The One Thing A CEO Must Do

by Nov 18, 2020Strategy

There is a common assumption that I wish would really change amongst business leaders: once the strategy of a company is defined (At MetaHelm, we do this through the creation of a strategic narrative), it will be the job of somebody else to communicate it. For most companies, I see executive teams hire a consultant, a copywriter or an agency to create a pitch deck or a landing page. I’ve even seen this delegated to interns.

To me, this is nuts.

Messaging is the CEO’s job. At least for testing purposes.

Should you write the actual copy that customers receive? My straight answer is yes!

I know what you’ll say because I hear the same pushbacks all the time:

  • I don’t have time for that.
  • I’ve got bigger fish to fry.
  • I am not a copywriter. Shouldn’t we hire a pro instead?
  • I am a terrible writer. I would be useless.
  • It’s going to take me such a long time.
  • Our PR agency can do that.
  • Etc.

These are the excuses that lead to the fact that no one knows your strategy – Not even your top leaders.

The process of putting your ideas on paper, in a clear and complete piece of communication is the greatest forcing function for clarity and alignment.

The strategic narrative is always an assumption. You need to test its validity by writing yourself a high-visibility and high-stakes piece of communication, test it and get direct feedback.

Writing as a noun, writing as a verb.

I’d like to borrow a perspective on drawing from Brandy Agerbeck, with whom I’ve learned to perform the art and science of graphic facilitation professionally for select events on leadership.

You can view drawing as a verb or drawing as a noun. According to Brandy, the difference has massive implications. If you focus on the process of drawing over the product of drawing, you will reclaim the full power of your strategic thinking.

To me, the same goes for writing.

When you think as writing as a noun, you focus on the beauty of sentences. That’s when you think about it as pretty or ugly. In this case, writing takes place with the goal of creating a work product, and this product has to be right. When writing is a noun, it comes with high expectations, the idea of perfection, and lots of criticism.

When writing is a verb, it describes an action, a tool. In that case, what matters is the progress you make in your thinking as you write your words on a page. The only thing that counts is if you’re getting one step closer to your goal. That’s really important when you write for strategy purposes. Unfortunately, we tend to ignore the process of writing as a way to go from point A to point B.

Don’t get me wrong; the elegance of the words is essential to me. In fact, similar to drawing, the art and the artefact of writing are interconnected. One never goes without the other.

My hope is that looking at writing as a process will lower your bar and get you to write, even though the process feels messy. That messy is good.

What’s the benefit of writing your own stuff yourself?

The struggle of writing is good for you. At this stage, there are more benefits in writing yourself rather than delegating it to somebody else.

1 – You will get to validate your strategic assumptions

You can only know if the assumptions are right if you try them. The goal is just to write them in a good enough form so you can test them. Focus on speed to carry a conversation with your team, and quickly get feedback.

2 – You will integrate your strategy

Whoever gets to develop a message gets a chance to assimilate it first. I sometimes know my own client’s pitch better than them. Chew on the keywords that you want to consistently use, it’s essential.

3 – You will carefully weigh each strategic option and decision

Writing is thinking in words. Choosing words is making conscious choices. Some words may be interchangeable, but if there are different, it is for a reason.

4 – You will own your strategy

When people put their fingerprints on something, it belongs to them. What you make becomes your own. You will commit to what you write and this will go a long way in terms of your leadership.

5 – You will stay focused on your trajectory

Writing is never really done. You will want to come back to work on your own messaging. After you moved away from your screen, you will take a step back and will reflect on the choices and the direction you want your business to take.

6 – You will know exactly how to scale

After the test phase, you’re obviously not going to be the copywriter anymore. But because you went through the initial struggle of communicating your strategy, you will be fully prepared to give the best directions ever to your team, whether it’s for marketing, sales, PR, product development or fundraising purposes. This will save you millions in wasted budget.

Doing it yourself doesn’t mean you should do it alone

  • Get someone to keep you accountable and schedule writing check-in meetings to keep you on track.
  • Ask your team, a colleague or a friend to review your communication and edit it for you.
  • Use a service like to talk and transcribe your message.

Of course, if by now you think that this would be a valuable process, I can help you get there. I specialize in doubling the superpowers of executive teams. Book a call.

In this article, I described what most of my clients go through when they work with me. Here is what one of them sent me last week:

“I so value your contributions to our story journey, and love how you pushed us to refine, refine, refine. We could have never done this without you.”

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