I Don’t Butt Heads with the CEO of Zappos

Butting heads

Image source by Hana Muchova'

Many CEO’s are told what they want to hear, rather than what team members really think. That’s a foolish way to avoid butting heads with the boss.

I asked Jamie Naughton, Speaker of the House for Zappos, to talk about a time when she butted heads with her famous CEO, Tony Hsieh. Jamie indicated that issues don’t escalate to head butting.

“There’s no argument, ever. If I don’t like something, then I just say it.”

How to avoid butting heads with the boss:

  1. Establish disagreement-rules. Ask your CEO how he best receives disagreement.
  2. Fully align with organizational values.
  3. Advocate for the organization not yourself.
  4. Say what you believe not what’s expected.
  5. Disagree early, clearly, politely, and specifically.
  6. Constantly communicate. Express opinions when you have them. Flare ups occur when issues build up.
  7. Once decisions are made, grab an oar and row, regardless of your position.

Bonus: Add positive options.

Butting heads and who decides:

“The best thing about Tony as a CEO, as a boss, … He will give direction. He will give advice. … He’s going to be part of the conversation but he’s not the decision-maker.” Jamie Naughton.

Corporate teams fear CEO’s because CEO’s make too many decisions. Jamie explained that her boss would never make a decision about phone systems or sponsorship opportunities, for example. “Why would he approve a sponsorship when we have a marketing team who’s trained?” Jamie Naughton.

“He’s – Tony Hsieh – not going to interfere with my department because I know it best. He’s going to offer suggestions and I take it or leave it.” Jamie Naughton.

What suggestions do you have for disagreeing with the boss?


Bonus material: Jamie Naughton in her own words. (6 min.)


Connect with Jamie:

Jamie Naughton works directly with Tony Hsieh as the Speaker of the House for Zappos.


Twitter: @Jamstar


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