10 Difficult Things CEOs And Managers Do

CEO Difficult Things
Being a CEO is no easy task.

Every once in a while you’ll hear that CEO compensation is out of whack.

In some cases it probably is, but in my experience business executives are required to do difficult things.

In a perfect world, pay follows the demand for the occupation. In theory, business executives are providing something people want and in return the pay follows.

There are outliers and that’s usually what we hear about in the news. But if you’re curious about some of the things executives do that are difficult I’ve been watching some successful CEOs.

I’ve worked with and observed these things in my previous job and currently at GBW. Here are some of the difficult things business owners, entrepreneurs and managers do.

1. Hire People

Hiring people…what’s the big deal?

It’s an incredibly big deal it turns out.

CEOs and Managers and others deal with it, but making poor hiring decisions can be the end of a business. It’s a difficult process. It’s part science and part art.

The best are able to figure out the methods that work and even then they still make mistakes.

But often they realize mistakes and look to cut the losses when that happens.

2. Fire People

Firing people isn’t easy unless you’re Dale Gribble.

It’s emotional and stressful. Deep down I don’t think people want to cause pain in others, but firing someone is a very painful experience.

Not everyone can do it, but CEOs and managers almost always have to figure out how to do it so the company can improve.

3. Take Blame

Something I’ve always admired about people is when they take blame when really they maybe shouldn’t. Or maybe they do feel responsible when things go bad even if someone else made the actual mistake. Maybe they didn’t provide the right situation for that person to succeed.

You see this with CEOs, the good ones, all the time. They take the blame for things that happen in the business. Ultimately, if something bad does happen on their watch it’s their responsibility. But that’s not an easy thing to do. Many would deflect and point fingers.

The good ones take blame while moving forward and figuring out what to do next.

It’s football season and there are two examples of this I heard recently.

One is with the Commissioner of the NFL. One of his unwritten jobs is to take the blame for the bad things that happen in the NFL and he does it well.

Another example is Ron Wolf, former General Manager of the Green Bay Packers. He’s going into the Hall of Fame. I heard or read a few times that he was very willing to take blame for a bad personnel move even if it was a scout that pushed for the move.

4. Say “No”

CEOs learn how to find their inner two-year old.

Entrepreneurs want to please just about everyone. It’s in their nature. They remember when they were starting out and they needed every client they could get. They had to say “yes” to everything in the early days.

But the trap that comes along is that when you say “yes” to everything you can’t make progress. There is only so much time and energy to give.

Tough choices have to be made and “no” has to be said. This will lead to hurt feelings and difficult decisions. Sometimes the choices will be wrong and the person deciding has to deal with those consequences.

But saying “no” is part of the job for CEOs.

5. Prioritize

Building on saying “no” is prioritizing.

This involves having to decide what is best for the business and pushing other opportunities down the list. It’s hard to do that. You’re kind of saying “no” or at least pushing something that might be a good idea off until later.

CEOs do the best they can to make the right choices. They do it knowing that they won’t always make the right choices and that’s a difficult job.

6. Mediate

Another tough task that Managers have to do is mediate.

Life is not always rosy between co-workers, vendors, etc.

Any time you have relationships you’re going to have issues and disagreements. Things can get heated and it’s often the job of the CEO or Manager to get involved and figure out a resolution.

It’s not easy getting in the mix with arguments. Emotions are high, but the best Managers are able to defuse the toughest situations.

7. Listen And Reassure

CEOs almost have to be psychologists to a degree. When you’re dealing with people it’s important to listen. I’m still working on this skill both in my professional life and in my personal life.

Sometimes people just want to be listened to. I need to get better at this skill.

And another part of this is reassuring. Things can get crazy in the business world and in our personal worlds and it’s good to have someone there with a long-term outlook that can reassure.

8. Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions

And that leads us into knee jerk reactions.

For the most part, CEOs are able to avoid making them. And that’s really not an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary.

Often one thing won’t take down the business. It won’t cause the end of days.

But in the moment it’s hard to think like that. CEOs are able to look at the big picture and think about what should be done going forward.

9. Continue To Learn

Complacency is something that scares me. I see it in myself sometimes and I really have to push to keep learning.

One thing that reassures me is that I like reading.

I’ve noticed over the years that CEOs and Managers are curious. They want to continue to learn new things. Maybe it’s just in their nature or maybe they realize that if you’re not moving forward that others will move forward and pass you.

Life is always a competition. It’s good to draw on experience and what you know, but you always need to keep looking for new information.

10. Take Criticism

Someone always has something to say about the CEO.

They’re not doing something the right way. Something happened and it’s obviously the CEOs fault.

It happens all the time. It’s up to the CEO to take on that criticism and figure out what is valid and what is not. They have to learn from the good feedback and ignore the poor feedback.

And they have to figure out how to deal with it. It’s not easy to hear negative things and if you’re a CEO you hear a lot of it and that can wear you down over time.

The best seem to figure out how to deal with it and use it to their advantage.


I work with a lot of great business owners. There are many that I admire and over time I’ve seen these traits in them. They have a great ability to do the difficult things that maybe others aren’t able to do.

I try to pick up on these things and incorporate them into my life and how I run GBW. It’s always a challenge, but I try to push myself to be better.

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