04/7/20

The Gratification Of Personal Development, CEO Transformation

There is nothing as gratifying in my CEO coaching than watching hardworking CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs blossom and develop.

Right now is a time whereat a CEO is exposed to the business friction of the COVID19 saga. In this friction, one finds the revealed strength of CEOs. Frankly, not everyone has it while everyone needs it.

When you see a CEO with whom you have worked blossom and rise to the occasion, it is extraordinarily gratifying and just makes you want to sing Hosanna!

Amongst the characteristics I see with this subset are the following:

 1. The CEOs who undergo transformation to a higher level of performance in times of crisis have done the work, day in day out over a protracted period of time. There are no overnight success stories. Sorry.

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01/13/20

Listening Until The . . . . . End

I was with a pal of mine named Charlie — no, his name is not really Charlie — and I received a call from a former CEO coaching client who is a big deal these days. BIG DEAL.

I say to Charlie, “Let me talk to this guy.” We’re sitting under a grape arbor at a restaurant drinking expensive latte that Charlie insisted on rather than good, old fashioned black coffee. Charlie has forgotten more about the CEO business than I will ever know and I was at it for 33+ years.

I start listening to the guy, the CEO — giving off the vibe of his hair on fire. Burning hair has a distinctive odor you can smell if you have 5G cell service.

“Take your time and tell me exactly what the problem is,” says I. I listen for a long time with a few “got it” type comments thrown in.

When the CEO finishes, I ask, “What else?” He remembers a few other things.

During this convo, I have whipped out my notebook and pen and taken some notes. I am sipping on my latte under the grape arbor — a pergola. The sun is on my face, a slight breeze is cooling me, I am alive and well in Austin By God Texas. Life is good. My CEO, a former client, has called me with a problem and I think I can help him. Is this a great country or what?

“What else?” I ask. He adds one last thing.

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01/9/20

Never Disrespect Your Team

It was 77F today in the ATX, lovely temperature for this time of year, bit cloudy, so no sunscreen. I hate putting sunscreen on in the winter, but I will.

Warmish where you were? Haha, no it was cold as Hell. Global warming much?

So, I am the biggest Carolina Tarheels basketball fan in the world. This year has been tough with the Heels in tenth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. [Duke is #1, adding insult to injury.]

The Heels are 1-3 in league play and 8-7 overall. The Heels suck.

The coach of the Heels, future Hall-of-Famer Roy Williams, had this to say after being beaten like a rented mule by Georgia Tech at Carolina in that holiest of all holies, the Dean Smith Dome, 96-83.

“We stunk OK. We were not very good. The crazy thing about it is, our team, and we’ve had some very gifted teams, this is not a very gifted team. It’s just not.”

What?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Coach Williams. What did you just say?

Pinstriped Roy Williams crouches low exhorting his Carolina Tar Heels to overcome their natural mediocrity and lack of gifts. Look at his White Supremacy hand sign and his pocket square. Needs a tie pin.

Did you say the team you recruited and trained is ” . . . not a very gifted team . . . ?”

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01/1/20

Lessons v Tests For CEOs Only

Back from a tour de force of the American South, I am struck by the issue of learning from lessons and tests. The matrix goes something like this:

 1. When in school or other entities intended to “teach” us things (such as military training for young officers), we are presented lessons and then tested on the lesson.

Have we absorbed and retained the learning?

 2. Often in life — business, families, military — we are tested first and from that testing we must learn a lesson.

Do we absorb and retain the learning?

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12/20/19

Grading CEOs After the Pay Window Closes

Merry Christmas, y’all, from Austin By God Texas where it is cold and gray.

So, several years ago, a CEO who I had advised for a few years and who had taken his company to the pay window asked me, “What kind of a CEO was I?”

He didn’t mean in a Performance Appraisal way, but more as a final, historic debrief of his entire tenure. [His bank account suggested he’d been a good CEO.]

It was an easy conversation because the guy was crackerjack and I told him so.

The conversation went on and he wanted to know, “How did I develop along the way?”

That was a deeper conversation and I agreed to go back and consult my notes rather than give him a saccharine, off-the-cuff, in-the-light-emanating-from-the-pay-window reply.

When I did consult my notes, we had a very useful conversation: useful to him because it validated some things he was thinking, and useful to me because I had a good chance to see what impact I might have had on his journey.

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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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