Close this search box.
Close this search box.

The Team Makes The Difference: Why A CEO’s Success Depends On Their People

Most of the time, a CEO's lack of success will come down to the wrong people, not the wrong business plan.

With so many theories that suggest what causes a business to fail, it can feel like a crap shoot for CEOs to determine the culprit behind their company’s woes. Whether it’s rampant jealousy among team members or someone’s passive-aggressiveness that is out of control, most of the time, the lack of success will come down to the wrong people, not the wrong business plan.

Early on, I failed in this domain when I hired a candidate with an impressive résumé but the wrong attitude. He eventually wore down co-workers and damaged company morale. I’ve also fostered partnerships that tanked because each individual’s ego was prioritized before the mission at hand.

As a CEO, it’s essential to have team members you can depend on and be transparent with. These individuals keep you grounded and help you avoid wasting time on negativity. When so many obstacles can come between your business and success, make sure one of them isn’t who makes up your team.

Qualities That Count 

Knowing how to spot people who will bring out the best in you and your business is an acquired skill. I’ve learned that looking for candidates who exhibit humility is the best place to start. For example, humility is present when leaders encourage their employees to think independently, experiment with new ideas, and take ownership of their work.

On the other hand, contemptuous behavior is extremely damaging to team culture. In fact, 80 percent of workers who feel like they’ve been treated disrespectfully stew about the situation at work, and nearly half of them intentionally reduce their work effort after the experience. Being surrounded by high tensions and hurt feelings puts no one in a position to succeed — especially CEOs.

3 Ways to Find Your Tribe 

Use the following strategies to identify and connect with the supportive men and women around you:

Identify motivation. While you’re in the interview process, ask candidates what makes them get up and go to work every day. The answer will reveal whether they’re just after money and a title or they’re eager to help build and be a part of something revolutionary. You want people who are motivated by the job itself and don’t have to be constantly encouraged to put in the extra effort when conflicts arise.

Look for resilience. Rather than ask the traditional “How did you overcome failure?” question, inquire about what allows potential employees to cope and move forward. These answers can tell a lot about someone’s mindset and work ethic. Everyone makes mistakes, but it takes a resilient person to admit when he or she is wrong and turn what could be negative energy into an opportunity to learn and grow. When I find someone who is motivated by setbacks, I know I want to keep him or her close.

Explore role models. Find out who inspires potential employees and why. Knowing who they look up to can teach you a lot about who they strive to be. Asking this question carefully can clarify whether the job you’re seeking to fill will be a good fit for this individual’s goals. After all, you want someone who’s keen to serve your company’s vision, not someone who will require perpetual redirecting and monitoring.

Job performance improves when you have deep, meaningful relationships with the people you work around, according to Personnel Psychology researchers. In turn, you are a better CEO when you have a better team. Use the above strategies to polish your team and solidify professional relationships that will help you accomplish your biggest goals.

RelatedTo Make Your Corporate Values More Than Lip Service, Start from Within


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.