Tag Archives: CEO

BIV Boardroom Strategy: Focusing on past corporate success to build future success

An enormous amount of time and energy gets devoted to solving problems within organizations, all under the pretence that solving those problems is the best way to achieve success, superiority, a competitive advantage and greatness. The challenge is that growing organizations are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to new and more interesting problems to solve. It’s an endless cycle of focusing on problems that means it’s impossible to solve our way to greatness.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional problem-solving approach. Appreciative Inquiry was developed by David Copperrider and his associates at Case Western Reserve University in the mid ’80s. It focuses on doing more of what does work: uncovering the high moments in an organization’s history and using the commonalities of those experiences to build a plan to replicate those wins for the future. Sounds like more fun than constantly problem solving, doesn’t it? Here’s how it works and how it can be applied to your business.

Continue reading


BIV Boardroom Strategy: Candid realities about business’ dirty little secret

In an effort to avoid conflict, leaders and team members often conceal their true feelings, withhold their opinions or outwardly agree and go along with the crowd while inside they are vehemently opposed.

For some, this lack of candour also extends to hoarding information or avoiding communicating with others entirely, in an effort to save face or get and stay ahead of the pack.

Strength of the strategic plan and the ability for executives to collaborate cross-silo with their teams depends considerably on trust and respect within and between teams. The willingness to come forward with authenticity and transparency is key to building up that trust and respect.

In Jack Welch’s book Winning, he describes a lack of candour as businesses’ “dirty little secret.” Continue reading

The value of unplugging

[read time: 1 minute]

I just spent two fantastic weeks in Italy with my wife and I think it’s the first time in 10 years that I truly unplugged from work: no email (the caveat is that I did have someone on my team checking my email and deleting, reply, etc. to anything time sensitive), no vmail, no Yammer, no Twitter, no Linkedin, and no work related reading.

On the plane home I was thinking about the times that I’ve had the biggest epiphanies in my business: not during the work day, in between meetings, or driving to a lunch. The most creative times I can remember have been while I was on vacation, on a plane, or completely relaxed and disconnected from the day to day.

As CEO’s part of our role is to be the chief dreamer. Scheming and dreaming the future of our organizations is the part of our job description that comes before the strategic planning and operational plans. The challenge is that our busy day-to-day environment is not conducive to creativity.

So here’s my challenge to you: the next time you’re out for dinner or relaxing on the weekend and reaching for your favourite RIM or Apple device ask yourself this question: do I really need to check my email right now?

Ensuring success when transitioning into a new role

As a leader with ambition one thing you will being doing a lot of in your career is dealing with transition: being promoted into new roles with greater responsibility and similarly promoting star performers who report to you into new roles. When you consider that the average leader, rising through the ranks of a large company, will be in transition to a new role every four years and those who are marked as “high potentials” will be transitioning about every 2 1/2 years, it leads to a situation in which over half the organizations leaders being in transition at any one point.

So here’s my question for you: when’s the last time anyone received any guidance, coaching, training, or development around what success looks like through transition? The answer is very rare to never.

The best guide available on the market today to help you build a plan for success through transition is The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. In this blog post I’m going to highlight the fundamental concept for transition that is the foundation for success: understanding expectations upfront.

Time and time again, when researched, the number one reason that people leave their roles for another division or company is that they have had a fundamental breakdown in their relationship with their boss. Since most transitions to new roles involve a change of boss as well, or at minimum at shift in the way you interact, it’s critical to setup a series of conversations upfront to align your expectations and your bosses expectations.

Here are the five conversations:

  1. Situational diagnosis: this conversation is about the overall current situation and how you and your boss view the opportunity and challenges as they stand today. Is this an overall to a division, a start-up, a shift in focus, or simply maintaining the success the division has experienced so far?
  2. Expectations: what does success look like from your bosses perspective? What time frame, metrics, and subjective means are you being judged by? This may require some negotiation to ensure you are aligned on the definition of success.
  3. Communication Style: How, what, when, and where are the two of you going to communicate to ensure that your interactions are efficient, timely, and effective?
  4. Resources: What funding, personnel, and overall support (communication, political, structural, etc.) do you need?
  5. Personal Development: How will this role contribute to your personal development? What areas does your boss feel need the most shoring up or improvement? Which strengths is your boss relying on you to demonstrate in this role?

I’ve spoken above in the context of the new leader asking his/her boss these questions and yet at the same time, as the boss, you are responsible for supporting your team to success so each of these conversations is equally helpful to you.

The first three months of any new role are critical to your long term success. By negotiating with your boss through the questions above you increase you chance for success considerably.

Good, bad, or ugly, I’m interested to hear your stories about transition. What’s worked well, what do you wish you would have done differently, and what did you learn? Click the comment button above below the title of the article.

Leadership: people don’t buy “what” you do, they buy “why” you do it.

Key lesson: people don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it.

Finding a mentor or a coach

One of the first questions I get asked by entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives interested in mentoring and coaching is, “what’s the difference between them?”

Coaching is a process in which a coach asks a series of cascading questions (sometimes referred to as Socratic Method), to help the person being coached use their own experience, intuition, and intelligence (emotional and intellectual) to come up with the answers they are looking for. Coaching is not advice driven in that the coach asked questions but does not proffer feedback or attempt to move the person being coached in a particular direction.

Mentoring is similar in it’s approach to coaching in that strong mentors are also good coaches. What mentors bring to the table that coaches don’t is the ability to add in their personal sage experience in the areas the person being coached is struggling with. Mentoring is both question and advice/guidance based.

Now that we know the difference, here are the rest of the questions I get asked:

  • Do you (Mike) have a mentor or a coach: I have two Mentors who are also very strong coaches, Walt Sutton and Guff Muench. I am grateful for the time, energy, and wisdom they’ve shared with me. They are great men who I have a deep admiration for.
  • How did your meet your mentors? Walt and I were introduce by a mutual acquaintance. Guff and I were introduced through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Mentorship Program (a program I founded in Vancouver with the help of the late Steve Cowan).
  • Where can I find a mentor ? I’ll get the self-serving part out of the way first – at ViRTUS we offer both Mentoring and Coaching. One of my mentors, Walt Sutton, has space to work with another entrepreneur or CEO right now as well. The other way is to consider successful people in your life who have accomplished something similar to what you’d like to accomplish (family friends, executives in your company, other entrepreneurs you know, members of associations you belong too, etc.). Approach them to see if they are interested in having lunch or coffee from time to time so you can learn from their experience.
  • If I want to hire someone to mentor or a coach me, what does it cost? The range for coaching and mentoring in Vancouver is between $1500 – $5000+ per month depending on the mentor/coaches experience and the time and energy they put into working with you.
  • How often would we meet? Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly for anywhere from 1-4 hours is the time commitment you can expect for face-to-face or on the phone mentoring. As well you should expect to have unlimited access to your mentor or coach between sessions by email or phone in case something time sensitive comes up that you really need some support on.
  • What will we talk about? Mentoring and coaching conversations span the complete spectrum from business, career, personal, and family. The primary focus is on your success as a business leader and as a human being – however you want to define that for yourself.
  • Why would I get a mentor or a coach? Because the very top performers in their field, regardless of what field that is (business, sports, medicine, law, etc.) all have mentors and coaches who help them stay ahead of the pack and ensure they put their energy, attention, and focus on the behaviours and actions that will lead to the success they are looking for.

BIV Boardroom Strategy: A selection of the best books on strategic planning


[Total read time: 4 mins]

There is no “right” strategic planning methodology that works for every company or organization. In fact, using a blended approach to create a customized methodology will likely yield the best planning framework for you and your company. The question becomes, “Where do I start?”

There have been five key books on strategy written in the past 10 years that provide perspectives on how to approach strategic planning. Here is a brief synopsis of each book, and why it’s worth reading.

Good to Great (Jim Collins): Collins refers to this book as the book he should have written first. Good to Great describes in detail the steps that good companies have taken to become great. From leadership to confronting the brutal facts, simplifying strategy, adding in discipline, understanding the role of technology and discovering what builds momentum with your business, Good to Great covers the complete strategy canvas at a high level, simplified in a way that will allow you to share your company’s strategic priorities with everyone in the business.

Built to Last (Jim Collins and Jerry Porras): Before Good to Great, Jim Collins collaborated with Jerry Porras to write Built to Last. This book is a study of 18 visionary companies and how they differ from their key competitors. The core philosophies are:
•stop reinventing the wheel and instead develop and document the core procedures that can withstand changes in personnel;
•stay focused on your core values while trying new things; and
•focus on the long-term goal – the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – a 10- to 30-year goal of the organization that is so large and so far in the future that it bears that moniker.

Blue Ocean Strategy (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne): Written by two professors from INSEAD, Blue Ocean Strategy seeks to understand how companies like Cirque du Soleil, Apple and Blockbuster have changed the foundations of their business models and how they approach the market to move from the Red Ocean, bloody from the fight for market share, to the Blue Ocean, where the companies stand alone to compete for clients who don’t fit the traditional mould of their “old industry.” Their strategy canvas approach is designed to narrow down the key factors that you and your competitors use as the defining points of service in your industry. Then, by eliminating, creating or changing these key factors, a new industry is formed that appeals to a customer segment not being served by the existing industry. The short version of this would be to say that this is the story of the game-changers in their industries and how they did it.

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Verne Harnish): Harnish’s first book is based on the one-page strategic plan that John D. Rockefeller had each of his key executives complete at United Steel. The book details how to create a plan that summarizes your 30-year, three- to five-year, one-year and quarterly goals, along with supporting SWOT analysis, financial information (budget and actual) and accountabilities. The real magic is that all of this can fit onto one 8 1/2 x 11 page.

Execution (Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan): Execution speaks to one of the core reasons that most strategic plans fail – a lack of accountability and execution.
Many people think execution is the tactical side of business, best left to those people below the senior team in the organizational hierarchy. Bossidy and Charan argue that execution should be part of an organization’s cultural fabric, starting in the CEO’s office. The book describes a series of behaviours and techniques common within businesses that demonstrate a high level of execution of their plans.

Each of these books has a summary online that does a great job of breaking down the key points and practical applications. What the summaries won’t provide are the examples of real companies whose products and services you recognize and can relate to. Reading some or all of these books will help you relate the decisions made by other successful companies to the strategic challenges your organization is facing today.

PDF of Column BIV Boardroom Strategy – Nov 3-9, 2009