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How to Use LinkedIn As a CEO: Turning ‘Connections’ into ‘Profits’

After seeing my content on LinkedIn, a friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in 20 years connected me with a lead who trusted his recommendation and became a high-value client. Had I not made that post on LinkedIn, my company would have lost out on a $50,000 business opportunity. 

CEOs and other C-suite leaders are hesitant to put themselves out there for any number of reasons: They don’t have enough time, it’s not a priority or they don’t want to seem full of themselves. But companies that don’t activate their CEOs on LinkedIn lose revenue opportunities by failing to connect a key thought leader to their brand, meaning that they are quite literally leaving money on the table by staying silent. 

The costs are more far-reaching than just missed revenue. Let’s dive deeper: 

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Unrealized revenue and investments 

LinkedIn and the broader business context revolve around forging human connections. Instead of anonymous corporations, individuals seek meaningful interactions with real people. They desire conversations with industry leaders, the chance to relate to each other’s work or personal challenges, and a sense of belonging to a community.

CEOs often possess natural networking abilities and charisma. Consequently, they can establish a more profound emotional bond with their audience through their personal profiles, as opposed to official company pages. Research underscores this, with 93% of respondents agreeing that CEOs actively engaging on social media can cultivate stronger links with customers, employees and investors. These emotional bonds and virtual connections frequently translate into tangible outcomes, such as business transactions, attracting investors or forming other enduring relationships that pay dividends over time. 

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Poor or nonexistent brand identity

The CEO is an extension of and often the face of your company. Being active on LinkedIn can help CEOs build the credibility required to be regarded as a thought leader or subject matter expert in their industry, which is key to building a positive, transparent brand identity. A striking 91% of surveyed employees recognize social media as a potent tool for nurturing thought leadership and enhancing the credibility of C-Suite executives among various stakeholders, including the press and media.

Additionally, 75% of respondents believe that C-Suite social media engagement makes a brand seem more honest and trustworthy. Creating this kind of visibility elevates the entire brand image and can open doors to speaking engagements and media opportunities. 

On the flip side, an inactive LinkedIn profile may indicate to potential customers, investors and employees that the CEO is a mysterious figurehead in an ivory tower who isn’t concerned with interacting with his or her stakeholders. It may also give the impression that your company isn’t a forward-thinking organization that values social media marketing and regular connection with its audience. Failing to cultivate a brand identity means that your audience won’t be able to distinguish your company from your competitors. Or worse, they’ll prescribe their own perceptions of your brand. 

Isolation from important industry conversations

LinkedIn serves a greater purpose beyond aiding job seekers and salespeople seeking prospects. It’s also a place where important conversations about leadership, business, specific industries, consumer trends and the future of work are happening.

CEOs who remain inactive on LinkedIn risk being uninformed about pivotal news that could directly impact their company. Furthermore, they might find themselves excluded from vital conversations that offer insights for navigating various business, economic and political landscapes.

Neglecting to participate in these important conversations happening in the zeitgeist can be costly. A telling instance is the CEO of PagerDuty, who invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in an email announcing company layoffs. Her email attempt to link the fight for civil rights with her leadership challenges went viral and resulted in damaging backlash and media coverage. Had she paid attention to conversations happening on LinkedIn around the all-too-common phenomenon of co-opting social movements for corporate gain, this tone-deaf catastrophe could have been avoided. 

Lost opportunities to attract top talent

Posting regularly allows potential applicants to get an inside look at the company culture and who they would be working for. One of the companies I work with hired 18 people who cited the CEO’s LinkedIn posts as the reason they applied. That’s because people want to work for companies with leaders who are visible, approachable, and have clear values. A radio-silent CEO lacks the means to personally connect with potential candidates, ultimately failing to motivate top-tier talent to seek opportunities within the organization.

The power of personal connections forged by a CEO on LinkedIn cannot be understated. Opting for LinkedIn silence might not appear overtly detrimental. However, just as I hadn’t realized my friend-turned-customer was following my content, you might be unaware of who isn’t engaging with yours and the unrealized value of a missed connection. 


Justin NassiriJustin Nassiri is the Founder and CEO of Executive Presence, a full-service social media management provider for CEOs and top executives. He has served in the U.S. Navy onboard nuclear submarines, founded and sold three companies, and holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BS from the United States Naval Academy.

Co-CEOs? A look at the argument for two leaders

A recent piece in Harvard Business Review asks, “Is CEO a Two-Person Job?” I didn’t think so when I wrote this, and I still don’t.

I am impressed and appreciative of the relationship that these two leaders have developed but wouldn’t try to duplicate this arrangement unless you have an existing mind-meld, glued-at-the-hip, soulmate relationship going that can survive not only the challenges of running a business but also the challenges of marriage (currently a 50% failure rate).

The premise of this article, as you might imagine from the title, is that there is too much to do for one person to be CEO. It depends upon how the job is structured. I’ve seen CEOs of good size companies who have structured their job so that they have very few tasks to accomplish and spend a good deal of their time wandering about, deflecting blame. I’ve seen others who act like they snort cocaine in the parking garage before work and operate (usually poorly) at a feverish pace, fretting over details and trying to control everything in their sight. Neither is a good idea. With some good thought, the job of CEO can be structured like Goldilocks’ porridge; not too little, not too much.

Talented CEOs are no longer of the “command and control” variety like your father worked for. They are typically very inclusive and collaborate with their team on most big issues. One person at the top does not imply that they are the smartest person in the room. It does not imply that they alone decide on direction (e.g. vision and strategy) of the company or that they alone are the face of success and failure.

There is an exception to every rule, but have you frequently seen job-sharing work for Presidents, Prime Ministers or Monarchs? Does your city have co-mayors or co-police chiefs? How about military leaders? Does your children’s’ school have co-principles? Your favorite high-end restaurant probably has one head chef, right? Watching any football? Do you see many co-head coaches?

My list of reasons for one person with ultimate authority and accountability is part psychological but mostly pragmatic. I am also a product of my experiences and having shared a management position at one point early in my career and watched other organizations try it has given me enough empirical evidence to call bullshit when people try it. It is usually because a board (or company owners) cannot make a tough decision.

Here are some of my reasons for a single CEO:

If you have two people who own a leadership position, people are confused. At very least they have to think, “Do I go to Tom or Harry with this issue?” which slows them down. If you have someone slightly devious on staff, they know that they can appeal to both—like your kid going to Mom and Dad with a request for candy—to look for a “yes.”

If you share your CEO job, you’ll get the benefit of additional input, but you’ll also spend an inordinate amount of time coordinating with your “partner.” You can always make another buck, but you can’t make another minute. How many do you want to spend getting agreement before you do what you know is right? What happens when there is disagreement about this? Do you flip a coin?

Even with brilliant coordination, something gets dropped. “I thought that you were going to finalize that deal in Germany?!” If I am one of your board members or investors, I am not going to be happy about this!

What do you do about succession planning? If one of the CEOs gets hit by the beer truck do you fire the remaining one as she is only half of the equation?

If two CEOs is good, would three be better yet? If there are two CEOs then surely you should also have two CMOs, two CTOs, two CFOs, etc., right?

Once in a great while, the soulmate, mind-meld situation might exist in nature and perhaps a company will be better off for a short time if there are two leaders. Once in a great while you might survive a lightning strike, but that doesn’t mean you should purposefully plan golf outings in a thunderstorm.

Many U.S. CEOs remain confident despite challenging environment

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. CEOs remain confident in the growth prospects of the domestic economy and their companies and are accelerating investments in digital transformation, according to a new study by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm.

The 2020 KPMG CEO Outlook features insights from 315 CEOs at large companies globally, including 100 in the United States, who were surveyed in July and August about the business landscape over the next three years. Key findings include:

  • Forty-three percent are “more confident” in the growth prospects of the domestic economy and their company (60%) compared with the beginning of the year, while 37% said they were “more confident” in the growth prospects of the global economy.
  • Low to moderate growth is expected. Thirty-nine percent predict 2.5-5% growth, 33% expect less than 2.5% growth and 14% predict no growth.
  • Environmental/climate change risk (21%), talent risk (20%), a return to territorialism (18%), supply chain risk (15%), and cyber security risk (12%) were identified as the greatest threats to their organizations’ growth aside from global health security/pandemic risk.

“U.S. CEOs are resilient and remain optimistic as they continue to rise to meet the challenges and opportunities resulting from the pandemic and ongoing economic uncertainty,” said Paul Knopp, KPMG U.S. Chair and CEO. “They are accelerating the digital transformation of their businesses, but also see a multitude of risks apart from the pandemic—with talent risk becoming front and center in the current environment.”

Digital investments accelerating

The majority of CEOs noted the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated their digital investments and progress across numerous dimensions by at least a matter of months. These areas include:

  • The digitization of operations and the creation of a next-generation operating model (74%)
  • The creation of new digital business models and revenue streams (70%)
  • The creation of a seamless digital customer experience (73%)
  • The creation of a new workforce model, with human workers augmented by automation and artificial intelligence (66%).

CEOs cited difficulty making quick technology-related decisions (31%) and a lack of insight into future operational scenarios such as new ways of working (22%) as the greatest challenges associated with accelerating digital transformation within their organization.

As they respond to COVID-19 and prepare for the post-pandemic reality, 74% said they were prioritizing investments in new technology and digitization over developing their workforce’s skills and capabilities (26%).

Changing working world

As a result of the pandemic, CEOs see the world of work changing in numerous ways.

  • Sixty-eight percent said they will downsize their office space.
  • Seventy-six percent said they will continue to build on their use of digital collaboration and communication tools.
  • Seventy-eight percent said remote working has resulted in significant changes to company policies in order to nurture their organization’s culture.
  • Seventy-two percent said that working remotely has widened their potential talent pool.

Trust and leadership

  • Seventy-seven percent said they need to re-evaluate their corporate purpose as a result of COVID-19 to better address the needs of their stakeholders.
  • Seventy-seven percent said their communications with employees have improved during the crisis.
  • Eighty-three percent want to lock in the sustainability and climate change gains they have made as a result of the crisis.
  • Fifty-eight percent said their response to the pandemic has shifted their focus towards the social component of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) program.
  • Sixty-seven percent said they already had—or planned to—publicly declare new measures this year to combat racial discrimination against Black employees.

“As much as COVID-19 changed how people work and how organizations invest in technology, companies are re-assessing their values and purpose,” Knopp said. “CEOs also are placing a greater emphasis on employee engagement and corporate culture in this new working reality.

Organizational Effectiveness: Why are teams sometimes so painful?

I have a confession. Decades ago, in my undergraduate Psychology program, I routinely dropped classes with team projects. I found non-facilitated group exercises excruciating!

I had the same experience in graduate school. Group projects took so damn long to get going, and group members’ dysfunctional behavior (never mine, of course) drove me nuts! Funny, however, that sometimes the end product was pretty damn good!

Have you ever been on a jury? Did you want to ask the judge, “Excuse me, Your Honor. Like, did you go search for a bunch of dolts to put in this room with me just to piss me off?!” The first hour of conversation is like a group of 3-year-olds fighting over a Ghostbusters toy. Eventually, it gets sorted out, but there’s a lot of pushing, shoving and crying involved.

So, guess what I spend half my time doing as a coach? Working with CEOs on team effectiveness!

I suspect some of you have felt this way about teams, and for good reason. You can’t get off to a good start without working on the team itself before diving into the content. It’s like teaching someone to fly by putting them in an aircraft and telling them to give it a shot. If they live, they may become an ace flyer, but the chances aren’t good. Some instruction and orientation will speed the process and reduce the death rate.

To have a shot at success, a team has a finite number of requirements, first of which is knowing what success looks like! What’s the objective?

But before that, you must identify whether you have a team or a work group. Is it (to paraphrase Patrick Lencioni) a relatively small group with common objectives, rewards and responsibilities? If so, you might have a team.

In the business environment, having no skilled leader or facilitator is a surefire way to waste time and increase your failure rate. Talking about the objective(s), agreeing on responsibilities and rules of engagement, and getting to know one another seem ponderous, but I guarantee that this allows for faster and better results.

I don’t coach undergraduates; I coach CEOs. At this point, the game is real, and you can’t just “drop the class.” You can, however, work on the team before you work on the business, and you’ll be in better shape and get a better grade.

CEOs: You’ll never hear the truth again

“When you make general or admiral in the military, they say: ‘Congratulations, general. You’ll never eat poorly again. And you’ll never hear the truth again.’ Well, that’s the last thing you can put up with, even in routine times.”
—James Mattis, former secretary of defense and Marine general, McKinsey interview

At 18,000 feet, you have half as much oxygen as you do at sea level. Pilots must either be in a pressurized aircraft or use supplemental oxygen above 14,000 feet; if they don’t, they’ll seem like they’ve had a pitcher of margaritas. Gaining altitude — whether in an aircraft, the military or a business — requires more diligence, different skills and supplemental oxygen.

In an aircraft, supplemental oxygen involves putting on a mask connected to an oxygen tank.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations require it — if you don’t do it, you won’t recognize when you pass from a reasonably intelligent pilot to a moron piloting an expensive piece of metal. You’ll probably die and take others with you.

In an organization, truth is the oxygen you need to avoid becoming a moron, and it requires special procedures to obtain. This problem is insidious, because it creeps up on you as you climb the organization’s ladder; it isn’t a switch that flips.

The more authority (really, power) you have, the more people want to please you. Even good-intentioned people. They’ll avoid upsetting you (in part because you control their paycheck), and they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. This may be because you’re a scary leader (on the extreme end, a narcissistic leader who surrounds himself or herself with sycophants — can you think of one?), but it also may be because they respect and enjoy you. Maybe you had a big brother whom you admired when you were young. Do you remember doing things to please him?

I’ve seen this happen to very good people. A CEO title and a big salary are only part of the problem. Some of them are wonderful people, but when you’re breathing thin air for a long time, you forget what reality is. It might look like a sense of entitlement to most, but I know that it’s a result of not hearing the truth.

There’s a vaccine for this, and you can recover from the disorder, but both require a bit of suffering. You must find a truth-talker, ask the right questions, shut up and listen.

You may never have to eat poorly again, but if you don’t find the truth, you’ll eventually become a moron running a doomed organization.

Is coronavirus actually aiding decision making?

OK, the virus itself doesn’t actually improve decision-making, but many of my clients and other CEOs that I talk to say they’re making quicker and better decisions in “stay-at-home” mode. Why? Below are my observations. Incorporate them into your DNA or you’ll slide back into making mediocre decisions in the near future.

BP (before pandemic), there was too little emphasis on efficient communication when discussing and making decisions. Video and audio have limitations, but they tend to reduce bluster. I firmly believe that social interaction among team members is beneficial, but when it comes to analysis and decisions, focused thinking and discussion are better.

Takeaway: When (or if) you’re back in a face-to-face environment, allow for shoot-the-shit conversation, but delineate it from decision-making meetings.

BP, there were more meeting interruptions or even interruptions that prevented meetings from starting on time. Yes, you now have to shoo the cat or your kids out of your home office (nee bedroom) before a video call, but most start and end roughly on time.

Takeaway: With some discipline, you can actually manage your calendar when you’re in the office. I’ve helped talented, but whipsawed, executives tame their workweeks. Punctuality can become standard operating procedure. My son is often late to social events at our house, but when he was a Marine, he was never late for drill. The key is leaving enough open time to deal with the interruptions.

BP, participation (which is a function of your ability to facilitate a meeting) was often unequal. The person with the biggest paycheck or loudest voice got a lot more airtime. I’ve observed that there’s often more uniform participation in video. In other words, the more reticent team member who often has great input can participate, and the loudmouth has had his wings clipped a bit.

Takeaway: When you’re back in face-to-face meetings, make sure everyone participates and no one dominates. Here’s the East Coast version: “Thanks for your input, Jack — we understood your position 10 minutes ago. I’d like to hear from Jill!”

BP, people often came to meetings without preparation. Rushing from one meeting to another, they hadn’t read the background, which meant they either made bad decisions, or the meeting had to slow down so someone could read everyone in before the real discussion occurred. Remember how you used to hate the long presentations you sat through? Eliminate them!

Takeaway: Before you or anyone on your team schedules a meeting, consider what background information (focus on facts) the participants should have (no more than three pages), send it to them and demand that they show up informed. This will lead to much more productive meetings.

I’m talking about what goes on in your business with these suggestions. However, you also need to focus on building the trust, accountability and commitment outside of the decision-making meetings, or you’ll never reach your true potential as a leader nor have a highly functioning team.

Don’t let a pandemic go to waste. Capture the positive elements of decision-making that I delineated above and make them part of your operating system for good.

As CEO, how do I pull my team back together?

Pressure may turn carbon into diamonds, but it can also turn a well-functioning executive team into broken souls who no longer have a sense of commitment and joy. Regardless of how many Zoom cocktail hours you’ve held, that slight fluttering sound you hear might be the magic seeping out of your team. In fact, this pandemic has slightly broken most CEOs whom I talk with. Broken leaders and dysfunctional teams must be reinvigorated to achieve success.

How do you do this?

  • Re-examine personal values. Have everyone on your team share theirs and discuss how they might’ve changed. (I’ll email you a simple tool if you contact me.)
  • Identify what wins look like in this new environment. Your goal posts may have moved.
  • Reassert or redefine your strategy. Is it still valid in this new environment?
  • Identify what must change to execute the strategy. Do you still have the right assets and processes?
  • Re-establish trust and healthy dialogue on your team. Social distancing and possible layoffs and pay cuts may have eroded healthy relationships on your senior team. You’ll have to work to bring them back.
  • Develop a healthy dose of pragmatic optimism. As a leader, your tone and message must be correct to align the troops. Get a second opinion on critical communication.
  • Identify what elements of your culture are working in the current environment and those that are not. I have clients who say that some of the current practices (e.g. decision making) have gotten faster and more effective. Lock those behaviors in! Also look for those elements (behaviors that were rewarded or allowed) that are no longer desirable and eliminate them.

If you have an effective executive team, your current practices, albeit with video relationships, may be enough to hold it together. However, adding a new executive to the team will require a good deal of work to get them onboarded effectively. Trust is easier to build face-to-face. You can do it remotely, but it takes twice as much work.

If you have an executive team that was not terribly well aligned, lacked trust and did not have healthy conflict BC (Before COVID-19), it will get worse without intervention.

This isn’t touchy-feely work. We’re talking about reinvigorating your company, people and legacy.

People will remember you for years based on your response to this situation. Start by getting your mind straight on the path forward and then get your team aligned.