Adam Bryant is managing director of Merryck & Co., a senior leadership development and executive mentoring firm. Prior to joining Merryck, Adam worked for 30 years as a journalist, including 18 years as a reporter, editor and columnist at The New York Times. He interviewed more than 500 CEOs for “Corner Office,” a series on leadership that he created in 2009. Adam is the author of three books based on the themes that have emerged from his interviews and consulting work. His new book is THE CEO Test: Master the Challenges that Make or Break All Leaders, published by Harvard Business Review Press. His first book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, was a New York Times bestseller, drawing on insights from CEOs to identify the qualities that help explain why certain executives are promoted over others to become CEOs.
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- Interview style – Instead of asking them about strategies and industry trends, Adam focuses on timeless questions (how they were influenced by parents, lessons from early years in their careers, what they look for when making bets on people to invest in) about the important leadership lessons that CEOs had learned…
- Some questions he likes to ask:
- How do you hire? What questions do you ask?
- Describe yourself in one word…
- Work to get around the polished façade
- What animal would you be and why?
- Tony Hsieh would ask, “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you?”
- Some additional interviewing tactics:
- The CEO has the interviewee drive his or her car. Monitors how they react in a different vehicle, in a new city
- Sharing meals
- “Put the mosaic of what a person is like as a human being” — not just interviewing for a job
- The Dinner Party game:
- “If you could only ask a job candidate one question, what would you ask?”
- Learn about failure – Id you desire humility, learn about their failures, learnings, and lessons of life
- Ownership – The 3 most beautiful words: “I’m on it.”
- Every employee needs to write a playbook to how they’d do the job… They need to take ownership.
- If you were an animal, what would you be?
- Adam: “A Hawk. Hover at high altitude, when they figure out what they want, they go get it.”
- Question: What qualities of your parents do you like the most and the least?
- Ask that if you really want to go deep — This forces the candidate to get real. “We’re fooling ourselves if we think we can escape our parents.”
- Process to ask questions:
- Think, “I want to cut a record with you.” — Have the desire to make something new with the person.
- His premise at the New York Times: “What if I sat down with CEOs and never asked them about their companies?”
- Questions: What were you like as a kid? What were your parents like? How have your parents impacted your leadership style? What drives you?
- “I like to see them in the moment of learning about themselves.”
- “Eye contact is the 5 G of communication.”
- Two tracking – Know where to go next AND listen intently
- Sustaining Excellence:
- Feedback look must be strong – They must be open to it
- Recognize patterns
- Take action
- Learn new things
- Be self-aware
- Be humble
- Need to ask, “What does this moment need?”
- “What is the gooey center of that candy?” A leader needs to know that about their business.
- Life advice:
- “Play in traffic.” You have to get out there and meet people and do things. Build relationships. Those help with the pivot points of your career and life.
- Always be prepared to learn the most important lesson of your life…
- Apply to be part of my Leadership Circle
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- Read: The CEO Test
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- To Follow Me on Twitter: @RyanHawk12
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