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?
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.
Chief Strategy Officer
Chief Team Builder
Chief Sales Officer
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.
“Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like”
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.
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.
What 10 Things Would You Take Into A Hard Recession? [29:07];
Final reflections from panelists [1:13:23]; and lastly,
Severin summarises the session [1:17:50] and ends with a few inspiring quotes to consider.
This is episode 1095 of the Arete Coach Podcast with Severin Sorensen and his executive coach guests Michele Barry, Ben Griffin, Barry Goldberg, Phil Holberton, and Conor Neill.
In this episode, Arete Coach podcast presents a panel discussion of senior executive coaches that explores how to prepare for a Recession, and specifically, 10 things to take with you into a hard recession.
The purpose of putting this episode together was to provide valuable counsel for CEOs, business owners and coaches who are coaching other business owners on how to prepare for a probable recession, and one that may indeed be a hard recession.
Share this episode with executive coaches, business coaches, leadership coaches, business owners, entrepreneurs, CEOs, Key Executive teams, and anyone wanting to have a head start in preparing for what looks like more than a portent of stormy weather ahead.
A company has only one ultimate decision maker: the CEO.
The CEO is the only person in a company without peers. No other individual holds such a full and final responsibility for the company. The CEO is the most powerful and sought-after title in business, more influential than any other. The CEO takes the company’s biggest decisions. These decisions account for 45% of a company’s performance.
This power and influence comes with a heavy burden.
The role of CEO can be all-consuming, lonely, and stressful. Just 3 out of 5 new CEOs live up to expectations in their first 18 months… and many CEOs struggle with their quality of life (health, family relationships, friendships) in the face of the pressures they face.
I run Vistage in Spain. Vistage is the world’s leading CEO coaching organisation. Over more than 60 years, Vistage has worked closely with CEOs to take and implement better decisions which enhance their performance and increase their quality of life.
I spend time with hundreds of CEOs each year. They are good people and they want the best for the good people around them. This makes it extremely personally challenging for them to deal with underperformance. They like the people around them. They want to give them lots of opportunities. They feel that it is a personal failure when someone close to them repeatedly underperforms expectations. They give more time. They allow for environmental factors. They wait and hope.
The single biggest regret of CEOs is not dealing quickly with underperformance.
In my work with CEOs through Vistage, over half of all of our work is about the current and future performance of the people and teams that surround the CEO. We challenge CEOs to stop waiting for underperformance to fix itself.
The Differentiator between Great and Good CEOs
According to McKinsey, the distinction between good CEOs and the great CEOs is the ability to focus.
Great CEOs place “big bets”. They focus on the top 3-5 most important initiatives. They dedicate 90% of their time, energy, resources to the 5 most important projects. They say “no” often. They don’t allow their time to fill up with many different activities and different priorities.
The Good CEOs avoided this level of focus. Their prioritisation of what is truly important is less clear. They are involved in many initiatives. They allow their agenda to fill up and try dedicate a couple of hours each week to the most important projects. They try to fit the important initiatives in around their “day job” of running the company.
The Great CEO has delegated the running of the company to an effective leadership team. They have made themselves unnecessary for operating the company today, so they can dedicate themselves to building the company of the future.
Life is too short to figure everything out on your own.
Humans spend the years from birth to 12 learning how to survive. Our parents have a vested interest in helping us develop the Stop there: we merely survive.
We live in a highly complex society. There is intense competition for status in whatever hierarchy you compete in. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to compete or not, society and humanity are designed to compete for resources. It is not those born strong that rise to the top of status hierarchies in today’s human society. It is those who learn to use their capacities most effectively and adapt quickly to changes in the environment.
There are two ways we learn to make positive progress in this society – 1) our own experience, or 2) through the experiences of others. Our own experience is a slow and expensive way of learning.
If I am to choose to learn most effectively, through the experiences of others, I must learn the art of meaningful conversation. Through my work with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation forum and Vistage groups I have worked extensively over the last 15 years on creating the type of meaningful conversation that allows one to learn from the experiences of another.
I’m sharing 4 ideas that I took from Jordan Peterson’s book the 12 Rules for Life when I read it this year.
“Your current knowledge has neither made you perfect nor kept you safe”
Your knowledge is insufficient. You must accept this before you can converse philosophically, instead of pushing opinions, convincing, oppressing, dominating or joking.
“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”
It is necessary to respect the personal experience of your conversational partners. You must assume that they have reached careful, thoughtful, genuine conclusions (and, perhaps, they must have done the work that justifies this assumption). You must believe that if they shared their conclusions with you, you could bypass at least some of the pain of personally learning the same things (as learning from the experience of others can be quicker and much less dangerous).
It takes conversation to organise a mind
“people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.” The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche.
“Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own”
They say Aristotle was the last man who knew everything there was to know. Since the time of Aristotle (over 2300 years ago) society has become too complex for any one individual to know all that is known.
When I was in school, I took huge value in solving from first principles. I would prefer to solve mathematic problems from first principles and avoid using formulaic recipes that allowed you to shortcut to a solution. This was symptomatic of my whole approach to life. If I hadn’t figured it out myself, I didn’t value the knowledge. There is a heroic valor to this approach, but it is dumb heroics.
This article by Vistage CEO Sam Reese was originally published on the Vistage blog. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizations and has advised CEOs and key executives of companies all over the world.
Over to Sam…
The COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges for leaders, but it also offers fresh opportunities to learn how to navigate their companies through uncharted waters. As employees accept the current crisis and adjust to new environments, routines and protocol, they look to leaders for transparency, stability and conscious decision-making.
Great leaders know leadership excellence is a challenging, continuous journey that requires hard work and determined attention. They reject shortcuts and take ownership of their development, especially in times of crisis. They bring rigor and grit, working hard to hone their expertise and continuously improve. They recognize it is important to keep an organized rhythm of communications and work progress that will keep their businesses busy and aligned during a crisis.
2. Carve out space to work on the business
Successful leaders routinely carve out time and space away from the business to reflect, acquire new knowledge and focus on strategy. This discipline allows them to gain the clarity they need to navigate the day-to-day challenges and understand the environment outside their business. The stress of leading through a global pandemic requires a leader to pause and regroup.
3. Challenge your thinking with fresh perspectives
Great leaders seek diverse perspectives on important decisions from trusted peers. They actively work to combat insular thinking and confirmation bias. They find other CEOs and business leaders who’ve tackled similar issues but in different industries. These peers understand the nuances and challenges of the role but bring fresh perspectives, unhampered by institutional knowledge. Now more than ever, when a group of diverse leaders learn from one another, this effect is amplified. CEOs can share the real-time learnings that come from leading a company through a pandemic.
4. Stoke curiosity
World-class business leaders are high on curiosity and low on ego. They are inquisitive, welcome new ideas from trusted sources and eager to explore. Vulnerability is viewed as an asset, and they are the first to admit they don’t have all the answers. They ask questions to seek input and pressure-test their assumptions, so they can come to the best decision for the business – not to prove their own point. These trying times present the opportunity to be open to and apply new ideas.
5. Apply discipline to decision-making
High-performing leaders follow a disciplined approach to decision-making. They use a systematic process that takes into account their instincts; judgment based on experience and data; and perspectives from peers, mentors and employees. The key is to focus on what can be done today, not necessarily developing long-term strategies that may need to be changed after a crisis. Focus has to remain on mission, vision, purpose and values as the North Star. With these values as the foundation, leaders can make decisions with speed, consistency and accuracy – even under the heavy pressures of a pandemic.
6. Find a trusted guide
Successful leaders view a coach or mentor as a critical component to leadership excellence, especially in stressful times. They value a trusted guide who challenges their assumptions, identifies their blind spots and holds them accountable. The most effective coaches and mentors approach the CEO as a whole person, not just the leader in the corner office. Leaders who take a comprehensive approach to development that includes feedback from trusted peers, effective mentoring, and insights from subject-matter experts continuously outperform their competitors.
7. Rise by helping others
Great leaders help others think critically through their challenges and in the process fine-tune their own decision-making skills. Leaders also recognize relationships matter even more during a crisis. Whether these relationships are with coworkers, customers, suppliers, partners or investors, CEOs and decision makers help others as they remain in constant, transparent communication. Accessibility is the No. 1 quality employees look for in their leaders during a time of crisis. By staying available, you will become acutely aware of the challenges that need to be addressed and convey a sense of stability and continuity during a crisis. High-integrity leaders leave a legacy. The way you manage in a crisis like this will be a key part of the legacy you leave and an example for those who follow in your footsteps.
The coronavirus has brought disruption and caused unprecedented challenges for CEOs, but it can also inspire innovation and lead the way to a company’s future success when life returns to normal. COVID-19 shines a light on the challenges of leading through change and crisis. By using these seven laws and providing clear communication, decision makers can take effective action for their companies today and tomorrow.
A big part of Vistage group meetings is working through a CEO’s challenges and helping them get clarity about how they can move forward with their business and their life.
We often find that the biggest obstacle to forward progress is not outside of us, but inside of us.
There are 4 fatal fears.
We also call these “Core Self-Limiting Beliefs”. They are learnt. We are not born with these fears. There are only 2 fear that we are born with: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Every other fear has been learnt. (This does not make them less real or easier to deal with).
These 4 fears will drive a grasping towards something that will never fill me. If I am looking for completion outside of myself, I will never scratch my itch. I need to learn to be able to sit with my fear and anxiety and accept it and accept that I am human and imperfect.
Fear of Failure – “I Need Success”
Fear of Rejection – “I Need Acceptance”
Fear of Emotional Discomfort – “I Need Emotional Comfort”
Fear of Being Wrong – “I Need to Be Right”
Each of the fears can be accepted and allowed to exist within me. They will never go away. They will always be there, but I can accept them and not allow them to direct my actions and my words.
Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of ISS, a 250,000 employee global facilities services business.
Currently on the Boards of 28 companies, London Business School Advisory Board, Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Executive in Residence at IMD.
Author of 4 books including “The Job of the CEO“. Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.
Highlights from the Interview
1:49 What is the Job of the CEO?
3:18 Know Products, Numbers, Customers
4:30 Management and Leadership
5:35 Taking Good Decisions
12:40 The Calendar of the CEO
15:07 What do you do after being a CEO?
16:45 Why did Waldemar step back from the CEO role?
18:10 Advice to a 55 year old ex-CEO
19:55 Networking as a CEO
21:18 How to Build Relationships with top Head Hunters
23:20 130 dilemmas that CEOs will face in life and business
23:50 The worst enemy of great leadership: Arrogance
Examples of Successful CEOS’ Education, Nationality and Career Paths
Reflect, Evaluate and Decide Whether the Job of the CEO Is Right for You
Planning Your Career if a CEO Career Is Not Right for You
the Essence of Career Planning
Your Personal Brand
How to Work With Executive Search Firms
Your Pre-CEO Jobs
How to Manage Your First CEO Job
How to Manage Your Next CEO Jobs
How to Manage Your Dream CEO Job
How to Successfully Exit From Your Final CEO Job
Decline or Revival?
What Do You Do if You Lose Your CEO Job?
Retirement or a New Career?
How to Manage Your Second Career
How to Manage Your Third Career
How to Manage Your Work-life Balance
How to Deal With 130 Critical Career and Job Issues
Buy the Book
Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.
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