CEO Shoptalk — Persuasion

If you are a CEO, a manager, a leader you will of necessity order persons who are your subordinates to do things that need to be done. It is the nature of a senior-subordinate relationship, an employer-employee relationship. It is an every day action in the workplace.

How can you ensure that these things you require to be done are, in fact, done?

There are essentially three ways:

 1. You can mandate that they be done under pain of punishment. Discipline in the work place is always lurking just below the surface.

Taken to an extreme, if you fail to follow the mandate, you will be fired.

In 33 years as a CEO and 5 years an Army officer, I never had anyone defy my orders or found it necessary to discipline anybody for willfully not following my direction.

I had plenty of times when someone did not do something I had ordered to be done well, but that is not what we are talking of today.

 2. You can reward persons for the accomplishment of the task.

Whatever behaviors you reward will be observed by others and duplicated.

Feed the good angels; starve the bad angels. Get more good angels. Money talks.

 3. You can persuade them of the necessity and wisdom that the thing be done.

Persuasion requires education, communication, salesmanship, a bit of cajolery, and the willingness to engage in calm debate wherein the titular power of the CEO is put aside for a second as he/she deploys the power of logic. Continue reading


CEO Shoptalk — Not Cleared In Hot

When you are calling in CAS (close air support — might be Snakes, Warthogs, fast movers, Puff the Magic Dragon — I know, dating myself) you will tell the flyboys they are “cleared hot” meaning they can bring their special brand of firepower and turn it loose on the target and that the friendlies are out of the line of fire. You are also assuring them that if you had guns firing that the gun-target line is clear.

When you are a CEO, you can never, ever clear yourself in hot when disciplining employees. Continue reading


CEO Shoptalk — CEO Self Help, Self Appraisal

I am a huge fan of routine, standard operating procedures, process development/management, and ritual.

I am also a big fan of regular, rigorous Performance Appraisal and, in particular, Boards of Directors appraising the performance of their CEOs, and CEOs demanding an in-depth appraisal by the Board (subset of the Board is fine, try to get someone who has CEO experience on the committee).

Lazy, cowardly Boards of Directors ignore this critical professional development duty. Shame on you.

Pro tip: The methodology, timing, process of CEO Performance Appraisal belongs in any  competent Employment Agreement and professional boards/CEOs have Employment Agreements.

I am not a fan of trendy things like 360 Degree Performance Appraisals — I like bare knuckled, in your face, straightforward performance appraisal.

One of the things I practiced in 33 years of CEO-ing public and private companies, and I preach to CEOs is self appraisal. Nobody judges us as tough as we do ourselves. Think about that for a second.

CEO readying herself for performance self-appraisal.

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Comes to the front of my mind on this bluebird day in Austin By God Texas the subject of loyalty — a strong feeling of allegiance or fidelity to a person or a cause that results in a sense of heightened duty or devoted attachment.

In school, the military, business, and family, I have been exposed to extraordinary examples of loyalty, been the beneficiary of loyalty, been loyal.

The Virginia Military Institute

There is no more loyal bunch of alumni on the planet than those of my alma mater, The Virginia Military Institute.

Stonewall Jackson, former prof at VMI, guarding the parade ground overseeing the Rockbridge Battery (Mexican War, Civil War vets) Matthew, Mark, Luke, John in front of Jackson Arch wherein is inscribed the inspiring phrase, “You may be whatever you resolve to be.”

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CEO Shoptalk – Executive Decision-making

One of the things that strikes new CEOs is how bloody many decisions there are to make to run a startup and a fledgling business to say nothing of one that survives the trip from the cradle to the marketplace.

I have read that a CEO makes more decisions in a day than CEOs did in prior times in a month — prior times being defined as pre-personal computer and Internet.

I was in business before the PC and the Internet and I totally agree with that assessment. No big surprise there, right?

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CEO Shoptalk — You Will Learn

About five years ago, I had a chat with the younger brother of a successful CEO. The older brother was a friend of mine of longstanding and through him I met the younger brother.

The younger brother was in awe of his big brother — All State Basketball First Team kind of awe. We got to talking about his brother, the CEO/Founder, in that capacity. He was, admittedly, very good. Plus, he was a good guy with that aura of a winner that guys like that have.

“I could never do what he does,” said brother younger. “He just knows what to do. He’s a natural.” It was a serious lament, so I told him the following:

 1. No CEO/Founder ever knew everything he/she needed to know before they started the company even if it is their fifth company.

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CEO Shoptalk — No LSD Before Investor Meetings

Comes now the strange case of Justin Zhu, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Iterable (email marketing firm).

Justin complains of the fact that he believes he was replaced as CEO because he microdosed with LSD before a key investors’ meeting during which he says he saw “numbers and images swelling and shrinking on the screen” and that his body felt like it was melting.

Who really knows?

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