CEO Criticism — Responding To Criticism

As a CEO, you will be the beneficiary of a wonderful phenomenon — the whole world will tell you about your shortcomings, what they would do differently, and the fact that you’re, well, a bum. They may question your intellect and opine that your mother dresses you funny.

It comes with the job.

Run a public company and deal with thousands of shareholders and the criticism is broader, deeper, and more pointed. Shareholders will even make fun of your dog. What kind of person makes fun of a man’s dog?

You will be tempted to respond, which will generate more criticism another response until the cycle becomes entrenched and begins to sap your energy.

This guy, who had a few critics in his day, is reputed to have said:

“You will never reach your destination if you stop

and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

It is good advice though you may have to throw at least one stone.

As a CEO, you must answer your mail and answer your critics. This is why the US Securities and Exchange Commission in its mighty utterances requires companies to conduct Annual Shareholder Meetings — for the CEO to answer for her decisions during the preceding year. They are great fun.

It is particularly true when there is some great error of fact upon which a criticism is based. But, I caution you to recognize that very little is accomplished in a long round of point and counterpoint. Often this degenerates into a pissing contest that solicits a comment like: “Stop pissing on my leg and telling me it’s raining.”

While a CEO has a duty to ensure that the facts the public relies upon are the truth — take a look at US SEC Regulation FD (fair disclosure) —  the shareholders (the only slice of the public who has a valid call upon the CEO’s time) are entitled to the facts.

This also falls under The Energy Source V The Energy Sink Theory of Life.

The Energy Source V The Energy Sink Theory of Life

In all things great and small, be prepared to answer questions. Answer them truthfully. Throwing the truth at a hostile actor is quite satisfying. Better when it hits them in the nose. Then, get on with running the company. Do not get into a pissing contest.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself. In your spare time, learn to tie the Monkeys Paw (sometimes called the Monkeys Fist).

Speaking of dealing with critics. I get a regular email from a particularly Internet savvy member of the Digital Illuminati who constantly chides me to provide a sign up for email delivery of the Big Red Car’s blog posts. I point out to him that there is a sign up widget in the right column of the blog post whereat you may sign up to receive your dose of BRC wisdom via email.

For goodness sake, it even says: “Subscribe to blog via email.” What could be clearer than that?

Now stow it, pal.