Can it be that CEOs and executives are finally catching on to the power, profitability and efficiency of virtual relationships? I certainly hope so – at least it seems so from reading The Virtual Executive: How to Act Like a CEO Online and Offline by Debra Benton(@debrabenton), the bestselling author of How to Act Like a CEO: 10 Rules for Getting to the Top and Staying There.
I received a review copy of the book along with a transcribed interview with the author. I thought I’d share some of that information with you today – along with my impressions with the book.
CEOs Admit They Don’t Work Face to Face Much Anymore
I know I’m going to get it by writing that headline, but it’s just my personal bias coming out, I guess. It was just a few years ago that only two Fortune 500 CEOs had a Twitter account and claimed that only face-to-face relationships mattered. I’m exaggerating a bit, but when I read this in the interview transcript I received – well, I just about fell off my chair.
When asked why she wrote The Virtual Executive, Benton replied:
“Clients started telling me “What you teach is great for helping me establish a presence that is memorable trusted and confident in-person but I don’t work face to face today.” Their sales force is remote, their boss is in a different city and they do meetings via video conference. So how do you build trust when they can’t look us in the eyes?”
And this is the crux of the book – teaching executives and CEOs how to build trust, run a conference call, create the perfect email subject line and a variety of other strategic as well as practical tips for virtual executives.
A Word of Warning – It’s Just Marketing
It struck me as I was reading this book that many, many of the strategies and tips that Benton shares are actually marketing strategies that social media mavens have been practicing and preaching for years – it’s just finally hit executives where it hurts and now they are applying the social media tactics and strategies that marketers have used for years – to managing their employee and customer relationships.
What Makes Benton the Ideal Messenger for Executives Going Virtual
Debra Benton is the founder of Benton Management Resources, whose clients include GE, AT&T, American Express and a slew of something like ten more BIG BRANDS that you know, love and trust. She has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Today,” “CNN and the front page of The Wall Street Journal. She has been described as one of the top five executive coaches to have on speed dial. There is so much more to her credentials, but honestly, there is only so much space.
Let’s just say that when Debra talks, CEOs listen.
As I’m reading through the book, I can see why. Her tone is crisp, her language is simple, powerful and to the point and she speaks to the heart of the audience. Here’s just one example from the introduction of the book:
“The truth is, you cannot ignore the virtual world.”
Well, maybe you can, until something embarrassing or some inappropriate footage of you gets posted online and your next job title ends up being “assistant to the summer intern” while you get written off with three words – “considered not ready.”
Do Executives REALLY Need to be TOLD These Things?
I barely got past page ten when I ran into one of the many featured “gray” sections in the book called, “Online/Offline: Be a solid citizen.” In that section, Benton gives the following advice:
“Also, these words do not come out of your mouth or get put into an e-mail:
- Everyone else does it
- It’s a victimless crime
- I can hide it
- It doesn’t matter how it gets done. I just have to get it done.
- Well, maybe just this one time
- I’ll just shred or burn the document
- What’s in it for me
- How much can we get away with
- I will deny we had this discussion
- We didn’t have this conversation
- This is a nonmeeting
- Is this legal?”
How did YOU react when you read these bullets? I was floored by the power of the words and the power of Benton’s writing. These would NOT have ended up on the list if they weren’t said – and said more than once by more than a few executives. That breaks my heart. And if there were any doubt that this needed to be stated out loud – just look back on the BP Oil Spill, Anthony Weiner, Rod Blagojevic and any number of high level executives who apparently didn’t get this book.
The Virtual Executive Has Much Needed Lessons for Everyone
For those of us who can’t afford to have access to Debra Benton and her pointed wisdom, the Virtual Executive is a must read. While at times it seems that she’s writing this book for male CEOs in their fifties and sixties, I think that small business owners and leaders in any age group can learn some wonderful strategies and tactics to not only stand out, but to keep yourself and your organization’s reputation and brand in the stellar range.
All I can say is WOW to The Virtual Executive. I know that you will enjoy reading and learning from this book as much as I did.