05/10/20

CEO Shoptalk — Fear v Fearful

A leader is always operating on the edge. Talking to you: entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, C-suite denizens, departmental leaders, and students of leadership.

When I was in those positions, I never thought it was lonely at the top, but when people say it is — this is what they are talking about. Being alone with your thoughts, your duties, your responsibilities, your decisions — good ones, bad ones.

Today it is perfectly fine to feel the press of fear. I would be surprised if you didn’t feel fear today. We are facing monumental changes and the fellow traveler of change is fear.

Fear is an emotion. It is an instant in time. It is fleeting. We can banish it. It does not define us.

As a leader, you can feel fear, but you cannot run your organization on it.

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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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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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03/14/20

CEO, Founder, Reassurer

In times of crisis in business, the military, government those for whom you have responsibility will look to you for reassurance and guidance. It is part of the job. It is one of the most important parts of the job. You, amigo, are the reassurer.

Here is the big thing: Your people will only remember 5% of what you tell them, but they will remember 95% of how you told them and how it made them feel.

This is the part of the job that is called being the Reassurer-in-Chief.

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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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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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12/15/19

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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12/6/19

Field Expedient

As the CEO/Founder of a startup, you will develop practices that you know work. Many times, these practices will not be perfectly “normal.” They will reflect your own personal style or they will be things that you just know work.

These are what I call field expedients.

Back in the day, when I was a combat engineer officer overseas, I had a damn good sergeant who worked for me. We were blowing up old fortifications in South Korea just south of the DMZ. When we demolished them, we cut all the rebar with cutting torches, removed the concrete pieces with dozers, dug a big hole, and buried the detritus (reinforced concrete). I used to recover all the steel and send it down to Seoul.

Then, we rebuilt them — often in slightly different locations and to a substantially higher structural strength — to withstand then modern artillery.

Here’s a picture of what it looks like when 100 lbs of C4 is exploded underneath a shallow bridge abutment. The bridge abutment was in the way of our river crossing site if we had to attack into North Korea. So, me and another sergeant used scuba gear and wedged 100 lbs of C4 under it and voila!

Blasting Out Old Bridge Column

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