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Actionable insights for the C-Suite

Become a Better CEO With Insights from Other Leaders & Your Team

CEO and Team


As a CEO, you probably do a lot of talking. But how often do you stop and listen? You can learn a lot about being a great leader from other CEOS and the people you work with.

Here’s some advice from your counterparts on being a bold and effective leader as well as ways to tune into your team to make them more focused and positive.

How to Be a Bold & Effective Leader

Employees, managers, and organizations can learn a thing or two from other high-performing leaders.

We talked with five exceptional businesswomen who have grown their businesses, overcome challenges, and serve as an inspiration for all. 

Here are their stories and personal tips for effective leadership.

Chris-Tia Donaldson, CEO, Thank God It’s Natural (TGIN)

Chris-Tia Donaldson propelled her beauty business from the trunk of her car to the Inc. 5000. She also persevered through a breast cancer diagnosis to emerge as a powerful advocate for women. 

A confessed workaholic, Donaldson was unsure how her medical leave would impact her bottom line. She found the trust she placed in her team made Thank God It’s Natural (TGIN) a better company and doubled sales.

Here are Donaldson’s tips for using challenges to build and improve:

  • Lean into your team. Trust reinvigorates accountability.
  • Prioritize self-care.
  • Be creative. Think about how you can turn a setback into an opportunity (e.g. press, speaking engagements, etc.). People love a comeback.
  • Be an advocate for those imperiled by the injustice you see.
  • Build emotional stamina. Running a business is like being on a roller coaster. You have to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Marcie Simpson, President & COO, Nycote Laboratories

What’s the secret to successful leadership?

“Delegate, trust, then release,” said Marcie Simpson.

At the helm of the preferred coating technology solution for clients such as Boeing and Airbus, Simpson has faced challenges from the sudden loss of her business partner to the fallout of COVID-19 with characteristic strength and perseverance.

“I’m a better leader because of it,” she reflected.

Check out Simpson’s advice for leading through adversity:

  • What you survive now will power your triumphs in the future.
  • It’s in times of challenge you find new tools in your leadership toolkit.
  • Pick up the pieces and keep moving forward.
  • If you must pivot, do so as a team.

Julie Stewart, CEO & Owner, Sportsheets International

Stalled by COVID-19 amid her best quarter to date, Julie Stewart pivoted to save her team and business. She redirected her existing company to manufacture face masks and simultaneously launched JaneCare, Inc., a care package provider that sources 80% of products from women-owned vendors.

“It wasn’t all sunshine and roses,” Stewart recalled of launching the new business. “It was stressful. But I heard from the team, ‘It’s really great to be part of something positive right now.’”

These are Stewart’s tips for bold leadership:

  • Pause before you react.
  • Worry less about what other people think.
  • Trust your gut when it comes to red flags.
  • Combat stress by thinking less about yourself and doing good for others.

Kelly Solomon, CEO & Founder, Signature Coast Holdings

There’s a reason her Vistage peer calls Kelly Solomon, “one of the best leaders I know.” She grew her landscape business (recently acquired by Brightview) from her garage to one of the top 100 companies in the U.S. and has earned a spot on North Bay Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” for the past nine years. 

One of few female owners in her industry, Solomon has integrated four mergers and acquisitions in 15 years. She leans on kindness, transparency, and core values when big transitions happen.

Here is Solomon’s advice for prioritizing people:

  • Give the whys.
  • Be accountable and hold people accountable.
  • You can be kind and still make profits.
  • Prioritize staff’s needs; they are the heart of your company.

Ericka Sanchez, Owner & President, MaidBrite

Ericka Sanchez started MaidBrite in 2002 with one client. About 400 clients later, she is tirelessly committed to her company’s success and, even more so, to ensuring respect and a quality work environment for each of her employees. 

It’s a leadership approach that differentiates her business. Sanchez shared these keys to successful leadership:

  • Listen to your gut. Trust the voice inside you.
  • Positive criticism is important. Abuse is unacceptable.
  • Care for your staff must be primary in challenging situations.
  • Make decisions that let your employees know they are safe, respected, and valued.

How to Keep Teams Focused & Positive

As a CEO, it’s not only your job to run the business, but you also need to inspire positivity and focus in your employees. You do this by building and sustaining relationships.

Relationships are the driver of employee engagement and positive teams because employees want and need connection, support, and guidance from their managers and their peers.

Here are five things you can do to commit to making the relationships in your workplace stronger and more effective.

Start With You

Emotional intelligence—the ability to know and manage yourself and your relationships—is likely the most important soft skill in today’s workplace. You build rapport and loyalty when you learn how to not melt down, bully, and lose your cool in challenging or frustrating situations.

Many CEOs work with executive coaches to expand their self-awareness of:

  • their strengths (that get overused);
  • their liabilities (that get underused); or
  • their triggers (things others say or do, or situations that activate a reaction instead of a response).

This practice enables them to develop greater self-regulation, calm, and focus.

Employees develop greater loyalty to those who are self-managed and able to successfully handle both the good and tough times the workplace generates. Remember, people quit people before they quit companies.

Reconnect Personally With Your Team

Make it a point to get to know your employees. 

To effectively manage and coach your employees, it is important to know their strengths, interests, and values. It is important to know what engages and disengages them about their jobs and the organization. It is critical to know how they best communicate and learn, and their most and least favorite aspects of their jobs. This is critical relationship information.

Equally important is getting to know them outside of work. Ask them about their hobbies, their family, their worries or struggles, or even things that are going well in their lives. And, when appropriate, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. Though some employees may prefer not to share too much personal information, the fact that you asked goes a long way.

Gather important information about each of your employees to understand not only the abilities needed to be successful in their roles, but the other abilities, interests, and passions that make them who they are. Use this information to connect with them more effectively and coach them. 

Employees want time with their managers, so use this increased time to get to know them and to develop a plan to connect with them more effectively going forward.

Include Your Team in Creating Shared Goals

Goals are important. They provide direction, clarity, and focus. By including employees in the creation of goals, or more specifically team goals, they feel more included, valued, and part of the organization. They know you are interested in what they think.

A workplace culture that asks employees for input not only benefits from greater employee loyalty, but also from expanded ideas that come from empowering and expecting employees to actively think throughout their days. Those employees will share their working experience with others and attract other top talents to join your team.

Share Leadership Responsibilities With the Team

Sure, you may be the host of the daily or weekly huddle, or the meeting with senior management that reviews your department’s result. But why not share that responsibility with others on the team? 

This is a way to expand their sense of inclusion, as well as building the bench strength of the team. Wise leaders are always grooming and developing their future leaders by including them in tasks and events that develop their skills and exposure in the organization. 

Similar to including employees in creating shared goals, sharing responsibilities helps employees gain a greater understanding of their organization and, by default, their unique strengths and abilities. This enables a greater connection between the employees and the organization.

Commit to Sharing More Performance Information

You want your employees to be more focused and engaged, but it’s hard to create that when they work in the dark. They can’t connect their work to its impact or value when information about why they’re doing what they’re doing isn’t made clear.

By improving your relationship with your employees, you create the space to have more candid and honest conversations about performance. The result is a welcome and productive conversation around feedback because it’s delivered from a place of care, support, and guidance—instead of reprimand.

Get employees involved in creating their performance expectations that help them amplify their strengths and connect with areas that interest and excite them. But remember, these are things you won’t know if you don’t first take the time to better understand each of them. When employees take ownership of things that benefit them and the organization, they learn and grow—and the company improves.


CEO and Team

Use Insights From Others to Become a Better CEO 

Now you know more about the insights on leadership you can gain from other business leaders as well as your employees.

It’s great to get advice from other CEOS when you’re looking to become a more effective leader. There’s no better asset to turn to than your team to figure out what inspires them and keeps them motivated to improve your organization. 

Developing relationships with other leaders and your employees should be top priorities if you want to succeed in business.

Tags: Leadership
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Vistage Research Center publishes actionable, data-driven insights and expert perspectives from our global community of CEOs and thought leaders. Led by Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer