CEO Shoptalk — Good v Evil (Or, The Message At Midnight From The Garden Of Good & Evil)

If you are not a CEO, stop reading and move on. CEO Shoptalk is for CEOs only and, of course, you. Because you are special and one day you will also be a CEO, so read on, Alphonse.

The other day I get into a chat with not one, but two CEOs about the same issue I spoke of the other day, Performance Appraisal.

We are discussing the performance of someone who is clearly not a superstar, but is a solid utility infielder meaning they are not going to be promoted any time soon, but they are also not going to be fired.

Flash: There are a lot of people who are quite content to do their job and who are not really seeing your startup as the Second Coming. I know, hard to imagine, but they do exist.

Tell us a story, Big Red Car

Don’t be a smartass. I can tell when you’re pulling my shoe laces. But, a story, nonetheless.

Back in the day when I owed various banks $600,000,000 +/-, I used to ask people, “What is the prime rate?”

The prime rate is the bank marker interest rate against which those type of loans used to be pegged. You might borrow at “Prime + 1/2%” on such a loan.

A 1% difference in the prime rate was $6,000,000 per year to my company. Ouch. Big deal. To me.

That rate, the prime rate, determined how much interest I had to pay. I was asking for the actual rate, not the definition.

I was really demonstrating something altogether different:

 1. Me, the CFO, and a damn few others were likely to know (or care about) the prime rate (posted in the Wall Street Journal, this was before the Internet).

 2. A great number of others — many very good at their jobs — did not.

I used to ask them this question to demonstrate to myself and others this fact: you can still do a great job, the right job, even if you are not a zealot.

Full disclosure: I was a zealot.

The message at midnight from the garden of good and evil

Which all brings me to the takeaway today:

There is a little good in the worst of us, and there is a little evil in the best of us.

[I don’t mean evil in the context of real evil. I mean it in the context of just not being a zealot.]

When you are appraising performance know this: You will have plenty of team members who will never have the level of commitment necessary to get a tattoo (or a pierced nose to display the company logo nose ring — you have one, right?). That is fine because within them is always a bit of genius. Know this.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Call somebody who has been quarantined with the COVID-mania and promise to take them for a drink and a hot dog (or a gyro) when this passes, as it will.

My favorite “go to” hot dogs when I am not cooking up some spicy Elgin sausage. Today is a hot dog day.