Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index: Hiring, Personality Profiling Tools, Working with a Partner, and Other Lessons from 20 Years as a CEO

My Guests

My guest today is Mike Zani, CEO of The Predictive Index. The Predictive Index serves more than 9,000 clients across 142 countries, helping businesses optimize their hiring and team composition decisions through a combination of behavioral science, software, and professional consulting from the world’s top workplace behavior specialists.

Mike has been CEO of The Predictive Index for approximately 8 years, after having purchased the business from its original founders. Prior to leading The Predictive Index, Mike successfully purchased, operated, and sold two other companies in the employee wellness and manufacturing spaces.

In addition to his experience as a CEO, Mike is also a best-selling author, having published The Science of Dream Teams, a Wall Street Journal Best Seller, in 2021. Prior to commencing his business career, Mike was the coach for the United States Olympic sailing team, and was selected as the Coach of the Year in 1996 by the United States Olympic Committee.

Mike received an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a BS from Brown University in 1993.

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Questions Asked

Career Arc and Selling His First Business

  • Please walk us through the chronology of your career
  • After your first exit, how did you make the decision to become a CEO again?
  • After you sold your first company, you stayed on to help with the integration process. What was most difficult or surprising about this period of your career?
  • How should exiting CEOs think about the length of transition periods and what appears to be a positive correlation with exit proceeds?
  • When you purchased Predictive Index it was largely a service business, and it’s now largely a software company. What were the most challenging or surprising aspects of navigating the company through this transition?
  • How did you think about when to begin executing on such fundamental changes within a newly acquired business?

Personality Profiling Tools

  • How well do these tools translate into “blue collar”, “old economy” types of businesses?
  • How useful are these types of tools when making hiring decisions for roles that are largely performed individually, not as part of a team?
  • Based on your own Predictive Index results, what within your profile is suggestive of your success as an entrepreneur and CEO?
  • If an acquisition entrepreneur approached you to invest in them, what would you look for in their personality profile? Are there profiles that are more predictive of success than others?
  • How might we use tools like Predictive Index, if at all, in our personal relationships?
  • Do people’s personality profiles change over time?

Lessons Learned as a CEO

  • Explain your “head, heart, and briefcase” framework for evaluating talent, and tell us where within that framework do most hiring mistakes tend to take place?
  • What are some of the hiring mistakes that you’ve made recently, and what generalizable lessons did you extract from those mistakes?
  • How do you modify yourself as a leader when communicating with employees with very different personality profiles? How do you maintain your authentic leadership style but modify your style simultaneously?
  • What should leaders do when managing somebody with a personality profile that tends to clash or conflict with their own?
  • If you could buy a business all over again, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently with respect to talent evaluation during the due diligence process?

Working with a Partner

  • What have you learned about the merits and risks of pursuing any entrepreneurial endeavor with a partner versus doing so on your own?
  • For prospective entrepreneurs wrestling with the question of whether or not to work with a partner: Are there any introspection exercises, questions, exercises, or frameworks that they should utilize or think through?
  • What are some of the best practices that you’ve used over the years to maintain a healthy and functioning partnership for as long as you have?
  • If you were to evaluate the respective personality profiles of yourself and your partner, what about these profiles might suggest such an enduring, healthy partnership?

Conclusion

  • A few years ago, you decided to take your family on a one-year trip to the Caribbean. What prompted that decision, and what did you learn from that experience?
  • What are some of the practices or rituals or tools that you’ve put into place to ensure that your work does not take precedence over your life?

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