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Posts Tagged ‘frameworks’

How to build scalability into any organization

In a January 23rd post earlier this year, I briefly mentioned the Horizon 1-2-3 framework originally developed by Mehrdad Baghai, Stephen Coley, and David White, who authored The Alchemy of Growth: Practical Insights for Building the Enduring Enterprise. In it they established a view that companies that are successful in the long term have growth initiatives in three stages. Subsequently, many consulting organizations worldwide have used dozens of frameworks over the years to analyze the trends which impede their clients’ ability to grow.

Allow me to summarize for you what I’ve been seeing as the #1 culprit for limiting the growth of organizations worldwide.

Premise; The H1-2-3 framework is built around the point of view that to sustain growth, a company must maintain a continuous pipeline of business-building initiatives. Companies considered sustainable & scalable are characterized by their ability to create new business opportunities by innovating from within their core business ares whilst building new off-shoots at the same time.

Challenge; With the limited resources that the majority of modern-day companies face today, where can you find the time, resources & funding to innovate?

Solution; Identify within your organization who’s ready to operate at each Horizon, and then stimulate their development by holding them accountable.

  • (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits)
    • Who in your organization is working at this day-to-day level?
      • Are they the right people / profile?
    • What monthly gatherings are you promoting to review & improve on the recently past activities?
      • How do (what proof are you collecting) these gatherings benefit your future activities, both immediate & mid-term?
  • (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities
    • Who in your team is ready to step-up to the next level?
    • What weekly questioning and periodic structured pulse checks are you committed to?
    • How are you fostering increased risk taking & the capability of the team in dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty & adversity?
  • (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed.
    • Who in your organization is passionate & skilled at seeding options today for the future?
    • What is the required business acumen for understanding the related research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc you’ll need to succeed & innovate?
    • How are you going to measure the practical implementation of the same, both immediately & on a continual basis?

Results; A client of mine is currently putting this model into effective use. The Managing Director is a visionary and he needed to break himself away from the daily routines that were keeping him from affecting the broader & longer term results of his organization. Last year he asked one of his next-line management to step-up & shadow his responsibilities. After one quarter, this 1st line executive had gained deeper knowledge & understanding of what it took to “play at the next level”.

Having also experienced professional growth & personal development, he was tasked to find someone one level down & do the same exercise. At the same time he was sharing with his immediate management colleagues the direct & indirect benefits of this experience. Each quarter the Managing Director rotated his direct reports through this process. Whilst he gradually freed himself to a level at which he significantly impacted the broader scope he desired, this exercise permeated throughout the organization giving more voice to many more layers of management & personnel in general.

Whether you’re staffing levels are 5, 10, 50, 100 or 1,000, what can you learn from this exercise? What are you holding onto that you should let go of? Who’s growth are you debilitating by continuing to carry on the way you do today?

Surviving a resource crisis – Getting past “overwhelmed”

Last week I ran into an entrepreneur who was clearly on edge! For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call her “Jane”, who is typically a burst of energy & sunlight whenever she walks into a room. Concerned over her current state, I asked what I could do to help.

Jane replied that she was just over-tasked! She has recently lost some key members of staff and until they got replaced it’ was going to be long uphill climb. 😦

I delved deeper and asked her to recount her day, especially the parts she found most stressful.

  • Just moved into a new office & a lot of unpacking to do
  • 3h meeting with a key investor who’s helping on a part-time basis to re-align / re-prioritize the product strategy
  • Detailed account management & work-plan hand-over from exiting staff
    • distributed amongst early, mid & late stage opportunities
  • 3-4 phone calls with prospective new accounts
  • 2-3 phone calls with existing accounts
    • early, mid & late stage
      • 45m to 1h each
  • 1h phone call with key board member & investor
    • followed by 1h brainstorming session to come up with 4 alternatives for a new client
  • Planning & booking next weeks day-trip abroad for fund raising
  • 1h phone call with a prospective Technology Partner
  • 60 new e-mails
    • 30 were of which addressed
  • Follow-up on meetings from the previous week
  • Scheduling interviews for new staff

As she took a deep breath, I said “so in others words.. you had a pretty busy day.. eh?” 😉 I needed to break the tension in the air after her intense recount of her 12 hours that had just passed!

Fast-forward to the solutions we came up with:

  • Let’s start off with the fact that to Jane’s benefit, she walks to work (about 30 minutes each way)
    • Giving her time to decompress & put things into perspective
      • ACTION; It’s already a great practice! You might want to take along a tape recorder to document your thoughts for later action
        • HINT; Once you’ve addressed something, regardless of how daunting the task, you automatically reduce the stress associated with it.
        • When you write something down, like an action plan, it’s emotionally relieving.
  • Upon inquiring about her energy levels during the day, we came to the conclusion the 3h intense product meeting took place early in the day when her energy was still low
    • Jane is typically a late morning / early afternoon person and therefore this intense “brain zapper” early in the morning had conditioned the rest of her day
      • ACTION; Monitor this situation 2 more times & if the affect is the same, reschedule these types of activities for later in the day
  • The 3-4 Account calls, along with the account management / work-plan hand-over process was made extra draining as early, mid & late stage situations were all addressed at the same time
    • Like-minded tasks require less energy to process, and the thought / solution process required to address all three stages made it that much more difficult to cope with the mounting challenges of the day
      • ACTION; Whenever possible, group like-minded activities to facilitate  your execution of the same
        • HINT; take one stage in the morning, another stage around mid-day & the 3rd stage late in the afternoon
          • By grouping your activities, you get your brain into “auto-pilot” and become more effective due to the “repetitive assimilation / thought process”
          • Group phone calls: block out a 2-3h patch of time if necessary, but try not to spread phones call through the day
          • Group inter-personal activities: performance reviews, business meetings, business / non-business lunches
          • Group meetings that require travel: don’t fly off to Paris for the day & only one meeting, try to fill the day with prospecting activities if no further meetings are possible
            • just like you shouldn’t book meetings all over town unless there is a favorable pattern , like starting from home & ending in-town where you’ll have dinner
  • Schedule your e-mail time & action them immediately!!!
    • This has been my personal biggest learning over the course of the last few years!!
      • ACTION; Turn off the “automated push” in your e-mail & manually retrieve it when you’re ready to deal with it
      • Likewise, turn off all pop-ups & alarms, especially Skype or Instant Messagers
        • HINT; Don’t allow e-mail to follow you on your mobile phone! Personally, I only access e-mail on my iPhone when I have “time to kill”, which is rare, and even then I focus mainly on my personal e-mails
          • Educate your clients & colleagues as to the hours you check e-mail and in case of an emergency have them sms you with the header of the e-mail you need to action
            • discipline yourself to only view & action those limited emergency e-mails
          • Time-lock your e-mail viewing!
            • I review my e-mail twice per day at 10h00 & 17h00 for 1h block each time
          • Action your e-mails on-the-spot, or schedule time in your calendar to carry out the respective action if you first need to research / investigate of have someone get back to you with more details
        • HINT; Block out your calender for “to-do’s”!!
          • Unless you “make / reserve time” to do something, the likelihood is that it won’t get done!
            • STOP (!!) using “to-do” lists
          • Make sure you build rest / compensation blocks into your daily calendar
          • 5-10 minute window for unwinding / regrouping
          • 10-15 minute window in-between meetings when travel is not required
          • 15-30 minute window in-between meetings when travel is required

The next morning I got an sms from Jane, thanking me for our conversation! She had taken a lot of the key-points on-board, and even though the day was busier than before, Jane was having a very powerful & rewarding day!! 🙂

These actions will make the difference between you being able to manage your energy & time, when the same is limited. Time & energy, just like money & people are “resources”. You have to carefully plan & adjust the resources you have if you’re to use them at optimum levels. In this fashion, you’ll more easily be able to distinguish between urgent & important, thus you’ll get the right things done right at the right time!

A Social Contract – Why you won’t survive without one?

When was the last time you found yourself all alone.. in a dangerous dark alley.. and on the wrong side of town?

You’ve been strolling down a beautiful path of endless optimism, hope and opportunity. Suddenly you realize something has just drastically changed! You’ve made a sudden wrong turn and now find yourself, with the exception of the “thugs”  that intend to provoke physical and emotional harm, all alone in an obviously dangerous place!

What do you do? Who’s got your back? Who’s going to help you get out of the predicament you’ve just found yourself in? Who’s going to stand with you and deal with what’s to come?

Does this sound like a scary scenario? Unfortunately it’s all too frequent!

Let me take you back a few weeks when I had the privilege to be amongst illustrious fellow mentors at the Barcelona mini-seed camp. The night before, as I looked over the agenda, my excitement peaked when I realized that I would be in close quarters with the “legendary” Fred Destin of Atlas Venture. “Legendary” you ask?!?! Well, anytime highly successful entrepreneurs refer to a VC as someone they hold in high regard and respect, first my eyes open wide, then my ears perk up and finally I sit at attention ready to listen!

The very next day this reputation was cemented based on Fred’s shared view of “Social Contracts”. In turn I redefined how I viewed this critical catalyst for success. What I would later read in Fred’s blog couldn’t have prepared me for the wild and wacky, sometimes borderline ethical, tales of business dealings that go on between entrepreneurs and VC’s.

A few days later, Fred agreed to a Skype call, generously shared his perspective on Social Contracts, and here’s what I came away with:

  • A Social Contract is an “understanding” or gentleman’s agreement between two parties
    • To be effective, it supersedes the required legal contracts that govern a relationship
  • A Social Contract is bound by honor, integrity and will become most relevant during critical “moments of truth” yet to come
    • It will get all parties safely through the tough times and hard decisions that are guaranteed in any venture
  • You establish a Social Contract based on a firm hand-shake, a confident stare into the white of the eyes and a mutual respect that you’re both in this journey for the “long-haul”
    • It’s two “human beings” coming together to form an “enterprise”
    • It’s a relationship where either party recognizes the requirement to stand-up against pressure that is sure to come from business and likely life partners, as the journey get’s complicated and the waters become muddied
  • A Social Contract isn’t something entered into lightly and often needs to be the preceded by a multi-hour brainstorming session to guarantee the like-minded intentions of both parties
    • It’s the basis of how you’re about to govern your relationship whilst executing on an agreed 12 to 18 month business plan
    • It has little to do with the financial plan and more to do with the necessary “pivoting of strategy” that is sure to come
  • It’s an investment into the long-term strategy and is based more on the soft assets that are critical in a “moment of truth” vs. the hard assets that traditionally formulate a Business Plan

Our conversation reinforced the practical nature of “working agreements” that I’ve always felt are necessary for any engagement. I take relationships very seriously and just as I would expect my “friends” (vs. acquaintances) to never leave me stranded in an unfortunate circumstance, regardless of who’s at fault for getting us into the mess, I also expect my Social Contract counterpart to stand-up and fight with me regardless of the danger we’re about to face.

Practical Experience

1- The Entrepreneur and their Partner; In similar situations, within the past 12 months I can recount two separate entrepreneurs that “were left hanging” when their supposed partners “parked-it” and quit on them in the midst of the most significant challenges the venture was experiencing. In both cases the entrepreneur was at fault for getting themselves into trouble, more based on inexperience than reckless abandon, yet the partner “checked-out” and left them “hanging in the lurch”. They tried to make it about who’s right or wrong, over-looking that they were both, along with other investors, about to loose their shirts! Fortunately, the entrepreneurs’ resilience, along with a strong network of friends and allies helped pick themselves up by the boot-straps and out of immediate danger.

Both entrepreneurs paid a significant and costly price by either missing time-to-market or suffering a significant devaluation in equity, but most importantly, they learned a crucial lesson in Social Contracts.

2- The Employer and their Employee; Recently I’ve seen the same thing happen in three separate organizations with Senior Executives. This is yet another reason I identified so strongly with the core concept of Fred’s Social Contract. Too often the employee/employer relationship hasn’t been tested under difficult circumstances and when the moment of truth finally comes, especially in a critical situation such as a start-up or hyper-growth environment, the “paid/contracted resource” isn’t up to the task of facing the required adversity! Rather than having the courage to support their leader, or quit outright, they “park-it”, leaving their leader and their company “out-to-dry”. Later, they move onto another company, never taking full responsibility  to the true consequences of their actions, or lack there of.

I always share with employers that often it’s more important to know what NOT to count on than assume what you believe you can count on. Unless the relationship has been tried and tested under adverse conditions, you’re better planning off for, and expecting the worst, whilst hoping for the best.

3- The Friend and the Bar Room Brawl; Several years back, I’d like to think it were only a few ;-), when I was still living in Philadelphia and a few years “younger and innocent”, I was hanging out on South Street in South Philadelphia with 4 “close” friends. We had entered an outside bar that was protected from the street walking traffic by 2 meter high iron gates. In essence, no easy way out! We had all had a few drinks however one particular friend had too much to drink when he decided to cause trouble.  I bet you can imagine what happened next. First I tried to refrain him from being an absolute idiot, but he insisted. Then I tried to mediate the situation before it was 6 against 2! 6 guys staring me and my mate down. Where were my other two friends? They had “checked-out” and left the bar as soon as they saw we were out-numbered and headed for trouble. Later they justified that they hadn’t started the trouble so therefore they shouldn’t have to “face the music”.

The end result were some broken chairs, broken tables and my friend and I were barred from South Street for the next 6 months by the Philadelphia Police Department. We walked away with a little more humility and a few bumps and bruises to show for our stupidity. I slapped my mate over the head and promised to kick him in the pants if he ever did that again! The relevant fact was, I didn’t leave his side, neither would he have left mine. See, we had a bond stronger than words or any legal agreement! We had a Social Contract that we had entered into a few years before, which was to stand-by each other, be the times good or bad, regardless of who stuffed-up. Much like how most marriages are supposed to work! 😉

My closing questions to you are;

  • How secure is your Social Contract with the partners you have in your business or life?
    • Have you faced any moments of truth lately?
      • How did your partners stand-up in the face of adversity, regardless of who was to blame for the mess you found yourselves in?
    • What lessons can you take from that situation?

Top 3 things to focus on when fixing what’s broken

Having just finished up another successful assignment at a hyper growth enterprise, and noting that the core principles of success were again very similar to many other situations faced over the past +25 years, I thought I’d share my 3 areas of focus.

I should add to this that two days before I departed, an interested 2nd line manager/team leader asked if I could share with him some insights. He had witnessed remarkable changes in a very short period of time, and whilst I had been very busy with first line management, he recognized the possibility to learn some very practical & valuable lessons directly himself.

It inspired me that again we had been able to affect collateral interest, as well as a desire for change deeper within the organization, so I rallied the entire 2nd line leadership team and spent the next 2 hours giving them some day-to-day examples of the following:

  • Customer Centricity – Focus on the Customer
    • We have Internal Customers
      1. Every person in every department, in one way or another, facilitates the servicing of External Customers
      2. By serving the needs of our Internal Customers, we are either directly or indirectly addressing the needs of our External Customers
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, bi-lateral Service Level Agreements
    • We have External Customers
      1. Shift from a systems interoperability focus to a successful customer purchasing focus
      2. Now start to look for opportunities to enrich & enhance the customer purchasing experience
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, Service Level Agreements
  • Ownership – Never let go until you’re satisfied
    • Ownership is a like a hungry dog with a bone.. you never let go until you’re satisfied the hunger is quenched
      1. You can never assume the client, internal or external, is satisfied with a solution until you have direct confirmation/validation from/of the same
      2. Every obstacle is merely an opportunity for you to find another alternative path to a solution
      3. Don’t accept that a problem can’t be fixed until you’ve exhausted every means, including escalated your concern to the highest level within your organization
    • Ownership is like a football team moving forward to score a goal, just because you’ve passed the ball forward, your contribution to the goal isn’t over until the ball is in the net & you’re embracing your colleagues in celebration
      1. Just because you’ve forwarded a need or requirement, your job isn’t done until you’ve confirmed/validated that the next person is carrying out the necessary task(s) until the “client” is satisfied
      2. Trust is good..  but verification is proof.. & much.. much better!
      3. Confirm the goal! Confirm with the “client” that they’ve gotten the result they expected, and then celebrate the WIN/GOAL/SCORE & never just the great pass
  • Communication – “Engage with..” instead of “talking to..”
    • Communication is a bi-directional inter-activity & never a uni-lateral conversation
      1. Effective communication requires active empathetic listening
      2. Effective communication is never assuming that you know what the other person has just said, but repeating it for acknowledgment & confirmation of detail
      3. In effective communication, there is no such thing as “common sense”.. common sense is merely an accumulation of related experiences, and we all have different filters (interpretations & perceptions) based on our past influences
    • More than talking to someone, effective communication is when you confirm that an intention is understood, and the expected outcome has been agreed to by the “actioning party”
      1. To borrow from Engineering terms, effective communications requires an active & affective acknowledgment process (ACK/NAK or checksum), which is an infallible confirmation that what has been requested, has been acknowledge and understood
      2. Effective communications requires a S.M.A.R.T. conversation, with specific confirmation by all parties as to what has been requested vs. what will be delivered by when by whom to where & how

These might sound simple enough that you would actually overlook or underestimate the impact that they are already having on your organization, but the fact is, and I’m willing to be openly challenged on this, you show me a problem in your organization, and I’ll show you where one, if not all of the above are responsible for the lack of results that you know your enterprise is capable of.

How to fix your company in 30 days

Whether you’re a “hired” senior executive or an entrepreneur leading your enterprise to greatness, you’ve probably raised your head from the table more than once and questioned yourself as to “how am I going to fix what’s broken(?)”. And regardless of whether you already have a plan to action on this thought, or not, checking over the following points can only help you fix it faster, better, cheaper.. and maybe even keep you out of bigger trouble than you are already in!

  1. Gut Check Time – How committed are you to affect change in your organization?
    • Are you willing to embrace this opportunity for self reflection & personal awareness/growth?
    • Are you committed to taking the necessary action steps required to fix the situation first, and the root cause second?
  2. Core Ideology Clarity – Do you have, and have you communicated, your organizations Mission, Vision & Core Values?
    • Mission = The Purpose for being (The WHY for your organizations existence)
    • Vision = The Dream you want to manifest (The WHAT of the outcome you want to achieve)
    • Core Values = The Rules for the Road (The HOW you & your team will behave whilst executing your strategy)
  3. Gut Check Time – Do you have proof that your staff/Team have bought into and fully understand your Core Ideology?
    • Do they understand the “why” things need to change?
    • Have you looked them “in the white of their eyes” & confirmed they’re on-board?
      • How are they “living” your Core Ideology day-in / day-out?
  4. Seek “outside & unbiased” contribution from nothing less than a non-consultant consultant
    • As the “owner of your own experience”, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by getting someone who is too close to the business to be objective as to what the true cause for the issues are
    • In fact, the root of the problem might be yourself.. are you ready to admit that?
  5. Validate you have an “Engagement Model” that works
    • Are you communicating “at/to”, or “with” your team?
      • “Communication is a bi-directional activity, and it requires active & empathetic listening
    • Do you have a One-Page Plan, or similar framework to ensure that you and your team are literally on the same page in what concerns your goals & objectives
    • Do you have regular review/Pulse Check cycles? – “People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect
      • 15m Daily Huddles?
      • 1h Weekly Strategic Meetings?
      • 2h Monthly Sanity Check & Planning Meetings?
      • Half Day Quarterly Strategic Review & Adjustment Sessions?
      • Semi-Annual Full-Day Strategic Alignment & Planning Workshops Off-Site?
      • Annual Full-Day/Two-Day Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy?
    • Do you have Periodic Performance Review Cycles with your Team?
    • What’s your feedback loop to track & measure progress along the way?
      • How do you ensure you’re hitting your milestones in a timely manner?
      • What’s your escalation process to avoid surprises & keep you in the drivers seat?
  6. Gut Check TimeAre you Strategy or Execution focused?
    • The execution of an idea is ALWAYS more important than the brilliance of the thought!
      • Don’t get hung-up on a beautiful strategy if you’re not going to be able to execute on it
        • Do you have the proper (and proven) skill-set on-board to execute?
  7. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate again
    • Don’t take anything for granted!
    • Keep up the communication with your team, and those you need support from to keep everyone motivated
    • Circulate results & celebrate wins!
    • Look / seek out “quick wins” to boost confidence & motivation
      • Get some air beneath your wings
    • Praise the great work!
    • Address set-backs as opportunities for learning & growth!
    • Give your plan “teeth”!!
      • Make sure there are consequences for non conformance!
  8. Celebrate as a TEAM, so that you can repeat success as, and when needed, to overcome any challenge

It really is that simple! The complexity comes when you have to judge how bad things have gotten and for how long. How corrupt or rotten has your company culture become? This is the difference between a 30 day, 3 month, or a 3 year fix. This will be the significant reason why your employee churn will be single or double digits. The deeper the already ingrained bad habits, the longer it will take to build new & healthy habits! Remember, you don’t stop doing things wrong, you learn how to start doing things right! You don’t stop practicing bad habits, you learn & practice new healthy & productive habits! It takes up to 21 consecutive days of practicing a new healthy habit before it becomes ingrained in your DNA, so you have to be persistent & diligent.

Finally, if you can find a way to make it fun & rewarding, then you’re going to increase the probability & speed of your success.

The new “M&Ms”; Maslow & me

January 24, 2010 2 comments

Do you remember eating M&Ms as a Kid? Chocolate on the inside, protective color candy coated on the outside? How did you eat yours? Did you let the candy covered outside melt in your mouth, building suspense for a few minutes, to then finally enjoy the rich chocolaty inside? Did you separate the little treats by color and color code your eating pattern? Wow.. it’s scary to think about how many ways there are to eat a simple little treat.

Until a few years back, the candies, along with the raper Eminem were the only M&Ms in my life, or at least so I thought. And then, through my work with clients, I came across a framework known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which gave me a framework for what I instinctively knew all along. I found that by leveraging Maslow’s “hierarchy of human needs”, now ever present in all of my engagements, I was more effectively able to quicken the pace of Personal & Enterprise Self Actualization.

By focusing on the deeper understanding of a team’s current knowledge, habits & challenges, along with Vision & Goals, the more I could intervene to provide them with the necessary tools to learn & grow through the creation and implementation of new practices & habits, the quicker we accelerated the pace of change in the necessary direction.

Being a very practical person, I also strive to take every theory & put it to practical use immediately, and what I’ve learned from Maslow & human nature is that you can’t just “copy / paste” solutions or best practices, but rather understand teh core concept & then discover the most effective way to customize it to the culture of the person, or enterprise with whom you wish to affect change. This to say that outside of the initial stages of continuing discovery, there is no one solution! The work to be done is ever dynamic, and a consequence of the “current reality” encountered at each stage. In short, I look provide a “Practical MBA-in-a-box”, short cutting the practical learning curve, whilst expanding the ability to execute. I able t achieve this based on the +25 years of first-hand case studies/experience in my “arsenal”.

Be it an individual or an organization, I have found that there are only three fundamental reasons standing in the way of anyone declaring success once they’ve articulated their vision,

  • Limiting belief(s)
  • Lacking of an effective strategy
  • Lacking communication

In short, the practices, routines & habits to be applied must be a direct consequence of effectively straddling the worlds of academia & practical implementation. Whilst addressing these three “limitative catalysts”, you need to ensure a safe environment which guarantees allot of fun, growth & self-actualization, for both the individual as well as the collective enterprise.

I understand Enterprise Self Actualization is achieved the moment

  • Employees find meaning
  • Customers find transforming experiences
  • Investors are able to make a difference through their investments

Consider this, if humans aspire to self-actualization, then why shouldn’t companies, which are really just a collection of people, aspire to this peak experience as well?

Maslow once wrote “There are moments of ecstasy which cannot be bought, cannot be guaranteed, cannot even be sought, but one can set-up the conditions so that peak experiences are more likely, or one can perversely set up the conditions so that they are less likely”. I’ve found through practical experience that this process differs from others because it is based on the premise that “the growth of an organization is simply the accumulated growth of the individual relationships that constitute it”.

And so the question that lingers for Maslow & me as you finish reading this blog article is; “what are you doing to facilitate your own Peak Experience”?

“Chief of Staff”, a CEO accessory or non-negotiable?

January 23, 2010 3 comments

Challenges to right, obstacles to the left, investors & competitors on your heels , and your family is crying for some “quality time”. Sound familiar? Reading a very interesting article entitled “Latest CEO accessory: A chief of staff” had me reflect on the role of Chief of Staff. More specifically, it was the opening paragraph that grabbed my attention; “These days it’s a chief of staff, a top-level adviser who’s part confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. While that has long been a key position in politics, many top executives are now adding this person to the payroll.”

Which led me to think to myself… “A Chief of Staff, by definition, provides a buffer between a chief executive (CEO of a corporation) and that executive’s direct-reporting team. The chief of staff generally works behind the scenes to solve problems, mediate disputes, and deal with issues before they bubble up to the Chief Executive. The varying amount of politics, egos, and issues to deal with require that a highly experienced senior executive with a proven background in delivering results in the most adverse conditions lead this role.

A Chief of Staff also acts as a confidante and top-level adviser to the Chief Executive, as a sounding board for ideas, confidant, part gatekeeper, and part all-around strategic consultant. Ultimately, the actual duties will depend on the actual position, roles and the people involved, as well as the situations that present themselves, and could even fulfill temporary senior management voids until one is effectively on-board.

As a resident in-house resource, the role of Chief of Staff will also increase the practical experience of the management team as a whole, as well as their ability to deliver/over-deliver on expected results. Inter-acting across multiple functional areas, this solution will significantly increase interdepartmental efficiencies“.

In short, an all-around personal Strategic Consultant, Practical Implementer & Trusted Partner?

A “scorecard” for someone like that might look like:

  • Facilitates fellow entrepreneurs & CEO’s worldwide across varying industrial verticals
  • Leverages their extensive experience & network in favor of action steps once your success strategy has been defined
  • In working with the team regularly give tools, mechanisms & methodologies that will increase practical knowledge with the ability to immediately implement
  • Fulfill on academic requirements by explaining in clear enough terms what they’ve observed
  • Translate into actionable lessons how, or what, you can learn from to achieve success
  • In parallel, be driven by gut and trusted instinct honed by years of experience, allow an organization to fulfill on practical requirements by “reading” the situations and finding the most appropriate solutions

If you had read Simon Sinek’s recent articles “Two Types of Experts”, you’d see that it’s not that far fetched of a notion to begin with. And if you had been present in a client meeting of mine whilst in Sydney earlier this month, when a new client asked me to help him better align his staff with a methodology previously unknown to me as a formal framework, you would have been even more convinced that, again,  it’s not that far fetched of a notion.

That methodology my Sydney client was referring to is known as Horizon 1-2-3, and after adapting some other frameworks I traditionally work with, we customized a new & improved Horizon 1-2-3 scenario to work with his team, 🙂 which goes something like this..

  • Horizon 1 (H1) is the work resulting in more consistently effecting change through improving and extending present operations (routines and habits), resulting in doing what is currently done in better ways, whilst leveraging (direct or indirect) functional expertise along with industry experience, to drive for greater efficiency based on the focus on performance & results
  • Horizon 2 (H2) is empowering the team to ask themselves how their daily/weekly activities & focus facilitate the creation of new opportunities that will extend the H1 operations, but rather than being focused only on continual improvement in short-term performance, through the art of continual questioning and periodic structured pulse checks (Weekly/Monthly Strategic Meetings), bring new ideas to fruition. This involves increased risk, taking and dealing with a greater degree of uncertainty as the team will be confronted with the Vision Chasms which often don’t exist in Horizon 1 and based on them now literally straddling between H1 & H2 more often
  • Horizon 3 (H3) is where futures must be imagined, researched and developed. This requires seeding options today for the future, which represents understanding these type of costs as related to the required research, pilot projects, proof of concepts, etc, as practical implementation of the same must be immediate

Now, if you’re a CEO, or anything similar, how would any of this information impact your life? Both personal & professional? How would it impact your business? Who do you have in your business or network that can help you in this fashion? And finally, here’s the trick question 😉 is it really an “accessory” (a nice to have), or is it a modern day “non-negotiable” (a must have) for a CEO that want’s to guarantee success?