Yesterday was a good day. A great day. An exhausting day. My CEO Fellows group met at the Rochester Country Club. There were 10 of us, plus Bruce Peters, the facilitator, and Lee Thayer the presentor. I suspect Lee would object to that title - presentor - since what he did was engage the group in discussion, more than put on a presentation. Yes, he did most of the talking, but that was because we were all soaking up his knowledge and wisdom.
Before I talk about the group meeting (and how it relates to marketing to women CEOs), I would like to announce that I was fortunate to sign Lee to a book contract on Thursday night! You will hear more about that - and about his book - in future posts. I promise you - if you are in business to succeed, you will want a copy of this book. Working title: How Executives Fail.
So, in the meantime, I feel compelled to share my musings and some of my notes from the meeting yesterday. The only relation it has to marketing to women, CEOs or otherwise, is in the ability to read between the lines. Let's see how well you do...
Like many outstanding professionals in the leadership space, Lee encourages us to examine our destiny. Before one can truly achieve anything, it helps to answer one question: Why are you here? Not here - on the net, here - in the world. What's your core purpose? My friend Dick Richards is great at helping people uncover the answer. He calls it discovering your genius. Because we all have genius.
The morning started with Lee telling us a bit of his background. He's not fond of talking about himself - in the first person, anyway. So, we had to drag his background out of him. Here's the story he told us:
"When I was a boy, I used to work on my grandfather's farm. He had two horses and one plow. I would take the horses and plow one side of the field, and he would take the horses and plow the other side. At the end of the day, I would be standing there scratching my head. The rows my grandpa plowed would be as straight as a taut line - but the rows I plowed would be all over the field.
'Grandpa,' I would say. 'Why are your rows so straight and my rows so crooked?' To which he answered, "Son, that's because you're trying to get the horses to go where you want them to go - and you're not smart enough."
Now, I have no idea if this story is true or if it's merely a metaphor. I do know that he was making a point. Most CEOs, so he told us, fail by 'getting the role' and then playing themselves. Since life is very much like a role in a movie or a play, CEOs - the good ones - know how to play the right role, at the right time. Sometimes, that means letting the horses lead because they know where to go, and you don't.
I learned a lot yesterday. There were other stories, and questions from the group, as well as a lot of thoughtful one-liners. I think I can safely share some of the one-liners here - to get you thinking about how to approach CEOs. These are small bits of good advice that can help you build your own company or organization into something world class, while giving you insight into how CEOs should think. The CEOs you deal with may or may not think this way - but if YOU do - you will be well-prepared to deal with them on any level, personally or professionally. The good ones will appreciate you more. The bad ones will be worried that you know something they don't. Leave them with their puzzled expressions and move on.
One of the most thought-provoking things Lee shared with us yesterday - and one which I expect many people reading this will argue about is that - "Best practices will lead you down the path of mediocrity." Try that on for awhile. "Best practices will lead you down the path of mediocrity."
Here's another - "People love doing what they're good at. Not vice-versa." Hmmm...who in your ogranization are you pushing to do something he or she is not good at? I hope that person isn't... YOU!
Try this one: "Things are the way they are because they got to be that way."
And: "When everyone thinks the same, no one has to think."
Okay, second to last one..."You cannot confer a benefit on an unwilling person." Are your eyes popping yet?
Now, the last one..."Trust does not engender competence. But, competence engenders trust."
So...your thoughts? Are you a CEO who can embrace these radical thoughts and turn them into success for your business? What does all of the text between the lines mean? Can you even read the text between the lines?
For me, it all comes down to choice. The choice is - do or not do. There is no try. It's in the doing that you accomplish something. If you're busy leading the horses - trying to get me to do something I don't want to do or go somewhere I don't want to go, we both lose. You lose because I will not follow you. And, I lose because you will have wasted my time.
As I mosey along this path of leadership - in some small attempt to invent a future that will have some lasting results - I find myself caught up in the philosophy of life. It's in the study of this philosophy of life that I can easily allow myself to get lost. To my surprise, I soon realize I have actually lost myself in the discovery of truths that were always there for me, but which I did not see, being too busy being - something I wasn't. As Lee says, "If you can't play the role, the role will play you."
Women seem to do this quite a bit - wrap themselves in a 'role' and allow it to overtake their lives (I am sure men do it, also, but I can speak to the women's actions more convincingly, I think). The women at the table yesterday took offense at some of Lee's remarks. I won't go into the remarks, here. He was blunt, to the point, and - in a softer, gentler world - made statements that might be perceived as 'rude.' The women didn't openly drop their jaws on the table...but their eyes shot sparks. They were assuming a role that women like to assume - the role of grand nurturer. The one who makes sure no one's feelings get hurt, or that they (or someone they supervise) are not trampling on someone else's rights. Sometimes, to the detriment of their own rights!
The Eisenberg brothers talk about this a little bit in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark. They say that following the golden rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) will seldom get you a happy client. Because - the 'others' you're doing unto, are never exactly like you. Adopting their viewpoint is a dangerous thing. And yet, women love to do that. We love to "be" the other person - even when we might not know the other person.
What we learned yesterday, and what I am trying hard to accept, is that a good CEO, NO --- a GREAT CEO (male or female) does what's good for the company. If it's necessary, a GREAT CEO will do what needs to be done. And, he or she will KNOW what needs to be done because he or she will be rewarding accomplishments not actions. Accomplishments not actions. Sometimes, that requires being harsh.
Before one can be a GREAT CEO, it's clear...as I think Rosa Say, Dick Richards, Kevin Eikenberry, and Phil Gerbyshak would say... in the beginning...it's imperative to know ... one thing well. That one thing is: Yourself.