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CEOs who work 17 hours is NOT something to brag about in an Executive Profile

American Express CEO Steve Squeri was recently profiled in the Financial Times, and the profile was also reported on by Business Insider. In the interviews, we learn:

  • Amex CEO Steve Squeri eats a Chopt salad at his desk every day

  • Squeri works 17-hour days that start as soon as he's on the way to work, 15 minutes after he wakes up.

  • He says he spends 3 hours each night answering more than 150 customer emails.

"I'm an example of how anybody can get to the top with a lot of hard work," Squeri told FT.

Here's how NOT to do an executive profile. Why?

❌ It’s tone deaf. With all we have learned in the past few years about the importance of work/life balance, mental health, overall wellness and avoiding burnout, it is tone deaf -- if not downright irresponsible -- to glorify someone working 17 hours a day.

❌ Corporate reputation. What type of talent would be attracted to a company where the expectation at the top is set in this manner? What is the culture like when the CEO eats a salad at his desk for lunch every day? The CEO doesn’t spend any time socializing?

❌ It’s gratuitous.

Whenever I see a story like this, I try to reverse engineer the “why”– what problem or opportunity is being addressed through storytelling? Why would the comms, marketing or PR team (or Mr. Squeri himself) create this portrayal? Is it an ego piece, or intended to show serious, attentive, hard-working leadership?

❌ The facts are iffy. He spends three hours (180 minutes) reading and answering 150 – 200 customer emails a day? Each email takes less than one minute to read and respond? That's pretty fast.

We know that we don’t always have control over the end product when it comes to earned media, but we also know how important trust, transparency and reputation is to a company and its leaders.

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