Gearing up for a summer vacation? Good. You’ve earned it. Taking a break from being CEO is essential to remaining a high-performing CEO. I’m such a stickler about my own vacation time that I actually schedule it at the beginning of the year. My business commitments get penciled in around my leisure and family time, not vice-versa.
Still, there’s no reason why you can’t squeeze in a little productivity while you’re lounging around on the beach. After all, a commitment to learning and self-improvement is one of a CEO’s most important responsibilities. Check out some choice quotes from my list of recommended CEO “beach reads.” Pack one of these books in your duffel bag and you’ll head back to the office with some brilliant new ideas to match that brilliant tan.
1. “A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial.”
Many struggling companies waste too much of their time and resources on things they’re merely good at. The best companies burrow into one BIG idea, refining and perfecting all the systems that feed it until they’ve created a perpetuating engine to drive growth.
2. “Create a company that’s a great place to be from.”
At the 2019 CEO Coaching Summit, former Netflix Chief People Officer Patty McCord told us how she helped create the famous “culture deck” that codified what it meant to be a great Netflix employee. Having such a strong and energizing corporate culture is vital if you want to attract top talent. As you think about your culture, ask yourself, “What would make us a great place to be from?” With this frame in mind, you can start thinking about what those things are, do more of those things, and over time, create a culture this is also a great place to go to.
3. “What if customers truly don’t know what they need? What if customers’ single greatest need—ironically—is to figure out exactly what they need?”
Matthew Dixon believes that the worst thing a salesperson can do is ask a customer what he needs. Instead, your sales team should be pushing a value proposition so clear, succinct, and enticing that without asking, they’re TELLING customers “You need this product.” By “challenging” customers instead of pandering to them, you lead customers to appreciate the value of what you’re selling, which in turn leads to more committed customers.
4. “The greats never stop learning. Instinct and talent without technique just makes you reckless, like a teenager driving a powerful, high-performance vehicle. Instinct is raw clay that can be shaped into a masterpiece, if you develop skills that match your talent. That can only come from learning everything there is to know about what you do.”
Tim Grover has trained elite athletes like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to maximize their physical and mental potential. And just like great athletes are constantly adding new dimensions to their games, great CEOs have to be expanding their own repertoires. If you’re not attending conferences, talking shop with other CEOs, reading books, and working with a coach or mentor who holds you accountable, you and your business are never going to reach the next level.
5. “We cannot predict the future. But we can create it.”
No, the digital camera didn’t kill Kodak – in fact, Kodak INVENTED digital photography way back in 1975! What killed Kodak was complacency and a fundamental misunderstanding of what they were really selling. Non-stop advancements in technology and globalization mean disruption is inevitable. CEOs who aren’t cultivating a culture and a mindset that prioritizes innovation are going to end up on the receiving end of disruption like Kodak and Blockbuster.
6. “What do you want?”
A decade later, I still believe this is the single most important question that CEOs and entrepreneurs have to ask themselves. The number one difference between good companies and BIG companies is that the best of the best are crystal clear about their objectives and laser focused on the specific, measurable actions that will get them there. If you’re struggling to clarify your own vision, try running through our Crystal Ball Exercise while you’re gazing out at the waves.
7. “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.”
Great CEOs focus on only five things: their vision for the company, hiring the best people, monitoring cash, cultivating important business relationships, and learning. Any tasks that don’t fall under those categories need to be cleared off your desk and either delegated or dropped in the trash.
8.“A well-organized set of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings keep everyone aligned and accountable. And the agendas for each provide the necessary balance between the short term and long term.”
An effective meeting rhythm is the heartbeat of your company. One of the most effective things you can do as a CEO is hold a quarterly planning session with your leadership team. And all these meetings build to an annual planning session, ideally facilitated by a third party, where you review the previous year and set a clear agenda for the next.
9. “Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.”
If your business is all about you, then you’re running a vanity project, not a company. Good luck attracting top millennial talent. The next generation of workers have their BS detectors on high alert for companies that pay lip service to values and only care about maximizing profit. Successful businesses supplement their vision and values with a mission that employees and customers want to be a part of. Fulfilling that mission is what leads CEOs to true success and lasting happiness.
10. “Of all their enemies — the cold, the ice, the sea — he feared none more than demoralization.”
This brings to mind another gem from Jim Collins’ books: “Spending time and energy trying to motivate people is a waste of time. The real question is not how to motivate people but how to not demotivate them.” And nothing demotivates employees faster than a CEO who thinks hiding bad news is going to make it go away. Your employees know when the business is struggling. Being open and honest about what’s going wrong and how you plan on fixing it is the best way to keep the faith and keep everyone focused on making BIG happen.
What books are you reading this summer? Share your top list of books in the comments section below.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 185 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, become better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
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 25 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from $10 million to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 66.4% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.ceocoachinginternational.com