What Top Executives Teach Their Own Children

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”
– Chinese Proverb

Senior Executive Clients Polled: In a minor detour from our usual “Working Wisdom™ writings, we decided to search out a few lessons from those at the top of the corporate career ladder. So, recently we took a poll of several of our clients who have achieved “Top Executive” rank. We asked each the following question: “Is there one lesson you’ve learned in executive life that you want to teach your own children?”

The clients we polled worked primarily in the U.S., but a few worked in Europe and Asia. Their industries varied widely, including, from human services to natural resources. Their ages ranged from 48 through 62. Their own “lessons” were as varied as they are.

We thought you might find their answers interesting. Since some overlapped, we here present the seven that seemed most intriguing. We invite you to submit any of your own “Executive Life Lessons” you wouldn’t mind sharing for inclusion in our future Working Wisdom™ Newsletters.

LESSON TO LEARN: Those who have achieved success are generous of spirit when it comes to sharing their own “Executive Life Lessons.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider sharing these with your children, and perhaps taking advantage of them, yourself, as well:

If I Have One Lesson of Executive Life I’d Like to Teach My Children, It’s This . . .

1. “Don’t fear failure. Failure isn’t fun, but it’s bound to happen every now and then. If you learn from failure, it will teach you about yourself like nothing else will. Taking chances is a necessary part of achieving success.”

Chief Executive Officer, 57, Advertising, public company

2. “Treat everyone you meet as if they are a very important person in your life, because one day they just may be.”

Chief Financial Officer, 56, Publishing, public company

3. “It sounds trite, but it’s absolutely true: you should always try to surround yourself with the best people. That includes who you work for, and those you hire to work for you. And ‘best’ includes integrity.”

Chief Marketing Officer, 61, Financial Services, public company

4. “Always seek out challenges. See them as opportunities to test your abilities.”

Division President, 49, Natural Resources, privately held

5. “Always focus on the needs of others, both friends and adversaries. It’s the key to working with them.”

Executive Vice President, 54, Human Resources, Hospitality Industry, annual sales $1+ billion

6. “During the week, do whatever it takes to get the job done. But weekends and vacations must be preserved for family, friends and recharging.”

Chief Executive Officer, 48, Human Services, public company

7. “I’m not the first one to say this: Underpromise. Then Overdeliver. Proper management of the expectations of those who matter is all that matters.”

Chief Information Officer, 62, Manufacturing, privately held company.”

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