Insights from CEOs on self-development

The original source of this article appeared in (August 25, 2015)

As the new semester approaches, I have been reflecting on the first half of my MBA. On the academic front, several courses have been valuable in widening my views: corporate finance (analysing a company’s strategy by looking at their historical financials), organisational behaviour (biases and/or motivations can make or break any team), microeconomics (a lot in life is about supply and demand) and statistics (it’s not just bid data but its proper interpretation and communication to others).

An added value for me and 11 others was the TEC On-Campus career development programme. Back in January, I wrote some thoughts after the first session. Now, several months after the last TEC session, I can see the importance of one of its key pillars: having private monthly meetings with senior management from several small to large companies.

The objective of these sessions was to go beyond the general assumptions of senior management roles and step into the personal and professional moments they bring. Instead of a monologue by the guest speaker; it was a space where ideas and experiences were shared, with the opportunity to really get to know the person holding the chief executive title. I got to hear detailed experiences that would probably never be shared in other contexts. This gave me a true measure of their challenges and decision processes.

We were fortunate to meet six great people with diverse business exposure: Bernard Bismuth, chief executive of BdeB Consulting, Nadia Nardonnet, managing partner of Julhiet RH & Management consultancy, Bernard Bourigeaud, former chief executive of Atos, Pierre de Labouchère, former chief executive of JTI, Khaled Sanchou, former chairman of the Tunisian Football Federation and Marie France George, president of Quidem.

They shared the ups and downs of their business and personal life, touching on themes like family life, relocation, firing people, defining a company’s mission, dealing with corruption and handling the pressure of unexpected circumstances. For the MBA group, it felt like revising the real implications of concepts discussed in our classes, such as ethics, accounting and strategy.

At the end, we were given recommendations on what to look for in our own journey after the MBA. “The driving force of life is spending quality time with quality people” is something one of my classmates remembers. Another commented on how all speakers reiterated that for long-term career success, personal aspects are likely to be more important than technical knowledge.

Here is my summary of the experience, divided into four categories:

Running the company

  • Be careful with creative accounting, when you run a company you are the one in charge of the profit centre
  • Being underestimated is how you want to be perceived when you negotiate a big deal
  • Always try to set realistic targets; it’s hard to motivate people when you miss targets frequently

Inner self

  • You don’t have to be superhuman, but super positive
  • You should cultivate relationships, especially when things go rough
  • Always know and be clear on what people expect from you

Teams & Leadership

  • As you advance, you must understand what motivates people
  • Whether you like them or not, you need to have “disruptive” people in an organisation
  • Always communicate with simple short messages


  • If you buy, buy a big company which is “sleeping” and sell their non-core business
  • A CEO position is only available when a company is doing bad
  • Doing presentations in front of top management is the best way to get noticed and move up

Lastly, there was something they all mentioned in different ways: Make time to meet with people who help you grow.

What insights have you received from similar meetings in your business life?

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