mushroom coffee

I spent some time with entrepreneurs and CEOs, last week, at a collaborative forum where executives can learn from one another in a tweet-free, blog-free zone.

It was super fun and interesting. I can’t give you a ton of details from the off-the-record sessions, but I can tell you about my sessions that I chaired.

First of all, everybody was talking about fit and culture. Most founders and CEOs would rather avoid hiring people. If they do need to scale, they would prefer to automate or outsource the work. If they can’t get a robot or a service provider to do the work, they’ll hire slowly to avoid making the mistake of hiring someone who is disruptive, demands too much money, or might hold the organization hostage.

(They don’t want to hire anyone who thinks he might be a future CEO. Ha!)

Many CEOs say that they would rather hire someone with no skills and a good attitude than hire someone with a poor attitude and the right skills. This rules out people with diverse points of view, and maybe excellent workers who have mild forms of autism. That didn’t matter to many people in my sessions. Nobody seemed too worried about bias or being sued for discrimination.

(I guess HR still serves a purpose!)

The other interesting thing is that, while most CEOs are focused on building businesses and exiting those companies with the express goal of achieving more personal wealth, most attendees in my room didn’t believe that the average worker is motivated by earning more money.

(I guess only CEOs are capitalists, whereas workers just like to feel good about themselves.)

One CEO jumped on the Dan Pink bandwagon and generously conceded that you have to pay people a decent wage; however, too much money has diminishing returns.

(That’s how I feel about CEO pay, but nobody in the room shared my point of view.)

My concluding impression is that many HR leaders and CEOs are speaking the same language about talent, culture and fit. The language is wrong, but nobody asked me. I think leaders are being duped into believing that employees aren’t capitalists, too. Your employees are the CEOs of their lives, families and careers. They deserve to be treated with much more respect. Focus on the false power of positive psychology, and not the power of the purse, at your own peril.

So in summary: my trip to Barcelona was fascinating and fun. I learned so much from my fellow attendees, and I look forward to my next event with the CEO Collaborative Forum. I encourage you to check them out!


  1. This sounds HORRIBLE…. Like a week-long interment with a bunch of self-absorbed tyrants!

    Employees aren’t motivated by MONEY!? Show someone on their staff how to “cash-out and move on,” and I’ll show you an EMPTY CHAIR.

    Clearly egotism is alive an well…

  2. Fascinating! But did the CEOs actually learn anything or was it just an exercise in validating their own skewed beliefs about employees and their motivations. It worries me that they didn’t listen to your point of view Laurie …. If only the sessions could have been periscoped 😉

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