Mon, May 8, 2017




One of my CEO coaching clients years ago told me: if I work 10% less hard or delegate  10% more often, profits will go down by more than 20%. He now knows the folly of that remark. He has learned to delegate, how to tailor so doing to his comfort with each individual and how to use his team to keep the process on track

He is now on this third business, having grown the first one and sold it, having grown the second one and sold it to a new private equity owner. His objective is now to reduce his engagement in the business to fewer days per week so he can spend more time on boards of other companies and contribute more to his community. No, he is not a senior.


What developed the way he leads?

  • Focus on what is or is not his job (what can only he do?)
  • Training his people to take more responsibility
  • Taking risks of delegation tailored to each person’s stage of development and playing the role of chief (key) people developer as well as CEO
  • Developing a process for everyone to know and review each week the annual goals, this month’s objectives, who is responsible for what and where progress is acceptable or not (starts with a “traffic light” chart).
  • Having his direct reports cascade the approach to the rest of the company

How did he overcome doubts and fears of delegation? He:

  • Wrote down his beliefs and fears about his company and his people
  • Observed that the outcomes were not near as good as he wanted
  • Wrote down the outcomes he desired (results, work ethic, culture,….)
  • He identified his own behaviors that contribute to poor outcomes
  • Reflected on what he had written and asked: what change in my beliefs and fears is needed to change my behaviors and the outcomes?
  • Began experimenting with different approaches to different people
  • Asked his direct reports to do as he did

Delegating frees the leader to lead.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?


If you wish to profit from other articles like this, go to:







Sat, May 6, 2017




A wonderful Vistage Chair, Ken Mandelbaum and I often exchange tools which our CEO coaching clients tell us are valuable. He sent me this 4- minute video called Above the Line by a group called Conscious Leadership.





Above the line is a way of being, a way of showing up: when you are open, deeply listening, learning what the other believes or knows. Momentarily postponing your point of view or instructions. In this condition, good things happen because you have all your powers.


Below the line is a way of being, a way of showing up but: in this state of mind you are closed, impatient, listening poorly, already at the conclusion and action item. This is not a good state for you or others. You have lost some of your power to find better solutions, to enlist others, to train others to solve problems, even to be “boss ready” for you.


Surprise?:   most people are not often aware of where they are in a given moment or situation (above the line or below the line), nor what game their mind is playing in conversations with themselves that put them there. Nor do very many have a learned way of observing, framing, changing where they are and restoring their power to deal. They may not be aware of how they are experiencing life.


Leaders live in a world of massive inputs and numerous daily circumstances which compete for time. How we interpret these and make meaning out of them[2] can put us above or below the line.


Worse, Today’s we are biologically biased for our own survival to worry and to interpret many inputs as threats[3].




    1. Impatient
    2. Aggressive
    3. Angry
    4. Overwhelmed
    5. Anxious
    6. withdrawn
    7. Not really listening
    8. Stewing about something
    9. Fearful
    10. Dominating
    11. Intolerant
  2. The Challenge to Managing our Minds and Teaching Others to Manage Theirs

lies in training ourselves (or others) to notice/hear the signals

  1. Negative thoughts
  2. Negative feelings
  3. Pain
  4. Cravings
  1. Developing techniques that interrupt the cycle, e.g., “Scuba Rules” (stop, breathe, think, act) and
    1. Learning what or who triggers us
    2. Learning skills to self-correct and get above the line
    3. Making this as second nature as spotting a problem on the balance sheet
    4. Engaging others in exploring mutual interpretations and alternatives; feedback
    5. Doing this without becoming self-conscious or inauthentic
    6. Avoiding voluntary sources of anxiety








Wouldn’t you want to be above the line>? Want your people to be above the line?

Jim Blasingame, the amazing host of Small Business Advocate, and I explored this topic on

his internet radio broadcast? If you value new ideas and ways to succeed, go to:

http://smallbusinessadvocate.com    for live streaming from his “brain trust.”


And if you would like to know more about the amazing world of CEO Peer Advisory Boards and the coaches who lead them, visit Vistage International:


That’s just my view. What’s yours?

[2] A uniquely human obsession

[3] Threats to our safety, security, self-worth bias us to have more than 70% negative thoughts


Who Will Tell The Boss the Truth?

Fri, Mar 17, 2017

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Being at the top is a lonely position. Even the most open leader cannot share all his thoughts and concerns with anyone. And subordinates of even the most beloved boss will not provide radical candor in feedback s(he) needs to be as better leader.

So, it is no surprise that one of my clients who founded a professional service firm, who has inspired his people toward pride and excellence, had little idea of how his best and worst traits were perceived. Until he commissioned an on – line 360.


For a 360 for most clients, I am given a list of direct reports, others in the organization and occasionally outsiders as respondents. A note is sent advising them what to expect, committing to a no—attribution guarantee, and encouraging their candor. I may or may not create a short, anonymous on-line survey of them (on surveygizmo or surveymonkey) before conducting in-person conversations with an interview guide. The in-person challenge is to gain the respondents’ trust, then ask enough open-ended and specific questions to get the views that might not otherwise be expressed.

Without exception, the CEO finds great value (and some pain) from this process and it becomes as focus of on-going coaching.


As I have previously blogged, Kim Scott’s new book, Radical Candor, provides a framework and almost field manual for learning about candor. Her definition of Radical Candor is caring but direct feedback. As she said at her recent book party, she came to this view when she had engaged as boss in Ruinous Empathy, shying away from Radical Candor for so long with a key employee that she had to fire him for underperformance and was asked by him: “why didn’t anyone tell me?”

I cannot urge you enough to buy this seminal leadership/supervision book (which applies to personal life as well). Kim’s website is radicalcandor. com; the book is available on Amazon and other on-line booksellers. 

My belief? Modeling Radical Candor, then encouraging and teaching it will pay big dividends. 


In- person 360s will always have a place in the toolkit. But there is now a tool available that is unique because:

  • It is based on a terrific framework
  • There is a lot of normative data on profiles of leaders
  • There is ample normative data on the tendessncies of respondents in their feedback

The tool is the Leadership Circle Profile. You can read about the framework in the book by Anderson and Adams: Mastering Leadership, also available on line. 


I asked a fellow coach to administer the 360 for my client to ensure complete objectivity.

With the client’s permission, I now have the anonymous output and the benefit of my colleague’s interpretation. Results?

The boss was deeply surprised by two of the patterns in the feedback and committed to work on both to go from blissful ignorance to admired improvement. And one category appears to be a communication challenge, the other requires a change in beliefs and behaviors in leading the firm.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?








Becoming an Entrepreneur in Your Own Life

Thu, Feb 23, 2017

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Carving out time to invest in yourself, devoting that time to learn and put to practice the wisdom of coaches will improve your life as well as your performance as a leader. It is more than situational problem-solving.


The best books on leadership stress that the job of the CEO is self-development as well as development of the organization. And my decades of experience are replete with instances in which CEO client self-development often has an unintended consequence: improving family dynamics.


Each year, multiple sources help me develop myself as a coach and I share what I learn with my clients and peers. In a future post, I will relay the most important discoveries from our Vistage worldwide chair conference. Here, I share the thoughts of renowned master coach Tony Smith, speaking to a group of HBS alumni entrepreneurs.

Distinguishing between those who will “eat what has been served,” living in a familiar environment from those who will create their own environment, their own future, here are my notes on the gist of the discussion: (I was surprised how useful his discussion guide was despite its being rudimentary for me and probably for you).

1.    The #1 enemy of creating your own life and your own company is busyness. The urgent displaces the most important.

2.    No future is possible unless and until you imagine it and write it down

It must be clear, written, output of a conscious and unconscious effort and future-focused

3.    Most people live in deploying their knowledge to manage risk; entrepreneurs create something and live at risk; the first live close to the past, the latter live in the future

4.    Any business or job worth doing starts with three forces for engagement: the value to the user/the message, the user profile and the methods of outreach to the user; most highly educated people are not good at the third

5.    What does it take to create your own future?

Time, practice, constructive feedback and commitment to a specific future

6.    Everyone needs a place and time to clear the mind, re-invent and confront demons

7.    There is always constructive tension between reality and a vision; the tension is what creates energy. Most people’s future is missing from their daily thinking.

8.    Networking is crucial to all of the above; and having a personal board of directors. And keeping in touch

9.    To all entrepreneurs: don’t let circumstances call the shots

10. The world belongs to those who follow up (amazing how few do it and do it with intention and regularity)


Vistage: the world’s largest CEO membership organization


Tony Smith, coach:


If you want a few terrific books to read, contact me.

 That’s just my view. What’s yours?





Managing Partner of Professionals: Unlike Any Other Business Community

Wed, Feb 22, 2017

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Henry is the newly elected managing partner of a large professional service firm. Think consulting or law or engineering. As with other such firms, there are challenges in stimulating demand for their firm’s services in an increasingly competitive and price-sensitive marketplace, in attracting “laterals” from other firms and the best new graduates in the field.

Henry campaigned for election on a platform of ideas for meeting the above challenges and of bringing people together across the firm to succeed together. And on a new focus on productivity – such firms have far too many underperformers who drag down the top half in success, compensation and sense of being on a winning team.


But Henry has found other factors that may be barriers to his successful leadership: he says there is no firm-wide pattern of collaboration between geographic office chiefs and “practice leaders” who are the subject matter experts and leaders of practitioners across the firm’s offices. He further cites a negative culture in one of the biggest geographic offices: back-biting, behind-the-back criticism of one partner by another, fiefdoms within the office of each practice area. A wide disparity in productivity between top performers and the bottom half. And no serious effort to resolve the disparity. While the office is still quite profitable, it has shrunk to half its size as some of the best people have left.

Henry does not have a plan for these newly confirmed challenges. Only an intent to resolve them.


Some key questions for Henry:

  • What is the plan and process for his ideas and intent to become action?
  • Are there “influentials” engaged in the effort?
  • Are a few foils (those opposed to the change) participants whose conversion would be a signal to others?
  • Has he brought together partners with different power bases to discuss the “third entity” (what collaboration might look like ad what would be its benefits to the participants if constraints could be overcome?)
  • Are fledgling instances of successful collaboration being celebrated and rewarded?
  • Are there new consequences for instances of undesirable behavior?
  • Will new hires populate some of the positions?
  • Will there be changes in who occupies the leadership positions?

For more on “third entity,” among the many who claim to have spawned this idea, get to know the very able Abe Wagner, Vistage speaker who led a workshop with my CEO peer advisory board in new York City (not an easy audience):

Abe Wagner Effective Organizations

And visit the mother ship for 21,000 owner/CEO members and Chairs (coaches who lead peer advisory boards in 20 countries around the globe:


Stay tuned. Henry is till developing his answers and experimenting with different types of engagement and policy changes.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?




CEO Blues: “It’s my fault”

Mon, Feb 20, 2017

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The hired gun CEO for a turnaround has found the situation far worse than as presented by the owners: a factory with old gear and too many legacy systems which were kluges, no documentation, a poor work ethic, a climate of fear suppressing transparency, a business model increasingly out of date with growing customers, competition technologically advantaged in the space and more.


After more than a year of hard work, the CEO (we will call him Sam) feels depressed. There is still a long way to go to stop customer attrition completely, systems are still in transition, there are still too many defects in output, people are working harder but still not sure the company will win the battle in the marketplace, the owners are distressed that earnings are still below both original expectations and an adjusted target. And more.

Sam blames himself. He waited too long to replace a toxic direct report, too long to replace weak managers, trusted a technical person with a project past the time when warning signs of late and problematic completion became evident despite his attempts to avoid disclosure. And Sam feels bad he did not make the call earlier to change the strategy from aspiring to lead with technology to leading with operational excellence and service – the first path being a driver of considerable pain and cost with little chance of success. Sam hates going to work. Interactions with the owners have been difficult – even they are not sure what to do. Sam has moments when he has wondered if it would be better to throw in the towel.


Asked what he had accomplished, Sam recited:

  • Reduced the defect rate in the factory
  • More than replaced lost customers with new customers
  • Shifting of the mix of customers to ones who could be better-served
  • Successfully arguing with the owners to shift the strategy to manufacturig excellence and customer service instead of technology
  • Bringing in a team to fix the systems
  • Replacing key leaders in the company
  • Re-chartering the sales force
  • All the while, with considerable earnings notwithstanding below unattainable budgets (the company did not lose money despite the troubles)

All of this while handling significant issues at home.

Is there not a new narrative being created, Sam was asked? Could anyone else in the situation have created this new narrative? Has the old negative narrative been visible to the workforce and to the owners? Is it time to articulate the new narrative and direction every day to everyone? And to “sell” it if need be? What is the job of the CEO anyway? And what will result from success with this narrative: better effort by all? More resources from the owners? It is at least worthy a serious try.


It is still early, but Sam has been living in the new narrative for awhile. He has returned to his previously successful energy level, confidence, persistence and ability to mobilize others to get things done.


As presented in The Art of Possibility by Zander, “It’s all invented.” Your interpretation of events is what matters and your attitude toward what is possible.

As presented in Mastering Leadership, by Anderson and Adams, the CEO has two jobs from the get-go to the departure: self-development and company development; leading oneself and leading others.

I gave copies of the first book to each member of my Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Board. Vistage is a trove or resources for leaders:


Peter Schwartz, a best practices chair at Vistage led an inspiring conference workshop based on the second book. Both arre very good books on leadership perspective well worth the effort of reading.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?




Fri, Jan 20, 2017

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 Finding the right candidate for the C-suite is a risky business. People who look good on paper and show well can mask factors that ultimately lead to failure. What do the most successful CEOs-as-recruiters do?


Our Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Board in New York City has adopted these approaches, among others:

  • Make sure the job description has the people interactions as well as the technical challenges
  • Direct search professionals to conduct behavioral interviewing
  • Get a pre-employment background check by a top firm
  • Make sure the job description addresses scope differences among C-suite members, e.g., CIO vs. CTO
  • Do not rely on recruiters for reference checks
  • Have final candidates sign an NDA and present their go-forward strategy and plan
  • Have them deliver the plan to the senior management team (if a ceo candidate, present to the board)
  • Don’t miss a social opportunity: dinner(with spouse/partner?) or golf


 When references given by the candidate are called, it is hard to penetrate today’s legal guidance to respondents to be very cautious about what they disclose.

After finding a “terrific candidate” CTO, one of our CEOs realized that the given references did not include a prior boss (CEO).

As Professor Furnham indicated at a lunch at Haklyut (see my earlier post: Narcissist Psychopaths and Other CEOs):

  • Someone’s boss knows his value added
  • Peers know someone’s values
  • Subordinates know the person under stress

Therefore, inform the candidate that there will be “non-given reference checks:” people called who are not on the candidate’s list. The respondents may be drawn from the candidate’s resume, LinkedIn and other social media or firms which specialize in human intelligence such as Haklyut.

That’s just my view. What’s yours?



Boss Ready: CEO as Trainer   Fri, Jan 13, 2017
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Key to Leadership Failure   Tue, Dec 6, 2016
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Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious (Mouths of Babes Division)   Sat, Dec 3, 2016
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Active Listening: A Dire Need in a Polarized America   Tue, Nov 15, 2016
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What Made jack welch JACK WELCH

How Ordinary People Become
Extraordinary Leaders

by Stephen H. Baum (Random House)

Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

Countless more ordinary people of equal talent never developed the leadership core required to run the show. Why not?

"Lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking decisiveness and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
--Jim Clifton, CEO, The Gallup Organization


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