A CEO says “If I Could Do it Again …”

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One high performance department is miserable and oppressive another is joyful and liberating. One leader has fun while another leader …

All leaders get things done but the way they do things matters.

John Bell, former CEO of Jacobs Suchard (Nabob, Kraft), suggested he would not do different things as much as he would do things differently, if he could do it again.

Doing things and the way things are done are two different things.

If I could do it again:

Bell said he had no regrets about business strategies. But, if he could do it again he would:

  1. Make it more fun. I was too serious.
  2. Be just as competitive.
  3. Not be as intense. The desire to enjoy continued success along with the pressure to make the numbers, which was intense, pushed us.
  4. Mentor more. I would spend more time with individuals.
  5. Treat people they way they needed to be treated. Don’t treat everyone the same.

John’s wisdom for leaders:

  1. Deal with politics but don’t be political.
  2. The way you treat the people who report to you impacts the way they treat others.
  3. Build organizational culture. The right culture (integrity, excellence, and customers first) helps CEOs make the right decisions.
  4. Never survive at the expense of others.
  5. Connect strengths with weakness.
  6. When it comes to the board, over deliver. The worst thing to hear from your board is, “Let us help you.”
  7. Don’t do more with less which means cutting people – Do less better – prioritize. Pick one mountain and get to the top first. Climb the next one, later.
  8. Get people out of the office by 6:00 p.m. We didn’t want our people working late.
  9. Connect personally with those around you.
  10. Achieve goals and be helpful at the same time.


If you could do it over again, what would be different?

What piece of John’s wisdom can you take with you today?


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