CEO Shoptalk — End-Of-Year Reflection And Musing

A client of mine a few years ago said, “You always make me think, and I prepare for our meetings.”

That is a good thing and it makes me feel good. Nothing wrong with thinking, but it should be more than that.

At the end of every year, a CEO/founder/entrepreneur should conduct a bit of reflection and musing to consider how they are performing as compared to how they want to perform.

I am not talking solely about objectives accomplished, but the nature with which a CEO undertook her/his duties.

How should a CEO conduct her/his duties, Big Red Car?

Ahhh, a question for the ages and a good setup for me to describe what I have learned from great CEOs:

 1. Great CEOs have a bias toward action. They will plan, but when the ink is dry on the plan, they will act.

 2. Great CEOs are intellectually curious about everything. I espouse what I call the 360 degree CEO by which I mean that as you gain experience your knowledge becomes broader and deeper — a 10-year CEO is a much more deadly exemplar of the species than a first year startup CEO.

I recall when public companies had to stop depreciating “goodwill” and had to change to what was called “goodwill impairment analysis.”

Goodwill is the difference between what you paid for an asset and its booked asset value — it is real numbers.

I had taught myself how to read the GAAP manual, FASBs, and knew how to speak accountant. I understood implicitly the concept and spoke to CPAs and our auditors to ensure my knowledge was correct.

I had a wizard CFO (CPA, MBA, CBE).

Accounting firms were offering to assess the impairment of the goodwill for companies for a tidy sum — more than the price of a big, new BMW sedan.

We conducted our own analysis, ran it by two accounting firms, and saved the money.

This was the end game of my intellectual curiosity about accounting. [Good place to learn about any aspect of accounting — link: Accounting Coach ]

 3. Great CEOs are critical thinkers — make decisions based on a disciplined approach to facts, data, analysis generated from observation, experience, reflection, reasoning and communication.

This is different than “feeling” and “opinions.” It is perfectly smart to consider how someone with a ton of experience solved a similar problem. This is called “renting experience” and is much cheaper than full tuition.

 4. Great CEOs can turn on and off their emotional intelligence, stop their rational mind, and kick into empathy mode. This is quite different than #3 above, but it is not in conflict.

You do both. This is particularly useful in negotiations when ego and emotion may have a seat at the table or if you are dealing with short Russian presidents named Putin.

 5. Great CEOs are courageous — not in the sense of recklessly poking the bear or wandering into the lion’s den, but after having arrived at a critically thought out plan or decision executing fearlessly acknowledging there may still be a data or fact gap.

When you dive off the high dive platform, you believe the water will be there when you fall.

 6. Great CEOs are flexible and after making a critically thought out decision can change on a dime if the facts, data, or market reaction changes.

The first casualty upon contact with the enemy is the plan, but the CEO has to change the plan and execute the changes.

 7. Great CEOs are men/women of immutable values. Nobody really knows their values — which also define the culture of the company — until there is a price tag attached to the value, until you have to pay full price.

I once described a person as — “. . . unencumbered by the bonds of integrity.” Oddly, everyone knew exactly what I meant.

This was the parent of — “. . . had a passing acquaintance, no more, with honesty.”

Followed by, “He escaped charm school at least a semester early.”

I am sure you could add a few more characteristics of “great CEOs” and you should, but this is enough to get the wheels turning.

Ask yourself — Am I a great CEO? If not, make a plan to correct the azimuth of your performance.

So what, Big Red Car?

The “so what,” dear reader, is that when you reflect and muse ask yourself, did I dance like a great CEO and was my experience values driven?

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.

Not a great CEO. This guy right here.