08/27/20

CEO Shoptalk — Taking Charge

I am sure I have written about this before, but I had chats with a number of CEO type persons over the last month such that I feel I must say it again.

In life, you do not get power, you take power. It is not a difficult concept. CEOs must take charge.

May I tell you a personal story? [I like asking things like that because it makes me seem reasonable, which I assure you I am, but I really don’t care if you give me permission. Here comes the story.]

Once Upon A Time In A Far Away Country

I was anointed by our military to conduct affairs of some considerable importance in a far away land.

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08/21/20

Performance Appraisal As Inspiration And Motivation

Performance appraisal in small to medium companies (including startups) is one of those things that CEOs equate to going to the dentist. Not only do they not like it, they are not good at it.

There are a lot of very odd ideas at play here in the performance appraisal business — 360 degree appraisals which also fold in the guy selling flowers on the street corner — which makes the process a moving target; moving targets are notoriously hard to hit.

The message I bring you today is that a suspiciously simple, well-designed and executed performance appraisal system can be the most powerful personal tool wielded by a keen CEO for inspiration and motivation of individual team members.

It can also be clean, streamlined, and painless.

Let’s take a quick look at where performance appraisal fits within the overall schema of a company’s organizational matrix. Click on the graphic to see it at a larger scale.

Business-planning-building-blocks-graphic

What I want you to see is that performance appraisal is at the foundation level of the company’s Vision, Mission, Strategy Tactics, Objectives, Values, and Culture.

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05/7/20

CEO Shoptalk — Scaling Yourself, Delegation

This is a re-titled former blog post that is particularly timely today. The way a CEO scales him/herself is to learn how to effectively delegate.

In these re-opening, re-launching COVID19 days, CEOs will be up to their eyeballs in work, so being able to delegate is an important work balancing tactic. Here is exactly how you do it.

Delegation. Today we talk about delegation. Think of delegation as the means by which a CEO scales him/herself.

The ability of a CEO to delegate tasks effectively is a force multiplier and one of the most important skills a CEO can develop. It is a mechanical skill and today the Big Red Car is going to help you learn how to do it. It’s like being able to fly fish. A bit of local knowledge plus a ten-to-two cast and you are eating smoked trout whenever you want. Listen.

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03/9/20

CEO Shoptalk — Staffing

The subject of how companies staff their businesses, manage their employees, and administer the employer-employee relationship has been lingering in my mind for some considerable time. Today, I will try to put some order to it. Staffing.

At the core of every business is people. It starts with the founder(s) and then grows. A company cannot grow without being a capable employer, but little is said as to the system by which that happens.

Allow me to jump ahead. Assume:

 1. You are a founder/CEO who now has some semblance of a product, are struggling with product-market fit, have raised a bit of capital, and will have to hire people to drive and scale the business.

 2. Assume, in the alternative, you are a founder/CEO who has more than 50 employees, plenty of money in the bank, have achieved product-market fit, have 1,000 customers, and are now ready to really scale.

I use these two examples because I hope the logic is universal.

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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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11/24/19

CEO Shoptalk — Balance, Intensity

Lovely sunny day in the ATX. Ahh, on Earth as it is in Texas!

As a young, first time CEO, you may hear a lot about work-life balance. It is a worthy subject and suggests that there is some balance beam wherein work sits calmly on the left and life sits serenely on the right and it is your job to find the delicate balance between these two extremes, or, worse still, to create that balance. Good luck with that.

To which notion your Big Red Car says: Poppycock!

First, go look at my qualifier — “. . . young, first time CEO.” I am talking to you and not the serial 5X entrepreneur, who not only can achieve such balance in his/her life, but can teach the subject.

I am speaking to you if you are that young, first time CEO — slightly confused by the novelty of it all, a bit perplexed by the complexity, willing to work your way out of a jam, and with a fire in your belly that can weld titanium.

For you, go all in. Take the leap. Burn the boats. Get the tattoo. Feed the monster. Just do it.

The intensity that a young person — let’s say 22-35 — brings to an entrepreneurial, startup endeavor is similar to what I experienced in the Army upon graduation from Virginia Military Institute last century.

The last vestiges of the Vietnam War were still about (the US Embassy in Saigon would be stormed and taken in early May 1975). It was a time in which the Army was working 24/7/365 and nobody was feeling sorry for themselves or complaining. It was what was done.

Similarly, I want to urge you as a young, first time CEO to operate on a equivalent war time footing.

There are a few caveats:

 1. Exercise regularly to counter the stress.

 2. Eat right. Eat well. Drive your energy from your food.

 3. Get a physical and adhere to the doctor’s admonitions. Tell him you are an entrepreneur and that you are working some incredible hours. [Maybe he will want to invest some of his healthcare bonanza in your fledgling startup. JK]

 4. Have a written plan. Please have a written Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, and be receptive to developing a Culture.

A written plan ensures that you strike a square blow on the nail that is your business. An angled blow, a disorganized blow — bends the nail, requires remedial work, and results in a weakened nail when next you get ready to strike it. For all that is good and holy, have a written plan.

 5. Take regular cleansing vacations — not to Bali — wherein you disconnect from everything digital. Do it for at last 2 days, twice a year.

 6. Celebrate your birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and those of your parents. If you have a beloved, then get them in the mix.

 7. Go to church and learn to pray. This will turn out to be very soothing and calming. It is a skill, like learning to code.

 8. Get a CEO coach, a mentor, a gray haired eminence. This is a relief valve, and it is always helpful to have someone tell you, “Sorry, that’s normal” when the butterflies turn to condors and try to claw their way out of your acid pool of a stomach on THOSE days. Sorry. It is normal.

 9. Spend ten minutes a day writing in a diary. This will document something very important — the journey. You will look back after a year and say, “Holy smokes was I that freakin’ naive. Did I really get that much stuff done?”

If you will only do those nine things, then you can work like a whirling dervish and say, “Work balance, be damned!”

You can’t do it forever, but you can while you’re young and a first time CEO. While you’re learning your craft.

Then, guess what? You learn your craft, you become an experienced CEO and the world is all milk and honey. Unfortunately, you turn out to be lactose intolerant and it never really gets “easy” but you learn to do it.

Be well, amigo.

But, hey,  what the Hell do I really known anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Have a great week.

10/21/19

CEO Shoptalk — Trust, A Deliverable Commodity

One of those days in the ATX when you know things are going to be alright — not a cloud in the sky, Pantone blue [Pantone PMS Process Blue C/#0085ca].

So, a CEO is talking to me about trust in a global sense. We define it thusly: Trust is the reliance upon the integrity, strength, surety of a person or a thing thereby engendering confidence.

Seems to fit the bill. From a business perspective, it is one of those things that you want, but how do you manage it?

So, he says, “To get this conversation started tell me some things or people you trust.” To which I reply thusly.

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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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