dental-checkupWithin minutes of posting yesterday’s blog on Founder’s Syndrome, I got a call from Guy Burry who regaled me with tales of the founders he has worked with. He also told me about a syndrome that I had never heard of before. It’s called Dentist’s Syndrome.

This is something that CEOs get and it’s pernicious. Think about every trip you have made to the dentist in your life. You sat there in the chair with the dentist sticking things in your mouth all the while she is asking questions and chatting with you.

Chatting may be too nice a way of putting it because dentists do all the talking. All you can say with your mouth full of fingers and instruments is something that sounds like “Mhwp flub falbin.” How a dentist can understand what you are saying is beyond me. After a while you stop trying to say anything intelligible and just grunt yes or no.

After ten years of this, a dentist is pretty much relegated to one-way conversations. She doesn’t expect to get any answers and basically just has to fill in the answers for herself.

And this is exactly what happens to CEOs who are in place for too long.

They start out asking questions and trying to understand the answers. After a while though, the answers sound pretty much all the same and eventually end up sounding like a bunch of grunts and whistles.

As a result the CEO ends up having a conversation only with himself, not listening to those people around him and voila, he has Dentist’s Syndrome: a case of asking questions but not hearing the answers and pretty much filling in the answers that he wants.