Poor Listening Skills

Top 6 signs you have a bad CEO

Aug 12, 2022 | 0 comments

The year was 1992 and I had taken our startup’s CEO to a meeting with one of my client companies. This Manufacturing giant had agreed to a record $1.3M agreement for the global deployment of our Design Collaboration software. This software was viewed as a strategic tool to grow their New Product Introduction (NPI) business.  

During the meeting, this client’s COO told us that he’s gotten the green light from his CEO to invest $3m in our company. To my surprise and shock, our CEO rejected the offer on the spot by completely missing the significance of the opportunity! He did not even leave any room to explore other options to extend our relationship beyond a simple software procurement.

I knew right then that I am onboard a Titanic and our startup ship was doomed. So, I want to document some of the bad traits to observe in your startup’s CEO:

“Not every hello, leads to a date”


2.  MicroManager

A lot of startup CEOs have a tough time delegating responsibilities and end up micromanaging their teams. Rookie CEOs who have not grown companies before are most guilty of this sin. They don’t allow any autonomy to their teams and are convinced they can do the task better than anyone else

1. Poor Listener

Our startup CEO failed to actively “listen” to the voice of the customer and cost us a strategic opportunity. Most startup CEOs only listen to respond and not to learn. So, when I meet a CEO who rushes to answer the question he “thinks” he’s heard, I a reminded of that fateful day when our CEO destroyed a huge opportunity for us. 


3.  Hard to Coach

In the majority of deal screenings that I have attended in Silicon Valley; at least one investor has questioned the CEO’s coach-ability as a concern. So, if your CEO does not appear to be coachable it will be a tough road. These investors want to know that the company’s leaders will not only listen to input but that they will act on it as well.


4.  Closed-Door 

Some of the best startups are the ones that have an open-door policy where employees are encouraged to challenge the company management and ask questions. At Facebook Mark Zuckerberg spends a few hours every Friday answering questions from employees. You should be concerned if your CEO does not foster such an open environment

 How does your Startup CEO measure up against these traits? 


5.  Poor Motivator

Your startup will go through very tough challenges and your CEO should be able to motivate your team to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Your CEO should be able to communicate a larger sense of purpose for the company and the role each employee plays in achieving these goals.

6.  Growth Opportunity

Successful companies provide well-defined programs for the advancement of their employees. They also offer employees training and mentorship programs to help them advance. Your startup CEO should be an advocate of such programs.

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