The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders
  • Author: Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell
    Publisher: Currency
    Genres: Management
    Publish Date: March 6, 2018
    ISBN-10: 1101906499
    Pages: 288
    File Type: Epub
    Language: English


Book Preface

So many stories and legends around CEOs involve what we call the “big decision.” This is the “bet the company” moment, where everything is on the line and the CEO must choose. If she (or he) is wrong, the company implodes, people lose their jobs, and sometimes the company disappears entirely. And, of course, the CEO’s career is over. So she gathers the facts, runs scenarios, deliberates. She confers with her colleagues and the board, wrestles with self-doubt. Finally, she calls on her experience and instinct, looks into the future, ignores the naysayers, and makes the call that saves the company and propels it into an even more profitable future.

These moments exist. We’ve watched them unfold. So our first instinct as consultants was to focus on this big decisionmaking the right call. We focus our advisory work on CEOs in large part because their decisions have such outsize impact. The livelihood of thousands of families may hang in the balance. At that level of impact, surely nothing could be more important than the quality of each and every decision. But, as it turns out, something is more important—dramatically more important.

When we dug into the behaviors that differentiated high-performing CEOs, the behavior that stood out wasn’t thoughtfulness, analytical rigor, or any other trait you might link to quality decision making. Successful CEOs stood out for decisiveness itself—the ability to make decisions with speed and conviction. Decisive CEOs in our study are twelve times more likely to be high performers.1

Decisive CEOs are driven by a unique sense of responsibility: “It’s on me to handle this,” they realize. While the rest of us may tie ourselves into knots, wanting to get each decision right, they make calls they know could be wrong, operating in a sea of uncertainty. What makes all this possible: deciding with speed and conviction. Knowing which decisions require nine minutes of deliberation, which require two weeks, and which don’t require your attention at all. And, above all, conscientiously learning from every call—good or bad.

“A potentially bad decision is better than a lack of direction,” said Steve Gorman, a CEO we assessed a few years back. When he led the bus company Greyhound Lines, his ability to decide with speed and conviction saved the company.

Greyhound was Steve’s first job as CEO. Taking this job was more a marriage of convenience than a dream. Reeling from an unwise career move that had taken him to North Carolina, Steve and his family were eager to relocate back to Dallas. At Greyhound, Steve inherited a company on dwindling life support. It had been years since the company had made enough money to cover the operating costs and capital investments necessary to be consistently profitable. The parent company, Laidlaw, was coming out of bankruptcy and creditors would not allow investment of more than $10 million per year into Greyhound—they felt it would be wasting money. Steve was operating on a knife’s edge, and he knew it. If he missed his targets, the creditors were ready to shut the doors on the business. And after a short and unsuccessful previous career chapter, Steve needed this new one to be a win. The stakes were high for everyone involved.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Steve dug in to learn the business and define the path forward. It soon became clear that the biggest problem facing Greyhound was that the company had too many unprofitable routes. Company executives had lots of different ideas about how to fix the carrier’s network. Some thought they should chop up some of the regions. Others wanted to raise ticket prices on long-haul routes.

For four months, Steve listened as his executive team came up with and dismissed a growing list of options. Any change was going to be hard, and there were plenty of reasons why any approach could fail. Finally, enough was enough. Among the piles of data was a satellite map of the United States and Canada at night showing where all the nation’s lights were concentrated, a reflection of population density. Looking at that map, Steve decided Greyhound’s fate: “We cannot have miles where there are no lights.” No lights, no people. He imagined reshaping Greyhound’s service routes around high-yield regional networks, connected with a few long-haul routes. Would it work? He couldn’t know for sure. What he did know was that the company was hemorrhaging money and that people were relying on him to fix things. The network had to be reduced to profitable routes.

With the company’s future and his career on the line and with success uncertain, Steve moved forward quickly and with total commitment. The plan worked. When Steve came on as the CEO, the bus operator had lost $140 million over the previous two years. When he left four years later, in 2007, Greyhound reported $30 million earnings, leading to a successful sale of the company for more than four times its 2003 value.

Steve had pushed forward decisively—not because he knew he was right. He did it because he understood that a potentially bad decision was better than no decision, especially when decisions on the route structure could be modified if needed.

What differentiates CEOs like Steve Gorman is their recognition, their firm belief, that when you need to get somewhere, even having the wrong map is better than no map at all. Art Collins, the former CEO of Medtronic and board member at Boeing, U.S. Bancorp, and several other leading corporations, told us, “It’s like calling a play. I was a quarterback when I played football. You didn’t always call the right play, but, boy, once you called the play, you’d better have all your teammates execute against it.”

Success here rests on action more than pure intellect. Often CEOs with the highest IQs struggle with “decisiveness.”2 They can get bogged down in analysis paralysis and struggle to set clear priorities. Their teams and their shareholders pay the price for their generally earnest desire to get it right.

So if you hope to make it to the corner office, stop sweating every decision. Instead, like Gorman, choose your map and press forward with speed and conviction. Become Decisive. As you strengthen those Decisive muscles, focus on three things: make decisions faster, make fewer decisions, and put in place practices to get better at decision making every time.

contents

SECTION I
Get Strong: Master the CEO Genome Behaviors

chapter 1 Unlocking the Secrets of the CEO Genome

What Makes a Great CEO?

Could It Be You?

Research Approach

chapter 2 Decide: Speed Over Precision

Make Decisions Faster

Make Fewer Decisions

Get Better Every Time

chapter 3 Engage for Impact: Orchestrate Stakeholders to Drive Results

Lead with Intent

Understand the Players

Build Your Relationships Through Routines

chapter 4 Relentless Reliability: Deliver Consistently

Discover the Thrill of Personal Consistency

Set Realistic Expectations

Stand Up and Be Counted On

Adopt the Drills of Highly Reliable Organizations

chapter 5 Adapt Boldly: Ride the Discomfort of the Unknown

Let Go of the Past

Build an Antenna for the Future

Adding It All Up

SECTION II
Get to the Top: Win Your Dream Job

chapter 6 Career Catapults: Fast-Track Your Future

Launching Your Career to the Top

Career Catapult #1: The Big Leap

Career Catapult #2: The Big Mess

Career Catapult #3: Go Small to Go Big

Blowups: Curse or Crucible?

chapter 7 Stand Out: How to Become Known

Visibility with the Right People

Visibility in the Right Way

chapter 8 Close the Deal

Become the Happy Warrior

Safety of Language

Memorable and Relevant

Set the Agenda

The Four Archetypes: Are You a Match to the Role?

SECTION III
Get Results: Navigate the Challenges of the Role

chapter 9 The Five Hidden Hazards at the Top

Hazard #1: The Ghouls in the Supply Closet

Hazard #2: Entering Warp Speed

Hazard #3: Amplification and the Permanent Spotlight

Hazard #4: It’s a Smartphone, Not a Calculator

Hazard #5: The C-Suite Is a Psychological Thunder Dome

chapter 10 Not Just Any Team—Your Team

The Inaugural Address

The Six “Safe” People Bets That Put You in Peril

Draft the Right Team Quickly

Build Your New Language

chapter 11 Dancing with the Titans—the Board

Who Is Really in Charge?

The Best Questions No One Asks Their Board Members

From Lunch Function to Functional

How to Deliver Bad News

Make It Count

epilogue From Ordinary to Extraordinary

acknowledgments

endnotes

about the authors

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