Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Driving The CEO Crazy - Pretty Easy To Do

As a CEO for 23 years, I have concluded that smart people in management can often do some pretty dumb things, sometimes Me included.   Good management is about setting priorities and good old fashioned common sense and not just about numbers and stated objectives.   Many times managers are so into their piece of the puzzle that they fail to see the big picture.  Obviously, CEO's in particular are paid to see the big picture and bring focus, discipline and passion, the elements necessary to success in business and in life, into every business discussion. 

And, when common sense is lacking, it can cause a CEO to talk louder as many times occurs when talking to someone who is deaf.   People often believe if they just talk louder to a deaf person that the person will finally hear what is being said.    The same can be true when discussing something important with a manager that just fails to listen to what is being said.    This drives every CEO crazy. 

Sometimes the building can be on fire; but managers fails to smell, or see the smoke around them because they are so busy focusing on their priorities, which for the moment may be irrelevant, than to recognize that the building is collapsing.   Most CEO's would have no patience for this inability to properly prioritize work to deal with what is really important in terms of the mission of the organization.     

Successful CEO's see the train coming long before anyone else even knows that there is a train on the track.  Some managers never see the train coming until it runs them over in the form of a job termination and then they wonder what the hell hit them.  Driving a CEO crazy is actually pretty easy.   Any manager who lacks common sense, or who cannot prioritize work effectively, in keeping with the organization's mission, is probably headed for the unemployment line.  If and when it happens, they are likely to be standing in line with other terminated employees that share the same weakness.       

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Role of the CEO

As CEO of a mid sized global company for many years, it has become clear to me that the CEO is not only the keeper of the company's vision and image, but perhaps the only person within a company with the big picture.  No matter how talented and smart a senior management group, each member comes with their personal responsibilities as a filter related to decision making.   And, it is so easy to get stuck in the muck of daily operations that very often senior managers and other lower level managers, in particular, just cannot see the forest for the trees. 

If the ship is going in the wrong direction, only the CEO, as the final authority within a company, can right the course.  And, if the ship is going too slowly because of other real or perceived priorities, it is the CEO's job to re-prioritize what is happening within the company to focus on more critical priorities in the best interest of the company.   CEO's are inherently impatient.   We want everything to happen faster.  There is a natural tendency in every organization to slow things down and to some extent, it is probably a good thing to allow for proper due diligence to avoid sinking the ship.   However, since we are all going to die and some of us sooner than later, the clock is always ticking. 

If not careful, weeks turn into months and months can turn into years before meaningful change occurs.   It is the CEO's job to make sure that this does not happen.  Failure to do so will result in the demise of the organization, which can never be an option.    

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Working For An Empty Suit

This CEO Blogger has been working since I was 12 years old.  I have had good bosses, great bosses, lousy bosses, incompetent bosses, mean bosses and both women and men.  Over the years, I learned something from all of them.  But my worst boss, I would describe as a man in an Empty Suit.  You know the type, looks the part, tall, handsome, even somewhat articulate as long as the discussions didn't get too complex; otherwise this guy was a one inch deep lake.  You scratch below the surface and there was nothing there.   Just dumb as wood. 

This particular Empty Suit would end every meeting with me by saying, "Do I owe you anything", meaning was there anything he needed to do for me to allow me to do my job.   On two occasions, I mentioned some things I really needed him to do to make things happen within our company.   And, both times he told me No Way and that he would not do the things I requested.   As such, I quickly realized that when he asked me the question, "Do I owe you anything" my standard answer was supposed to be, no nothing, because he had no intention of sticking his neck out to do anything for me. 

Once I realize my Empty Suit boss was worthless, I never really went to him again for anything.   In fact, I tactfully worked around him to get my job done.  Mr. Empty Suit became irrelevant and soon thereafter he was fired as just one of the passing parade of 8 bosses I had during a six year period, while working for a major company.  

If you encounter an Empty Suit during your career, don't worry, eventually someone higher up will figure out that there isn't any there, there.   As Forest Gump always said, "Stupid is as Stupid does."  The Empty Suit will be fired, or forced out one way or another.  It is just a matter of time.  They can run, they can hide; but only for so long.  Sooner or later, the Empty Suit will be gone.  In the mean time, just do your job as best you can and seek out others within the company that can help you succeed.    And, remember, be nice to everyone because you never know who your next boss is going to be. 

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dealing With Ineffective Employees

Years ago, I worked with a Manager who was completely ineffective.  We can call her Joan.   Senior Management really liked Joan because they thought she was smart, attractive and a constant talker about how smart she was, so much so that they gave her various "special projects" to complete for about five years.   Of course, Joan never accomplished anything important.  In fact, no one really even knew what Joan did for the company.  

I had the misfortune to sit between Joan and a very narcissistic salesman, let's call him Kenny, who was eventually fired, during a six hour cross country flight.   It was as though I was not even there as Joan and Kenny talked with each other the entire flight.   What I noticed was that neither of them was really listening to the other during their disjointed conversation.   It was so bad that if I could, I would have opened the plane door and jumped out.  I then had to sit through another few hours with them after we landed, when I realized that both of them were clueless and dumb as wood.   It was one of the most unpleasant days of my life. 

A Recession came and finally Joan was laid off probably because she had no real job, or function within the company.   The reason that became obvious was because once Joan was gone, no work needed to be transferred to anyone else; nor did anyone ask about Joan's whereabouts.   It was as though Joan never existed at all because she was never mentioned again by anyone within the company.  

There may be a Joan in every company.   If so, let's hope it doesn't take five years for Senior Management to figure out that they are employing a completely ineffective employee.   It is very difficult to hide in our company for very long because I often tell the Joan story to my Senior Managers.   I am not interested in having any Joan's on our payroll.   We employ people who have real work assigned to them; otherwise it is Bye, Bye. 

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Never Give Up - Never Give In

Winston Churchill's motto was "Never Give Up - Never Give In".   Of course, he was leading his nation to defeat NAZI Germany so this thinking was very appropriate for the Prime Minister of Great Britain.   However, this CEO Blogger, as a former history teacher, has always been attracted to this idea, in both my business and personal life.  Throughout my life,  I have faced many obstacles that often seemed insurmountable, including people that were many times a road block to my career, or business ambitions. 

I am not sure where they are today; but I own a global company because I never allowed negative people, or uncontrollable events to prevent my success.   This often meant making many tough decisions.  Of course, there have been set backs over the years, managing through 3 Recessions, inflation, high interest and mortgage rates and lousy real estate markets.   Sometimes it was necessary to take one step backward to take two steps forward; but what is really important when all is said and done is to remain standing.  There was always a Plan B and survival instincts that caused me to see the train coming to avoid being run over by it.  

But always, always, I practice the Never Give Up - Never Give In motto to keep moving forward.   I tell you all of this not to sing my personal praises; but rather to assure you that no matter what challenges you may face in business, or your personal life, they can all be overcome.   And, never, never allow anyone to determine your success.   Only you hold your success in your hands.   If negative people get in your way, go around them.   If problems seem big, break them down to smaller challenges and tackle them methodically one at a time.  

And, always remember, when times seem bleak, allow yourself a short time to grieve and then immediately go to Plan B.   You are responsible for your life and your success.   Take control and most important, Never Give Up - Never Give In. 

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dealing With Conflicts of Interests

Occasionally in business, Senior Managers are confronted with employees that have a conflict of interest.   It is no problem if disclosed and can be properly prohibited.   It is a very big problem if an employee is somehow personally benefiting financially, outside normal compensation and benefits, from association with the company.   Years ago, while I was providing consulting services for a major company, I encountered a Director of Human Resources, who was hostile to the common sense recommendations I was making to benefit the company.  

At first, I did not understand this hostility until I found out that this particular Director of Human Resources, who was in charge of recruiting, was referring new hire employees to his wife, a local real estate agent, to assist new hires with purchase of a home in the area.   As a result, every time a sale took place, he and his family benefited from the commission income his wife was earning.   This amounted to a substantial amount of money.  This was not only a clear conflict of interest, it was a violation of their company policy.   Once discovered, as an outside Consultant, I was obligated to bring this matter to the attention of the Senior Management of the company.  

Once revealed, the Director was ordered to cease and desist; but perhaps should have been terminated for not revealing this clear conflict.   This situation was not just about the monies being earned under the table so to speak, but also the difficult position new hire employees faced if they decided not to work with the Director's wife.   After all, the Director of HR was the guy controlling the hire decision.   So naturally, a new hire employee felt pressured to work with the Director's wife, which included revelation of personal information necessary to complete a home purchase transaction.   It was just plain wrong and very unethical.  

Conflicts of interest can also occur related to supplier relationships, which always should be arms length.   Accepting gifts, perhaps other than consumable items like food during the holidays, or an occasional dinner, should never occur because it will compromise the relationship.   Sometimes, these gifts border on a bribe or kick back, which is actionable and if discovered in our company would result in termination.   All employees should be conscious of potential conflicts of interests.  

If there is any question about any personal business dealings, an employee must reveal such activity, rather than wait for it to come out some time later.   The Senior Management of a company will determine if a conflict exists and if so should order a cease and desist.  Once that order comes down, failure to observe the rules should result in termination. 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Consultants To Achieve Success

There are times when a company should retain an outside Consultant to assist with project management, problem solving, or product development.   As someone who worked with major companies all over the United States and in Europe, providing various Consulting Services for 15 years, I saw first hand the benefits of using an outside Consultant.   Really good Consultants pay for themselves because they can quickly turn gray into black and white.  

A Consultant's primary role is to hold up a mirror and help an organization and or management better understand the best way to achieve a desired end result.   This often means cutting through the typical politics that exist in every company.   While there is no right or wrong way of getting a project done, there are better and more cost effective ways to achieve success that come from years of past experience.  

Consultants know what questions to ask to properly manage a project.   This is particularly important when establishing a project timeline and identifying tasks and persons responsible for completing those tasks.   Consultants are driven to achieve decision making that often alludes major companies when attempting to get big things done on their own. 

Successful Consultants have great communication skills that they often use to manage individual egos and different personality styles to get the job done.   There are times when the only way to get a job done is to retain an outside Consultant because of failed internal attempts to make it happen.   When this occurs a good Consultant will use a conduit to Senior Management, as needed, to complete a project.   Consultants have a role to play in managing a company.   In the long run using a Consultant can save time and money.  

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