10/24/21

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

10/12/21

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

08/23/21

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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09/27/20

CEO Shoptalk — All Risk Is Not Created Equal

If you are an entrepreneur, founder, CEO, you swim in a sea of risk, alternating amongst the butterfly, the backstroke, the breaststroke, and the crawl. You must do it all.

In the early days, you are a minnow (or a little mullet if you are feeling salty) and the dangerous waters of startup land are populated by voracious, big-toothed sharks, vicious sharks, all of whom want to devour you.

In these early, formative days every risk can eat you (kill you, destroy your company). [Worse, you don’t yet know the nature of risk. You are in that classic posture of not knowing what you don’t know.]

As you exit the size 2 Pampers, the list of things that can kill you begins to thin, but you add to it — you begin to take risk.

You visit risk upon yourself as you sharp elbow your way upward in the food chain. [Soon, you may become a shark.]

The big question is this — Do you understand the nature of the risks you are taking?

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09/24/20

Accounting — That Bedeviling Black Art

I took a few accounting courses in grad school. I once knew my debits versus my credits. Knew all about original issue discounts, goodwill impairment, and other such trivia.

Knew GAAP and FASB. Just showing off now.

I ran businesses for 33 years. I needed to know more about accounting so I hired good accountants, retained good accounting firms, hired a good Chief Financial Officer, got second opinions, and I studied the subject on the mean streets of the business world.

CEOs and founders need to know some accounting — financial accounting, managerial accounting, tax accounting. What I knew saved me a lot of money.

One of my interests is the progression of ratios in a graphical manner — pick a financial ratio and graph it such that you can see the trend at the bat of an eye. That tells me something.

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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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08/16/20

Becoming Comfortable With Discomfort

I get a lot of calls from people who I can tell are uncomfortable with whatever they have called me to discuss. I can feel the vibration coming down the air waves.

A year ago, I ended a chat with a client and he said, “I constantly feel uncomfortable in my role as the CEO of my company.”

I let the dust settle for a few seconds and asked him to explain it. His explanation was perfectly reasonable and he knew exactly how he felt and why. Anybody would have felt the same.

We discussed it and then he asked me, “When does that uncomfortable feeling go away?”

I leaned into the second latte, took a sip, confronted his expectant face, and whispered, “Unfortunately, never. Part of being a leader is being comfortable with discomfort.

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12/15/19

The Feel For Running A Business

There are a great many things in life in which there is an element of earthy knowledge that I call “The Feel.” The Feel is real.

In my own life, I’ve run businesses for more than 33 years and have advised others for 8 years, ran Army units for 5 years. One of the big differences I find is the comfort with which a CEO is able to settle into the job and run the business, not solely by feel, but with a sense of feeling they know what they are doing.

I experienced this notion in a number of different undertakings:

There is a moment when you are sailing a largish sailboat when the wind, the sails, the heel of the boat, the current, the swells, the point of sail are all in perfect equilibrium. You can hear the wind wind singing in the shrouds. You are in the slot and you can feel it. If you let the wheel go, the boat stays obediently on that point of sail until one of those elements change. This is The Feel and, baby, you’ve got it.

When you are landing an airplane in a crosswind, you have to dip the upwind wing, you stand on the rudder, you control the speed, you manage the angle of attack, you tease the throttle — done well, the plane obeys and while it is wont to move about on short final because of the crosswind, it does not. The plane touches the upwind wheel, gently puts the other one down, you keep a bit of that rudder in, and you roll down the centerline of that runway. Because you have mastered The Feel of it.

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