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Episode in a Tweet: An all-star lineup of CEOs, coaches, and business leaders discuss what traits separate the best of the best.
Quick Background: The absolute best companies don’t get BIG by accident. They grow fast and achieve meaningful scale because their CEOs are rigorous in their planning, committed to working with top talent, believers in the culture they’ve built, and dedicated to learning and growing every single day.
On today’s special episode, we dig into our archives to see what some of our past guests have to say about these four key traits that the CEO Coaching International team helps its clients cultivate.
The 4 Common Traits of Top CEOs
1. They rigorously create and execute an annual plan.
CEO Coaching International’s Mark Moses encourages entrepreneurs to ask themselves four BIG questions to establish annual goals and figure out the steps that are essential to achieving them.
“The first one is, what do you want, what’s your vision?” Mark says. “The second one, what do you have to do or what action are you going to take? The third one is what could get in the way of making that happen or anticipating what might get in the way? Number four and probably the one that ties it all together is how do you hold yourself accountable, how will you measure your success along the way?”
It’s important that your goals are BIG, because people who think small stay small. But CEO Coaching International’s Sheldon Harris stresses the importance of realistic goal-setting within the framework of an annual planning session.
“If you make it so big that it’s unrealistic and people can’t really buy in to it and believe it’s possible, it does demoralize folks,” Sheldon warns. “For the purpose of this planning session, I’d rather have the goals be things that we believe collectively are achievable and we’re excited about. We’re excited about the thrill of victory we’re going to feel when we achieve those.”
2. They surround themselves with the absolute best team.
Now “best” doesn’t mean you hire the person with the most outstanding resume or the most winning personality. “Best” means talent that is going be a 10 out of 10 and will align themselves to your vision while complementing your culture.
In some cases, finding the best for your needs might require some outside-the-box thinking. That’s how Jim Bennett started targeting Division III athletes for his sales team when he was growing his Worldwide Express franchise to $120 million in revenue.
“I want kids who are young, hard charging and want to make a lot of money,” Jim says. “Kids that went to Division III didn’t get scholarships and all the work that they did to get playing time was because of the love of the game. And I found these kids to be the key to success.”
CEO Coaching International’s Jim Weaver recommends another strategy for mining A talent: coach up the Bs who are already working for you.
“I think if there’s the opportunity to promote from within, I would always look to do that and give serious evaluation to that as an option,” Jim says. “And frequently that is an option. That’s certainly the environment that we try to create in any of the companies that I’ve been a part of, where somebody has that opportunity to grow into that next level position.”
3. They create a culture that becomes a strategic advantage.
Rick Sapio has interviewed more than 40 billionaires, and he says one thing the Bransons and Buffetts of the world have in common is their ability to create a winning culture by acting as a “pointer.”
Rick explains, “There’s a guy that knew nothing about space travel, knew nothing about engineering, but he made a speech in 1962 and pointed to the Moon, and 100,000 engineers came forward with their resumes to try to help get a person to the Moon. I’m talking about John F. Kennedy. Yet most entrepreneurs think they have to do everything. So what really inspired me most about billionaires is they point, they point to where they want to go and they inspire people.”
High-performing CEOs also hold themselves as accountable for achieving that vision as they do employees. TaskUs co-founders Jaspar Weir and Bryce Maddock believe their culture of accountability has been critical to their company’s BIG success.
“Bryce and I host town halls,” Jaspar says, “and we do this in our headquarters in Santa Monica, and we do those whenever we visit any of our operational sites in the Philippines or San Antonio or any other of the locations where we operate. And our commitment is that we will answer every single question that people ask us. People often say, ‘Oh, we have an open-door policy,’ but they don’t really create environments where everyone feels comfortable doing that, because there are repercussions of going in and complaining directly to a supervisor or to a founder. And so we provide anonymous forums and then provide transparent answers to our employees.”
4. They keep learning faster than the world is changing.
Complacency kills, especially in today’s rapidly-evolving business environment. A CEO who thinks he knows everything and doesn’t make a conscious effort to keep learning is setting himself up for failure.
Just look at how Doug Lebda, the founder, chairman, and CEO of LendingTree, went about improving himself as a business leader:
“I learned a lot at the Darden school where I went for one year,” Doug says, “and then, believe it or not, I actually went back and finished my MBA and graduated three years ago. If you looked at our stock price chart through both of those periods at Darden, and this is a good sales pitch for them, our stock price has done very, very well every time I’ve been involved there because I apply everything I learned directly back into the business.”
If a guy running a company with several billion dollars in market cap literally went back to school, what’s your excuse for skipping conferences and skimming that latest report from your tech team?
1. Plan ahead. Your annual goals should be clear, actionable, measurable, and inspiring.
2. “The best” aren’t “the best” unless they are a top tier performer, can enhance your company’s culture and buy in to your vision.
3. Stay curious. If you don’t embrace lifelong learning, you’ll be perfectly suited for what the world looked like 10 years ago.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 350 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 20 different countries. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for 4 years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 40.1% during their time as a client, more than four times the national average. Additionally, clients have averaged 210% growth in profit while working with the firm. For more information, please visit: https://www.