09/8/19

Transformational Storytelling

As a CEO of a startup or a company that has escaped from the cradle into “small company-dom” you are in a constant state of storytelling, storytelling that dictates the transformation of you as the CEO and your company.

As a writer of stories, you are told to “write what you know” while your Big Red Car believes the correct bit of inspiration is: “Write what you imagine based on what you know.”

They key thing here is that you are not writing a history, but a story of what the future will be because you are charged with creating that future.

 

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08/24/19

CEO Shoptalk — Teaching Yourself

I am fond of saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” It has been a cornerstone of my “Wisdom of the Campfire” CEO coaching consultancy with — wait for it — CEOs.

I get calls from a great number of CEOs who are looking for guidance for a specific situation and I have longstanding arrangements with others, some for several years.

The common denominator is they are “ready.”

An adjunct to that is that sometimes CEOs are both the teacher and the student. You may be teaching yourself. It is neither odd nor unusual and many times it is complementary to a steady arrangement with a CEO coach.

On the left, how the CEO sees him/herself. On the right, how the CEO may really be. The transformation is the teaching. Sometimes, you are teaching yourself.

Allow me to give you an example from my personal experience.

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08/22/19

CEO Criticism — Responding To Criticism

As a CEO, you will be the beneficiary of a wonderful phenomenon — the whole world will tell you about your shortcomings, what they would do differently, and the fact that you’re, well, a bum. They may question your intellect and opine that your mother dresses you funny.

It comes with the job.

Run a public company and deal with thousands of shareholders and the criticism is broader, deeper, and more pointed. Shareholders will even make fun of your dog. What kind of person makes fun of a man’s dog?

You will be tempted to respond, which will generate more criticism another response until the cycle becomes entrenched and begins to sap your energy.

This guy, who had a few critics in his day, is reputed to have said:

“You will never reach your destination if you stop

and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

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08/18/19

CEO Shoptalk — The Founder’s Tale

In the life of the successful startup is a slightly disorganized story of its founding. It is a powerful story. It provides a keen insight into the who, what, when, why, where, how of the company. It is a story of creation. Only one person can tell it with an authentic voice.

It is a tale told best by the founder, hence the name: The Founder’s Tale.

It is a story that is the glue that binds people to the company and makes them want to follow the leadership. If you want to lead a pride of lions, then you have to tell the story of how you formed a pride.

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08/17/19

CEO Shoptalk — Counting Coups

As a leader, it is imperative that the company you build and lead is energized from within by taking a moment to celebrate victories. In history, this is called “counting coups.”

The other day I was advising a client and we got to the issue of rewarding accomplishments and behavior.

“Why is this important?” the brilliant CEO asked.

“Because you will get more of whatever behavior your recognize and reward. Reward good performance — more good performance,” said your Big Red Car.

We wandered into a discussion as to how the military did it with a formal awards program wherein an individual was formally recognized by having their exploit written up, memorialized in a citation, and symbolized by a bit of colored ribbon they would wear on their uniform forever. These awards in the military are given in front of one’s unit often at a parade. It is very public moment.

One of my platoon sergeants when I was a young lieutenant had been awarded a DSC. Every payday we wore our green uniforms with ribbons. Every payday I would have him tell the story of how he won the Distinguished Service Cross to my platoon. We were counting coups.

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08/15/19

Reading With Skepticism And Perception

The other day I read an interesting blog post by a former client of mine, Anthony Bucci, former co-founder and CEO of Revzilla. He was an early client and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as he scaled Revzilla into a powerhouse eCommerce business. He blossomed into an excellent CEO and monetized the company in a world class exit. Pay window.

His blog post which you can find here is excellent. He is taking a summer breather, focusing on his five bambinos.

Summa Read, Summa Listen by Anthony Bucci, former CEO Revzilla

Anthony, who I have never called “Fredo,” gives you a nice cross section of the current literary offerings and podcasts of those who are seeking knowledge at the inspirational C-suite level. All good books.

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08/14/19

Recruitment v Seduction

A professional recruiter who I have advised — real pro — put up an article on Twitter that caught my interest. It discusses the essence of recruitment failures and why they happen. It takes a long time to get to the nub of things, but it is filled with wisdom.

I had also been building a file to write about this and they both came together at the same time. I take an earthier view of things having been in hiring mode for more than three decades.

I have always maintained that a good CEO is always recruiting and that recruitment is a seduction — meaning you want to create a reaction in the target that they want to work at your company rather than you need them to fill a job. Perhaps, overly subtle, but it is the way I think and I always had good luck in hiring.

Here’s a hiring challenge for you.

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08/12/19

The Condors In My Gut

Bit of warm weather in the ATX which makes me get out and do my outside chores first thing before the sun sets things ablaze. Going to be 103F today, but I don’t believe it.

Get a call from a CEO, who says, “I have this burning in my gut all the time. Butterflies and napalm.”

Nice turn of a phrase. I laugh to myself because I never laugh at CEOs. Not a good practice, ungentlemanly.

So, he continues, “Does it ever get better? You were a CEO for 33 years, when did it all settle down and the flaming butterflies took a vacation?”

I wanted to comfort him, but I always speak the truth, so I hesitated for a second.

“They never go away,” I said in my most comforting Saint Michael the Archangel voice. “You know how sometimes when we discuss one of the List of Horribles and I tell you, ‘Sorry, that’s normal.’?”

The List of Horribles

“Yes, you also say the only normal people are the ones we don’t know very well. I get that,” says the CEO. “When did the flaming butterflies go away and everything was peaceful, calm, and you didn’t lay awake in bed thinking about things? Tormented by things?”

“Sorry, amigo,” I said. “They never go away. In fact, what you see as butterflies, flaming butterflies even. They become condors. Big, vicious condors with enormous talons that rip your guts apart while they are bathing in acid. On bad nights, you can feel their talons slicing and the acid flowing into your abdomen. When you scale, your problems scale with you.”

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