Jeffrey Hayzlett is the chairman of C-Suite Network, a primetime TV and podcast host, keynote speaker, best-selling author and global business celebrity. Here, Jeffrey discusses his leadership philosophy and offers his insight on the challenges facing today’s C-suite executives. Read on:
Tell us about the C-Suite Network? What’s your mission?
C-Suite Network is the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders, with a focus on providing growth, development and networking opportunities for business executives with titles of vice president and above. C-Suite Network brings leaders together through C-Suite Collective, a private online community for executives. C-Suite Network also offers invitation-only conferences held three times per year, custom-tailored content on the C-Suite Network blog, C-Suite TV, C-Suite Radio, C-Suite Book Club and educational programs from C-Suite Academy.
What’s your leadership philosophy?
Be yourself in everything you do, even if it means people call you pigheaded or irrational. Someone has to lead and sometimes you have to stand out there alone in order to get everyone to come with you. I once listened to a leader of a large organization talk about how he needed to be irrational. At first, I thought he was crazy. Then I realized his point. He was saying the company needs to go from point A to point B, but I have to go to point Z in order to drag everyone else to point B. Sometimes we look at the boss and say he or she is crazy. Well sometimes they are, but that is to push us harder and strive for better.
What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve had to learn during your career?
To trust my gut more often. You make these mistakes at the highest levels of your career. When I was the CMO of a Fortune 100 company, there were times I let those little voices hold me back from what I thought was the right thing to do. When you think it’s the right thing to do, that’s when you should be doubling down. What I learned from that experience is I should have been bigger, I should have been badder, I should have been bolder. When I started a little fire, I should have thrown gasoline on it and made a bigger fire. I thought that was the conventions of the role and the conventions of being in that c-suite so I let myself be a smaller version of what I should have been. One should be unapologetic for who you are and what you do.
What leaders do you look up to? Who inspires you?
Lee Iacocca, I read his autobiography often. It’s a great book and has been an inspiration to me for a long time. I was also inspired by, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco it was one of the first books I read after college and it had a big impact on the way I thought about business.
What are the challenges facing C-Suite executives today?
Here’s the rule for business today – adapt, change or die. That’s it. If you keep doing things the same way you’ve always been doing them, someone’s going to beat you because they will come up with something better, faster, cheaper, or of greater value. If you don’t adapt to change, if that isn’t part of your mantra, if you’re not looking at continuous improvement of quality, of market share, of margins, of price or clause, and all the things that go into the delivering of a product or service or into the satisfaction of your customer, because that’s really what we’re trying to do, is satisfy our customer. Everything in the world around us changes every single day. The seasons, the weather, trees, grass. There’s a time for improvement in all things, Darwin taught us that a long time ago, but we seem to have forgotten along the way. If species can evolve, why can’t businesses?
How have these challenges evolved since you started your career?
It’s even more important now in the digital and social age.
Why should today’s leaders or aspiring leaders invest in professional development?
Business leaders should never stop learning. First, invest in whatever will give you the confidence you need to take risks, think big and be true to yourself. If you’re a marketer that feels you need to be more educated about social media to do your job then take a class or ask a peer. Also, look into what’s available to help market your product. For instance, if you’re a business book author the C-Suite Book Club will put your book amongst the leaders in your industry and help you market in a competitive environment.
In what areas do you find these leaders are most in need of education and development?
Staying aware of new technology and how to use it to your advantage. For instance, as innovation for business quickly changes and develops mobile will continue to grow in importance for business leaders. Some people know where their phones are more often than their children. Basically, our phones have become a lifeline for your daily lives. The key to understanding mobile, or any new innovation, is to have a strategy. Consider, who is your audience and how will you reach them? What is your budget? Do you need to include outside help to reach your goals? Are their events you need to budget to attend? These are only a few of the many questions you need to ask yourself in order to get the most out of new technology and innovations. I suggest developing a broad, 12-month plan with a detailed month-by-month plan so you can manage the short-term goals without losing sight of the long-term ones.
What’s one piece of advice you find yourself repeating to executives over and over again?
Define your conditions of satisfaction. Know what you want to achieve and how you will measure your success. Then, stop making excuses. Steamroll obstacles, don’t take no for an answer, don’t listen to naysayers. It’s time for you to act.