Second Chance CEO: 5 Takeaways to Change Your Perspective on Leadership
In my late 20s, I was 100 percent sure nothing could stop me.
I was a hard-charging guy with a clear career path mapped out in my head that led to the CEO’s office — not living in the present and being impatient to get there.
Then, at 29, a hole was discovered in my heart and I needed open-heart surgery. A few years later, our twin daughters were born 10 weeks prematurely. Those experiences gave me a second chance that made me a better person. A better husband, a better friend, a better worker — and now a better CEO.
My new book, "Second Chance CEO," shows how I changed my attitude from one of an alpha male pursuing the C-suite at all costs to a more holistic approach based on patience, tolerance and getting my priorities right.
Here are five valuable takeaways for anyone in leadership roles:
1. Trust the players.
It’s a truism that a good business leader is like a good sports manager — getting the right players, putting them together in the most effective teams, drilling them on their plays, and making sure they know the tactics to affect the strategy.
Once the players are on the field, there’s only so much the manager can do. He or she must trust them.
The easiest way to gain that trust is to make sure the team has the right tools and the right information. All the information. And then let them run with it.
2. Lose the ego.
It’s easy for people moving up in their careers to become too impressed by themselves. I used to stick my chest out as I strode through the office.
Pride has a place in any team; it’s a fantastic motivator. Arrogance has no place. It kills team spirit.
We sometimes have outside hires who look around for an assistant to open their mail or make them a coffee. We open our own mail. We make our own coffee. Everyone pitches in and works. Including me.
Humility is a quality people respond to in leaders.
3. Set the example.
If I want my team to do something, I set the example — including not always putting work first.
When I faced my two life crises, I recalibrated my work–life balance.
I figured out what was important in my life and I took steps to make room for it. So, when I encourage my team to figure out their priorities in life, they know I’m being authentic.
Work is important. It’s a crucial part of our lives. But if the members of my team are spending all their time at work, or thinking about work, then something is wrong.
4. Respect the youth.
Like a lot of Americans of my generation, I imagine, I must give credit to my teenage children.
Young people today know a lot more than we did when we were their age. Or at least more than I did. The internet has made all kinds of experiences and knowledge available to them that simply weren’t available back in the day.
These young people don’t just imagine change for the better, they articulate it. They come to me and tell me what they would like the company to do.
I’m not necessarily going to implement everything they want, but I love that they feel empowered to present issues and ideas so we can evolve and change. They know I’m always ready to listen.
5. Don’t be afraid of failure.
If someone brings an idea to me, the first thing I do is try to destroy it.
I look for weaknesses. I look for fail points. I look for miscalculations of costs. I ask a ton of questions, and each one is a hurdle where the idea can fall.
I hate to do it. Before anything even reaches my desk, someone has thought hard about it and put in a lot of work. But those things aren’t enough. The team knows I’ll stress-test something to destruction if I can. It’s how we avoid wasting time.
But you can’t innovate without failure.
My job is not to stop people from failing. It’s to make sure that they don’t mind failing. It’s to make sure that their failure doesn’t stop them in their tracks but spurs them on.
It’s Never Too Late
A lot of people will tell you that there are no second chances.
They’re usually exactly the sort of hard chargers I was when I was younger. They tell you that if you don’t grab the chance now, it’s gone. I’d likely have told you the same thing.
I would have been wrong. And they’re wrong. I became a 2.0 version of myself, with bugs removed and enhancements added. I got a second chance.
For more takeaways and stories that led me to be the CEO I am today, check out "Second Chance CEO" on Amazon.
Tom Caporaso is the CEO of ebbo, an all-in-one loyalty company that has helped leading brands build unforgettable customer experiences for over two decades.
Tom Caporaso is the CEO of ebbo, an all-in-one loyalty company that has helped leading brands build unforgettable customer experiences for over two decades. He has been in the loyalty space for over 25 years, empowering brands to build better relationships with their customers for the long-term. In addition to his loyalty expertise, Tom also received a 2020 leadership award from The Hartford Courant and has helped ebbo earn the Connecticut Top Workplaces award every year since 2013.