Habits of Leaders Who Have Positive Workplace Cultures



True, the Digital Age and global economy are demanding. Texting and emails are the norm in communication. Face-to-face conversation is minimal.

Everything seems impersonal. People feel isolated.

What are the results?

Decision-making is harried. Creativity slows. Employees are stressed. Common courtesies disappear. The lack of teamwork and civility hurt production and customer service.

Instead of team members saying “thank you” and “please” to one another and to customers, they say “Have a nice day.” Ugh.

At any rate and like it or not, if you’re not hitting your profit targets look no further than at your workplace culture.

Sure, your marketing might need to be re-tooled. Perhaps your messaging isn’t working or you’re using the wrong channels.

But great marketing will never produce your desired return on investment if your culture isn’t warm and positive.

Business profits are minimal or nonexistent because workplaces are mired in disrespect — from rudeness to bullying.

This, of course, means operations are weak and customers aren’t being treated well.

Moreover, here’s a memo that’s hard to swallow: If you have workplace dysfunction, it’s time to look at yourself.

Actions and choice of words matter.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • “Is there a gap in how my employees see me and how I see myself?”
  • “Am I known for saying please and thank you, or am I too hard on my staff?”

Compare your habits with leaders of positive workplace cultures:

1. Assess your culture

Look for signs of backstabbing, rudeness and selfishness.

Walk the floor and ask your key employees to do the same, and look for positive interactions. Check to see if it’s the norm.

2. Self-reflect

Very importantly, self-evaluate your behavior, especially to check your empathetic quotient.

Some sample questions to consider:

  • Are you approachable?
  • How often do you put things aside when employees approach you?
  • How often do you approach employees to ask how they’re doing?
  • Do you give credit to employees?
  • How often do you smile?
  • What makes you smile?
  • How often do you say please and thank you?

3. Regulate how you use your power

In this fast-paced environment in the rush for profitability, it’s very common for leaders to forget how to motivate others.

There’s a tendency to think they’re above the common-sense rules for positive communication.

They fail to leave the office to personally engage their staffs. They restrict constructive criticism and discourage candid feedback.

4. Be cognizant of the risks to communication

Chances are you’re often on overload. Often it’s self-inflicted.

You also have too many meetings and distractions. You forget to be nice.

Instead, you’re busy checking emails and responding. You’re heavily relying on your smartphone.

True, emails and smartphones are important. But they are a common cause for limited face-to-face communication with your human capital.

When you make a mistake, apologize well.

So acknowledge your mistake. Take responsibility. Don’t delegate an apology to others. Don’t expect them to manage the consequences. Change your behavior so your staff members don’t view you as an empty suit.

5. Visualize the future

Consider how and what you’re doing to insure you won’t have any regrets. Imagine what you need to do to stop appearing to be insensitive, reactionary or pompous.

To be sure you must remain a critical thinker and good negotiator but it also means being a good listener, empathetic, being fair-minded, a better partner and showing positive leadership.

Consider what the headline would read if a critical news article was published about you.

Take steps so that you’re proud of your behavior and performance.

From the Coach’s Corner, editor’s picks on leadership:

How to Rewire Your Brain to Get Confidence for Leadership — As prime minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill provided lessons in enthusiasm for leadership. To take your business to the highest level, you must be at the top of your game to maximize your confidence as a leader.

Trending – the 7 Biggest Challenges for Management — In our complex Digital-Age economy with Millennials replacing baby boomers, we can draw some conclusions about developing trends. Management typically faces seven workforce challenges.

5 Top Leadership Philosophies in Business Management — From Seattle to Singapore, top managers show leadership by coaching their teams to success. They accomplish goals with five habitual philosophies.

21st Century Leadership Requires Authenticity — Here’s how — It’s one thing to be promoted into a management role, but it’s entirely another to be regarded as a leader to inspire a company’s culture. What really matters is knowing how you impact others.

For Strong Profits, 5 Tips to Develop Employees as Leaders — Strong leaders will help your business grow and enjoy excellent profits. That’s because, as role models, they’re instrumental in helping you develop a performance culture.

Leadership: 4 Strategies Dealing with Incompetent People — Yes, incompetent employees – whether they have difficult personalities or they simply under-perform – can be aggravating. But they don’t have to be.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

-James Humes


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 




Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net 

Leadership: 4 Strategies Dealing with Incompetent People



Yes, incompetent employees – whether they have difficult personalities or they simply under-perform – can be aggravating. But they don’t have to be.

For whatever reason when employees fail to perform, it’s still vital for managers to show leadership by maintaining their cool.

Why? For two reasons:

Firstly, managers should never give away their personal power by getting angry. Secondly, it isn’t always possible to fire incompetence.

So a manager must step up and show leadership – with detachment, not indifference. Yes, there is a difference.

With detachment, leaders methodically reflect on a problem with emotional intelligence. (More on this later in the Coach’s Corner.) They understand the root causes and take positive action.

However, with indifference, managers don’t act with leadership. They don’t accurately analyze the reasons for the problem. Consequently, they act with haste not with emotional sobriety.

In fact, great managers actually know how to enjoy their jobs even with difficult employees.

id-10091536So leaders know to use four techniques:

1. Communicating

The first indicator of issues is a lack of communication and missing information.

As a result, people resort to making false assumptions.

When issues manifest themselves as problems – poor sales, for example – employees point fingers.  That results in stress, tension and poor morale.

Despite being surrounded by incompetent workers, leaders know they have to act like the only adult in the room.

Leaders set parameters and procedures for communication. They give examples of how they want the employees to engage in discussions.

This usually entails meetings or one-to-one discussions with documentation. That means written follow-ups on which employees can refer later.

2. Record-keeping

For situations involving toxic workers, there are always unnecessary challenges. But they must be addressed.

The best option is always to take preventative measures – with transparency and documentation. That’s right, document everything.

3. Staying calm

While it’s true that incompetence is infuriating, leaders don’t show it.

They take precautions with plenty of rest, recreation and exercise. Should tensions rear their ugly heads, leaders do what they need to do to stay calm.

That might mean taking a break, going for a walk or talking with a sounding board.

Even leaders get to where they are because they have a role model or mentor – someone who listens, provides empathy and provides objective feedback.

They brace themselves.

Leaders always consider the big picture – the overall welfare of the company. Leaders know that emotional sobriety with mental preparation is vital for success.

They know if they’re detached, other employees rise to the occasion and deliver strong performances to offset incompetent team members.

In other words, they deliberate and they don’t make rash decisions with hurried actions.

4. Coaching

Frustrations from dealing with difficult employees coincide with many issues for management – teamwork, morale, organizational dysfunction and weak customer relationships – just to name a handful.

They’re all related to loss of profit. So, toxic employees warrant coaching tactics.

Furthermore, to effectively replace mediocrity with strong performance, leaders optimize talent by developing a coaching culture.

If your suppliers or strategic partners are dysfunctional, you can effectively deal with them. The key is to coach your vendors and strategic partners.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related sources of information:

How to Grow Your EI for Leadership Success — Emotional intelligence (EI) is important for communication and leadership. A person who has EI is able to evaluate, understand, and control emotions.

Trending – the 7 Biggest Challenges for Management — In our complex Digital-Age economy with Millennials replacing baby boomers, we can draw some conclusions about developing trends. Management typically faces seven workforce challenges.

5 Top Leadership Philosophies in Business Management — From Seattle to Singapore, top managers show leadership by coaching their teams to success. They accomplish goals with five habitual philosophies.

Leadership Tips for Executing Strategy to Defeat Threats — Multiple solutions might work to triumph over a threat, but a global study in 20 sectors in 20 countries shows execution trumps strategy. Here’s how leaders execute strategy.

5 Traits of People Who Deliver Bad News Well — Are you nervous about giving bad news to others? Do you wish you were good at it? If you answer yes to either question, here are five traits of good messengers.

As Trustworthy Leaders, Great Bosses Have 5 Traits — Trust, or lack of it, is an obstacle to leadership. It’s a mega issue in America. It’s reached crisis proportions. Published polls show Americans distrust their political leaders, journalists and CEOs. So it’s obvious there are countless missed opportunities in politics, the news media and business. A Stanford professor provides solutions.

“I always tell employees: ‘The group’s benefit is more important than your personal benefit.’”

-Terry Gou


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Courtesy of imagerymajestic at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Authoritarians Are Best Leaders in Tough Economy – Study


CEOs who impose discipline and obedience achieve more in difficult economic cycles, according to an academic study.


Despite the popular trend of so-called transformational leadership – soft congenial management – decisiveness in an authoritarian approach is what works best in recessions.

That’s according to a major study published in an Academy of Management (AOM) publication.

The paper, entitled “When Authoritarian Leaders Outperform Transformational Leaders: Firm Performance in a Harsh Economic Environment,” is among the research published in the Academy of Management Discoveries, a journal dedicated to exploring management issues at ground level.

Puzzled professional stockimagesDuring the Great Recession, a consultant firm published a summary of interviews with CEOs of 14 major U.S. companies on how they had responded to hard times.

The CEOs cited the need for decisiveness on the one hand and for congenial openness on the other – “the power of openness at all levels” and “the need to assure employees that the CEO has faith in them.”

Their styles are popular in their workforces.

The study cited the interviews that advocated openness, but identified the benefits of an authoritarian approach.

The authors wrote “authoritarian leadership does have a positive impact on firm performance when firms operate in a resource-scarce environment. In such a situation, authoritarian leaders, who reinforce discipline and obedience, can help followers and organizations to achieve operational efficiency and effective coordination, which are critical in harsh environments.”

The researchers: Prof. Xu Huang of Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Erica Xu of Baptist University of Hong Kong; Warren Chiu of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Catherine Lam of City University of Hong Kong; and Jiing-Lih Farh of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“Despite its drawbacks, such as its tendency to suppress creativity and innovation, authoritarian leadership remains prevalent in business enterprises not only in China, where we conducted this research, but through much of the world, including the U.S. and EU,” comments Prof. Huang.

“Our findings suggest why this remains the case,” he adds.

The research into 102 subsidiaries of a telecommunications company analyzes the interrelationship among three factors:

1) Economic conditions in the county where each of the subsidiaries operates

2) The extent of transformational or authoritarian leadership in each of these units, as revealed by manager surveys

3) The performance of each subsidiary as measured in revenue growth over the four months and 12 months post-survey

Economic conditions were calculated four ways: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, GDP growth, average income of the population, and total retail sales per capita.

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

-Alexander the Great

The researchers concede their conclusions “may be somewhat surprising, because in the literature transformational leadership has long been lauded as a humanistic and effective leadership style… inspir[ing] employees to achieve excellence and to contribute extra effort…In contrast, authoritarian leadership has a negative connotation in the literature and has been seen as a less desirable leadership style by employees across a variety of nations.”

About the 14 U.S. CEOs, Prof. Huang notes:

“It may be that their response to the recession partly reflected the munificent conditions in which they normally operate,” he surmises. “Possibly, too, there was an element of political correctness in what they said.”

He indicates there should be other considerations.

“In any event, what our study suggests is that the best leaders have more than one style of leadership and adjust them based on circumstances,” he says.

“For example, we cite the case of Steve Jobs, who was as inspirational a leader as one can find but who resorted to an authoritarian approach when Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy,” he adds.

The professor explained why he conducted the study after teaching a class of CEOs and senior executives of some of the largest companies in China.

“They didn’t buy the idea of transformational leadership,” he says. “They were quite sure the authoritarian approach worked best. My co-authors and I decided to put the issue to the test, and this study is the result.”

Disclosure: As a former member of the prestigious AOM, I can tell you it is the world’s-largest organization devoted to management research and teaching with about 18,000 members in 117 countries,.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more than 200 leadership articles:

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.

-Alexander the Great


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net


2015 Year-in-Review: Seattle Business Consultant Articles



Human resources, leadership characteristics of top CEOs, and public-relations crisis management top the list of 2015’s most-popular articles on this Seattle business consultant Web site.

The three articles constitute a surprising trend – considering that The Biz Coach has more than 1,000 articles for readers to consider.

In five months of 2015, an audit shows readers were most interested in learning how to use their human resources department to boost business performance.

For twenty-five percent of the year, the No. 2 most-popular topic was the “10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO.” In third-place, readers preferred an analysis of the “BP Crisis Management, PR Misfires — a Case Study.” For one month, the leading topic was “HR Trends in Talent Management Using Technology.”

Another trend month after month – one article repeatedly came in second place. Readers wanted to learn how it’s possible for a run-of-the-mill manager to become a leader in management (Key Differences between Leaders and Managers.)

The leaders by month:

Joey TamerJanuary10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO, a 10-part series on CEO leadership by Joey Tamer, www.JoeyTamer.com.

Ms. Tamer is a consultant to experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices.

She has also been a strategic consultant to entrepreneurs in technology and digital media.

Her Op Ed explains in detail what she describes as the 10 most-salient characteristics of successful CEOs.

They are:

  1. Domain expertise (technology or other)
  2. Leadership & personal power
  3. Financial savvy
  4. Ability to pitch and close
  5. Honor
  6. Realism
  7. Perseverance
  8. Patience
  9. Perspective on the larger scheme of things
  10. Courage to move forward, or stop, and to know when to do either one

(She is a dear friend and colleague and she is also widely quoted in numerous biz coach articles.)

February10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO

March10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO

April BP Crisis Management, PR Misfires — a Case Study, crisis management and public relations strategies in the wake of the BP-Gulf oil crisis.

BP Oil can’t turn off the lawsuit spigot. After paying $28 million as the result of its massive 2010 oil spill — the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history — it must pay an uncapped billions of dollars more in oil-spill compensation.

BP fought the 2013 court ruling, which was made as an interpretation of the original settlement reached from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Ironically, BP agreed to the original settlement, which didn’t include a specific amount of damages.

BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in criminal damages to the U.S. government. Earlier, for $7.8 billion, BP settled with individuals and businesses in the wake of the 2010 oil spill – the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history. You might recall 11 people died in that disaster.

May15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

Studies show many employees are dissatisfied in their workplaces. Employee dissatisfaction, of course, will adversely affect a company’s performance.

A lack of employee engagement means:

— Higher costly turnover

— Less focus on customer service

— Less productivity

— Weak profits

The dissatisfaction is global and the trend is likely to continue unless businesses improve their approach.

June15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

JulyHR Trends in Talent Management Using Technology, despite all the talk about the use of technology in talent management, the majority of human resources departments is behind the curve.

Employee recruitment, engagement and retention can all be enhanced by evolving technology.

However, 72 percent of HR departments reveal they’re not using such tools. That’s according to 1,000 respondents in a 2015 study.

August 15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

SeptemberBP Crisis Management, PR Misfires — a Case Study, crisis management and public relations strategies in the wake of the BP-Gulf oil crisis.

October15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

November15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

December15 HR Strategies to Improve Your Business Performance, a checklist of 15 strategies for human resources to improve business performance.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are reports on top articles in previous years:

2014 Year-in-Review: The Most Popular Biz Coaching Articles — A large number of readers was interested in career development in 2014, according to an audit of nearly 900 articles published on The Biz Coach. Primarily, there were two articles that ranked as either No. 1 or No. 2 for seven months of the year. Readers were clearly focused on leadership and management. Countless thousands preferred these two articles: “Key Differences between Leaders and Managers” and “Leadership – 10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO.”

2013 Year-in-Review: Most-Popular Biz Coaching Topics — Judging by reader preferences in 2013, businesses were on tight budgets because the most-popular topic featured five free tools to run and market a business. It was No. 1 for five months.

2012 Year-in-Review: The Most-Popular Biz Coach Topics — The first eye-opener: Human resources articles dominated eight out of 12 months. The second eye-opener: Some topics were winners in consecutive months. One topic, dealing with HR and technology, was No. 1 three months in a row.

2011 Year-In-Review: Top Biz Coach Topics — Here are this portal’s most-read biz coaching articles in 2011: In January, the most popular article was Human Resources – Slow Motion Gets You There Faster. It featured an analogy with a famous American composer, pianist, and actor: Hoagy Carmichael. Mr. Carmichael is credited with coining the phrase, “Slow motion gets you there faster.”

“Let the tech firms and consulting firms build your skills, but be sure to ask yourself, ‘Am I maximizing my impact? Am I living up to my values?’”

-Wendy Kopp


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Leadership Tips for Executing Strategy to Defeat Threats



For success in battling external threats, execution of strategy that’s objectively measured and fine-tuned is critical. Execution, in fact, is more important than the strategy itself.

Multiple solutions might work to triumph over a threat, but a global study in 20 sectors in 20 countries shows execution trumps strategy.

The study is entitled, “Executing Corporate Strategy: A Global Study.” It was conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp).

Ambro leadership“Drawing attention to competitive threats catalyzes employees,” says AMA’s Chief Marketing Officer Jeremey Donovan.

“Of course, this must be done with care in order to balance negative effects such as job security concerns,” he adds.

It’s accomplished with innovation and risk-taking.

But senior management is successful in linking strategy external and internal realities by effectively communicating with talent in operations using technology.

A salient challenge is to avoid a culture of fear.

“Consider a hot new product launch by a close competitor. In order to respond effectively, employees need to have a clear enough mind to innovate,” explains Mr. Donovan.

He says there’s more footwork.

To execute strategy for market performance, the study recommends four strategies:

— Visible support from leadership

— Regular communication of progress to employees

— Recognizing execution as a top corporate priority

— Focusing on a common threat without creating a culture of fear

Execution is so important that some companies fail to capitalize on strategy that would ordinarily work

“Excellent strategies fail all the time because leadership fails to engage with employees, observe behaviors and find out why people act the way they do,” says i4cp Senior Research Analyst Cliff Stevenson.

He makes good sense. I’d also add savvy employers know how to profit from their human capital. Such knowledge is a powerful weapon for high performance in a competitive marketplace.

To meet threats head-on, there’s a correlation among excellent sales, happy customers, and high employee morale. Proverbially speaking, employees are where the tire meets the road. So, it’s key to motivate employees to offer profitable ideas.

“Drawing attention to competitive threats catalyzes employees.”

“Leaders need to do more than communicate expectations; they need to find out what’s driving behavior and why,” adds Mr. Stevenson.

My sense is effective bosses have antennas to alert them over looming challenges. If they don’t have such an antenna, it’s important for them to develop one for multiple credibility reasons.

Even the bosses of small companies can suffer from image problems externally and internally. Either one or both will adversely affect profits. During adversity, you need a plan to motivate employees.

To focus on a common threat and to execute strategy, the study reveals what’s needed are three leadership behaviors:

  1. Regularly discuss relevant industry and competitor developments with the team.
  2. Ensure the organization has broad strategies and plans that address changing market conditions and client needs, and create competitive advantage.
  3. Market the strategy internally to employees, showing the customer value proposition, to gain buy-in and an understanding of the relevancy of external threats.

The bottom-line:

“Execution trumps strategy, and this is true regardless of industry, organization size or structure,” concludes Mr. Stevenson.

Agreed; employee participation is crucial. It takes a team approach to succeed with your strategic plan.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are tips from related articles:

Strategy Not Working? You Need a Strategy to Execute Your Strategy — If a company develops a good strategy but it fails, we can draw a conclusion. Management dropped the ball. Well-worded strategies are nice. But they’re just a bunch of sentences until success is achieved.

A Marketing Strategy That Best Defends Your Company — What do I mean by the phrase, “A marketing strategy that best defends your company”? Protecting your assets with the right marketing strategy results in the shielding and enhancing of your brand, as well as protecting your customer base.

10 Red Flags Your Business Needs Strategic Planning — Many entrepreneurs are so busy putting out fires, they fail to take care of business in two ways. They fail to plan strategically and they don’t make marketing a priority each day.

11 Management Strategies for a Successful Turnaround — When it comes to management strategies for a successful turnaround, a quote by financial-world wizard Warren Buffett is apropos. “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing,” Mr. Buffett said. My response: “Touché.” It’s all about capital mobility created by effective management.

9 Precautions in Training Employees to Protect You from Cyber Crime — It takes a team approach to protect your organization against the skyrocketing rate of cyber crime. Here are nine training precautions necessary to make sure your employees help you guard against security threats.

“Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”

-W. C. Fields


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

5 Traits of People Who Deliver Bad News Well



Are you nervous about giving bad news to others? Do you wish you were good at it? Do you worry about your business reputation?

Well, you’re not alone. Delivering bad news can be a difficult task.

There are, however, people, who can deliver bad news without suffering from personal repercussions. Good messengers are not eager to perform the task, but they know it isn’t about them.

11 AmbroGood messengers possess emotional intelligence. (For more on emotional intelligence, scroll down to the Coach’s Corner.)

That means good messengers are usually leaders. They keep in mind their audience members and their concerns.

They know what is necessary to say and what not to say. Good messengers know how to do it.

Bearers of bad news also anticipate the concerns and questions. They make sure their audience gets the right messages.

How or why do they accomplish these goals?

Typically, good messengers have five traits:

1. Authenticity

Messengers have already developed a reputation for trust. They lay the groundwork by being trustworthy in all that they do.

That means not being a people-pleaser. People-pleasers are manipulators – an undesirable label. They don’t try to spin all the news as positive.

When it comes time to deliver bad news, they’re regarded with credibility and high esteem.

2. Directness

In this age, most people are astute. They understand spin. Whether the bearer of bad news has to give a speech or have a one-on-one conversation, the person should accurately explain the situation right away.

So the message should be concise and to-the-point. If not, the messenger’s trustworthiness will take a big hit. Plus, a cover-up always leads to worse repercussions.

3. Communicate with clarity

People who are successful in delivering bad news do so because they speak with clarity. They don’t hide or distort the facts.

They don’t just dump a lot of misunderstood statistics onto the audience. Good messengers think in terms of key takeaways. In fact, they highlight them.

4. Have serenity

Such people maximize their chances to generate confidence. They come from a position of calmness – even if the news is sudden and it wasn’t forecast, the messengers remain unruffled.

They provide the information with eye contact – slowly – with each person. In a sense, they speak with finality – they make sure the end of each sentence is in a low pitch.

People who end their sentences high in pitch or volume appear to lack in confidence and self esteem – not good for the messenger of bad news.

5. Understand positives

Affected audience members want to if the messenger is insightful and empathetic – in addition to being honest.

While it’s important to focus on why and what is going wrong, what also matters is for the messenger to look for positives and derive solutions for the audience.

In other words, paint the picture of a vision that everyone might appreciate and understand.

From the Coach’s Corner, for numerous articles on leadership, go here.

Here are related communication strategies:

How to Grow Your EI for Leadership Success — Emotional intelligence (EI) is important for communication and leadership. A person who has EI is able to evaluate, understand, and control emotions.

10 Management Attributes for Effective Communication — Communication skills are critical for managers. People with enhanced abilities in communication typically have successful relationships at work and home. Good communicators typically have 10 attributes.

A Top Marketing Goal: Enhance Your Internal Communication — Businesses have two communication sources that are expenses that conversely are sources of profit – the external marketplace – and internal, their human capital. But all your money poured into marketing doesn’t accomplish much unless you devote equal resources to employee programs and communication.

Communication – You Can Train Yourself to Stop Stressing — It’s OK to be nervous before giving a speech or when you’re entering an important round of negotiations. Feeling pressure is one thing but allowing it to morph into stress and tension is another. When you allow this to happen, in a sense, you’re giving away your personal power, which inhibits your performance.

Public Speaking: How to Earn Loyalty, Trust from Your Audience — For success in giving a speech, you must be able to bond with your audience. How? If you use a simple technique you can earn loyalty and trust with your audience members. Many speakers, however, overlook using the technique.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

-Plato


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Many WA Voters Learn the Need for Fiscal Trust

April 21, 2015 –

While it’s important to remember a person is innocent until proven guilty, a 10-count, 41-page indictment of Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley is troubling.

It’s alleged Mr. Kelley stole millions of dollars in processing fees from home sales at his mortgage company, and that he lied under oath and evaded taxes.

Mr. Kelley was an unknown not too long ago. As a Democrat, he served in the state’s House of Representatives before he was elected as State Auditor.

Troy_Kelley.jpeg

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley

His credentials are impressive. He had worked for the Department of Justice, a Fortune 500 company and he is an officer in the Washington National Guard.

Before Mr. Kelley came along – for 20 years – Washington state was truly enriched by a State Auditor predecessor: Brian Sonntag.

In addition to noting his sterling record of achievement as a fiscal watchdog of government, I interviewed him personally (for my news-media columns and a radio program before launching this portal). He was most impressive in the interviews.

Now, Mr. Sonntag is a Washington Policy Center Board member. The organization’s Web site (www.washingtonpolicy.org) accurately states it’s “an independent, non-partisan think tank promoting sound public policy based on free-market solutions.”

Thanks to Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center , we learn that Mr. Sonntag has shed some light on the important role the State Auditor plays in auditing government agencies.

Without passing judgment on Mr. Kelley, Mr. Sonntag issued this statement:

“The founders of Washington State didn’t like or trust government very much. They established several separate elected offices. As an example of their populist bent they created a very independent office of State Auditor. Tasked with the responsibility to audit the accounts and activities of every government agency in the state, the Auditor holds small boards and commissions as well as large state and local entities accountable to the citizens they serve. Currently there are nearly 2,700 different government agencies that come under the scrutiny of the State Auditor.

The only real issue for the office of State Auditor is accountability. To make certain citizens have access to information so they can judge for themselves the performance of public officials and their conduct and decision making.

To effectively meet this responsibility the Auditor’s office must be above any reproach. From frontline employees to the elected officeholder there cannot be a hint of impropriety. Citizens expect, demand and deserve nothing less. Credibility is lost if there are questions surrounding the ability to be objective.

The Auditor’s Office (and Auditor) must be held to a higher standard because that is the office our state’s founders identified as the public guardian. The public’s watchdog that they can trust when it comes to transparency, accountability and openness.

This public trust is fragile. And when broken it’s not easy to rebuild.

The Auditor has a huge responsibility. But with that responsibility comes an opportunity to really make a difference. To act independently in the interest of the citizens who you work for. To put the public interest first. To make sure government’s doors are open. And to be worthy of this responsibility. That is how respect is earned. That is how the public trust is built.”

Thank you, Messrs. Sonntag and Mercier, and Washington Policy Center.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles.

“I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” 

-Thomas Jefferson

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

How to Grow Your EI for Leadership Success



Emotional intelligence (EI) is important for communication and leadership. A person who has EI is able to evaluate, understand, and control emotions.

If you have EI, chances are you can better relate to the emotions of others.

There is disagreement over whether EI can be learned or whether people are born with it. In my experience, EI can be learned.

ID-10040848 AmbroEI helps on both the macro and micro levels. If you want a high performing company, focus on EI. If you want to accelerate your career, strengthen your EI. Why?

There’s a link between EI and leadership. Whether you’re a senior manager or a young salesperson, EI provides the spark to accelerate your accomplishments.

Executives with high EI tend to have happier employees. They hire and promote employees who these soft skills.

This means the staff members are higher performing and aren’t as likely to leave.

Moreover, companies that base their recruitment, hiring and promotion initiatives on EI will be more competitive in the marketplace.

Whether you want EI to work for your company or you personally, it’s desirable to have five key characteristics:

1. Check for self-awareness

This means being aware of emotions – what we’re feeling, the causes of our feelings and how we react to others. If we’re fully aware of our feelings, we can manage our emotions.

We then respond, not react to others. This is vital. It’s advisable to think about what to say or do before acting – that’s called responding.

If we fly off the handle or get brusque with others we’re not self aware. We’re reacting.

The result is more favorable when we respond. We don’t damage relationships and we build trust.

2. Listening expertise

When others are speaking, people who have strong EI listen intently. They don’t think about how to react.

Instead, they try to understand what the other person is saying and feeling – before they respond – and then they acknowledge the person’s feelings.

Even if the person is rambling off-topic or complaining about an unsolvable situation, an EI-inspired person will let the person vent.

3. Ability to be aware of emotions of individuals

If we’re aware of the emotions in others, we don’t have to change our exercise program – because we don’t jump to conclusions. We don’t rush to judgment.

Nor do we mirror the negative emotions of angry people. We don’t take things personally. This means we’re not giving away our power to others.

4. Reading the whole environment

A person with strong EI can read the room – the emotions of people at work. Morale is important to read, and so is sensing the collective emotions of employees that can adversely affect the workplace.

Communication can then follow.

5. Response skills

Senior managers who can predict their employees’ attitudes and behaviors are more adroit in dealing with negative situations before it’s too late. They can be proactive to alleviate and improve such situations.

Again, my sense is that EI can be learned and developed. If you believe in the EI concept and its benefits, understand that it takes commitment, discipline and practice.

There are four strategies to improve your EI:

1. Seek input

If you don’t understand a challenge or situation, ask a mentor for insights. If you’re in a disagreement with employees or peers, ask for an explanation.

If you’re being criticized, simply listen and take notes. Don’t get defensive or make excuses. Try to understand the criticism, own it and take corrective measures.

2. Analyze how you affect others

Be aware of your intent, tone of voice and how you negatively affect other people. Unintentionally, people marginalize others.

They don’t understand the gap – what they intend to say but how it hurts others.

3. Freeze your negative emotions

Whenever you’re in an uncomfortable situation, don’t lower yourself to a knee-jerk reaction. Listen. Pause. Think.

4. Learn the art of empathy

Even if you disagree with someone, empathize with a response something like, “I can understand how you feel that way.” Then try to understand the person’s point-of-view.

You’re not prostituting your values. You’re merely acknowledging the person’s feelings. Empathy goes a long way to resolving issues.

Finally, if you want to check your EI level, you can take this EI quiz.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships and Business Performance — What counts in communication? Listening skills for discernment and trust. Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment. That goes for athletes and management, alike.

10 Management Attributes for Effective Communication — Communication skills are critical for managers. People with enhanced abilities in communication typically have successful relationships at work and home. Good communicators typically have 10 attributes.

Why Executives Emphasize Communication Training for Employees — Among human resources training priorities, employee communication is often now more important than skills, say many executives. Two-thirds of executives responding to a survey say communication skills are most needed by certain employees.

10 Steps to Manage Conflict for High Performance — For progress, a business needs human interaction for ideas and innovation. Sometimes, argument, debate and conflict prove to be productive catalysts for high performance. But such catalysts can be obstacles to success, too. Here are the simplest ways to manage conflict.

To Win in Project Management, Tap Emotional Intelligence — Automated project-management models might be popular, but they don’t lead to the championship-quality results. Project managers achieve greater success and long-term sustainability by leveraging emotional intelligence. Yes, mastering emotions makes it possible to motivate employees to higher performances.

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

-Theodore Roosevelt


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

36 Tips: Develop Confidence to Win an Office Tug of War


When nice people lose in office politics, it isn’t because their opponents are stronger. They lose because they unknowingly give away their power.



For people lacking in self confidence, winning a tug of war at the office is easier said than done.

One sign is whether you’re winning hearts and minds at work. For instance, in the event of disagreements, are you able to persuade others?

If you can’t persuade others even when you provide irrefutable facts, of course, you might be dealing with extremely obstinate people.

It’s also possible you’re not making your case well and going about it unproductively.

To use an analogy: If you’re in Los Angeles and really want to arrive in New York, don’t get in your car and drive south to Mexico.

So use a road map to get you where you want to go.

Candidly, as a young man long before I became a business-performance consultant, my career took off when I became a better employee.

Before I knew it, I earned the right to manage others.

How? Along the way, I sought mentors and used road maps for my career.

For confidence in an office tug of war, here are ground rules for a road map:

  1. Your first job is to find a mentor. Look for someone who is successful in ways you’re not. Don’t be shy about approaching someone. Chances are a prospective mentor will readily accept your request.
  2. Don’t take such a mentor relationship for granted. When you start being successful, your relationship is not finished. As Peter Drucker said, “Arrogance is being proud of ignorance.” You’re likely to learn even more from an astute mentor. Only if the person becomes too busy or your career takes a dramatic turn, you might need to find a different mentor.
  3. Make your bosses look good. Respect their positions and be loyal. Without kissing up to your bosses, look for ways to be supportive and helpful. Executives understand the value of a loyal employee.
  4. Don’t be a people-pleaser. In your interactions with others just to get along with them, avoid all gossip. Don’t participate in the spreading of rumors. Be honest and direct. You’ll develop a more positive image, and you’ll become the go-to person in the eyes of your bosses and co-workers.
  5. Extend your comfort zone. Reach out to others. That means interfacing with people in other departments as the first step in building new business relationships.
  6. Learn the landscape. Know who is truly your friend and who is your adversary. In this way, you’ll never deceive or offend the wrong people.
  7. Be loyal to your allies. Developing alliances is a two-way street. You’ll be able to rely on others, if they feel they can rely on you.
  8. Learn how to use your enemies. As the adage goes, “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” Be sociable. Learn to probe artfully. Develop and maintain a dialogue with your enemies. You’re more likely to know what they’re thinking, and to win them to your point-of-view at crucial times.
  9. Don’t say more than necessary. Stand out by using the tool of silence. The more you say the more common and less powerful you appear to be. And you’re also likely to say something foolish, which will hurt your cause.
  10. In the heat of battle, know how to keep information close to your vest. Never reveal more than you really have to say. To use a baseball analogy, successful pitchers don’t let the batters what type of pitch is next. Don’t warn your adversaries by telegraphing your next moves.
  11. Manage your reputation. Guard it. Don’t become vulnerable. As in all sports, be defensive – protect your turf. A strong reputation is your foundation for power.
  12. In adversity, don’t let your environment define you. That means not letting others brand you. Be your own master. Re-engineer yourself, if necessary.
  13. Learn self-marketing techniques. First impressions are lasting impressions. You are judged by appearances. Be dignified in your self-promotion with charity work or working on committees. Don’t make the mistake of generating too much exposure. If you’re omnipresent, you’ll dilute your image.
  14. Never dirty your hands. Save your ammunition for important causes. Even if others agree with you on a political issue, whenever possible let them do the dirty job. If complaints are necessary to upper management, it’s better if you let others do it.
  15. Let opponents come to you. You’ll maintain your leverage of power, if adversaries feel they have to approach you first. In negotiations, usually the first person to speak eventually loses.
  16. Avoid arguments, win via your actions. The momentary satisfaction from winning a bitter disagreement isn’t worth it. Spoken words are sometimes more dangerous than actions. You’ll encounter resentments, which will last for a long time if not forever. It also demonstrates more power.
  17. Avoid negative or hapless people. It’s one thing to help others, but it’s another to get lost in someone else’s doldrums. They usually create their own misfortune with unproductive attitudes and behavior.
  18. Be gracious. Suspicious people will be won over by if you use gestures of generosity and honesty.
  19. When you need help from others, be a good salesperson. Don’t beg. Remember all decisions are based on emotion. People will respond favorably to you if they see a benefit for their best self interests.
  20. In a mammoth struggle, win decisively. Don’t leave anything undone. Don’t let fires smolder. Like a smoldering ashes in a fire, your enemy can recover.
  21. Cultivate an image of unpredictability. If your attitudes and behaviors are too familiar, your opponents will sense you’re vulnerability.
  22. Don’t isolate yourself. Be accessible. Mingle and communicate regularly with your allies. A crowd of friends help shield you.
  23. Don’t be harried in dealing with others. Maintain your independence. Don’t rush to take sides in disagreements.
  24. Know your adversaries, and allow them to be arrogant. Understand their weaknesses while appearing to be detached. Be a Columbo, the under-estimated TV character played by Peter Falk, who shrewdly solved the crimes.
  25. Expect to win, but surrender when you think you might experience defeat. The trick is to analyze early enough to save face. Never fight because of pride. Instead, surrender. It’s a tool of power when used right.
  26. If you’re uncertain about which approach to use, be conservative until you’re ready to be bold. Before acting, do a mini-SWOT analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Then act with bold. Virgil had it right, “Fortune favors the bold.”
  27. As in track, plan to finish the race. A SWOT analysis will help you plan to victory. Think far ahead. You’ll be perceived as a visionary.
  28. Act as if … that means in all things appear to be natural and acting with ease. Act with confidence. Hold your head high and carry yourself well. If you act and speak with conviction, others will be convinced of your strength. You’ll enhance your image by appearing to function effortlessly without panic. 
  29. Slower motion gets you there faster. Never act like you’re in a hurry. Walk slowly and speak with impeccable diction. Patience is a virtue so develop a sense of good timing. Be sure you’re right before acting and pause when the timing isn’t good.
  30. Stay calm and within yourself. Anger is never OK. Keep your adversaries at bay by staying calm.
  31. Be leery of free deals. Don’t take shortcuts. Be free of guilt and deceit by always paying your own way. Actually, by being generous, it will convey an image of authority and credibility.
  32. Don’t try to succeed or overshadow a great personality. Nothing is ever as good as the original. You’ll be overlooked and will lose your identity you’ve worked hard to build.
  33. Attack the source of trouble. Don’t get sidetracked like the fictional character, Don Quixote, who was famous for jousting at imaginary windmills. Problems are usually caused by one person. Attack the actual cause so problems don’t multiply.
  34. Carefully, be an astute advocate for change. Don’t overwhelm everyone around you by trying to innovate or change everything too quickly. You’ll appear to be power hungry. Make changes slowly. Be sure they appear to be necessary and moderate transformations.
  35. Be approachable and occasionally self effacing. People respond more favorably to people who are human – who aren’t error-free. They like people who can laugh at themselves. Such a strategy will prevent your associates from thinking your narcissistic.
  36. In ordeals, don’t over-reach. You must know when you’ve earned enough of a victory. Understand when it’s important to stop.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are relevant strategies:

18 Tips for Productive Behavior to Win in Office Politics — Most people troubled by office politics are too focused on the behavior of their adversaries. Stop giving away your personal power. Don’t think or act like a victim. Here are 18 valuable tips to win in office politics.

Make More Friends at the Office with 6 Etiquette Tips — In many companies, good etiquette is nonexistent and office co-workers fail to make friends of one another. Lack of trust and turmoil is seemingly evident everywhere. You don’t have to like everyone, but it’s best to be respectful, and assertive versus aggressive. That makes for good office relationships.

Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationships and Business Performance — What counts in communication? Listening skills for discernment and trust. Discerning people are the most successful and listening skills are important for discernment. That goes for athletes and management, alike.

11 Tips for a Better Relationship with Your Boss — Whether you want a happier work environment or lay the groundwork for a raise, promotion or transfer, you must create opportunities for success. That includes, of course, being on good terms with your boss and often your boss’s boss.

5 Personality Traits Why Managers Are Promoted into Leadership — In selecting candidates for leadership, the risks can be great for both the company and managers in lost time, effort and money. So when deciding which of their corporate managers should be promoted into a leadership positions, naturally, companies don’t want any surprises.

“You can’t just play around with all those big cats – you’ve got to take somebody on.”

-Maya Angelou 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at www.freedigitalphotos.net

10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO


Editor’s Note: This is a 10-part series on CEO leadership by Joey Tamer, www.JoeyTamer.com. She is a consultant to experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices. She has also been a strategic consultant to entrepreneurs in technology and digital media. (She is also a good friend and associate.)


 Joey Tamer

         

10 Characteristics of a Successful CEO – Part 1

By Joey Tamer

During my 25 years working with early stage technology CEOs, I have found myself referring to the make it- or break-it characteristics that lead a CEO to succeed or fail, separate from market conditions, capital conditions and other external factors, many of which cannot be controlled.

So, rather than keep them to myself as an internal checklist, I thought to explore them here in a series of postings, digging deeper than I have done before.  Comments are welcome.

Note that these are not tactical considerations, but strategic skill sets that can be applied to any venture.  This list doesn’t look like other lists or chapter headings I have seen — it seems adjacent to the usual business school outline.

These skill sets create successful serial entrepreneurs who can fail at one venture and still succeed at several others.  My experience has shown me that at least one of these characteristics was missing in any failed company I witnessed or evaluated, even if the other 9 characteristics were in play, despite market conditions.

To begin, here is the list of 10 characteristics:

  1. Domain expertise (technology or other)
  2. Leadership & personal power
  3. Financial savvy
  4. Ability to pitch and close
  5. Honor
  6. Realism
  7. Perseverance
  8. Patience
  9. Perspective on the larger scheme of things
  10. Courage to move forward, or stop, and to know when to do either one.

Please join me in this exploration as I post these upcoming 10 blogs over the coming weeks.  I’d appreciate your thoughts as this conversation evolves.

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Part 2: Leadership and Personal Power

By Joey Tamer

To be a successful CEO, you should have innate personal power, and leadership should be in your nature. Yes, certain skills of leadership can be learned, or refined, but you should want to lead, and leading should feel like an integral part of your “being in the world.”

Your qualities of leadership (combined with your personal power) reveal themselves to you in many ways:

You have a vision and clarity of purpose. Others see you as having some secret magic that they want to share. You thrill at being the director of your own destiny, and at the opportunity to make the next new thing. You are exuberant in your energy as you move towards the fulfillment of your vision, and this reads as charisma to others, and makes them follow you.

You make the tough decisions, the ones that make others join up with you, and even the ones that cause you or others grief (personally or professionally). For example, you may need to remove a close friend from your startup team during year 2, after extensive commitment from the friend, when that person no longer is a significant contributor to the future of the company. Or, you must choose to accept or reject an influx of needed capital based on deal terms that may change the direction of your company.

You see the larger picture of your company, its place in the market, your place in the company, and your team’s effectiveness to reach the company’s goals. Despite your feelings about what your new company can do, realism must inform your decisions about issues such as: how significant is your company in the marketplace? Would anything change in the market if your company disappeared? What is your team’s true ability to reach the company’s goals? What is your own ability to lead your team and the company to those goals? This realism that sees the larger view may lead you to changes in your capital needs, in the configuration of your team, and in your willingness to accept new deals or change the company’s direction.

You determine the fate of others. No way around it, if you are the boss, you determine what you will demand of your team in terms of performance, hours worked, time free for other priorities, compensation and employment, now and in the future. You set boundaries and expectations on your self, your company, your advisors and your team members.

You create (and change) the culture for your team and your company in the early stages, and outside pressures will move that culture, usually from one of openness to one of more segmentation within the ranks of employees as the company grows. Information that was openly shared with the original team will be kept private as outside investors commit funds, as larger decisions need to be made, and as “time-to-decision” becomes a critical factor to moving the company forward. These changes will require you to change your early culture, with or without disclosing these changes to folks who have been with you in previous phases.

You make judgments about opportunities, people, their actions, your actions. Some of the first judgments will be about control. Do you share control with your founding teammates, because they are sharing your risk? What if they are sharing some of the risk, but none of the capital risk? Is it equal then? Do you use stock ownership as the basis for control, or do you isolate control for yourself (if you are taking the majority of risk) or share it with a small executive board? And when new owners and capital investors arrive, how does that control shift? These decisions must be made early on, with an eye to the larger view mentioned above.

You are willing and comfortable engaging directly with conflict – from your team, your investors, your competitors, and from larger economic forces. As CEO, your founding members may want more than is reasonable for their risk long after they have been committing that risk, or will resist a change in control (however rational). Competitors may tell lies about you or your company to gain an edge, or will undercut your pricing, or distort your positioning or undermine your distribution channels. Larger economic forces may demand you change your revenue model, capital strategy and other plans that will disrupt the understandings of reward and future gain you have established with your team and your investors. You must not be conflict-averse, but must directly deal with any and all of these occurrences, knowing the best time and way to confront the conflict and to uphold the choices you make as CEO.

From these judgments and conflicts, you make decisions, right or wrong, usually under tight time constraints. From these decisions, you must be strong enough to live with their consequences. This may mean your wrong judgment costs you the company, or certain key staff members, or long-standing friends and partners, or the capital committed by family and friends. To mention nothing of lawsuits.

You accept a certain unique isolation, because the buck stops with you, because very few around you can understand the pressures you experience every day, and because to lead is to carry the burden of these responsibilities, consequences and isolation. I have often worked with CEOs who began our initial conversations with, “I don’t have anybody who can understand what I need to do and help me make the decisions I need to make.”

Many powerful people with strong traits of leadership still should not necessarily lead a new company. These would include those folks whose natures move them to avoid conflict; those who prefer to be advisors who are supportive of leaders; those who prefer collaboration to the isolation and judgments necessary for leadership; and specialists whose best contribution is a narrow niche of expertise for use by the team. Others offer their best service by following directives and working closely in teams to move the company ahead.

Leadership is exciting and dynamic and stressful and not for everyone. Understanding what you must do to lead a new company as its CEO is critical to its success, and yours.

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Part 3:  Financial Savvy

By Joey Tamer

We live in a capitalist society. We build businesses. For all the adjacent reasons to build a business – inventing the next new thing, changing the world, advancing humankind – a business must make money, create profit, and keep growing (or at least bettering) itself.

For this you must understand the numbers, even if you can’t create or manipulate them.

Get help
The first item on my checklist of a potential client is “What is his background? Is he a techie, a sales guy, an attorney?” I rarely see a financial specialist start a technology company as its CEO. This could be the technology niche I occupy, or it could be that financial folks like their supporting roles and don’t want to be the head honcho.

One lucky fact is that there are a great number of trained Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the world, as well as Controllers and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). And bookkeepers. So it is possible for you, as a CEO, to have excellent support in this area.

If you are an early stage start-up CEO, hire a CPA or CFO with start-up experience, as well as a deep background in your industry. Keep reaching into your network until you find this person. Experience in large corporate accounting work does not prepare anyone for the roller coaster cash management required for a start up.

One client’s CFO was visited by one of the company’s Advisors, a senior executive with more than 30 years’ experience building divisions within a Fortune 50 financial services company. He was visiting to help, as the company was struggling. The Advisor asked, “Show me your cash planning analysis.” The CFO laughed. “That’s easy. When the cash comes in, I look at what is most urgent to pay, and the cash goes out.” Both were right – cash planning is important, and startups often don’t have enough cash to plan around.

The struggles faced by startups – from capital raising, to matching growth with available resources, to controlling margins and more – can demand an even tighter control and deeper comprehension of how to handle cash, capital and credit than more established companies .

Many years ago, during the “honeymoon period” I establish with each new client (30-60 days under contract to get to know one another), I discovered how badly my new client understood cash management. When she didn’t know the scheduled date that her bank loan would demand a partial repayment – some months away – and had not considered planning for this event, I knew the company was doomed, as her only financial support was her bookkeeper. Since then I have always reviewed the books of a prospective client before signing on to consult.

Other financial savvy requires understanding how much capital is required to begin a new venture. Once I talked a client out of his first idea, showing him that he would spend all his startup capital to launch a venture which would never create wealth, even if it succeeded for the first four years (as it would perish in year 5 from time-to-market strategic issues). His next idea was so large, I had to tell him, “This idea is 10 years ahead of its time, will require $50M to launch, and $30M more to sustain until you know if it can succeed. And by then the way business is done in this industry will have morphed due to new technology, and you may have spent that capital for nothing.” He came back with a much smaller, more immediately deployable idea that we started with the capital he had available.

Get honest with yourself
It is said that the numbers do not lie. Now, we all know the “interpretation” of the numbers can lie. But internally, your numbers should show you the stark reality of what is needed (and when) in cash, credit and capital to move you to each next strategic step. The secret is to work with a CFO you can trust, and to tell yourself the truth. New companies are often killed by the CEO’s denial and optimism around the basic financial truths of his own company.

Get educated
So, if you have a head for numbers, you will know how to find the best finance person to meet your needs. If you understand your product, industry and market, but not how to read your balance sheet and income statement, get educated. There are many tools for this – books, seminars, training. Our own guest blogger, Gene Siciliano, has written such a book for you (McGraw-Hill), and an e-book primer for your administrative assistant http://bit.ly/cxPnkR .

Get a handle on your profit margins
Do not get distracted from your strategic goals of making a profit. Top line revenue is important, but profit (as my father used to say) covers a multitude of sins. Profit gives you flexibility and more options. It allows you to defend and sustain your strategic direction. Many times I have seen a new CEO distract himself from his own declared goals to pursue some intriguing opportunity that is adjacent or afar from his path to profitability.

In this alternative pursuit, the company’s attention and resources are pulled away from its path. This lack of discipline is more dangerous in an early stage company that needs traction in its own field, and revenue and profit to establish itself. A CEO needs to focus on the goal and drive the company to profitability, changing direction only for real issues of new threats or changing market trends.

Education, expert support, honesty and discipline: it’s all about the numbers.

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Part 4:  The ability to pitch and close

By Joey Tamer

The burden of initial success in an early stage company sits on the shoulders of the CEO. Beyond your domain expertise, leadership and financial savvy, you must be able to pitch and close – that is, sell. You must sell your vision for your company and its future success, and you must sell your early marquee accounts on your product or service. No matter what expertise brought you to your CEO position in your entrepreneurial venture, this skill is essential to your early success.

Entrepreneurs start companies from many beginnings – you may be a technologist, or a marketer, an attorney, a CPA or a sales executive. From your perspective, you have found an empty space in the market for which you have a unique solution (see The Investors’ Checklist http://bit.ly/d8hKpN  )

Passion for your idea, product, service or company is not enough. One client with no experience in selling or closing was certain his passion and clarity were enough to raise his initial capital. Although I packaged a dynamite presentation for him, he refused to let me train him in pitching and closing, and refused to find training elsewhere. He insisted on going to these investor presentations on his own. In the end, he closed his immediate family, no outside angel groups or private investors, and ultimately couldn’t close his cousins. The problem: he couldn’t bring himself to make the 3rd phone call to continue the pitch and he couldn’t ask for the close. In his embarrassment, he busied himself with operational issues, avoiding his capital raising duties.

Another client was a premier deal maker in his industry, and knew plenty of colleagues with money to invest. In spite of a well-timed good idea, and his own initial capital, and our excellent pitch presentation, he couldn’t raise any capital. This puzzled me, as he was great at pitching. Finally I figured out the problem: in his deal making days, he had the checkbook. When we needed to ask someone else to write a check, he couldn’t close.

Now, if you have a successful background in sales, you will need to fortify your team with the other expertise in finance, technology and so on. Then you can sell your vision to investors to gain capital, and your initial products to create market traction.

But if you do not have sales in your background or in your nature, you must gain some of these skills, and also find this expertise in a key hire or a partner who understands how to pitch and close, and take this person with you. If you are dependent on this person, be sure to compensate him or her well for success.

But you must do more. You must learn the basics of selling, even if you have had no experience or interest in this before – especially if you have had no interest in this before. And I mean you should go through an intensive, professional training program in selling. It may be only a few days’ training, but you need to understand the context of selling, and the tactics of closing. There are a surprising number of folks who can pitch, and not so many who can carry the sale through to the close.

This training will not make you a sales professional, but it will let you understand how to overcome objections, refuse to take “no” for an answer (more times than you can imagine), and strengthen your resolve to keep moving forward in the sales cycle to get to the close (even if you have a sales executive with you). It should help you overcome any shyness or embarrassment when closing.

I remember learning early in my career that the Xerox Sales Training Manual (a bible of training in its time, and now http://bit.ly/ca23IT ) taught that you had not heard the word “no” until after the 8th time it was said. Until that point, everything was simply an objection to be overcome. And then there was a new strategy to handle the 8th “no.” When I explain this to some of my CEO clients, they can not imagine hearing a refusal 8 times and continuing to sell.

So, I don’t mean you have to spend months at Xerox (and they won’t take you anyway). But you must involve yourself deeply in this context and its basic strategies and tactics for these reasons:

  • Investors and buyers look to the CEO as the foundation for the future success of the business and its product line. You need capital and revenue from sales as early as possible. You must project the assurance of selling and closing to represent this foundation of success.
  • You must not be totally dependent on another person (key employee or partner) to do all the heavy lifting in your company for generating the capital and revenue that is its lifeblood. It weakens your position in the company and your control of your future. Even if that partner is loyal and committed to you and the company, someday the bus runs us over when we are not looking. Loss of that person for any reason can cost you your company if you cannot carry your own weight in closing.

A major U.S. Fund asked me to conduct the due diligence on an investment in a new technology company they were considering. “We like this company but we don’t have the right “next questions” to ask, or the depth of industry expertise to truly understand the risk profile of this investment. Visit the company, conduct your own diligence, and tell us what you think of our risk assessment.” The plan was good and the technology was sound. What was missing was a key sales executive who knew this technology, its market space, and distribution channel development (not an easy set of qualifications to find). The CEO, the Operations and Marketing executives had none of this experience. I reported that the Fund’s risk assessment did not take into account how critical this employee would be, and that the company did not yet have a significant candidate for this role. And so we didn’t know if the company could find one, incent one or keep one. Therefore the risk of the investment was higher than the Fund had considered. This was the key issue that made the Fund pass on the deal.

If anyone on the management team had had this missing experience, and could have established at least initial market traction in sales, the Fund would have invested the $5 million dollars.

Pitching and closing capital and revenue is critical to early stage ventures, and as CEO, you need to be able to support your vision with this skill.

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Part 5: Honor

By Joey Tamer

Folks don’t talk directly about “honor” anymore, not out loud, except perhaps in the military. It isn’t common language. But honor plays a part in every interaction, and is the basis for our enduring reputation in our community.

Perhaps the concept closest to honor is a current word (a marketing term in social media actually), “authentic.” Authentic is what is real; it is what makes people trust you. Authenticity is the face of the honor underneath.

Tylenol 1982: well handled
In 1982, Johnson & Johnson displayed its honor (and got its public relations reward) by quickly announcing a poison scare in its top product, Tylenol, and recalling all 31 million bottles of the product in distribution, at a loss of $100M. The poison had been introduced into the product by an individual not connected to J&J, killing several people. The poisoning was no fault of J&J’s. Johnson & Johnson kept the public apprised of its actions, removed the product from the market, and re-introduced it later in a safer form that resisted tampering (caplets), and adapted new standards of safe packaging. http://bit.ly/cBkJ3F

The J&J credo begins “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, and to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services.” http://bit.ly/dr4zSE

Johnson & Johnson upheld its credo. The consumer response to the Tylenol scare was gratitude for its honorable behavior, and a brand that has persisted since its founding in 1886.

Toyota 2010: badly done
Toyota’s current reputational damage is not only about its sticking accelerators. The distrust is a result of the information that Toyota knew about the problem and still allowed these dangerous cars into the worldwide market. Toyota cared more about its profitability than about its customers.

Citigroup: questionable behavior 2010
Citigroup has been announcing its new program to fund $200M to generate small business loans in low income communities in the U.S. This is not honor or authenticity – it is public relations. We may appreciate the Fund, but we still don’t trust Citigroup, because we can see its balance sheet and the profits it makes in light of its banking scandal.

The trouble with behaving dishonorably to people, or in your own self-interest, or in letting folks see that your self-interest is primary, is that they don’t trust your word, or your intentions, or your likelihood of offering them a fair deal.

Once your reputation is tarnished, the community carries a context that you cannot be trusted, and all the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put your reputation back together again.

And in this age of social media tools and public profiles, you might think you can maintain a “persona” that you control. But these same tools allow for the multiple-click background check, so you cannot afford to be less than your real self. And if you can avoid appearing as a result of any search (I have heard of two such persons recently), then you are even more untrustworthy, likely a myth or a spy or a crook, for who could not be found by the powerful search engines now, 15 years after the Web has been in play?

How do we display our authentic selves? We tell the truth. We promote, but we don’t pretend we can do something for which we have no expertise. We return the extra change to the teller when it is wrong. We don’t rip people off. We don’t take their money and not deliver the goods.

In our customer-centric marketplace, the new currency is authenticity and the fair deal (honorable behavior) with the customer’s best interest at heart. It is keeping your word.

What is the best thing anyone can say about you as a CEO? That you are an honorable person. That you can be trusted. That you do what you say you will do. This is usually, “He’s a standup guy.” Or “You know, she always delivers what she promises.” The world assumes that your personal characteristics as CEO will be reflected in your corporate culture. The trust your customers put in you and your word trickles down throughout your company. Or, conversely, “a fish rots from the head down.”

I have often heard, “You know, it is really rare to work with someone who actually does what she says she will do.” This always surprises me, both from a personal and a business point of view.

So, perhaps, in your own self-interest, it is now wise to behave with some grace and generosity. If you are a selfish person, perhaps it is self-serving for you to learn some new ways of authenticity.

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Part 6: Realism

By Joey Tamer

“An entrepreneur is someone who has lost one, won one, and started at third company,” I said once to my new client.

“I’ve lost two and started a third, does that count?” (yes, that counts.)

There are dreamers and doers. The first-time entrepreneur could be either — only time and experience and actions will tell.

Dreamers

Dreamers think large, then start and stop. They get derailed. Something always gets in the way of the execution, the doing, of the dream. One corporate executive, fleeing into the independence of consulting, spent three months setting up his office, stationery and fax machine. Of course, he never became a consultant and was re-employed within months.

Some dreamers imagine a huge world-changing company, requiring tens of millions of dollars just to begin, and which are 5-10 years ahead of the market adoption they need to create this change. Many of these entrepreneurs are highly intelligent visionaries who can see and describe what is needed. Most of them cannot implement.

Doers

A doer with such an overwhelming vision builds the pieces that can be adopted by the market, watches the changes brought about by that adoption, then builds the next and the next, in sequence, as the market is ready for each next step. And many of the next steps are adjacent to his original vision, or a new technology arrives that changes the vision itself.

Doers build a product or service, march out and test it (and their idea about it) in the marketplace, learn, re-learn and keep going. They have a vision, but they are pragmatic. They trust their instincts and decisions, but verify their assumptions and set a great deal of others’ rewards on performance.

What realism teaches

This is the realism of a successful CEO. Each company they build teaches them the next lessons they need to know. Each company they lose can teach them more than the company that wins an exit. The company that wins an exit but creates no wealth for the founders, and no opportunity to launch the next new thing, teaches more than all the other attempts, as it offers the ultimate in realism — that the control of the business (its capital, stock, voting and market timing) and its success must set up the next business, or philanthropy, or new life, and then the next.

One of my favorite clients built her software company, watched her channels and her margins, made smart deals, survived her divorce, kept focused through the trials of the company’s growth (including slowing it down when appropriate), and sold her company, all in four years. She moved on with her tens of millions of dollars to build a non-profit in education. She surrounded herself with the best advisors and supporters, and wasn’t afraid to ask for the help she needed. She did not shy away from the realities of what it takes to grow and sell a business, and she stayed focused to the end.

Each venture teaches the entrepreneurial doer more about himself or herself – his strengths, the roles he wanted but didn’t enjoy (CEO? COO? CTO?), his utter weaknesses that he should always leave to trusted others.

A CEO must be a realist about everything: capital, stock, hiring, dysfunctional team members, the market, the moving trends that affect the business, all the components on the org chart, the silos of management, and the outside forces he cannot foresee. If a CEO takes on a weak partner (perhaps a friend), or cedes management to an outsider, he will need to keep any eye on the partner or the outsider.

Another of my favorite clients is on Company #7. Only one failed, and it took the tech bubble bursting to bring that one down. He has a talent for market timing, can build his own technology and market it – a rare combination. He is fast and “rough” – he puts his technology in the marketplace to see the response, then adjusts his vision, his opinions and his product to meet the market demand.

He can recognize a small, back-bedroom cash machine opportunity, and a large acquisition exit business, and knows how much of his time and resources to focus on each. He partners well with other successful entrepreneurs like himself. But for all his talents, his success has always been based on executing quickly on a tested idea in an empty market space. He is a premier doer.

Taking action on the realities

It is this focus and discipline, this willingness to see the realities in front of us, and to adjust to them directly, taking action, that makes the successful CEO.

__________

Part 7: Perseverance 

By Joey Tamer

Perseverance for the technology entrepreneur is tricky ~ you must sustain your energy and your vision, but adapt to a fast changing market without losing ground on what you have created. And this condition persists throughout the life of your company and career. So perseverance for the technology CEO is not just in the early stages of success, but ongoing.

Encarta tells us that perseverance is the “determined continuation with something: steady and continued action or belief, usually over a long period and especially despite difficulties or setbacks.”

This of course is the stuff of great stories.

Famous Chicken
Col. Harland Sanders began franchising his 20-years-famous chicken recipe by cooking the chicken (in a fast pressure cooker with his secret herbs) door-to-door to restaurants, beginning when he was 65. (Note he was 40 before he was known for the secret recipe.) If the restaurant owner liked the chicken, they shook hands and agreed that the Colonel would receive 5 cents per piece of chicken sold. To protect his secret recipe, he sent packets of the herbs to each owner.

A thousand times No
Legend has it the Colonel persevered through more than 1,000 rejections before he got his first “yes” for a franchise. By age 74, he had 600 franchisees and sold his company for $2M (those are two million 1964 dollars) and stayed on as the company’s spokesman. By age 86, the Colonel was the 2nd most recognized celebrity in the world.

Apple to Apple
Steve Jobs built Apple Computer Company (version 1.0) when he was 20. At 30, Steven had made Apple a $2 Billion empire, and he was publicly fired. Next he built Next Computer Company, which was ultimately sold to Apple, and he returned to make Apple the company it is today (version 2.0), while at the same time continuing to build Pixar, which he sold to Disney.

Can’t Act
Fred Astaire started out in Vaudeville in New York dancing with his sister Adele. RKO General called him to Hollywood for a screen test. The “D girl” assessing his screen test wrote on the little summary paper attached to his file, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Dances some.”

History is written by…  There is similarity in all such entrepreneurs’ stories: History is written by the victors, because they are in a position to write the texts and tell the story. And the suffering and long nights and doubts and disappointments, the strain on finances and family, the lost other opportunities and roads not chosen – these are all lost in the condensed version of the re-telling of the American dream. They are added for human interest, for drama, but the telling isn’t the living of it.

So, how do you know the best path, and when to persevere?

  • Get help – get good advice on strategy, legal and financial issues, but only from consultants or advisors deep in your market space with a long history in helping early stage companies.
  • Slow down – take some time to think, to test your gut. Just because your advisors say so, you do not need to follow their suggestions. It is your risk, not theirs.
  • Balance what is realistic for survival vs. how long it takes to get to your next goals, and assess that the rewards when you arrive are substantial enough to sustain the risk. See #6 ~Realism in this series. http://bit.ly/94Ntht
  • If you must shift direction, shift to a near-adjacent market or business model, to retain what is useful in what you have already created.
  • Slow down enough to assess the timeline and costs required for the shift to be effective, and to assess if the reward will be worth the risk in time, execution and capital.
  • Keep looking four or five chess-moves ahead in the market. If you take the shift, what are the next 5 choices you can expect to confront? What are the alternate paths for each choice? Do any of the paths corrupt or kill your key vision?
  • Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?” If you can live with the answer, carry on.
  • Ignore any noise in your head about embarrassment. There is no embarrassment in striving for your vision. If you fail, no one will care. If you succeed, your attempts become part of the success story you write. You cannot move forward if you are self-conscious.
  • Try to sleep. Really. Exhaustion does not make good decisions. Many insights are gained by letting your deep subconscious mind work the problem and offer a new solution.

And, remember Fred Astaire, who made dancing on the ceiling seem simple. He once said, “I suppose I made it look easy, but gee whiz, did I work and worry.”

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Part 8: Patience

By Joey Tamer

In our fast-moving world of sound bites, information overwhelm, time-shifting and 24/7 availability, it is rare for a CEO to hear any advice that includes having patience. But you must have it, and the capital to sustain it, or your company will fail.

You don’t have to build your entire vision all at once, or at the outset of your new venture. If you have the patience to plan and execute carefully, while still being agile, your patience will pay off in those hidden strategic assets that make a company successful (clarity, responsibility through the ranks, market responsiveness, and a single collective vision of the company’s goals).

Timing: you must consider timing, including ~

  • time to market
  • time to complete a deal ~ to structure it, and test it in the field, and then wait long enough to assess its value over time.  So few CEOs integrate how long it takes to complete a deal, when planning their implementation.
  • time to acceptance of your product and pricing by your market and your channel.
  • time to know the experience and cooperation of your strategic partners.

It helps to remember that just because you want it to move faster, doesn’t mean that it will. I remember one young buck in Sales, during his first presentation to the Board of Directors, promising revenue from channel sales within 4 months of product launch, and this was before any electronic downloads were available, and before he had a list of potential channel partners. In his eagerness to please, and his lack of planning, he “wished away” the months of recruitment and training required for effective sales through an independent distribution channel.

Partnering:
Successful partnerships are based on clarity and trust, with each of the partners contributing their best efforts to the partnership and its common goals.

To create this clarity, the partners should write a deal memo with benchmarks, timing and assessment criteria. After the initial performance and evaluation of all parties by the other parties, then write a letter of intent (LOI) for consideration which covers the unknown “what ifs.” Evaluate what value if offered by each partner. Determine which partners assume what liability within the partnership. Then commit to the full contract, when the partnerships are clearly understood. Everyone will move forward with more clarity. In our personal lives we call this process courtship, perhaps now a fading art.

Committing:
Be slow to commit your time and resources to ventures, strategic allies or partners on which you have not conducted appropriate due diligence. Due diligence questions include:

  • How well do you know each others’ companies, cultures, strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do others say about them and their ability to deliver results ~ speak directly (not by email) to five or more references, and ask about specific weaknesses, strengths and ethics.
  • What is the real scope of work for each party involved?
  • What are the roles of each?
  • What benchmarks and timing for delivery of the benchmarks have been agreed among the parties?
  • What are the consequences for missing each benchmark – to the alliance or venture, and to each responsible party?
  • Who is assuming what liability for which venture or partner?
  • What is the real time commitment to the next benchmark?
  • Will your early commitment create a dependency from which you cannot extricate yourself and your partners?
  • What conditions would end of the alliance or venture – even conditions with no fault to any of the participants (like a market shift, a disruptive competitor or an economic downturn)?
  • If the alliance or venture must end, who will take what steps and assume what responsibilities?

Pacing:
Make a plan, however rudimentary or evolved.

  • What needs to be achieved to respond to pressures of time to market?
  • What needs to wait until other divisions, products, market movements (some outside of your company and your control) are more mature?
  • What is the timeline for these plans?

Know that as your involvement with a venture (your own or others’) or a partner becomes more deep, your commitments will experience “scope creep” – the inclusion of tasks and responsibilities not documented or assumed on your part, but perhaps assumed on the other party’s part, or missed by all involved.

Pacing involves your managing this scope creep, and anticipating time for handling these unexpected responsibilities.  Pacing also involves giving your strategies the time and capital needed to allow them to succeed.

Hiring:
When hiring, give yourself and your new employee time to settle in, and to create value for each other. But have the patience to attend to this new relationship. This is achieved again by clarity of roles, benchmarks and expectations, and of regular evaluation of those expectations.

Early in my career, I had a client who sat in a huge office surrounded by windows, high up over New York, at an empty desk that held a telephone. He was a highly successful deal maker. He once told me, “If a new employee doesn’t exceed your expectations within the first six months, then fire him and replace him with someone who does.”

This is not impatience, but effectiveness. It works if you have conducted the correct due diligence on a new hire, clearly defined (and re-defined) your expectations, and had the patience to listen during the initial months to feedback from your new hire and your staff.

Assessing:
So, assess your priorities, plan your path, and make sure you pace your value, commitment, contribution and return on investment. Assess also the ultimate value and ROI of your time commitment – to a venture, a new product line, a new hire, a deal, or an alliance.

Executing:
Yes, there is your vision, and there is your energy. Sometimes you have too much of both, especially if this is your first time as CEO of an early stage company. I respect all the “time to” issues in play, and also know that the time and energy spent on the wrong path or with the wrong partners will cost you much more than the patience to plan and implement correctly. The agility you need is to not to move more slowly, but to move ahead with clear direction, being patient enough to take all the steps required, no matter how quickly, to build the vision you see.

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Part 9:  Keeping perspective on the larger scheme of things

By Joey Tamer

Keeping your perspective that your venture is but one part of a larger, more complex market is essential to success. Understanding your company’s position and value in the supply chain allows you to make the correct decisions about what power you have in a negotiation, how to craft a win-win deal that keeps the other players supportive of your company’s interests, and keeps you a sincere participant in the larger network of companies that create your market sphere. And this perspective maintains your reputation in your industry, whether you grow your company for decades or move to a new venture in a few years.

There are serious consequences to losing this perspective, which is easy to do, especially when our passion for our vision of our business becomes so embedded in our identity that the whole world seems (or seems not to) reflect our own focus. But the world is not reflecting our passion. Our obsession is clouding our vision of the larger scheme of things.

I once read that addiction is the condition of narrowing one’s world view and focus to the getting and using of the addictive substance, such that all other activities become nothing more than a part of this quest. The obsession with our success in our own business is a kind of addiction.

Notice the power of this sequence:

  • our passionate vision becomes linked to our identity;
  • our success is the outward reflection of that passion;
  • our success becomes our identity;
  • our obsession to protect and project our identity begins to narrow our world to a single focus on this success;
  • our identity becomes dependent at its source on everything that contributes to or interferes with that success;
  • our interpretation of other aspects of our life and the larger world become no more than parts of our quest.
  • our focus remains turned inward to our obsession, and we begin to lose perspective on the larger world that doesn’t know us or care about us and on our immediate world of friends and family and community that does care about us.

This loss of perspective shows up in many forms.

  • We are home with our family, but we aren’t paying attention.
  • Our children speak to us but we aren’t listening.
  • Our minds are never focused except on the business, shutting out even our community involvement.
  • We watch our business partners for signs of disloyalty or lack of full commitment to our vision.
  • We expect our staff to be available 24/7, even when they are not even partial owners of the business.
  • We mis-read the larger market picture, because our company is not the center of the market.
  • We become short-tempered with anyone (especially those closest to us) who is not focused on our company’s success.
  • We become boring, as we cannot speak about anything but our business.
  • We lose our perspective on our position and value in the supply chain and the larger market.
  • We forget that much of the world doesn’t know we exist. And doesn’t care.
  • We lose our sense of humor.
  • We forget how to relax, enjoy ourselves, and take pleasure in other activities.
  • We lose our balance with all the other things in the world.

And this loss of perspective can happen whether the new company is succeeding or failing.

Often when the new company begins to succeed, something worse happens. This happens more often to first-time entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs having their first taste of real success. We are eaten by the power dragon. Once the power dragon has us, our identity loses all semblance of its perspective. We, tasting the first sweet nibble of power, become extreme in our ego and sense of importance. Everything we do is significant. And, consequently, most things other people do becomes insignificant, even annoying.

As this perspective grows stronger and more evident, many folks around us begin to express their doubts about our business and our perspective. We become short-tempered and more suspicious than before.

Once the power dragon has us, it is a difficult (perhaps impossible) challenge to return to our former more rational selves. If we are lucky, the power dragon spits us out, and we have only lost the capital, or the business, or our self-regard. Hopefully we have not lost our family, as many first-time entrepreneurs do, especially the successful ones.

An investor’s worst nightmare is to find their CEO eaten by the power dragon, perspective lost, and bad decisions coming into play. I have watched these first-time successes lose everything just as the success was arriving. Seems there is no way to predict this occurrence.

So, I shall share a code word with you who play with the power dragon:   Ozymandius, King of Kings. That’s you, someday, if you cannot regain your balance.

OZYMANDIAS
by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1818

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

__________


Part 10: Courage to move forward, or stop, and to know when to do either one.

By Joey Tamer

“Stop this company before you develop its product – you have already wrecked your equity allocation and cap table with your handshake deals. Find another company to build.” (He did.)

“This is a fine company but it is a “back-bedroom” lifestyle business. It will make you and your founding team a nice living after the risk you have already put into it, but it seems unlikely to grow to create significant wealth for any of you. You have other much more lucrative offers that have experienced teams waiting for you, and with less risk attached. Relegate this company to the back bedroom and let it make a couple hundred thousand a year with very little attention, and share that among your partners.” (He did.)

“There are five market realities that tell us that this business cannot succeed, no matter how much the others say they want you to join as a founding partner, or how excited they are about the market potential. One: the patent on which the new technology is based has been allowed to expire. Two: you have no defensibility against your proving the market for this product and then having an offshore manufacturer produce and land a competitive product at less than one-tenth of your price, just as the mass market is ready for it. Three: market realities….” (He did not join this product business, but continued his successful consulting practice).

“The capital investment players are telling us that they are not seeing the value in this product. Even if they are mistaken, now that you are out of seed capital, your valuation at Series A will be so low that you are likely to lose control for your company by Series B, as your time to market is uncertain and could take much longer than you have planned. If this happens – if you miss your benchmarks in Series A, and find yourself in a down round in Series B – you may find yourself working for your investors without control of your company for the next several years, with no control over its growth or exit. So we should re-think your launch strategy, find strategic capital rather than equity capital, and grow organically or in niche markets or international markets until we have capitalized the company in a new way.” (She tried this approach but the economic crash caught her and the business could not be sustained).

“You must focus this enormous idea on a single market (pick enterprise, business or consumer) and productize this idea for that market and a target profile customer. This kind of product can be built quickly, with minimal capital, and thrown into the market in a soft launch or “Google beta” to see what feedback we get for refining the product. Then refine the product and move on from the soft launch to a hard launch, and get started. The longer you think about all the potential markets and products this idea can generate, the best markets will be closed to you.” (He did not, and missed his market timing, never gained significant market share, and his investors “sold” the company for its assets some years later, never creating wealth).

“I don’t like it. You offer your partner a chance to buy you out at $5-8 million before you put the company on the block for sale. You don’t know what competitive offers you may receive. You are leaving too much money on the table. Oh, the partner didn’t get it, so he turned it down? O.k., so now we write in the offering documents that as CEO you are available for 120 days’ orderly transition, then you are gone. That may limit your potential buyers to those that have management they want to put it place. It may reduce your ultimate valuation. But you will be free to move on to the next thing. If you are willing to risk these unknowns, we can write this in.” (She did, and the company sold for $50M and she walked away with $25M).

These stories are based on actual events. In some cases, the entrepreneur moved forward, in other cases he abandoned his plans. In one, she drew her boundaries and stuck to them. In others, the CEO persisted and the company perished, even after a long life.

As a CEO, you need courage. Every day you are faced with critical decisions, small and large, that determine the success of your company. For many CEOs, moving forward is the easier way – especially if the company has momentum. Then, moving forward is the path of least resistance. And sometimes moving forward is just the desperation of not knowing any other path to take.

Sometimes, moving forward means changing your strategic direction in a significant way. This can be more difficult than moving forward in the original direction. This flexibility takes courage to withstand the doubt it may place in others’ minds, or the criticism by those who do not understand how this shift fits into your larger vision.

It takes courage to stop. Many emotional issues are in play, even if they are unrecognized. Fear of failure. Embarrassment. Concern for the welfare of the team. Denial that the company is beyond recall. Loss of the dream which may have become your identity.

You need courage even to stop to think about stopping. It is an act of bravery to slow down long enough to objectively examine the company’s financial information, market data and product cycles (R&D and sales both), and to look at the information objectively, as if it were someone else’s company.

It takes courage to decide. To decide a strategy, a hire or fire, a new direction. Especially it takes courage to decide to stop – to stop before you begin, or before you take that first outside capital, or in the face of unforeseen market or economic changes. It takes courage to stop your company, to give the team and your colleagues and your market the news.

And it takes courage to stop your company and not to take on this ending as a mark of failure. A company can fail (or you can change your mind for valid reasons) without your failing as a person. The courage comes from the strength to separate your identity from your venture, to assess the qualities of each not in relation to the other.

I have said for many years, “When you have won one, lost one, and come back again to start your third company, then you can call yourself an entrepreneur.”

And the ultimate courage is to stay, or change direction, or take your best shot, or stop your company – and then walk on, self-confidence intact, and take your next best shot.

You can do it. If you have the courage to start a company, you have the ultimate courage to carry on as you decide. Good luck.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.