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Save me from the boring details, CEO says

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

by "Z"

When I visited my kid's third­ grade class, the teacher asked me to tell the students what I do all day at work.

"I sign things," I said with a laugh.

Of course, my job is much more than that. But I spend a good half­ hour a day with pen in hand, scrib­bling my signature on letters and legal documents that my assistant has prepared in neat little folders for me to scan and sign.

I depend on my management team and my support staff to put accurate, timely information in front of me so that whatever I sign is in our best interest. I don't want any corre­spondence sent out with my name on it that will come back to bite us.

My dream employee has the tech­nical skills and love of detail that I can rely on 100 percent. Whether it's a lease contract, insurance form, personnel letter or legal notice, I want to know that someone with a sharp eye has scrutinized it so that I can sign without worry.

Due diligence done well

I need to have smart people around me who are willing to take responsibility for making sure a document is ready for my signature when it reaches my desk. My CFO has a great habit of attaching a yellow sticky to whatever he wants me to sign. He'll write "Final draft" with his initials and the date and time. I like that he includes the time, because I know, as of that moment, he can attest to everything being absolutely correct. And I can tell at a glance how long it's been since he signed off on it, which helps me determine whether something might have changed in that time.

People here know that if they're going to submit something for me to sign, they'd better be the last person to see it before it reaches my desk. I don't want them blaming their assis­tants for a typo. I want to know that one person--a manager I can trust­--stands by every word.

It's also a pleasure when my man­agers make it easy for me to cut through to the core of a complicated mess, whether it's a 15-page contract or a sticky HR matter where I have to sign a probationary memo. I like it when someone reduces a complex set of facts and variables into a tidy pro/con analysis.

The worst thing you can say to a CEO is "You'd better read this" and hand over a big, thick document. I expect you to summarize it for me and highlight what's most important. I'm paid to make hard decisions; I need my managers to crystallize those decisions for me and give me a bal­anced, well-reasoned interpretation.


"Z" is a 25-year veteran of the corporate battlefield, having climbed the ranks to head a $100 million information services company.

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