I’ve been blogging here and at DrJanice.wordpress.com for quite a while. That was my first blog, and it soon became my place to speak out on matters from technology to economics to politics to just about anything that touched on human potential and its achievement. Then I needed a place just to speak out on matters that were interesting to CEOs but not necessarily other readers, so CEO2CEO was born.

It’s time for a merger, but not the usual kind where at least one of the merged organizations loses its identity. (I never understood why anyone called those mergers, other than in the very rare case where both entities bring equal assets to the table.) They are acquisitions.

This merger will be different. Each entity – the two blogs involved – will continue to stand on its own, and I will even be back at some point to add some commentary. But time being limited, I need to focus on one entity only. Hence, the acquisition.

The new blog focuses on leadership, but leadership in a way that is counter to what most of us learned in school. It is leadership that is based in understanding what motivates people to come together to do more as a team than they ever could accomplish on their own. It is leadership of a Coherent Human Infrastructure.

Welcome to Leadership is a Team Sport!

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5 Wrong Things Experts Told Me

September 12, 2010

This blog originally appeared in Innovation DAILY.

One of the dangers of being a good listener is that, well — you listen. Combine this with a tendency to believe that other people generally know what they are talking about, and you’ve got the setup for entrepreneurial enervation.

Herein, five of the most off-target ‘truths’ that business experts inflicted on my entrepreneurial soul:

1. If you are working too many hours, you’re doing something wrong.

MYTH! The 4-hour workweek? Who’s kidding whom? Maybe this is relevant if your goal is near-total retirement or some other ‘lifestyle option’. Or perhaps you have created a totally self-service online business, have outsourced the satisfaction of your personal needs, and your ambition is a life of leisure. But if you are a bootstrapping a company, or you want to change the world with your innovation, be prepared to sweat. And besides, if you know how to build a quality team and you have a worthy goal, why would you want to NOT work?

2. You should be able to define what you do in 10 words or less, and your great grandmother should understand it.

MYTH! OK, I overstated the criteria just for effect. It’s true that eventually you’ll need a very succinct and accessible value proposition, so you can get people to invest in it, and get the buzz going. But if you know where you want to go and you are only beginning to find your way, focusing on a ‘high concept’ pitch can be counterproductive. This happened in my own company!  We had been advised to sell TGI Role-Based Assessment as an ‘innovative Talent Management Solution’ and went nowhere.  Finally we reassessed the situation and realized that “RBA predicts whether a person is a top team-player…..before you hire them” and can “Make the workplace a better place to work.”

Going from point A to point B took us nine months and innumerable refinements. Start with a vision paper of about three or four thousand words. You can trim down later, but at least you’ll know the outer limits of your possibilities and can make better choices about how to achieve them. And forget the opinions of grandmothers, great and otherwise. There’s a saying that “People can only understand new things in terms of something they already understand.” My mother never got what I do. I shiver at the mere hint of what her mother would have thought.

3. Entrepreneurs are not made, they are born….with at least one Y chromosome.

MYTH! I am living, breathing proof. But I have been told this is impossible–and not years ago, when I started my first company. This was in 2010!  And you wonder why there are so few women entrepreneurs? Enough for THAT expert. But he is not alone. If we women are forever having to prove ourselves (an even more pronounced requirement when said woman is of the petite variety) then this is the one wrong thing I am actually concerned may become the truth. Man-up and listen: it’s what’s inside. Give me people with great teaming characteristics and I don’t care if they wear ties or mascara, or both.

4. You need to pay someone to sell for you because Founders can’t sell.

MYTH! This is the one you get from out-of-work sales people, and from morons. Sometimes you get the related myth that you can’t sell until you take the sales training being offered. Think about this. Who knows your product better than you? And who has more passion for it? (Hint: if you actually had an answer for that second question, you aren’t an entrepreneur.) You need these things: the ability to TALK…and LISTEN…and ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. Enough said. Read ‘SPIN Selling’ or anything else by Neil Rackham. You’re smart enough to figure out how to apply it to what you do.

5. Starting a business isn’t easy.

MYTH! Starting a business is very easy. Keeping it going is hard. What does it take to keep it going?

First, you need to recognize that the trip from single person start-up to functioning business team is a HUGE transition. You will have to stop doing a lot of things you’ve been doing just because they had to get done, and you will need to entrust them to other people. Then you will need to get out of their way. You will need to set standards for respect and communication on the team, and you will also have to live up to them! You will have to be a better, smarter person–probably better than you have ever been, and you will need to surround yourself with people who can do likewise. (Make sure those people are Coherent, with the right Role-fit to their job responsibilities, and have great teaming characteristics, of course.)

Finally, remember that further growth means those interrelationships will have to grow too. Some people who love the challenge of going zero to sixty in record time, but they have no interest in driving a bus….or even a race car.

Ask any entrepreneur what it costs to make a hiring mistake and you’ll likely be met with a groan and a ‘double eye roll’.  Everyone knows the costs:

  • The recruiting fees
  • The job postings
  • The time you spend interviewing
  • Your turnover rate causing increased UC contribution costs
  • The lawyer’s fees for the employment contract, figuring out how to break the contract, and sometimes additional fees–plus the tax on your time and patience–required to defend yourself against wrongful termination!

Think of these these costs as ‘direct damage’:  a real strain on any entrepreneur’s budget, but not an unexpected cost of doing business.  Bad hires happen.  But wait…..have you considered the ‘collateral damage’?

No hiring decision happens in a vacuum.  You need your team to be whole. You have a missing part.  You seek to fill it in a way that capitalizes on the assets of your existing team members – and makes up for their deficits.  That’s why prudent employers engage search specialists, scour resumes, do 360-degree interviews, personality tests, reference checks, and even credit checks (where allowed by law).  But somehow, bad hires still happen, and when they happen to you, you’re naturally disappointed.  Or worse.  Because if you’ve pegged your hopes and plans on the wrong person, it’s the collateral damage that costs so much more than the hiring failure.

We all pride ourselves on being good judges of people, and we are — but only if we have the whole story, not just a collection of data components.  If you have had the misfortune of more than one or two hires that turned out badly, you may even begin to doubt whether you (or your people) are even capable of hiring successfully. When all the signs–including ‘gut feel’ point to “YES”, and still a new hire turns out to be a dud, the first piece of collateral damage may be your self-confidence as an executive decision-maker.

And then there is the impact of the bad hire on the rest of the team.  Here’s the worst part.  The better your team is, the worse the collateral damage will be.  If you have brought the bad hire in over people who are great performers, you’ll see the decline happening right before your eyes.  And worse, it won’t take long before your they are plotting their next career move.  And they aren’t likely to tell you because really – who is going to challenge the boss on a hiring decision?

Finally there is the adverse impact on present – and future – stakeholders.  News travels fast, especially since the investor/entrepreneur ecosystem has the modern day equivalent of jungle drums and really knows how to play.  You know what I mean: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and all those f-t-f networking events.  Word gets around when someone (or some team) clearly doesn’t have the right stuff.

So in view of all this, wouldn’t it be great to know how someone will perform on your team – before you hire them?  You can, but only if you are measuring for the right things: not just for individual characteristics – but for behavioral ‘Teaming Characteristics’, which are derived from a person’s Coherence and Role. (To our knowledge, TGI’s Role-Based Assessment is the only way to measure these.)

To minimize some of the collateral damage you have experienced in the past, consider this: there nothing wrong with your decision making.  As an entrepreneur, you have a good sense of how to behave on a team because you know you can’t do it yourself.  You respect people who apply their skills, their experience, and their deep commitment to your vision.  Good decision making assumes good behavior.  Since you are a team player, you’ll tend to expect others to be good team players–and unfortunately, some are not. In fact, some are truly toxic to team play.  So keep on trusting yourself, and keep in mind that there is now a ‘new way to know’.

This piece originally appeared in Innovation DAILY March 29, 2010.

Humility Breeds Trust

March 8, 2010

Since so many CEO failures are caused by failure to put the right people in the right job, and the related failure to fix people problems in time, the big question is, why do such smart people make such bad decisions?

One reason is approaching the problem and believing that you already know the solution. Starting with a full mind leaves no room for new perceptions. Performance is highly linked to how much trust is in the DNA of the culture. And we know more about how to destroy that trust than we know how to build it.

Most people’s default is to trust others and to expect to be trusted. They assume that everyone is headed in the same direction, toward the achievement of the vision. Then they crash into someone who neither respects nor returns that trust. They have their first experience of disenchantment.

Sometimes it’s the rigid, Machiavellian boss who promises you’ll get to try your wings on an exciting project and then clips them mid-air. Sometimes it’s the co-worker who has little original thinking but is happy to take credit for your work.

If you want to lead a trust-based organization, you should start by focusing on bottom-line results. If you believe the hype about leaders, you’ll think that all it takes is a lot of charisma and a great story. That helps. But neither vision nor execution alone gives you bottom-line results—they require vision plus planning plus execution plus follow through.

You can’t do all that yourself. No one can focus on all of these at the same time and accomplish anything. Teams can achieve what an individual cannot, but only if there is diversity of style and focus, and a leader who realizes that no one can be everything. Humility will keep you from flying into the sun, unlike poor Icarus who was gifted with many qualities of leadership — save the humility that would have allowed him to listen to others who warned him that things were going to heat up far beyond his control.

Here are some suggestions for building your trust-based organization:

  • You don’t have to be a member of a 12-step program to take a fearless inventory. Is your default arrogance or humility? Do you know how you affect those who work with and for you?
  • Remember to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the people. You won’t know what those needs are unless you know people as individuals and understand what motivates them. A good measure of your humility will be your lack of surprise when you realize that what motivates you most is not necessarily what motivates them most.
  • Understand that there is great value in the diversity of other people’s styles and roles. People who don’t think the way you do are tremendously valuable to you in solving problems and coming up with innovative ideas. Listen carefully to all of them, and understand each point of view and carefully consider it even if, at first, you don’t agree with it. If you turn it down, do it with respect and gratitude for their act of trusting you with it.
  • Earn the best team you can get. Engage them in your process — vision, execution, evaluation — and make it a living process. Set team goals that are challenging but attainable and lavishly reward the entire team for achieving them. Rewards can be non-financial and just as effective as long as they are oriented to what motivates each individual.
  • Remember your origins. You were not born to lead at birth. Someone trusted you. Now it is your turn to trust and to be trustworthy. The further you get from your origins, the further from Earth you will fly until, like Icarus, you are left with no supports, and your fall is inevitable.

This piece was originally published by Leadership Excellence magazine.

Sound familiar?

  • Your startup seemed to have essential Angel funding ‘in the bag,’ but for some reason the money never arrives.
  • A strategic alliance took months to establish, and can nearly double your revenue projection, but suddenly your new partner gets bought by a competitor and the deal is off.
  • The new marketing materials are ready just in time for product launch at a major show, but a storm in the Midwest delays the shipment, leaving you empty-handed.

Bad things do happen to good entrepreneurs—all too frequently.  Some manage to recover and others don’t. Is there a way to distinguish the teams that will step up from the teams that give up?

Survival is the first rule of entrepreneurial life, and when dealing with an unexpected calamity, nothing keeps a team in play more effectively than people working really well together.  This may mean ranting together (not at each other) for a few minutes, perhaps also grieving together, and then—without delay—getting down to the business of refocusing and recovering.  Histrionics, finger-pointing, or withdrawing instead of reaching out are not characteristic of good teamwork. They are characteristic of failure.

Good teams know that no one person can examine all the possibilities; that two heads are better than one; three better than two; one for all and all for one!  Spending time and energy on leadership struggles, instead of pulling together, has run more than one ship aground.   The strongest entrepreneurial teams incorporate and encourage different communication, action, and problem solving styles: one person thinking of the far-off future; another handling tasks of immediate urgency, perhaps a third person plotting a strategic alternative, and all ready to fire up and forge ahead.

Some great teams may seem to ‘just happen’, but they can also be built—if you have the ability to predict how people will actually behave when working with other people to benefit their group, overcome a challenge, or achieve a common goal.  The measurable qualities of teamwork are Role, Coherence (on a scale ranging from Diffuse to Coherent to Rigid), and Teaming Characteristics.

Any team members who are outside the acceptable range of Coherence (Diffuse or Rigid) will sap team synergy, exacerbate internal conflict, and limit productivity.  In the midst of a crisis, that’s bad news. The good news is it’s possible to tip the scales in favor of survival.  My favorite example is the entrepreneurial team that got rid of a rigid marketing person and a diffuse sales person, and saw their KPIs take off on a classic hockey-stick  trajectory!

So what do you do when something bad happens?  When you have a Coherent team of players with diverse Roles and great Teaming Characteristics, you never have to ask.  You just do it.

(This post originally appeared in Innovation DAILY, February 18, 2010.)

No New Year’s resolutions, no preaching, no ‘rules’ – just some ideas to ponder.

1. You can’t lead the team if you’re not on it.

Soccer star Mia Hamm said, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”  True in any sport and especially true on the entrepreneurial playing field. The leader must be as much in the game as the players.

2. Identify and develop undervalued players.

Think Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s (read Moneyball if you missed it.)  ‘Talent’ is not just about skill and experience – it’s about teaming. ‘Scouting’ the resumes, interviews, and LinkedIn pages will give you lots of data about the individual. But in order to predict business success – no matter what the mission of the team – the right metrics are Coherence, Role, and Teaming Characteristics.

3. Know the difference between competition and coopetition – and when to use each.

If there were no Coopetition, there would be no draft, no free agency, and no player trades. And whether you love or hate the outcomes, Coopetition adds variety and produces better on-field Competition.  But when you ‘team’ with your competitors in hopes of mutual benefit, you had better stay on the high road. In this highly networked world, playing dirty tricks or trashing the competition is not just bad for business – it can have lethal impact on future opportunities.

Cheers to 2010 – the year that the winners’ circle starts spinning again!

Are you a ‘Cvangelist’?

October 1, 2009

Rank has its privileges. One of them is that CEOs, and others at the C level, are privy to information that others can’t access. And it’s that exclusivity, or the illusion of it, that makes their status all the more tantalizing. The most important information, I’m beginning to think, isn’t the trade secret or the true state of the finances. I think it’s what we like and do and buy.

Analysts want to know where you’re having dinner, the color of the leather in your next ride (even better if that ride is on water or air), and what your future acquisitions will be. Most of them are satisfied with just knowing the “who* and *what*; the really inquisitive ones are interested in the *why*, and how that differs from what others – non-C’s – do.

I think the difference is that we’re used to thinking in terms of ‘business benefits’ and ‘long term valuation’ rather than the satisfaction of an ephemeral desire. And that’s what makes Cvangelists so important to emerging growth companies. We need more than buyers – we need evangelists. And when they’re at the C-level–Cvangelists–we know that they are buying and telling other people because they are focused on benefits and value.

I’m a Cvangelist for Virgin Atlantic. Please don’t ask me to go to London on any other airline. And I’m a Cvangelist for Whole Foods Market (I know they’re expensive — but the business benefits are my time saved and the long term value is my health). Mark. our EVP and former tech CEO, is a Cevangelist for MAC. (He’s got me convinced. This blog will be getting done on a MAC very soon.)

So why would you want to become a Cvangelist? Simple. The benefits are many.

  1. You get to feel very cool, like the people who bought Microsoft stock (the stock – not the software) soon after the IPO.
  2. You always have something *different* to say at CEO cocktail parties.
  3. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve promoted something that not only has immediate business benefits but also long term value.

How do you start? Well, if you want to join the very cool, always witty, highly satisfied Cvangelists for TGI Role-Based Assessment, just call me at 215-825-2500. Or email me at DrJanice (at) thegabrielinstitute.com!

I was going to write something on Labor Day but entrepreneurial CEOs work 24/7 so there wasn’t time.  Not even much time to think about how many labor/management problems would disappear with better job-fit.  And management-fit.

Instead I dug out the tombstone from my late father-in-law’s 1960 IPO and brought it to my office, where it now stands as a reminder of the history of a company – and lives – destroyed by equal amounts of greed and entitlement on the parts of both an investment banker and a union leader.

Fast forward almost 50 years and I’m not sure much has changed.

When is Entrepreneurs Day?

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