The CEO Whisperer

I saw a great job title this morning when I was looking someone up on LinkedIn. It was “CTO Whisperer.”

As I’m getting deeper into meditation. I hear the word “teacher” a lot. I’d never thought much about it before, but it’s used in a similar way to how we use the word “mentor” at Techstars. When we started to use the word mentor in 2007, it required defining. Now mentor is getting overused by the broad entrepreneurial landscape. I have no idea whether teacher is overused as well, but the parallel got me thinking about the idea of a CEO Whisperer.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of The Horse Whisperer or a Dog Whisperer. A person who has a special, magic skill that certain animals respond to. A unique ability to calm and teach. A style about them that is unique, loving, and kind, even in difficult circumstances.

As I was mulling this over, my friend Jerry Colonna popped into my mind. While Jerry is referred to as a CEO coach, he most certainly is a CEO Whisperer. And for those who don’t know Jerry’s past, he was an extremely successful venture capitalist, founding Flatiron Partners with Fred Wilson in the mid-1990s before retiring from venture capital in the early 2000’s.

I count Jerry as a very close friend. As a mentor. As a teacher. And, with all great mentor / teacher relationships, we learn from each other. Which led me back to the idea of a CEO Whisperer.

In the 1990’s, Jerry and I worked together on several investments and were on a few boards together. Our styles were very complementary – we both had a soft touch and were supportive of the CEO, but had different things we could help with. I know that my involvement on these boards deeply shaped my role and approach as a board member and investor, as I thought Jerry was the best board member I’d ever worked with at that point in time.

I’ve met – and worked with – a few other people who I’d consider CEO Whisperers, but none compare to Jerry. And when I think about how I want to be viewed by the CEOs I work with, the idea of mentor and teacher immediately comes to the forefront of my mind.

The world of entrepreneurship needs more CEO Whisperers. Thanks Jerry for leading the way. On multiple fronts.

  • you guys are in the same category already… expert mentor/teacher/coach/whisperers… at least, you’ve both kept me sane when i need it

    and the cool part is that your impact doesn’t end with me… i try to pass along a lot of what i learn/gather from you both, to other founder/ceo’s/startup people. i don’t know that i qualify as a “CEO Whisperer” yet, but i hope to achieve that level of impact for others

    • Big smile.

      • jerrycolonna

        I agree with Reece. In fact, I think the best of friends can be all of these things for each other. And I can’t describe adequately just how much I learn from my clients.

  • Excellent concept. We’ve recently decided to sign an aptly-named CEO Whisperer to our Consulting Team – old businessman, naturalist and long-time coach – to help our Founder/Partners (much like your invested company founders) stay on track, not cut corners, and realize that there IS a powerful tomorrow!

    We’ll also be working with him individually.

  • I’ve been a long-time CTO who did a lot of cross-over communication with the business side of the house. Often mending fences between CEOs and engineering organizations who’d lost trust. In one business in particular, I was known as the “CEO Whisperer”, mostly by the engineers who took a “better him than me” approach to communicating with a tough CEO.

    I now spend most of my time mentoring early stage non-technical founders on topics around technology and building development teams and processes. So 1) hopefully my whispering skills are being put to good use, and 2) thanks to Brad, I feel antiquated for calling myself a mentor…better come up with a new one.

    My official title with my own consulting entity is “Chief Elucidation Officer”, which I think cheekily captures elements of “teacher”.

  • I saw the title “The CEO Whisperer” in my RSS reader and immediately thought of Jerry. Lo and behold — it was about Jerry. Nice post.

  • JC

    Love this.

  • RBC

    Great post, also saw you got a story in HBR. There are many ways to get lessons out,