It was not a personal contest just to see if I could but to honestly see what makes a successful CEO tick and what their journey into their position looked like and how they operated within the position.
I think the media gives the C-Suite a bum wrap these days. You hear the letters CEO, CFO, CIO or even Vice President and you immediately think big money, corrupt leader, and doesn’t care about the average person. There are those unique cases, yes. All in all though, most C-Suite leaders are nothing of the sort. They are visionaries, thought leaders and have a unique set of leadership gifts. That is what I wanted to see. That is what I wanted to dig deeper into and learn about.
But who would I meet with? My good friend Alex who is an amazing CEO in the Healthcare sector or a set of CEO’s that are not within my comfort wheelhouse? The latter. I had to go outside my comfort zone this time.
Great news was I was able to start with one I had access to via another contact. The real challenge fell there were 6 others I wanted to meet but had little to no connection into them and they were from industries which I had never worked with. Questions came about in how I could get in front of these leaders.
Q: How would I reach them?
A: Social Media. I decided to use my strength in this and use tools I work with daily. Twitter and LinkedIn being primary.
Q: How would I position it and make it compelling enough to talk with me?
A: Very carefully. Because I was using Social Media, my interaction had to be compelling, honest and concise. Compelling and honest are the two hardest within Social Media. Concise is easy.
Results: 6 of 7 agreed to meet. Oh, the last one met me a week later. Guess you could say I went 7 for 7 but for the week, 6 of 7 was the number.
Okay, okay, okay. I know. How did I get the meetings via Twitter and LinkedIn? You have scanned the whole page just for these points. Here they are but they may shock you how easy they are and there are only three.
1) Follow the leader. No, not the kids game. Follow the person on Twitter you would like to meet with. It is very challenging to reach out to someone who you have no visible connection with. So connect. Via twitter or even better, LinkedIn. A lot of leaders follow those who follow them. LinkedIn may be a bit more challenging however I did find when I sent a connection request, all but one was granted. With LinkedIn one piece is key. Be compelling but short in your request as why to connect. Here is an example. “As a fellow Thought Driver in the Technology space, I would like to connect and open the door allowing more paths to idea sharing.” (Notice I didn’t use Thought Leader but Driver. Thought Leader is overused.)
2) Post something on Twitter or LinkedIn that drives thought for that leader and ask their opinion, and tag them. In each case, I searched out an industry specific article as asked how it impacted their business. Here is an example. “Banking using Smartphones to improve CS. https:www.feed.etcetc // @CEO thoughts? Whats the impact of XYZ?” Leaders like to discuss, learn and grow. Creating solid discussion for them opens them up to that. Plus, it now gets your name on the radar. Word of caution, don’t blast leaders with articles every day. Be mindful and show you are a Thought Driver by being very selective. Do your homework.
3) Here is the big one. Ready? ASK for a meeting. Woah, Joseph….that is heavy. When I started to do this I was surprised at how many people told me they had never met with someone in a high capacity leadership position. When I asked them “Have you asked to meet before?” I got a unanimous “No”. Well there you have it. You have to ask, to receive. Now, there are methods to asking on Social Media as something like “Hey @CEO, would you like to meet for lunch or coffee?” will look like an awkward attempt at stalking. Just like #2, the request has to be compelling enough to garner attention. Good attention. Twitter example “HC moving to staff assessment tech tools similar to Ed Assess, my specialty. @CEO would love to pick your brain on this. Coffee?” So why is this compelling? It reaches into a new avenue they are invested in and you now provide insight that they don’t have. Additionally, leaders love to meet with leaders from other industries for ideas as it changes the perspective. Asking via LinkedIn would be similar, just allows a bit more detail in the body of the message.
That is the steps. Pretty easy really. If curiosity is killing the cat on who I met with, well, not telling. I went to each and every meeting to learn. And I did. I learned an immense amount and at the same time believe I taught quite a bit as well. I will tell you this. The industries of the leaders I met with. Banking, Pro Sports, Educational Tech, Technology and Manufacturing.
Part two will take a look at what I learned in these meetings. Coming soon!