The Measure of a CEO

 

 

RulerI read an interesting article recently in which the author, a seasoned business consultant and attorney, referred to half of all the CEO’s out there as being “below average”.  There were no studies cited, no research statistics offered, and no indication of what “average” is, was, or has been.  The article offered one example of a high profile CEO who was fired three months after his initial hire date for failing to produce profits commensurate with his salary!  Was this something the company did not realize when they hired him?

How do we measure the quality of our Chief Executive?  Do we only work with those who come with a demonstrable track record of success?  Do they know how to make money?  Are they good with people?  Do they have clear vision?  Are they skilled facilitators, mentors, directors and growth mongers?  Can they build a sales team, create a marketing plan and implement operational strategy?  Are their values clear, is their mission strong and does their very presence in the boardroom exude integrity?

If the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “YES”, you haven’t found a CEO; you’ve found Superman or Wonder Woman.  I work daily with CEO’s.  Lot’s of them.  In fact the foundation of my consulting practice is CEO skill development and strategic planning which puts me in direct one-on-one contact with these high level power brokers.  My experience often leaves me wondering why anyone would want to take on this extremely complex, thankless, unforgiving and emotionally draining task.   The CEO’s I know work incredibly long hours, take all the company problems home, directly answer client complaints, smooth over human resource issues, answer to profit driven BOD’s, and at the end of the day, offer everyone else the credit for company accomplishment.

The CEO position is also the most tenuous position in the organization.  Anyone who has been around for more than a minute knows that founding owners, managing boards and Chairman don’t make mistakes.  It’s always the CEO who goes; the CEO who ultimately takes the fall or pays the price for poor company performance.  So why do they do it?

The CEO’s I know can’t walk in a room and not be a leader.  They are driven to accomplishment, goal and task.  They are deeply committed, driven to personal and organizational excellence, focused on the strategic vision of their industry and organization.  Are they perfect?  Not a chance.  Ego driven?  Absolutely.  Difficult to please, often argumentative, aggressive, and in many cases abrasive to those closest to them?  Yes.  Should we accept this kind of behavior? No.  But we also need to take the time to understand where the behavior emanates from.

To cite an example, one of my clients recently took on the CEO role of a high growth, seemingly successful $50 million dollar manufacturing company.  Once inside, she realized that the reason the profits were so outstanding is that the previous owners had never provided for the appropriate infrastructure to maintain quality in production.

When my client recommended a major and costly reorganization to support quality in their process the Board of Directors began to second guess their choice for CEO. Couple this with the normal fair of several employee related legal claims against previous management, a management team in transition, a cash flow shortage and yes, you may be dealing with someone whose fuse is pretty short.

While the tender of success in the workplace is measured in dollars I find it hard to judge a CEO negatively simply because they negotiate the strongest personal compensation package possible.  I often ask skeptics a simple question when I am queried about the validity of a client’s compensation package; “Compared to what?”  Even professional compensation specialists have a difficult time agreeing on CEO compensation as the points of reference are as varied as the individual needs of the organization.

I want to be clear that I am not condoning poor performance nor am I suggesting that there are not compensation plans out there that cross into the land of absurdity.  I am saying that we need to take a long hard look at the men and women who have the courage to take on these high profile positions.  Hopefully when we do, we will see leaders we can be proud to follow, leaders we can trust to do the right thing, and leaders that will promote the health and well being of American business.

Sharon Jenks is CEO of The Jenks Group Inc., a California Consulting Company that specializes in strategic planning and executive development. She can be reached at http://www.thejenksgroup.com.

 

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Why Millennials Understand The Future Of Work Better Than Anyone Else

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We can learn a lot about the future of work from how millennials are approaching and redefining their careers.

The 9-to-5 grind is over.

I call that traditional view, “Big Work,” and millennials intuitively understand that’s not where the future is. They are, in a sense, the first generation of freelance natives. They’re embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has. And now, they’re the majority of the workforce.

They are a generation with markedly diverse interests––they’re into design, tech, activism, the arts, everything. They’ve been told their whole lives that they can and should pursue as many of those interests as they want. The Internet has opened more doors to this generation than any other.

That’s why the idea of a portfolio of work comes naturally to them. They’re doing web design for their mom’s coworkers after they’re done studying. They’re teaching themselves FinalCut and picking up video editing gigs to complement their shift at the bookstore. They’re aiming for a more meaningful work-life, not necessarily what their parents would call a “traditional career.”

That natural flexibility positions millennials to take advantage of this new economy without fear. They are the most likely age group to freelance––38% of millennials are freelancing, compared to 32% of all others, according to a national survey conducted last year by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk.

Millennials also expressed by far the most confidence about this new way of working, with 82% of young freelancers saying they’re optimistic about the future of freelancing.

THE CONNECTED GENERATION

Why? Because they understand networks and hubs better than anyone––and networks and hubs are what make for successful freelancers. They grew up connected across global platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YikYak. They’re the most connected generation in human history.

They understand the power of affiliations, even the loose connections more traditional generations would have dismissed. Ask any freelancer and they’ll tell you the secret to success is the power of those loose ties.

Millennials are putting that understanding of the power of networks to impressive use. In Spain, the millennial-founded Podemos is the fastest-growing political party in the country, and one of the Europe’s most prominent for social justice and economic equality. Here in the U.S., the Occupy movement took up the same causes, building a networked infrastructure to advance their politics. We’re seeing the new activist wave starting co-operatives and social-purpose businesses at a remarkable rate.

THEIR NEXT STEPS

But of course, millennials are, by definition, still young. Many aren’t raising families yet, or buying houses, or saving for retirement. It’s reasonable to wonder how aging will shape their priorities and their ideas about work.

But what we’ve seen so far is encouraging. Many young people are following in the footsteps of the “millennials” of the 20th century, the workers who were coming of age as the Industrial Revolution truly kicked in. It was the workers of the 1910s and 1920s who saw the rapidly changing economy and built the labor movement in response.

They pioneered the social unionism movement. They banded together to build worker-owned banks, housing, insurance companies, and even vacation camps. Today’s millennials are building support systems and co-working spaces.

With their comfort within the freelance economy and their understanding of networks, millennials are perfectly positioned to create the sustainable independent work economy that we–and they–need. -By Sara Horowitz

Basic Tips to Make Your First Business Networking Event

Most folks know that networking is a key to success. We want and need to know people with whom we do business, and most of us enjoy meeting new people for our social circle as well. No “networking” event is, in and of itself, worthwhile.

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It’s what happens afterward that makes the difference.

Networking isn’t about getting business on the spot, it’s about developing relationships that will lead to business, directly or indirectly, down the road. Networking almost always requires the long-term approach.

But how do you begin? Joining a “networking group” can be an intimidating step, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some basics to get you started.

Make time and do it. “Someday” and “later” have a way of never happening.

Be prepared with something to say. Know what the big news story is, the key sports results, and have a positive or thoughtful comment.

Be prepared to introduce yourself in 15-20 seconds. Without stumbling. This is usually called the “elevator speech.” Make it interesting. If it’s boring to say, it’s boring to hear.

Carry business cards and have them easily accessible…

… But don’t offer indiscriminately them at the beginning of a conversation! It’s far better to chat for a while, to know someone about the person, and then to ask for his or her business card. What if, horror of horrors, they don’t reciprocate and ask for yours? Not a problem. Send them one when you follow up after the event.

When someone offers you a business card, look at it before you put it away. A card is our tangible persona. Notice it, accord it due respect, and then carefully put it away.

Pay attention to the conversation. Don’t be one of the “power networkers” always looking over the shoulder of your conversational companion, looking for someone more interesting. Listen. Really listen. When your companion is talking, that’s your signal to listen to what they’re saying, not to be composing your witty rejoinder. Listening is the antidote for nervousness, especially for introverts, because your entire focus is on the speaker – and his focus is on himself, too!

Think about how you can help the person you’re talking with. Make a contact, offer a lead, or just ask how you might recognize a terrific potential client/customer for her. Don’t assume someone you’re talking to can’t help you. A conversation may not lead directly to business, but you have no idea who that person may know or where they’ll end up next.

Set your intentions before you go (i.e., I will leave with 3 business cards of people I plan to contact again). And aim for quality over quantity.

Follow up afterward.

If you use these tactics, your first networking meeting will be a successful and, perhaps, even an enjoyable event that will encourage you to keep coming back.

by M Peal

Advanced Business Networking

You can get a lot more leverage from your business networking efforts if you work on building relationships with strategic alliance partners. When done effectively you’ll get more regular and predictable referrals from these strategic alliances then from any other source.

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In just about any business there are natural referral partners. A real estate agent needs a mortgage broker and an inspector. A financial planner needs a CPA or accountant and an attorney. A graphic designer might need a marketing consultant or a copy writer. You get the picture.

By finding a core group of these complimentary businesses you can all help each other grow by bringing each other into new deals. You win because you’ll be getting business you might not have even known about otherwise, and your customer wins by working with professionals who are used to working together.

Building your strategic alliance network doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by identifying the types of products or services that you don’t offer that your clients consistently ask you about. If you’re a computer consultant and your clients are always asking if you know a good web designer or telephone systems vendor start there. You’ll already have something to offer to the potential partners you approach.

It’s very important that you choose solid trustworthy partners. You’ll be putting your reputation on the line every time you refer one of these people to your customer. A good rule of thumb is to only work with others that you would trust with your own business, or to help your mother, or best friend.

You can either build relationships with these potential partners one on one, or bring them all together in a private networking group where you can all learn to work together. Personally I prefer to combine these two approaches. Bring everyone together and you’ll be helping everyone else out that much more. In addition, continue to build a strong relationship with each individual so that they know they can trust you with their referrals.

The details of every strategic alliance are up to you. You might choose to pay a referral fee or share a percentage of your revenue (if that’s legal in your industry, you may need to check with your business attorney to be sure). You might just decide to refer business to each other and know that in the end it’ll work out. Working together you may also find that there are some great opportunities for cooperative advertising or working a trade show booth together. It’s up to you and your new strategic partner.

Being successful in business is all about taking action. Reading about taking your networking to the next level and building strategic alliances is useless unless you act on it. Take a few minutes right now to think about the type of businesses you could build a strategic alliance with. Now, pick up the phone!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

By  Fabian Parris