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Where to find the best advice

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

No one—not even CEOs—can do it all without sound guidance and advice. When you’re at a critical crossroads, who do you turn to?

In a recent Booz & Company study of CEO turnover, leaders explained how they learned what they needed to know, when they needed to know it. Their advice rings true no matter what your leadership role:

1. Develop a set of standard questions. Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., says he spent his first month on the job listening.

He peppered board members and the top 65 people in the company with the same questions: What three things must we preserve? What three things must we change? What do you most hope I will do? What are you most concerned I might do? What advice do you have for me?  

He spent an hour with each person, listening and taking notes.

“What was interesting was that after about 15 or so interviews, it was pretty clear what the objectives needed to be,” he says. “People inside the company knew what needed to happen, and it was pretty consistent.”

2. Get a bird’s eye view. Do you really want to understand the issues from a businesswide perspective? Ian Livingston, CEO of BT, says the best advice he got wasn’t from board members, shareholders or external advisors.

“The best advice I got was from the chairman, the CFO, and the HR director,” he says, “because they’re the people who have to see across the entire business. They are the people who have a companywide view and understand what the issues are.”

— Adapted from “Navigating the First Year: Advice from 18 Chief Executives,” Ken Favaro, Per-Ola Karlsson and Gary L. Neilson, strategy+business.

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