How to manage an unusually talkative CEO

Font Size
Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

We work for a small enterprise owned by a family corporation. Our concern is the constant babble of our CEO on his many ideas, sometimes giving us incoherent thoughts in our daily meetings. Many of his ideas are off-topic, if not bordering on braggadocio and showmanship. It’s always a waste of time listening to him. Whenever some of my colleagues tried to bring back the discussion to a higher level, our boss automatically regresses to his old, unproductive ways. Is there a cure for us? – Plastered.

A woman met with a lawyer and informed him about his plan to file a case of separation his husband. The lawyer asked: “Do you have any grounds?” She answered: “Yes, of course. We have an acre of land.” The puzzled lawyer continued asking her: “You don’t understand. What I want to know is do you and your husband have a grudge?”

The woman answered: “Well, we don’t, but what we have is a nice carport at home.”

The lawyer shook his head and said: “Madam, I’m sorry but I just don’t see any reason why you should separate from your husband.” The woman answered: “Honestly, it’s just that my husband can’t carry on an intelligent conversation, unlike before.”

Whether it’s in the office or at home, intelligent and productive communication is a constant concern for everyone. Part of the problem is that management and workers will always have different views on anything, which could lead to hours of endless debate, resulting in low productivity.

But you have a different case. Your CEO is a different breed. He talks too much and that is a factor in your unproductive daily meetings. Dr. Marty Nemko, the San Francisco Bay Area’s “Best Career Coach” says “(a) conversation isn’t a monologue. It’s a tennis game: back and forth with the ball in each court roughly half the time. Aim to talk between 1/3 and 2/3 of the time, in 5- to 60-second bits. If you’re often outside those ranges, you’ll probably want to change.”

Nemko says “(t)he cure for verbosity depends on its cause.” It could be psychological. It could also be a matter of style. Or the CEO is simply outgoing and talking is part of his nature. But since we don’t know the cause, maybe it’s safe to assume that your CEO wants to be in total control of the organization. Therefore, as employees, what can you do to manage your situation? Do the same thing. Do whatever is necessary that is within your control. There are several ways of doing just that:

One, suggest that the company agrees to a daily, 15-minute morning meeting. Start the stand-up, eyeball-to-eyeball meeting as soon as everyone has arrived on time. If not proceed just the same. Don’t wait for tardy workers or you’ll only penalize others. Timing is crucial. And the agenda must be fixed — to rediscover yesterday’s key issues and solutions and make them as part of everyone’s lesson. It is called “asaichi” in Japanese management.

Two, volunteer to summarize the key points in your first week of daily meeting. The summary must be sent via email. It must contain only three major points: Major problem or problems tackled, agreed solutions, and lessons learned. Everything may be limited to around 250 words in an easy-to-read format. Distribute the email to those concerned. Then, agree with other team members to do the same thing by rotation on a daily or weekly basis.

Last, suggest that the CEO facilitate the daily 15-minute meeting. Somehow, your CEO, if made aware of the meeting rules, may take the hint and possibly curb his talkativeness. Depending on your rapport and credibility with the CEO, give him enough tips on how to handle an effective two-way communication process with employees.

But what if the CEO rejects your whole idea? Or if he accepts but continues to require a department sit-down meeting in the afternoon? Then, the next best thing for you is to ask a lot of open-ended questions to your CEO during that afternoon. Somehow, the meeting could proceed to its logical and intellectual conclusion as soon as your boss starts to babble his way up again.

If this fails again, then find a way to slip onto the CEO’s desk the 1982 bestselling book The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. The book is a classic management text that outlines how to do a one-minute exercise in goal-setting, a one-minute session to praise employees (in public) and a one-minute reprimand for employees not doing well (in private).

If this is difficult to do, then reverse the situation by having a print copy of the book as a permanent fixture on top of your work table, like a paperweight. Perhaps the CEO can pick up on the message.

ELBONOMICS: Everyone must learn from the silence of intelligent people.


Send anonymous questions to or via