Archives May 2022

The 6 Plates You Have To Spin For Your Success As A CEO

The CEO’s role is more critical than ever. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer[i] as business leaders helped us navigate pandemics, supply chains, labour shortages, geopolitical instability, and climate events, trust in CEOs has increased.

At the same time, trust has decreased in government leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, and media leaders.

So, maybe it’s time for CEOs to step up and make a difference. 

Yet very few people excel in the CEO role. 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs last less than three years in the role.

With a record like that, you might think there would be better field guides on how to excel as a CEO than a library full of memoirs written by old white men and Navy Seals.

Being a CEO involves these six core responsibilities: direction-setting, aligning the organization, mobilizing through leaders, engaging the board, connecting with stakeholders, and managing your effectiveness.

Six separate responsibilities need to be managed simultaneously and all the time. It’s about spinning plates, not finding silver bullets. 

Six mindsets make a difference. The authors[ii] of the article[iii] I based this post on I found a core mindset on each of the role dimensions that separated the best from the rest.

Direction-setting. Top-performing CEOs did not play it safe. Instead, they asked, “How do we increase the speed? How do we go to a better destination? For example, Mary Barra at GM did not say, “Let’s win in global automotive.” She said, “Let’s transform transportation.” 

Get the 9 questions to see if your organization is ready for change

Aligning the organization with Clarity. Creating Clarity at the executive level is essential to building and maintaining a healthy organization. Clarity is created by answering the critical questions to eliminate discrepancies among team members and create an agreed-upon playbook.

Read more about creating clarity

Mobilizing through the First Team model. The first and most critical step in a healthy organization is creating a cohesive leadership team committed to doing the ongoing work of developing and maintaining a high-performing team. This is the cement that holds the organization together, as bricks are useless without the cement. 

Find out what the 1st Team is

Top-performing board engagement CEOs ask, “How do I help my board help my business?” That translates to different approaches to transparency, how many forward-looking items go on the agenda, how they influence the board’s composition, and how they think about Board education.

How to know when there is trouble in Board/CEO paradise

Connecting with stakeholders. Most people ask, “Okay, who do I meet, and when? What do I need to say?” Top CEOs, the focus on “why” am I meeting this person.

Personal effectiveness. Top-performing CEOs had the mindset of, “I’m going to do what only I can do. All else gets delegated to others and handled in different ways. So, everything still gets done, but I’m going to add the value that I uniquely can add.”

These lessons matter everywhere. The learnings from these CEOs are every bit applicable to less complex leadership environments.

This work can help leaders everywhere—not just CEOs—be more effective. 



[ii] Scott Keller is a senior partner at McKinsey & Company. Carolyn Dewar is a senior partner at McKinsey & Company. Vikram (Vik) Malhotra is a senior partner at McKinsey & Company.



I’ll Do Anything For You But I Won’t Do That!


Did you take on a leadership position for the right reasons? 

There are many reasons you might put yourself in a position of Leadership. Whatever they are, you may not be willing to be what you need to do.

And that may come at the risk of catastrophic results. 


What Leaders Won’t Do

I’ve always been amazed at what leaders will do for their organizations in my career. So many will spend countless late nights working, endure long and gruelling travel schedules, and even sacrifice their financial resources, all to increase the likelihood, even slightly, that their enterprises will succeed.

Sadly, these efforts often come at the expense of their health, families, and sanity.

The thing that amazes me more than what leaders will do is what they WON’T do: And that is to endure emotional discomfort at work.

Though this may sound innocuous, there is nothing trivial about it. 

This determination to avoid emotional discomfort is the single most costly and surprising Leadership trI’veI’ve witnessed in business during my career.

Let me offer an analogy – Imagine that someone spilled a coffee in the lobby of your building. No one would call the CEO down to clean it up. But when a political or interpersonal mess occurs, there is no one better to clean it up quickly and efficiently, and eliminate the possibility of collateral damage, than the CEO. 

Unlike the janitor, whose job is to clean up spills, many leaders complain about doing this part of their job.

In many cases, they stand back, hope and wait for the problem to go away.

Or for someone else to deal with it.


Why does this happen? 

It happens due to the natural fear of conflict and accountability. But I think some of it is related to a subtle, perhaps subconscious, sense of entitlement among leaders.

Consider the most unfortunate example that I have come across.

I recently partnered with a company of 1,500 employees and a market evaluation of $1B struggling with rapid growth as they grew from a high-impact team into an Enterprise. As the company developed, the ties that made them high-performing became so stretched its goals and objectives were frustrated. Employees lost trust and confidence in Leadership, and they became disconnected from the mission and objectives. 

Critically, they faced these issues while undergoing an expansion that would grow its size by 30-50%. While Leadership was 90%  certain that the expansion project would be on time, on budget and successful, employees were 75% sure this would fail. 

When I reported what I saw back to the client, the CEO angrily asked: “Why is this a problem? I Am The CEO. If I want it fixed, I’d say so!”

When surveyed, the employees identified low leadership competencies, a poor leadership culture, and gaps in supervisory leadership skills. Yet the CEO wanted it fixed by fiat, chose not to accept responsibility, and actively blamed confused managers for the problem. 

I’ve seen many reasonable people who work close to the top of those organizations and avoid uncomfortable situations.

Do they believe they have a right to avoid unpleasant tasks?

Do they feel that they can delegate or abdicate the roles they do not enjoy?

A healthy organization is one where leaders seek out discomfort and enter danger whenever they can, knowing they can accomplish three things:

    1. To set an example for others to do the same.
    2. To improve their level” of “comfort with discomfort.
    3. Most importantly, they’ll reduce the impact of the organization’s problems.

Organizations led by those who embrace discomfort will have the advantage.

Based on my work with Leaders from the Corporate, Nonprofit and Public sectors, these theories and models apply to anyone interested in Teamwork, Building Better Leaders, Leading Healthier Organizations and Achieving Remarkable Results. 

I sincerely hope it helps your team overcome any messy organizational issues, whatever the case may be. Your team can achieve more than any one individual member could ever imagine doing alone.


That, after all, is the real power of a Healthy Organization.

Remember, Leadership is a choice, not a position so enjoy the read and the journey. 


Are your One-on-Ones Increasing Dysfunction on your Teams?

Based on an article by Debbie Elison & reprinted from

Have you ever questioned the value of your one-on-one meetings?

Most of us dutifully hold them but rarely ask why.  

When asked, many clients say something like, “It’s my direct report’s time with me.  I let them talk about whatever they want to get their job done.”

While it always sounds like a great idea, there is a downside put in perspective.

Leaders spend as much as 30 hours per month in one-on-ones, building relationships, helping people grow, and improving morale.  However, many one-on-one conversations undermine the team, fuel dysfunction, and lower morale and productivity.

The first time I realized just how damaging one-on-ones was at an offsite with a team reviewing an assessment of their team’s effectiveness, which indicated that the team was struggling with commitment to decisions.  

As we unpacked the reasons for the issues, a phenomenon unfolded that no one had realized.

The leader had allowed scope creep into the one-on-ones.  Instead of talking about the development of the employee, which is the most productive use of a one-on-one, team members had broadened them to include other things that were important to get their jobs done, such as:

      • Their opinions on important decisions.
      • Issues they were having with other team members.
      • Requests for direction and decisions on operational matters.

This scope creep resulted in individuals holding back in the team meetings and, instead, waiting for one-on-ones.  

Decisions were being made in one-on-ones that should have been debated with the larger team.  Not surprisingly, the team hadn’t genuinely bought into the decisions made.

I have encountered this same phenomenon many times.  

Well-intended leaders try to do the right thing and end up causing more harm than good. 

Recently, I saw a leader believing he was doing the right thing by giving everyone attention and direction, only to realize that he was leaving most of the team out of critical conversations.  


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So, what can you do to improve your one-on-ones?


      • Identify one or two opportunities for the employee’s growth during a specific period
      • Ask for examples of the employee exemplifying those behaviours since the last one-on-one
      • Discuss progress on operational deliverables
      • Coach them on how to talk with a person with whom they are having an issue
      • Ask what you or the organization can do better
      • Mix it up from time to time and ask more significant questions of each other about how you collectively can bring more value to the organization


      • Change or cancel the meeting without providing a clear reason
      • Change a direction or decision affecting the rest of the team
      • Agree to talk to another team member about an issue your direct is having with them (encouraging hub-and-spoke accountability)
      • Be defensive about constructive feedback they give you

Review this checklist with your team so they can hold you accountable for these practices, but do not use this as a license to cancel your one-on-ones. 

Refocused them and has received accolades from his team.  

Do them right and watch your people flourish.