The “CEO 7” – Our Approach to Continuous Improvement and “Media One-ness”

    Derek Rider, CEO & Co-Founder, Media One Group

    There are two key principles I follow when it comes to leadership:  curiosity and gratitude.  In my next article, I’ll talk about gratitude and thank you notes.  This one is about curiosity.

    Ever since I was a toddler, I have been a voracious reader.  I read everything I could find.  I gobbled it all up.  I have an insatiable curiosity.  Books, films, podcasts, newspapers (yes, even the hardcopy ones with the smudgy ink) – I have a love of learning, asking, seeking, finding, and sharing.  In many ways, this is why I became a journalist.  I studied at Ryerson University and graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree, along with a Broadcast News and Documentary specialization.  Before co-founding our agency, Media One Creative and Media One Group, I worked at CTV and Business News Network.  I was a writer, a chase producer, a seeker of stories.  Posted at the Toronto Stock Exchange, I enjoyed interviewing some of Canada’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and CEOs.  Many of them became our first clients and friends to this day.

    It effectively comes down to curiosity.  I do a lot of talking… but I also enjoy listening.  I like hearing about the journeys people take, about their life stories.  This curiosity continued well after I hung up my notepad, tape recorder, and whatever else counts as journalistic-paraphernalia (certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it as handing in a badge and gun, but I digress.)  As CEO of Media One Creative (Toronto) and Media One Group (globally), I have the distinct pleasure of leading a team.  A big team of fellow storytellers and naturally curious folks.

    One part of being naturally curious is you ask a lot of questions…

    Why is this this way?

    Why is that that way?

    Who?

    What?

    Where?

    When?

    Why?

    How?

    You know.  Questions.

    I think that it is incumbent upon CEOs to ask a lot of questions.  Because often – as our companies grow from founder-led startups to larger companies – we lose a bit of the pulse.  We move a little further away from work, from the day-to-day.  That’s exciting… and terrifying…  But it happens.

    So to satiate my curiosity – and to still have a pulse on the goings-on – I decided to come up with what I like to call the “CEO 7”.

    I wanted to develop seven questions that I would ask, personally, once a quarter, to the highest-ranking person we have as our client contact for each (yes, each) of our clients.  Seven questions to rule them all.

    I’m delighted to report that it has been the most rewarding, gratifying, surprising, shocking, interesting, and awakening journey.  After having conducted about 20 “CEO 7” discussions so far, I’m convinced these seven questions bring out the big and the real.  The truth.  The good stuff.  The meaty bits.

    One Chief Marketing Officer I spoke with, who I promised not to name, and another Chief Executive Officer / Founder, who I also gave anonymity to, said the same thing, “I’m stealing these 7 questions from you!”

    And steal they should!  To make it easier for others to borrow this practice from us, here are a few important notes before you do your first “CEO 7”.

    • It would be best if you asked to ask, not ask to answer
    • Psychological safety – no matter what is said, you must listen, write it down and treat it as truth (the customer is always right), and you cannot discipline or reprimand based on what you hear
    • You must record the conversation (over a video Zoom call, of course) and ask for permission to do so
    • You must transcribe (or have a service / AI) transcribe the entirety of the call
    • It would be best if you then shared the transcription with your entire team (or at minimum the entire team who services that client)
    • The team must then, in groups, review and read all feedback and then come up with a Start-Stop-Continue plan addressing each of the 7 questions

    Okay, let’s do this…

    To share with the world these 7 simple questions, I submit to you:  “Derek Rider’s CEO 7.”

    1. When you consider our overall relationship – between Media One Group and (Client X), what is working?
    2. When you consider our overall relationship – between Media One Group and (Client X), what is not working?
    3. What is one thing that none of your vendors/partners, including us, are doing that you wish they would?  An itch unscratched?
    4. Is there a recent example where we have not met your expectations?
    5. Is there a recent example where we have exceeded your expectations?
    6. Where do we need to be in 2021 and 2022 to be your best partner?
    7. If someone were to ask you, “what does Media One Group do?” what would you say?

    (Bonus) – On a scale of 1-10 (1 being not likely at all, 10 being extremely likely), How likely are you to recommend Media One Group to your peers?  (If the answer is anything but a 10) What is holding that back from being a 10?

    That’s it.

    Truly.

    That’s it.

    Now picture having a CEO-to-CEO conversation with every one of your customers once every 90 days where you re-ask those above questions.  Where the conversation is honest, truthful, and framed in the spirit of continuous improvement — or what we like to call “Media One-ness.”  Think about operationalizing that across every office, across every region.

    As a naturally curious person – and I’m allowing my journalist side to come to the forefront for a moment here – I can assure you that nothing is sweeter than the unvarnished truth.  There’s nothing better than creating an environment for two people who work “on the business” not “in the business” to actually discuss what is going well, what is going poorly, and what a shared state of success and growth (together) looks like.

    There you go, friends, partners, clients, bankers, lawyers, frenemies, and the lot.  Be curious.  Ask each of your clients my ‘CEO 7’ questions and prepare yourself for a journey down the rabbit hole to truth and discovery. Be ready to learn more about how you can do better, lead better, and grow your culture to a place of honesty, transparency, and radical candour.

    Sincerely,

    Derek Rider, CEO & Co-Founder, Media One Group