How To Be the Best CEO

How To Be the Best CEO

“A leader is a visionary who can excite others to be part of their vision. Great CEO’s create, they don’t fix.” – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

As companies grow beyond “mom and pop” operations, it’s essential to understand the crucial, continual, and evolving tasks that a CEO must embrace. CEO’s who focus on these work on their business, not in it. 

1. Define the vision. Set the course and establish the company’s goals. It’s your vision that launched the business. Remember, Martin Luther King didn’t say, “I have a strategic plan.” He said, “I have a dream.” As the leader, it’s your job to create and reinforce a compelling sense of purpose shared by all employees and stakeholders.

2. Continually focus on upgrading critical resources and filling in the holes. These resources include: 

  • Financing sources
  • Personnel
  • Strategic partners
  • Vendors
  • Professional services
  • Advisors
  • Technology

3. Create and fine-tune the team. Hire the best and fire the pests. If managing people is not your strength, hire someone to keep associates motivated, hold them accountable, and keep everyone’s actions aligned with company goals and values.

4. Network and build relationships. Forge coalitions with peers, associates, and key outside decision-makers. It is all too often overlooked as the vital priority it should be. If you haven’t done so already, join your industry associations and entrepreneurial peer groups and block out at least two to four days a month to build and maintain both internal and external relationships.

5. Get and encourage feedback. Proactively listen to your associates, clients, and vendors. Management guru, Tom Peters calls it MBWA, or “managing by walking around.” You’ll discover how much your team members appreciate that you care about them, their ideas, and their opinions. And oh, the things you’ll learn.

6. Entrepreneurship. Search for future opportunities for the company that enhances its current systems and further its financial goals. 

Managing the status quo is more dangerous than launching into the unknown.

7. Fiscal management. Ensure consistent cash flow and profitability by carefully monitoring expenses, cost of sales, and revenue streams. Nothing is more critical to keeping your business healthy than maintaining and managing your margins. Have a banking relationship that will provide you capital during cash flow shortages.

8. Personal style. By your actions, set an overall tone of integrity, competence, and optimism. Leaders lead best by the example they set and the behaviors they tolerate. Your style and attitude give you credibility, show your integrity, and demonstrate the moral authority to hold others to a higher standard. 

9. Results. As the CEO, you must oversee execution to ensure you are getting the results you want. None of the above matters if your company does not execute. 

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Make today the day you embrace one role of the CEO that will make a difference in your life. Start with your personal style.


Great Leaders Seek and Encourage Feedback

Great Leaders Seek and Encourage Feedback

“Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.” – Anonymous

“Listening to others’ viewpoints may reveal the one thing needed to complete your goals.” – D. Ridgley

The following ideas regarding face to face visits with people are a pre and post pandemic approach. For now, social distancing, face masks, and zoom calls are the safe and proper protocol.

Proactively listen to your employees, clients, and vendors. Management guru, Tom Peters calls it MBWA, or “managing by walking around.” You’ll discover how much your employees appreciate that you care about them, their ideas, and their opinions. Ask your people these simple questions, and you will gain invaluable knowledge:

  • How can we do what we are doing better?
  • What do you need that will help you do your job better?
  • Where do you see waste, and where do you see opportunity?
  • What are our clients telling you?

When we begin a new coaching relationship, at our first on-site meeting, we interview around ten staff members. We ask each person the same questions. Depending on what is shared, we will go more in-depth. We hear everything from grievances to great ideas. Sometimes we discover the superb talent of someone that had not been recognized. Other times we find interior terrorists who are sabotaging the culture.

The reason people open up to us is that we establish trust, and we listen. People want to be heard. We make everyone aware that we will be sharing what they say with the CEO, and if they want what they tell us not to be attributed to them, all they have to do is let us know.

When we share with the CEO, it often leads to better, more open and honest communication with the team.

The best way to get feedback from clients is face to face. Surveys are useful, but they will never replace the dynamics of actually spending time with your clients when you are not there to sell. Here are some essential questions to ask.

  • How is your business?
  • What are your plans and goals for this year and the future?
  • What are your most significant challenges?
  • What are we doing right, and what can we do better?
  • Is there anything our competition is doing better?
  • What other services and products would you like us to offer?

I recommend the CEO and members of the leadership team take at least two road trips a year to visit clients at their offices. These six questions will lead to countless opportunities and generate more business by accident than a dozen sales calls.

Your vendors are also an invaluable source of information. They see and talk to your peers and competition. They are a great source of benchmarking for anything from displays to the best software. They also know what advertising and promotions are working, and may know what great talent is looking for greener pastures.

Make today the day you listen to learn and to understand.

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama 


Never Let Success Get to Your Head; Never Let Failure Get to Your Heart

Never Let Success Get to Your Head; Never Let Failure Get to Your Heart

“Success is not a good teacher; failure makes you humble.” – Shah Rukh Khan

Over the years, I’ve coached at least one hundred INC. 500 winners. Most winning entrepreneurs love the rush, the praise, and the confidence that comes with success. They see opportunities everywhere, and what they don’t see others bring to them. And thus, a second business is soon on the horizon. 

I call it The Illusion of the Midas Touch. The vision for the next venture is often a little foggy. Hunches rule the day, and the hard work of research and a well thought out business and financial plan does not appear necessary. Of course, it will succeed; it is my idea and I have the Midas Touch.

The new project often cost two times more than estimated and two times longer to launch. 

 Each business takes the leader’s focus away from the pressing needs of the other, and it drains the money made from the successful business to prop up the new one.

The entrepreneur’s confidence takes a significant hit, and humility replaces the illusion of the Midas’ touch. If the entrepreneur survives, the future will be bright. Humility is the most underrated and essential characteristic of leaders.

To paraphrase Jim Collins, it’s the paradoxical combination of humility and an overwhelming desire to exceed expectations that becomes unbeatable.

Humble people recognize that they don’t know what they don’t know, are exceptional listeners and lifetime learners who understand that they can’t do it alone. They seek the best talent and advisors and lead by example. They recognize their strengths and weaknesses and create exceptional teams whose skills complement one another. 

The business world and marketplace eventually will shatter the illusion of the Midas Touch, and hopefully, out of the cocoon will rise a humble leader.  

Make today the day you embrace your humility. 

“I believe the first test of a truly great person is their humility.” – John Ruskin

“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.” – Ezra Taft Benson

“Don’t bury your failures; let them inspire you.” – Robert Kiyosaki