Forbes Coaches Council Member

My First C-Suite Network Adventure: From Ann Coulter No-Show to Shipping a Sheep in a Box

Host of the C-Suite Network Conference, Jeffrey Hayzlett is a combo of Chris Isaak’s swagger and Mt. Rushmore Cowboy. I’ll admit it…I didn’t want to like him. I expected him to be pompous and maybe a little guru-esque. But damn it, he was a genuinely nice guy who asked really good questions. And you know I can’t resist a really good question!

Jeffrey was teed up to interview the kick-off speaker, the conservative nut job Ann Coulter. While I considered skipping out to go shopping in Soho, I decided, instead, to have an open mind. Undoubtedly, I’d learn something from her. So on went my big-girl panties as I prepared to be enlightened.

(Un)fortunately, Ann. Jeffrey shared a few choice Ann-isms, which made me like him that much more. Then he smoothly transitioned to the next “first speaker” Sudhir Kulkarni, who shared some great insights on digital transformation.

Danielle DiMartino Booth of Money Strong was one of my favorite speakers. She was smart, opinionated and rocked her nude patent Louboutins. I don’t mind telling you there was definitely a girl crush happening for me.

Nearly all the speakers had something valuable to share. And that being said, here are some takeaways from conversations I had with a few CEOs in the room…

Sudhir Kulkarni, President of Persistent, Silicon Valley

  • Leadership is about anticipating and managing change to compete effectively in an ever changing world that is moving increasingly and speedily towards digital engagement with consumers, employees (mostly millennials or GenZ) and other stakeholders.
  • Not being able to respond quickly and systemically — with a mindset and organizational structure for using technology effectively — is a death knell. (Yes, he said death knell.)
  • Further, this change in mindset has to be driven from the top down. Expecting the rank and file to “figure it out” is a sure-shot path to being disrupted by a digital native, such as an Uber or AirBnB that acts with supersonic speed in my industry.

Jaycen Thorgeirson, CEO of UviaUs, Seattle

  • As a CEO, you need to have an agile and innovative mindset. Especially now, since the rate of change continues to increase and businesses that don’t represent that mindset are being disrupted.
  • Great leadership requires authenticity. Being authentic with those whom you work with and lead helps you gain the trust required to accomplish great things.

Richard Harpham, CEO of Cloudwords, San Francisco

  • Besides learning you can ship a sheep in a box as a gift…economic conditions are going to change…probably.
  • Despite the no show of Ann Coulter, I got the sense that most of the business savvy presenters were holding back some deeper commentary on the sustainability of the current economic conditions pre and post-election. Danielle DiMartino’s presentation felt particularly ‘self-edited.’ What wasn’t she telling us?
  • Addressing global opportunity is becoming a hot topic in the C-Suite.

You know Brits. They love to hear their own accent. Still Richard: The customer loyalty presentation was highlighted by frequent references to global business/go-to-market challenges.

  •  “Globalization is real and you are all global companies.” – Julie Lyle, CRO of Demand Jump
  •   “If you’re not integrating your technology to address a global opportunity, you will get left behind.” – Tom Butta, CMO of Sprinklr
  •   And…finally…Barbara Jones, Consul General of Ireland, can talk for more than 3 minutes without taking a breath.

Now back to me…and the sheep in the box. This was one of the strangest things I can’t unlearn.  Randy Garn, Founding Partner of Hero Partners and presenter, declared on the stage that he’d shipped a live sheep in a box to a customer. It never occurred to me that I might like to send a farm animal to a friend, colleague or customer, but knowing that I can, sheds new light on customer appreciation. #HappyHolidays

In summary, I left slightly torn about not hearing Ann speak, but more importantly, feeling assured that with the right technology and the right people, anything is possible.

Find more leadership advice in my book “From the CEO’s Perspective” where I interview 20 top CEOs on how they are developing leaders in today’s world.

Watch my latest CEO Forum coverage on diversity in the workplace. Thanks to our sponsor, Regence.

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