09/27/19

CEO Shoptalk — Confidence: Expecting To Win

The other day I read some screed that attempted to describe confidence in a ham-handed and poorly written manner. Reading it felt like an intellectual barbed wire enema, but it did make me think about the subject.

Tom Brady, quarterback of the National Football League New England Patriots, expects to win every time he steps on the football field.

Not only does HE expect to win, but those who play with him, the coaching staff of the team (led by Head Coach Bill Belichick), the sports punditry, the fans, and maybe the opposition — also expect him to win.

He brings that magic bit of confidence that creates this mojo — expecting to win. He has played in nine Super Bowls and has emerged with a ring from six of them.

Stop for a second: Do YOU expect to win as a CEO? Do you?

Tom Brady doesn’t expect to win only on the football field; he expects to win in life, at everything.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

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09/14/19

CEO Shoptalk — Fragility

In the early days of a startup, when you are running on pure adrenalin, co-founders are in constant contact. Every new development is shared completely, you are likely to be in close physical proximity, and the novelty of it all creates a glue that binds the co-founders together thereby provoking a level of communication that ensures the founding team is fully informed.

At the beginning you are giddy with communication.

This chaotic time builds trust and generates confidence. It is a heady and energetic time. It is the camaraderie that soldiers create on the battlefield. Co-founders are at war against the market, so that comparison is not a great leap.

But, then the company raises money or gets traction or screams, “We have product-market fit, y’all!” and the closeness that was there at the crib side of the new baby begins to change.

Roles are more distinct, there are spheres of responsibility, employees are hired, parts of jobs are delegated, board members begin to deploy their wisdom, and the pace begins to quicken.

The ability for the co-founders to attain full communication and full knowledge of what is going on is tested by the actual progress.

It is at this junction in time — almost verifiable by a watch — that the strength of a co-founding team is tested.

And, the test is this — Is the organization robust (as it relates to co-founder communication) or is it fragile?

The answer, dear reader, 104% of the time is that the relationship is hopelessly fragile. It is the normal state of affairs because it requires specific work, organization, and that most precious of all commodities in the universe — time, to beat the fragility out of your fledgling company.

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09/8/19

Transformational Storytelling

As a CEO of a startup or a company that has escaped from the cradle into “small company-dom” you are in a constant state of storytelling, storytelling that dictates the transformation of you as the CEO and your company.

As a writer of stories, you are told to “write what you know” while your Big Red Car believes the correct bit of inspiration is: “Write what you imagine based on what you know.”

They key thing here is that you are not writing a history, but a story of what the future will be because you are charged with creating that future.

 

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08/24/19

CEO Shoptalk — Teaching Yourself

I am fond of saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” It has been a cornerstone of my “Wisdom of the Campfire” CEO coaching consultancy with — wait for it — CEOs.

I get calls from a great number of CEOs who are looking for guidance for a specific situation and I have longstanding arrangements with others, some for several years.

The common denominator is they are “ready.”

An adjunct to that is that sometimes CEOs are both the teacher and the student. You may be teaching yourself. It is neither odd nor unusual and many times it is complementary to a steady arrangement with a CEO coach.

On the left, how the CEO sees him/herself. On the right, how the CEO may really be. The transformation is the teaching. Sometimes, you are teaching yourself.

Allow me to give you an example from my personal experience.

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08/17/19

CEO Shoptalk — Counting Coups

As a leader, it is imperative that the company you build and lead is energized from within by taking a moment to celebrate victories. In history, this is called “counting coups.”

The other day I was advising a client and we got to the issue of rewarding accomplishments and behavior.

“Why is this important?” the brilliant CEO asked.

“Because you will get more of whatever behavior your recognize and reward. Reward good performance — more good performance,” said your Big Red Car.

We wandered into a discussion as to how the military did it with a formal awards program wherein an individual was formally recognized by having their exploit written up, memorialized in a citation, and symbolized by a bit of colored ribbon they would wear on their uniform forever. These awards in the military are given in front of one’s unit often at a parade. It is very public moment.

One of my platoon sergeants when I was a young lieutenant had been awarded a DSC. Every payday we wore our green uniforms with ribbons. Every payday I would have him tell the story of how he won the Distinguished Service Cross to my platoon. We were counting coups.

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08/15/19

Reading With Skepticism And Perception

The other day I read an interesting blog post by a former client of mine, Anthony Bucci, former co-founder and CEO of Revzilla. He was an early client and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as he scaled Revzilla into a powerhouse eCommerce business. He blossomed into an excellent CEO and monetized the company in a world class exit. Pay window.

His blog post which you can find here is excellent. He is taking a summer breather, focusing on his five bambinos.

Summa Read, Summa Listen by Anthony Bucci, former CEO Revzilla

Anthony, who I have never called “Fredo,” gives you a nice cross section of the current literary offerings and podcasts of those who are seeking knowledge at the inspirational C-suite level. All good books.

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08/14/19

Recruitment v Seduction

A professional recruiter who I have advised — real pro — put up an article on Twitter that caught my interest. It discusses the essence of recruitment failures and why they happen. It takes a long time to get to the nub of things, but it is filled with wisdom.

I had also been building a file to write about this and they both came together at the same time. I take an earthier view of things having been in hiring mode for more than three decades.

I have always maintained that a good CEO is always recruiting and that recruitment is a seduction — meaning you want to create a reaction in the target that they want to work at your company rather than you need them to fill a job. Perhaps, overly subtle, but it is the way I think and I always had good luck in hiring.

Here’s a hiring challenge for you.

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08/12/19

The Condors In My Gut

Bit of warm weather in the ATX which makes me get out and do my outside chores first thing before the sun sets things ablaze. Going to be 103F today, but I don’t believe it.

Get a call from a CEO, who says, “I have this burning in my gut all the time. Butterflies and napalm.”

Nice turn of a phrase. I laugh to myself because I never laugh at CEOs. Not a good practice, ungentlemanly.

So, he continues, “Does it ever get better? You were a CEO for 33 years, when did it all settle down and the flaming butterflies took a vacation?”

I wanted to comfort him, but I always speak the truth, so I hesitated for a second.

“They never go away,” I said in my most comforting Saint Michael the Archangel voice. “You know how sometimes when we discuss one of the List of Horribles and I tell you, ‘Sorry, that’s normal.’?”

The List of Horribles

“Yes, you also say the only normal people are the ones we don’t know very well. I get that,” says the CEO. “When did the flaming butterflies go away and everything was peaceful, calm, and you didn’t lay awake in bed thinking about things? Tormented by things?”

“Sorry, amigo,” I said. “They never go away. In fact, what you see as butterflies, flaming butterflies even. They become condors. Big, vicious condors with enormous talons that rip your guts apart while they are bathing in acid. On bad nights, you can feel their talons slicing and the acid flowing into your abdomen. When you scale, your problems scale with you.”

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