this, do that. That's perfectly normal. Not only normal, but it's required. And again in any kind of leadership position, you have to pause and say what kind of leadership style is right, correct, right now.

And sometimes that will change with individuals. I often will ask a team member. So which style do you like in a boss? Which style is going to speak most to you? And which one's going to motivate you the most, right? And you'd be surprised, you talk about being autocratic in certain parts of the world. People actually like that in a boss. Just tell me what to do boss.

Now, I will argue that they won't grow very much when they do that. That's a choice they make. Sometimes you just have to learn to adapt to the situation, the person, the industry. Industry has an impact too in terms of how we, how, which of those styles we use. 

Sharad Lal: Now, Brenda, other things as we move up, there may be certain things that have got us here in terms of our strengths. Can they sometimes start becoming blind spots? Can they sometimes come in the way of us moving forward? And how do we assess?

How to assess blind spots?

Brenda Bence: Absolutely, any strength taken to an extreme becomes a development area. I'll give you an example. I have an assessment that I have clients do, and they'll come out with this list of traits, and they'll say, these are your attributes. This is typically what describes you. And I'll ask them to circle the ones that they say, yes, that's absolutely right.

That does describe me. And I'll say, okay. Pick out the top two or three that you say, those are the ones that are absolutely me. And they might say detailed, or they might say social. Or they might say they are friendly. I'm making these up, okay? And I'll say, okay, great. So Those are your strengths. Those are the ones that probably people will remember you and call you out for all the time. Now here's the thing. I want you to take the word T O 2 and put it in front of those words. to detail. What's the downside of being too detailed? Oh, yeah, I don't see the big picture enough.

I don't spend enough time on strategy, right? Okay. What's the impact of that? Or how about socialising? What's the downside of that? I probably spent too much time connecting. I don't get enough done. Whatever it might be, any strength taken to an extreme becomes a development area. And so we just have to find balance.

And so it's really the self awareness that, Oh, there I am again, I'm being too detailed. Oh, there I am again, being too social, whatever. So it really drives home the importance of self awareness in the coaching process.

Sharad Lal: And there may be some people out there, Brenda, who are wondering that, Hey, should I be actually going for the C suite? Should I be trying to become a CEO? What is life as a CEO? How do you assess that? Make that assessment, whether this is something you want to do from a choice standpoint, from a skill standpoint. How do you do?

Do I want to become a CEO?

Brenda Bence: Yeah. I think you have to ask yourself for what reason do I want to? Too many times it just sounds like something, Oh, I want to be a CEO. I want to be a CEO. you have to ask yourself because is it the title, the power of the fancy cars, the corporate jets? I'm not saying those things aren't nice, by the way just saying, is that the intention behind it?

Is it the external or is it to prove to your high school or college buddies that you turned out better than they expected or you know We have all these inside ideas of why we want to do what we want to do But you have to really ask yourself which of my brains is driving this. We have three brains, right?

One is our head brain, which is a thinking brain. We make decisions through facts, logic, rationale, data, graphs, looking at past experience, etc. Is that what's driving this?

If you're thinking about things like the car and the corporate jet and the corner office that's up here. Yeah, or is it something related to our heart and brain? There's a centre of the nucleus located in our heart. And is this a feeling thing? I want the feeling of being a CEO. Now, be careful because I always say the heart brain is a fickle mistress.

It can take you into fear or it can take you into a place of Satisfaction, joy, right? But the third brain is the one I encourage CEOs to use the most. And that's the centre of the nucleus located in our intestines. What we call the gut, right? When we say we listen to our gut, right? So are you really doing this because you're feeling gut inspiration?

So what I've just laid out to you... Is there a difference between motivation and inspiration? So motivation comes from outside. It's like the carrot dangling on the end of a stick, right? I get the car, I get the big title. I get the corporate jet and all that. That's motivation outside of us.

But inspiration, It's from inside of us, and that's where the gut plays a very important role. When you think about getting to that CEO position, ask yourself honestly, what's this about?

What's this really about? Because the direction you take, whether it's motivation or inspiration, whether it's outside or inside, will really shape the journey that you will have as a CEO. And from either fear, frustration, angst, anxiety, disgust to a place of joy and peace. And this is fun. This is what I, this, my whole life has been driving me to this.

It feels so good. Those are the differences And not everyone wants to be a CEO. I think it's really important to remember this. Some people want to run the division or be a CFO or a CMO or CIO. So they should get clarity on what success really looks like because some folks.

Love being number two in an organisation or they love being on the executive committee, but not to be in the CEO chair.

Sharad Lal: Such a good point, Brenda, most of us have spent our life looking externally at milestones and just keep going up. And this is the next one to go after. at these positions the price is so much, it takes so much out of you that unless there's a motivation from inside. there may be burnout you may not be fulfilled by the end of it.

So it's important to have that connection inside. How do we create that connection inside? Because in the corporate world, we're always running and going.

Brenda Bence: It's a great question. And there can be no outer change without inner change. Self awareness, I can't say enough about it. Nothing will change unless we become self aware.

And that often, not always, but often requires someone on the outside to help you see it. Because we just can't see ourselves the way others can. We don't have eyes looking inward.The other thing is we don't give ourselves enough thinking time.

Enough reflection time. Enough still mind time. Remember that guy we talked about? You asked me how do you access that in the day? Here's the thing. That gut has been running since the day you were born.

We just shut it off. When we're kids, we're... We're fully in that. That's why kids can go up and be just so joyful because they're just in that gut. They're listening to their gut, but then we teach them not to.

We teach them that's not right. Societal norms, media tells us what to do, social media tells us what to do, etc. It starts to change things. Our schools tell us what's right, what's wrong. And so we start packing other stuff on top of it to the point where it's just not as noticeable anymore, but it's always there.

It has always been running there. So it's really a conscious choice to pause and tune in and listen. Because when you do and trust me, I have coached so many CEOs to listen to that internal gut and, oh, they're the most successful by far of all the CEOs I've worked with because they're letting that gut sense, that intuitive self sense of what is right.

Sharad Lal: Thanks, Brenda. We've spoken about so many interesting topics. I was wondering, is there anything that we missed out on that we should talk about?

Brenda Bence: One of the things about being a CEO is that a couple of things shift at that high end, and it relates to your brand as a CEO, how you are coming through

So people are perceiving, thinking and feeling about you right now. Is it the perception that you want? All I have to do is say, Elon Musk, and I can guarantee you there's feelings coming through, no matter what they are, right? Whether it's the end of an organisation, you have more visibility. And what happens is you have more stakeholders. You have your direct reports, you have your board, your leaders moving up, you've got journalists, you've got regulators, you've got the government, you've got all these areas that a lot of people never had to.

to manage before. Press, journalists, you've got all these people that you've never had to think about probably before. So the way you manage your brand at that level becomes even more crystal clear, or important. And, let's be honest, when you're at that level, you're living in a fishbowl. Everybody's looking.

Everybody's watching. So the other day a CEO had just made an off remark to a few people said, what if we explored X, Y, Z, and suddenly like 10 people are off in the distance exploring X, Y, Z, all that resources being focused on that, it's like, Whoa, I always say, a CEO sneezes and the whole company catches a cold.

Now, how do you get to know how people perceive and feel about you? First of all, you want to take control of it.

You need to define how you want your brand to be. You need to define it. you take charge of it and make sure it's... The brand you want to build for yourself.

Second, it has to be consistent with your values. Don't try to be something you're not. That just turns out badly. It doesn't work. Then how you communicate it. First of all, our actions. These are our visibly observed behaviours. I remember I was called in to work with the CEO in Hong Kong and he was complaining that he said, Brenda, my team is just not engaged. I need your help to fix that. So I went to observe and watch, see what was going on, shadowed and watched.

And he was sitting at his desk, his office, and about a group of three people came in and sat down. And he looked up and he pulled out a sign and put it on his desk and it said, be brief, be bright, be gone. I think I know where the engagement challenge is from. I'm not sure, but maybe not them.

How do you react? Do you yell? Do you pound your fist? Do you become an introvert? Suddenly shut everyone else off? How do you react? Do you react physically? Do you, does your face get flushed? Do you get sweaty palms?

Do you wear your heart on your face? And you can tell when someone's, you can tell that the CEO is upset. You got it. Because when you do this, you're actually teaching people in the organisation how to respond to bad situations. Because we learn from our leaders how to behave.

So you're suddenly not just yourself reacting. You're teaching a whole generation of people. This is how you react when things go badly in an organisation. The way you look is important, are you dressed the part? Do you look in, but a lot of people think that's personal branding or leadership branding.

We do judge people from head to toe the minute we meet them, right? It's just a human function and it takes about three to seven seconds. So it's very quick. And then the way you sound, how you sound, the weight, what you say, how you say it.

And by the way, this, these days. Is more prevalent than ever in texting and we put on social media and things like that. Where we put social media. That's our written sound. And so we have to be really cautious. I was just on the line before this conversation with someone who's dealing with a CEO who needs to manage their social media account because they're not managing it very well.

So you really have to start there first. a place of senior leadership where you are responsible for people's careers and lives and a company. And, do you take that with a sense of possibility and joy, or are you taking it with the fear of what might go wrong?

Sharad Lal: Thank you, Brenda. That's such a comprehensive list. as you were speaking, I was wondering, this is applicable to people across positions. Of course, a lot more to the CEO, because the impact can be a lot higher, but it's such a good list as we think about our personal brand. So as we wrap up, Brenda, my last question to you would be bottom line.

What would be the advice that you would give folks who are interested in becoming C suite or CEO as the one piece of advice you'd like to leave them.

Advice for a future CEO

Brenda Bence: I'm a rule breaker. I'll do two. But the first one I would say is vision. I was working with one, a person who I've known for 10 years and literally envisioned, created a vision of what it was going to be like to be the CEO of the organisation. That person just became the CEO of the organisation.

So don't underestimate the power of visioning. Visioning is important. Imagine what it's like to be in that place. Get excited by it, feel into it because it really does make a big difference and then just make sure that you are looking at that list of trades that you need to improve upon every single year.

Come back and look at it again year after year, a month after month. How did I make progress in that area where I wanted to improve? How could I demonstrate? And I've got the skill that 's important for where I want to be. And it's not rocket science. It's about being methodical and disciplined and thoughtful about where you want to be and how you want to get there and make it fun.

Make it fun. The best leaders are those that are having a great time. They're just enjoying it, yeah, of course there's challenges, but they're having a really good time. That's what I wish for all leaders.

Sharad Lal: Thank you, Brenda. Thank you very much for your wisdom, inspiration, and your time, Brenda. This is going to be so useful to so many people who are at the stage where they're thinking about, should I go for it? What does it take? It's such an insightful conversation for them. Thank you very much.

Brenda Bence: You're so welcome. Great to connect with you, Sharad..

Sharad Lal: Thank you, Brenda, for such a clear, inspirational conversation. For more on Brenda, we'll drop a link in the show notes. Here's an action step. All of us could consider if you're thinking of becoming a CEO. Why don't you check with your organisation on the list of competencies they look for in a CEO.

If you don't have one, you can get them to start the process to create one. Out of those competencies, what do you possess? And which ones need to be developed? What's a good way to get these? Let's get a plan in place. Best of luck in your journey. That's it for today's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. We will be back with another episode two weeks from now on November 7th. Hope you join us for that. Till next time, have a wonderful day ahead. Bye bye.