Four things never to say to a CEO
1. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
In other words, you don’t know and didn’t do your homework. Welch fired one vice president who gave that answer several times during a presentation.
2. Making fun of a corporate program.
Yes, there are lots of vapid initiatives trotted out by marketing or PR or HR people: “Year of the Customer,” or “Zero Mistakes,” or “Zero Inventory,” or “Zero Drinking at Lunch.” And sadly enough, bad CEOs often buy in and pay these goofy ideas half-hearted lip service.
3. Something you find funny.
Skip the jokes, especially at the beginning of a presentation. I saw a young fast-riser start to come unglued during a presentation, after beginning with some humorous references to his subject.
4. “That can’t be done.”
What should you do if the boss wants something that’s really off the wall? I like to recall this scene from The Godfather: Part II: The boss wants somebody killed. His lawyer says, “Michael, you can’t do this. It’s impossible.”
Michael turns to Torpedo, his right-hand man. “Well?”
“Difficult,” Torpedo answers. “Not impossible.
Never say something is impossible.