We recently chatted with Michelle Kluz, ex-BCGer turned CEO of fashion forward multinational retailer BBRC Retail and one of its leading brands, diva, about her transition directly from consulting to the top job at her company. Apart from being a warm and very enjoyable conversationalist, she’s also quickly establishing herself in her new role, successfully driving her company forward with high growth and an expanding global footprint.
As she wraps up her first year, we dug beyond more general CEO insights and focused on Michelle’s perspective as a former consultant, her experience thus far, and any insights she has for consultants coveting the corner office. One question we asked: In the sea of consultants who focus on the CEO role, who are the ones who should really think about it?
With the caveat “Being CEO is not for everyone,” Michelle identifies six key CEO characteristics consultants don’t typically have:
Six Key CEO Characteristics
1) Charisma – “It’s not just about being smart and coming up with a great strategy or vision – you need to be energetic and articulate, and have the ability to inspire the team to drive your company forward.”
2) Decisiveness and willingness to make tough calls – “Some people want to be nice – too nice – and avoid making the tough changes that may be most necessary to the organization because they will ruffle some feathers. Certainly, my experiences at BCG have helped me understand how to uncover issues quickly and drive to a solution or a few key findings. But, it’s quite different than consulting because as CEO, you have to implement the decisions, not just recommend the direction to take.”
3) Ability to see clarity and order out of chaos – “There is so much information, and to be able to pull out pieces from various departments and put them together into a cohesive whole that leads to better decision making is the difference between a good individual contributor and a leader.”
4) An understanding of what motivates your employees – “Do whatever you can to get the best out of [your team]. I really view the core of my role as making sure I remove roadblocks so that everyone can perform well.”
5) Product experience – “[It] may be a surprise, but I think it’s really important to be a product person if you sell products… As CEO of a product company, I need to take a lead role in the design and buying process so I ensure we are delivering what our customers want.”
6) Optimism – “You have to be an optimist in order to set the tone for the team. Despite anything that’s going on beneath the surface (frustration in a meeting, worries over something that is happening in the business, etc.), you must stay positive – within boundaries, of course, or you might seem fake. People are watching everything you do as the CEO, and when you lose faith, they do.”