Deniz Taşkın: email@example.com – Zuckerberg, Page, and Dorsey all three avoid this word. Here’s the one word great CEOs never use
Google boss Larry Page has partially paralyzed vocal cords, which forces him to speak in a near whisper. Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey once wore a nose ring and dreadlocks and favors a frenetic-sounding management approach to that seems to involve a lot of walking meetings. Ultra-focused Mark Zuckerberg, in contrast, wears the same T-shirt everyday has described himself as “the least cool person there is.”
They’ve all built massively successful tech companies, but when it comes to leadership (and personal) style their approaches are from from uniform.
According to one veteran engineer who has managed to work with all three during the course of his impressive career, there’s at least one practice that unites all these leaders. There is “a very specific behavior that I have observed all three CEOs exhibit,” Gokul Rajaram, who is currently a product engineering lead at Square, writes on Medium. “In short, they completely avoid saying a certain word.”
It’s incredible that they avoid using it, because they are CEOs of public companies, and as a company grows bigger or goes public, people tend to use this word more frequently, not less. What’s more, every single other person at each company — engineers, product managers, sales people, other executives — using it. But not the CEO.
Guess the word. I’ll wait. But I’m willing to wager that no matter how long I give you and no matter what you come up with — whether it’s an inspirational omission like refusing to say “impossible” or a culture-building prohibition such as banning “because I said so” — you won’t land on the right answer.
Why? Because the right answer is borderline unbelievable.
According to Rajaram the word all these CEOs refuse to say is one that most of us think of as central to competent business leadership: revenue. Yes, revenue.
Yup, revenue. A fundamental metric used by employees, investors, media, analysts and the general public to gauge how a company is doing. One of the core measures of performance and growth for a company.
So what do they talk about instead with various internal and external constituents, if not revenue?
They create compelling narratives. They articulate the company’s purpose and strategy, as well as how it will win a market. They obsess over customers and products.
“So, for those among you who want to become legendary leaders, stop saying ‘revenue’ in public and private forums. Delete it from your lexicon when it comes to your interactions with your employees, investors and other stakeholders.”
*Some Googlers/Facebookers/Squares will point out that Larry/Mark/Jack used the word at one point or other, but (a) I don’t remember it, and (b) I’m using “completely” and “never” in a hyperbolic sense, to make my point.
**This excludes public company earnings calls, where the CEO script includes talking about revenue.