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.

 

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

Six Signs Your Job No Longer Deserves You

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People talk about being in a rut, but here’s what we forget: the rut is mental. It’s a belief. “Oh, it’s hard to get another job!” We talk ourselves out of making changes or even contemplating changes, because of our aversion to change.

Your job may have been amazing learning experience at one time, but does your job still deserve your talents now? A lot of people get stuck. They get into a situation that more or less works, that pays the bills and that doesn’t bring them any closer to their flame. What’s your flame? It’s your passion. It’s your reason for being alive.

Your job should do more than just keep you alive — don’t you agree? You only have so many years here on earth. Are you going to spend them accumulating things like wide-screen TVs and frequent flyer miles you’ll never use because you don’t have time for vacation?

Why not get a job that deserves you and that will reinforce you? Here are six signs your current job doesn’t deserve you anymore:

  • There’s no forward path. There’s no place to go from here. There’s no way to learn more, have more impact or use more of your talents. Scram!
  • There’s no one to learn from. No one around you looks like a mentor or coach. You’re the smartest person in the place. Get out of Dodge!
  • The people around you don’t want to hear your ideas. They like things just the way they are. So what, nothing works properly? They don’t care. Flee!
  • You don’t get to use your mind and your heart at work. You’re stuck in a little box. You’re a cog in someone else’s machine. Hit the bricks!
  • Your boss doesn’t get you and you don’t get him or her. It’s an energetic mismatch. You can’t grow as a person or a professional in your job. Move on!
  • You don’t enjoy your work or look forward to it on Monday morning (or any morning). That’s your body telling you “Run away!” – Forbes

6 Forces Driving the Next Generation of Your Business

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At 2 billion strong, Gen Z is rewriting the rules for how we live, work, and play.

2015 will be an extraordinary year; it’s the first year that Gen Z, individuals born in 1995 and beyond will begin entering the workforce.

At two billion strong globally Z is the single largest cohort to ever sweep through civilization. Hyperconnected, wielding extreme social influence, and ignoring virtually every obstacle in their way Z is going to rock your world, and forever alter the way you do business.

Gen Z is going to slam a whole new set of behaviors onto the table; behaviors, built on technologies, such as social media, wearables, implants, augmented reality; behaviors that seem strange and alien to older generations, which ironically built the technologies that have shaped Gen Z’s behavior.

These behaviors are driving six forces that are shaping the future of business; pay attention and you will seize the opportunity of the century.

1-Hyperconnecting

This is the defining force driving Gen Z. Soon every person, machine, and object will be connected–creating a near frictionless engine of innovation. Consider that by 2100 we will have 100 times as many computing devices as there are grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Unimaginable? Not that long ago so were the ten billion computing devices (7 billion of which are mobile) that we today take for granted.

What this Means to you: If you can’t use the abundance of data and sensors to intimately understand a customer’s behavior and personalize every interaction something is very wrong with your business.

 

2-Breaking Generations

By 2100 there will be a global 1:1 ratio of toddlers to 65 year olds. In 1950 that ratio was 10:1. Today it’s 3:1. The result of this shift in population distribution will disrupt virtually every business and social institution, locally and globally. Learning to deal with and leveraging this disruption will be the most critical factor for the success of all businesses (yes, yours as well.) in the 21st Century.

What this Means to you: If you can’t get beyond generational labels you end up with generational chasms that will devour your business.

 

3-The Shift from Affluence to Influence

Your advertising budget is no longer the most critical element in influencing the decisions of Gen Z. Z-ers are powerful influencers and they respond to meaningful conversations and personalized messaging. They have a built-in media channel to billions in the form of the Internet. And they know how to mess things up if they don’t get what they want–just ask former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

What this Means to you: Listen to Z and respond meaningfully or get ready to be sacrificed on the altar of social media.

 

4-Slingshotting

The fifth force, and perhaps the most invisible, is slingshotting, which is what happens when the vast majority of a potential audience suddenly takes up technology that was only available to a select few. For example, people who had sworn off of PCs are now diving into the deep end of the technology pool by going directly to a tablet and mobile technologies. Within the decade any human being, without regard to geographic or political location and economic status, will be able to connect to the Internet. The result will be the single greatest period of value creation and innovation humanity has yet to experience.

What this Means to you: Ignore this force and your business is ignoring the single greatest opportunity to connect with and co-create with Gen Z.

 

5-The World as My Classroom

Massively Open Online Classrooms promise to disrupt higher education and create a globally educated workforce. With the next decade we are likely to see more graduates of online education than in the entire history of traditional classroom education. Gen Z expects that if it’s worth learning it’s online, it’s free, and it’s a lifelong process.

What this Means to you: If you don’t have at least a YouTube video explaining your product or service then you really can’t expect anyone to take you seriously , right?

 

6-Lifehacking

The final force is one of the most powerful shifts in how Gen Z values and views the world. There is a deep sense of purpose that drives Gen Z to game the system in whatever way is best suited to make it serve their view of what is fair, sustainable, and socially conscious.Z despises the protection of intellectual property, believes that innovation should be boundless and instantaneous, and access to capital should be democratized and available to all good ideas. In short they believe in the ultimate efficiency of a free market unfettered by the constraints of the past.

What this Means to you: If you’re unable to connect with the deeper purpose of your marketplace, ultimately you’re just a hindrance to progress–and Z will find a way around you.

 We are All Z

These six forces are not subtle generational shifts. Instead they challenge some of the most basic beliefs about how we build and operate our businesses. Collectively they fuel a revolution on a scale unlike anything the world has yet experienced. It’s disruptive, powerful, and often frightening, but here is the good news; we are all Z if we choose to be. Generations are no longer about age but about behaviors. Better yet, the leaders of this revolution are already giving us the playbook with all of the rules we need to survive and thrive–you just need to pay attention, and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to read the book.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. 

Move Over Millennials — Here Comes Gen Z

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What Marketers Need to Know About the Next Generation of Consumers

Over the past few years, marketers across all industries and categories have been obsessed with millennials — how to reach them and build meaningful connections with their brands. This captivating generation has a unique sense of self and a nontraditional approach to life stages, which has made marketing to them a challenge.

But perhaps even more challenging is the next generation on the rise — Gen Z. If marketers thought they threw out the playbook with millennials, they need to know that Gen Zers aren’t even playing on the same field.

Gen Z Defined
Gen Z consumers range from ages 2 to 19, though the target range for marketers lies from ages 11 to 16. Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the U.S. — 55% are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American and 4% are Asian.

Gen Z Beliefs
There are a few key beliefs native to Gen Z that all retailers must understand. First, Gen Zers are the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” They look for products and messaging that reflect a reality rather than a perfect life — an important distinction for struggling retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch who still market their products by projecting a flawless, carefree, perfect world. Gen Zers simply don’t respond to these traditional notions of beauty or a projected image of perfection like past generations have. They respond to independence and entrepreneurialism, self-direction and a spirit of ingenuity. Brands like Free People (independence is implied in the name) are targeting Gen Zers with messages along these lines and a bohemian aesthetic, and it’s working. The brand continues to grow with sales up 25% in the first quarter of fiscal 2015.

Millennials expect success; Gen Zers make their own
Millennials are the generation of customer service — such as the creation of the Apple Genius Bar — to solve problems at any moment. They design their own, unconventional paths, yet they anticipate consistent success (and hand-holding) along the way. Gen Z is a generation of highly-educated, technologically-savvy, innovative thinkers. They look for solutions on their own. They set out to make things on their own.

With this level of self-direction and purpose, it’s no surprise then that Gen Zers also want to form their own style. They challenge traditional ideas of use, form and function when it comes to all facets of style and design. Brands should market their fashions and products with an understanding that Gen Zers will want to make each piece their own, and a message that that’s exactly how they intended it.

Retailers must create products and marketing that empower these teens to be their best selves. They must also create places — stores, websites, online communities — where Gen Zers feel welcome walking in and logging in, and feel just as wonderful walking out and checking out. Brands that offer goods and an experience that help Gen Zers define and express their individuality and lifestyle will succeed with this group.

Millennials have embraced technology; Gen Zers are digital natives
Yes, millennials grew up with computers in their homes. But Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world. They don’t know a world without PCs, mobile phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. They live online, sharing details of their lives across dozens of platforms and dictating what they like and dislike with a tweet, post or status. And Gen Zers expects to virtually engage with their favorite brands in doing so. So brands can’t simply “embrace technology” as millennials have. They must act digitally native, too, creating a seamless and strong overarching brand experience across in-store, digital and mobile. It is shocking how few retailers have achieved this. To reach Gen Zers, it is paramount to reach them through two-way conversations, which are initiated online. An authentic digital and social presence as well as a slew of complimentary digital experiences in which Gen Z fans can engage with and share their brand allegiance is perhaps the best currency a retailer could generate.

Generation Z is open-minded and adaptable, not a group known for fixed opinions or inflexibility. And, with an estimated 72 million people in this demographic, brands would be wise to broaden their horizons to include Gen Z in their thinking. Brands that build careful marketing strategies that connect with the values of the younger set and offer a better digital experience both online and in-store will be successful among this new, young, powerful generation.