I once had opportunity to have dinner with two CEOs. They were both CEO of the same very large company. One was the current CEO…the other was the ex-CEO. It was a few years ago now, but I remember driving home after dinner thinking that had been a special opportunity. Both CEOs were open and amicable – to us and to each other. They talked business, strategy, decisions, people, stock price, growth, families and work.
Their vision and belief was compelling; their insights and understanding was impressive; their assessments and analyses were absorbing. As I sat and soaked it all in, I kept having to remind myself to enter into the discussion rather than simply sitting, eating, listening and learning.
That dinner feels like a lifetime ago…although it is only really a new career ago. Back then, I couldn’t imagine when I would ever again have chance to spend time with two CEOs…especially two CEOs who had such good relationship.
And yet, last week I had a second opportunity to spend time with two CEOs. Last week I was in the UK. It was foggy, grey and very wet. Last week two CEOs came to visit.
Two CEOs visiting together can happen when the planned combination of two companies is not hostile. Our visit was part of tour of multiple locations. Meet and greet. Hear. See. Watch. Listen. Consider. Assess.
It wasn’t a long visit. Although most of our time beforehand was spent working to ensure we would impress two CEOs, I recognised it was also an important opportunity for them to impress us – everyone they met; everyone who heard them speak. I knew it was a moment for me…I wanted to be inspired.
We planned for a short breakfast before, and a fast site tour after. A group for breakfast. Pairs of presenters on tour. Common messages of partnership and value. Common themes of energy and excitement. Common concerns about too much rain…and not enough time. But the main event – in the middle of the visit – was the ‘Town Hall’.
We knew the conference room would be full. We wanted other groups to be able to connect by telephone. In the days before, we had thought about who would be present in person, how the telephone connections would work, the PA system, the Q&A process, the seating lay out and even whether we needed a dress code.
And then we were there. Town Hall about to start. I had been requested to make my introduction brief. I went for ‘short and sweet’. As I sat down I thought to myself “sweet enough, but maybe too short”, but still, no-one was there to listen to me! I relaxed. I waited.
Ninety minutes later we had finished. It felt like ninety seconds. It was compelling. I was enthralled. Every word. So much information…so much inspiration. I was amazed. I had expected a focus on our future. But we also heard two ‘real-time’ descriptions of the deal being done. Two CEOs describing one story but from their own unique perspective. They told us so much – they can’t have held anything back. I understand so much more. The drive. The desire. The options. The intent. Their passion. Their excitement. Their emotion.
Two leaders. Two different styles. One message. One voice. Their vision…for our future. Opportunities. Challenges. Potential. More than I expected. Everything I needed.
As I drove home at the end of the day I remembered we had planned to record the session. I hope it worked. I have to listen again. Like my first time, two CEOs together had been special. I knew how important. I felt how impactful.