12/14/19

Team Performance — The Multiplier Effect

The board of directors and the investors in a company rarely get an opportunity to see a team function as a system, as a whole. They may become familiar with certain subsets of the team when they are in contact with the leadership and the management, but they rarely see the entire team working together and rarely without the team knowing they are watching.

When I work with a CEO, I sometimes get a chance to be a voyeur and watch the team functioning without the team being aware of my presence. This opportunity provides a keen and unique insight.

Today, I had such an opportunity. In this instance, I came away bowled over by the quality of the performance.

Here is what I observed:

 1. As a complete process, the team operated at a high level of performance. They were demonstrably better than peer organizations.

 2. The team was visibly interdependent and worked with each other. Clearly, this was neither novel nor unique to this day.

 3. Looking at the individual team members, I would not have thought them remarkable, but as I watched them several things jumped out:

 a. The team, at the individual level, was sympatico and had a native desire to work together.

 b. Whoever had hired this team had done a fabulous job. I spent some time watching individual team members and across the board they were performers.

 c. The team work was neither forced nor snarky. It was genuine and natural.

So, I spoke to the manager of the unit and we had a very nice chat. I quizzed him as to his hiring practices.

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11/29/19

CEO Shoptalk — Coachability

Coachability?

It is a cold, wet day in the ATX with the leaves abandoning their perches and congregating in my pool clogging the skimmers and the filter.

As a CEO, you have two dogs in the coachability fight.

First, there is your own coachability — do you take well to criticism and coaching?

Second, can you dish it out to your subordinates and is it effective? 

Being coached, coachability

As to your own coachability, the big thing is from whom you are receiving the coaching, what is your own personal learning style, and what is your objective?

Tiger Woods had an interesting relationship with coaches.

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10/27/19

Experience v Logic — Who Wins?

I have a former client — full disclosure he is one of two clients I have ever fired. I fired him because he was not diligent in keeping our appointments.

He paid well. He was always apologetic. He always had an excuse. He was and is a very good CEO, the kind you enjoy working with because he does the work and he was a nice person. Hard worker.

A couple of years later, he wrote me a lovely letter apologizing for his behavior that I promised him I would burn.

Recently, he calls me and asks, “Can you give me some help? I’m trying to hire a CEO coach.”

I look at the phone, stifle a laugh, and say, “Absolutely.”

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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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