I own a single share in a handful of public companies. Each share gets me into the annual shareholder meeting where I can ask questions to Fortune 500 CFOs, CEOs, and board members. 2018 is my second year going to the meetings, and the strategy is effective at putting me in a room of 15 difficult-to-access people for 30 minutes. Anyone can follow this strategy. If you’re interested in replicating it, check out my portfolio here.
At last week’s shareholder meeting for a major consumer products company, I ran into a former CEO that once worked with a colleague of mine. This CEO was highly focused on the customer and led a Fortune 500 company through a significant growth period—all the way to an acquisition. Now, he’s on the board of several Fortune 500 companies. We’ll call him Mike.
My colleague and I planned a question for Mike about how to keep a company focused on the customer as you transition from an operator (CEO) to an advisor (board member).
Specifically, I asked: “What governance measures can the board put in place to keep the organization focused on the customer?”
Mike’s answer was:
- Map out the customer experience (CX), so the board and the rest of the organization can see it.
- Keep the company focused on improving the customer experience and updating the map.
This is a helpful answer. And the thinking behind it gave me an “Aha!” moment.
I realized that board-level thinking is about zooming out and creating a high-level map. Mike’s answer, in just a few short minutes, changed a question that I ask in my everyday work life.
I used to ask my colleagues, “How can we partner to get this project done?” Now, I’ll be asking them, “How can we show a single, high-level view of what we’re doing and what the expected result will be?”
Mike is a thought leader. Here’s why: he changed my question.
This story illustrates why going to shareholder meetings can elevate your thinking. If you have not gone to a shareholder meeting before, I recommend you try it. All it takes is one share and one well-placed question.
And if you have any whale-sized questions for senior leaders, I would appreciate you writing them here in the comments.