Being a good manager (of yourself)

I’ve met some excellent business managers… who are extremely poor managers of their own life.

They get results. They support others. They build capable, effective teams. Their business grows.

…but they are not joyful.

They are not waking up motivated each day.

They are not finding themselves energised through the day by the activities, people and places where they spend their hours.

It strikes me as a sad trade – to be a good manager of external resources, but lacking any degree of effective control or direction of your own inner state.

Our mission at Vistage is to “improve the effectiveness and enhance the quality of life of CEOs”. I believe that the most important word in that sentence is the “and”. Achieving results at the cost of your health, your relationships, your sanity… not a great trade. What would it take to achieve both increased effectiveness and enhanced quality of life?

What is Quality of Life?

Exceptional Results

“Sometimes all you need for exceptional results is average effort repeated for an above-average amount of time.”

James Clear

Consistency beats brilliance.

The 20 mile march.

Daily progress.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step… and you’ll reach it within a year if you go for 3 miles a day. I’ve been running 100kms every month for the last 4 years… and I’ve learnt a lot about consistency over this time. A few kms every 2-3 days and I’ll make it without undue suffering. A week off and it gets harder. 10 days off and it gets really hard. You don’t want to be coming into the last week of the month with much more than 30kms left to go.

Everything important in life takes time… and steady, daily progress

video from my first international trip during the Covid times

You only need to be productive 7 minutes a week to be a youtuber

Leading a Business: The 3+1 Roles of the CEO

We had an event this week in Madrid with Dan Wertenberg, a Vistage Chair from the USA as the speaker.

What is the Role of the CEO?

He shared an interactive and valuable 90 minute session with the gathered CEOs about the 3+1 roles of the CEO.

  1. Chief Strategy Officer
  2. Chief Team Builder
  3. Chief Sales Officer
  4. Lead the Financial Institution

The 3+1 “non-Delegatable roles” of the leader.

Chief Strategy Officer

The single most important question of strategy is “Who is our customer?” Dan shared the learnings from the PIMS study, done in the 1960s and 1970s in the US… looking at all the factors that lead to business success.

One of the big findings of the study was that a factor that repeatedly correlated with profitability – whether the business was the dominant provider to a market segment… essentially the #1 or #2 competitor in a market.

Strategy is fundamentally about deciding which market can we be the dominant, world class, excellent provider to this customer group. The question for a business leader: “who do we serve?” and also “who do we not serve?” Dan told us that every CEO should take their leaders out for at least 4 days each year to work together on defining with ever more clarity the profile of the ideal customer.

Chief Team Builder

The CEO is responsible for building the team. Dan shared with us that we as human beings are poor at selecting talent. Interviews are not a great way of predicting an individual’s future performance in a role.

We are not good selectors of talent, but we are all capable of identifying the factors that will make it unlikely that someone will succeed, or fit with the current team. Dan suggests that we actively de-select individuals who will not fit with our organisation, and then select only from those that remain.

The second part of team building is rapidly dealing with underperformance. If a CEO does not deal with underperformance (for whatever reason), it sends a message to the whole team that underperformance is acceptable.

Chief Sales Officer

An organisation that has the ability to scale and become great needs to have a sales process that is consistent, repeatable and structured. If there is a consistent sales process, then an organisation can scale up. If sales depends on certain individuals or the right day of the week… you cannot systematically grow the business.

The CEO should also personally play an active role in any large sales process of the company… involving themselves personally in some of the meetings.

The CEO should also ensure that every 6 months, they find a way of having lunch or dinner with the CEOs of the 10 biggest customers… to learn about them and to show the importance of their business.

Leader of the Financial Institution

Dan shared that a CEO is running 2 connected but somewhat distinct organisations… the operating business… and the financial institution behind the business.

As the financial leader, the CEO needs to ensure that there is a rolling 12 month projection of income statement and balance sheet. The CEO then needs to look at how we are performing against that plan. All variations are interesting… often we pay attention to negative variation… but the lessons that can be learnt from the positive variations are extremely important… as they are the source of identifying tactics that can be scaled up.

Cynicism is a Choice… and so is Hope

Bad stuff happens. Bad actors exist. Decent people do bad things. Bad people do their things. Nature does it’s thing… storms, snow and clouds.

It can look pretty bleak some days.

The news can seem to be a constant flow of disasters, invasions, road accidents, kidnappings and domestic violence. (This is my summary of the TV news as we stopped at a roadside cafe as we road-trip across Spain).

It is also true that progress is being made. Fewer people are dying young. Fewer diseases can kill you. Fewer deadly road accidents. Fewer wars.

There is so much information coming at us every day that we cannot process it all.

We see how we are

Our attitude will guide what passes the filters of attention overload. If my attitude is cynicism… I will see the data that proves I am right. If my attitude is hope, I will see data that proves I am right.

We are not neutral passive observers of the world in which we live.

We are active and biased interpreters driven by motivated reasoning, so full of cognitive biases that reality is a distant concept.

The practice of gratitude changes our mode of perception. First I decide to have an attitude of gratitude, then actively recall what I am grateful for… This is like priming a pump… or an AI chatbot… and then my perception starts to notice more things that I can be grateful for… and then on to a virtuous circle of hope and optimism.

If you are passive, the news will take you to cynicism.

Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like

“Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like”

Lee Thayer

This sentence is mad…. but there is a certain truth to it.

Lee Thayer is the author of several books on the practice of Leadership. He was a big proponent of working to integrate thinking, being and doing into a more complete mode of leading people and organisations. Lee was a mentor and inspiration for many Vistage Chairs.

Problems we know vs Solutions we don’t know

Why might we prefer allowing a problem to persist than to take the steps to solve the problem?

Why is this:

  • Delay the Pain: The consequences of the problem will probably be felt most strongly in the future, whilst the discipline to put into action the solution requires pain today.
  • Fear of Uncertainty: A persistent problem may be challenging, but it is familiar, and we know what to expect.
  • Locus of Control: It is easier to accept a problem that we have no control over than to accept a solution that requires conflict or change, or the involvement of other human beings in putting into action.

The best way to approach being human is often to learn to laugh at ourselves. We have the capacity to be rational, goal seeking individuals… and also the capacity to be nuts.

How to Start a Speech

My single most widely watched video ever on youtube is “How to Start a Speech”. The opening line of the video is: “What are the first words you should say in a speech?”

In today’s busy, distraction-filed world… you have a few seconds at the beginning of any speech (youtube video, tiktok, instagram etc) to engage the audience… and if you lose them… you have lost.

How to Start a Speech

Why it is so Important to Start a Speech well

Starting a speech well is essential in order to capture your audience’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your presentation. A strong opening establishes credibility, engages your audience, and creates a positive impression.

In this article, we’ll cover tips on understanding your audience, creating a strong opening, and delivering your words with emotion and energy. These tips will help you make a memorable first impression and deliver a successful speech.

Understanding the Audience

If you do not know your audience, do not speak. You must have some ideas about where they are struggling, and what sort of hopes and dreams they have for themselves.

Poor communication starts from “what I want to say”; Great communication starts from “what they need to hear”. You must know your audience in order to be great.

Here are some tips for researching and understanding your audience:

  1. Demographics: Age, gender, education, common struggles and common interests.
  2. Event Purpose: Understand why your audience is attending the speech and what they hope to gain from it.
  3. Anticipate questions: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about what questions they may have.
  4. Engage your audience: I’ll often ask to speak to a few of the participants ahead of the event. I want to ask them questions about their motivation for attending the event. This will help establish a connection with them and create a more engaging speech.

How to Start a Speech

The opening of your speech is crucial. It sets the tone for the rest of the speech and can make or break your audience’s attention. Here are some tips for crafting a strong opening:

  1. Grabber”: Your opening should grab your audience’s attention and make them want to listen to the rest of your speech. There are 3 powerful ways to achieve this.
    • Anecdote: A brief story or personal experience that relates to your topic. One of the best experiences to share is often the moment in your life when this topic became important for you.
    • Quote: A powerful or thought-provoking quote that relates to your topic.
    • Rhetorical question: A question that prompts your audience to think about your topic and engage with your message.
  2. Relevant: Your opening should be relevant to your topic and the audience you are speaking to. This can help establish a connection with your audience and make them more likely to engage with your message.
  3. Concise: Your opening should be brief and to the point. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents. A short, focused opening can help you establish credibility and keep your audience’s attention.
  4. Energy: The way you deliver your opening can also impact its effectiveness. Gestures and vocal inflections can emphasise key points and add impact to your opening.

A strong opening will grab your audience’s attention, establish credibility, and set the tone for the rest of your speech. By considering your audience, choosing a relevant opening, and delivering it effectively, you can craft a strong opening that engages your audience and sets you up for success.

The Importance of Persistence… The Ant Philosophy

Persistence is one of the most important qualities that a person can possess. It is the ability to persevere, to keep going even in the face of obstacles and setbacks. In life, success often depends on persistence more than anything else.

In this video:

  • on Ants and Obstacles… they just keep going
  • Rivers… they just keep flowing
  • 110m high hurdles… don’t look at the obstacles
  • How do you face obstacles?

Whether you’re trying to achieve a personal goal or working towards a professional goal, persistence is key. It takes time and effort to achieve anything worthwhile, and setbacks and failures are inevitable along the way. But those who are persistent keep going, even when things get tough. They don’t give up, they don’t quit.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

One of the most famous examples of persistence is the story of Thomas Edison, who failed over a thousand times before he finally invented the light bulb. When asked about his failures, Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s persistence paid off, and his invention changed the world.

Persistence is also important in relationships. Maintaining strong relationships takes effort and patience, and there will inevitably be disagreements and challenges along the way. But those who are persistent in their relationships work through these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

In summary, persistence is an essential quality for success in all areas of life. It allows us to keep going when things get tough and to overcome obstacles and setbacks. So if you’re working towards a goal, don’t give up. Keep going, keep pushing, and keep being persistent. Your efforts will pay off in the end.

If you liked this post, you will also like 6 keys to leading positive change and Developing a Vision Statement.

Reputation for getting up early = you can stay in bed all day

Reputation“the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone”; “a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic.”

Your reputation shapes how people see you.

“A man with a reputation for getting up early can stay in bed all day”

Irish proverb

The reputation you have shapes how everything you do is viewed by those around you. As the Irish proverb says “A man with a reputation for getting up early can stay in bed all day”. A person with a reputation for positive impact can fail… and the senior people will say “it must have been a difficult project”… A person who doesn’t have that reputation for positive impact will have everything they do viewed.

Video from IESE Madrid… Reputation matters!

Ideally you are both competent and have a positive reputation. If you are incompetent, it would be best for the world that you have a poor reputation. However there are two dangerous situations… someone who is competent… but does not have a positive reputation; and someone who is incompetent.. but has a positive reputation.

This video is for those who start from a place of competence. Where you have competence… I want you to take the time to think about what generates a positive first impression.. and over the longer term, a positive reputation.

How to make Behaviour Change Stick

It’s January. New year is a time for reflection on how life is going… and often to make changes.

Why does behaviour change fail?

Here are 3 reasons why I see people fail at behaviour change:

  • Lack of Clarity: They have a vague sense of the desire to change, but no clarity around exactly what it is that needs to happen every day. Choose something specific and achievable that you want to change. Write it down and make it visible.
  • Lack of Support: They are in an environment that doesn’t support the change, or that actively holds them in the current state. Who around you is already making this change work in their own life? If your friends are fit, you are going to be fit. If your friends read lots and share their lessons, you are going to be a reader and a learner.
  • Impossible expectations: They have a sense that clear, visible, lasting results will appear in a few days. They have an unrealistic expectation of how quickly they will see results. Most Important: Decide to commit to the change, and let go of your expectations around seeing quick results.

What to do to help Behaviour Changes stick?

If you liked this post, you will also like the guide to behaviour change and Managing Oneself.

Getting your Life in order

Stutz is a documentary following the psychotherapy process of Dr Stutz who had worked with comedian and actor Jonah Hill over many years. Together they share personal stories and specific tools that have helped Jonah in his therapy process over the past decade.

On Netflix here: Stutz (2022)

My notes from Stutz, the documentary

“I don’t know what I want so I’ll do nothing”


Many people in absence of any clear vision or purpose to their life reset to doing nothing and waiting for clarity. Clarity will never come without taking some action in the general direction of your “purpose”.

How to find purpose? Connect with 3 levels:

  1. body – move your body. get up, get moving. Connect with your physical body. 85% of Stutz’s initial treatment protocol is just getting the body active.
  2. others – speak to others. don’t wait for them to contact you. Reach out and engage with people.
  3. unconscious – Writing is the path to a relationship to your own unconscious. Journal. Write anything. Time writing random reflections is how you reconnect to your unconscious.

3 Permanent Truths of Human Existence

The Reality of life is three unavoidable truths

  1. Pain – it is just guaranteed in human life. I am reminded of the first 2 lines of The Road Less Travelled “Life is difficult. The moment you accept this, life becomes easy.” M. Scott Peck
  2. uncertainty – the future is out of our control.
  3. constant work is necessary – you never end the work… on your health, on yourself, on your relationships, on your home…

The Resistance

Stutz calls it “Part X” – the resistance, what stops you growing; resists change. The voice inside you that tells you whatever you are thinking of doing is pointless, useless and will fail. It will always be with you and it will always try to stop you taking productive action.

Your Shadow

The “shadow” – find yours… How? “Visualise a time when you felt inferior, ashamed… picture it; talk to your shadow… how does he/she feel about what you’ve done since then? – what can I do to make up for giving you so little attention?”

Take Action

Productive life is a “String of pearls with a touch of shit”. Each pearl is an action. Every action is going to be somewhat flawed (the “touch of shit”), but you must take it anyway and accept your imperfect action.

The Fantasy Ideal

Be careful of seeking the “perfect snapshot” – your fantasy of perfect world. Stutz sees so many people who have a “photo ideal” of their life… a photo is static… life is dynamic… you cannot achieve a permanent static complete state… things will continue to change.

Putting your Life on Hold

Stutz calls it “being trapped in the Maze”… you are waiting for fairness to be restored… putting your life on hold until “they change”. He sees so many people waste their life as they “wait for fairness to be restored”. I won’t take action with a friend because “its their turn to contact me”. I won’t speak to a family member because they acted unjustly. I’ll wait.

How to get out of the Maze? Get into the “Grateful flow”

The “Grateful flow” – Stutz tells a story about his first flight on a passenger jetliner… and moving above the clouds… seeing the sun. Even on the darkest, cloudiest day… the sun is there above.

How to enter the grateful flow? imagine a universe dense with active loving energy. What are 4 things you are grateful for… then hold… don’t let the 5th come, resist it… feel the pressure of gratitude pushing to get thru.

Active Gratitude

Grateful is the optimal human state.

Part X (resistence) always pulls you away from grateful.

Exit mobile version