The CEO is stuck. Which way out?

Feeling stuck. Feeling tired at the end of the day. Feeling frustrated more easily and more often. This is how one of my new clients described her personal situation during our first project meeting. This CEO was stuck and could not get enough head space to find a way out of it.

I was hired to help her develop business development processes and build a sales team. There is no point trying to build business development processes when the CEO is not performing at a high level.

As the business grew during late 2016 and into 2017 the business became more complicated. Clients were asking for changes to the standard contracts. The person she recruited for a customer service role needed more time to become effective than anticipated. The salesperson was performance was mediocre at best with low levels of prospecting activity and demanding more time from the CEO to create proposals and close deals.

My client is naturally a person who is very strategic, goal focused, makes fast decisions and may appear a bit brash and aloof to other people. She thrived as an entrepreneur focused on strategy and growth. Now she was withering.

Conduct a personal audit of your daily activities. I suggest using your calendar software and applying categories and/or colours to denote different activity types. You may need to change your current calendar set up to conduct your audit. I would recommend a minimum of one month to conduct your audit.

My client and I worked out the following categories for her audit. She uses Outlook so these categories were created and colour coded.

·        Sales activity

·        Existing customers and responding to requests

·        Internal meetings

·        Contracts and negotiation

·        Networking

·        Marketing

·        Business Admin

The month long audit delivered some staggering insights.

My client was getting more involved in work that demanded attention to detail, meetings and adherence to processes.  She was being forced to move away from her natural behavioural style and adopting attributes that are not natural. She was becoming less and less productive and using more of her energy.

We proved what we both knew but the audit was a great exercise to view her in action as well as provide some quantifiable we can use to measure the change we were introducing to her and her business.

Where did we start? We assessed the people already in the business with behavioural profiles and personal interviews. As it turned out, the customer service person was behaviourally well suited to the role and its responsibilities. The sales person was borderline. This person was incredibly easy to get along with and great at creating and maintaining relationships. This sales person was going to have real difficulty closing deals.

We established a training routine for the customer service person that included 1:1 meetings with my client. We brought in a trainer who set up workflows that are aligned with the productivity tools used in the business; OneNote, OneDrive, Outlook and a CRM.

After some consideration it was decided the sales person would be retained. This person’s natural competencies are being applied to developing relationships with new potential clients and deepening relationships with existing clients. We created a methodology and process for this work to be undertaken and aligned this with some configuration of the CRM. This work paid huge dividends in productivity and we have a very happy and very successful relationship builder.

This has not solved the sales role requirements fully. For the next 3-5 months, my client will be introduced to prospects late in the sales cycle and execute the close and negotiate the agreements. We have set a revenue goal, at which point we will recruit a sales person with the needed behavioural competencies to close deals and work in partnership with the existing person working on client relationships.

Strategy without learning is flawed

Leaders of organisations around the world understand the strategic need to build capabilities in their organisations to remain competitive. There are many methods used to build capabilities and on-the-job training remains very common. Strategy that is designed without learning is seriously flawed.

Online learning is a key part of any strategy to build capability. In my experience, many organisations start out with a compliance focus for online learning. When moving to include other purposes for online learning, e.g. leadership development, it is critical that a framework is developed to support the learners and measurement of outcomes.

How do you create a learning strategy that will help drive performance and be fully aligned with your strategic objectives?

  • Build your learning plans based on customer feedback and adapting to changes in expectations that customers have in dealing with your organisation and your competitors.
  • Assess how much of your learning and development resources are allocated to frontline employees. Performance increases in your frontline employees are often easier to measure and possibly faster to achieve.
  • When you develop learning plans, align the curricula to strategic objectives. A capability gap analysis is going to provide more accuracy to aligning learning with strategic objectives. I like to see capability gap analyses performed as part of a strategic planning project.
  • Learning and development needs to be predictive. Your strategy is designed to keep your organisation competitive. I recommend you drill down from macro-environmental changes in your market all the way down to succession and recruitment needs within a time horizon that makes sense for your business.

To support your learning strategy and sustain performance improvements, I suggest the following:

  • Consider incentivising self-directed learning. There are so many effective ways to do this.
  • Standardise learning processes as much as you can to assist in measurement. You may choose different target populations for standardisation as opposed to standardising across the organisation.
  • Some of the most effective capability building strategies include directly linking learning to the performance management process.
  • I encourage my clients to build learning more deeply into the fabric of a culture by adding learning engagement to the key objectives for managers. I have seen excellent results when managers include learning in their weekly and/or monthly team and individual meetings or catch ups. The benefits achieved include higher levels of learning engagement and a feedback loop on learning experiences and future needs.
  • Encourage blended approaches to learning by identifying subject matter experts in your organisation. You might consider adding communities of practice or a coaching/mentoring program to leverage knowledge in support of learning activities.

If you would like to discuss these ideas or want to explore implementing a new learning strategy in your organisation, you are welcome to get in touch with me via the contact details on this site.

Have you thought about personal branding?

Companies spend enormous resources to brand products and services to attract customers. As business owners, managers and employees we also need to brand ourselves to support our ongoing success. When you have developed an effective, compelling personal brand, you are helping others in and outside your company get to know your value and expertise. You are taking a major step that will strengthen your career and uncover new opportunities in work and other areas of your life.

Personal branding is describing who you are. When you are asked about what you do and what you have achieved, your reply is branding. Now we are going to spend some time considering how we respond to these questions to create a more impressive message delivered with confidence and spontaneity. Once your branding message is developed you can use it in presentations, interviews, social gatherings and network events. You never know who you will meet at any time so being prepared is worth the small effort to get your branding right.

We recommend you create two branding messages. The first one describes the work you do and the second one highlights your accomplishments and expertise. In this exercise, do not be tempted to accept the first messages that come to mind. Your goal is having refined and accurate responses to ensure they are understood and have impact.

Branding message 1:  This is what I do. Create a statement that describes your job, the type of work you do and the results you deliver. Here are a few tips:

  • describe what you achieve in your job.
  • how do you contribute to your business, team or company on a daily basis. You may use another timeframe if more appropriate.
  • try not to use your job title. Job titles may be specific to an organisation and not accurately reflect your real brand.

Branding message 2: This is what I have achieved. This message describes your projects, accomplishments and areas of speciality or expertise. Here are some tips:

  • consider your entire work career when assessing your major accomplishments.
  • look at your work in the perspective of projects. This can help define your achievements.
  • do not discount any areas of expertise or speciality. People often discount the expertise they have developed and do not fall into this trap.

Your message needs to have some attributes to make it effective and memorable. Here are some quick pointers to help you out:

  • Be descriptive to avoid being bland. Try to paint a picture of what you do and what you have achieved. You can use locations, work environments, descriptions of clients or colleagues etc.
  • Make sure your message will be understood by people outside your profession or industry.
  • Use only enough words to achieve a great message and no more. Each message should take no longer than 30 seconds to deliver. Therefore both messages will take 60 seconds maximum to delier dn in a conversation that can seem like a long time. In a presentation, a 60 second bio is not uncommon.
  • You must commit the time to make your messages interesting and if possible exciting. It may be easier to make your projects and accomplishments more exciting than your job. Avoid being too timid with your branding messages; they alway sound more ‘out there’ when you say them to yourself than they will when spoken to others.
  • Focus on results. What happens when you work during the day? What impacts are you having? Are people getting trained? Are sales increasing? Is production more efficient?  You can choose one to three, after that is becomes too much to communicate.
  • As you write your messages, stop occasionally and rehearse each one. Do this individually but also rehearse with a friend or colleague who can offer constructive feedback and ideas. When you speak out loud your messages will sound different than when you read them to yourself.  You will also increase your confidence to deliver your branding messages if you rehearse in this way.


Once you’ve got your branding statements written, practice saying them out loud a few times. The more you practice your statements, the more comfortable you will be with them. This will result in an increase in confidence as you share these statements with others.

Once you are confident in your branding messages, take the bold step of seeking opportunities to use them. You may want to do this with known colleagues and gradually extend that out in your company. You should consider external networking opportunities to use your branding messages once you are confident. If you do not seek out these opportunities, they may never come.

If you would like a personal branding worksheet or some help crafting your personal brand messages, please get in touch using the forms on this website.

Remote Leadership Presents Unique Challenges

Leading remote employees is now a fact of life. Over 80% of teams and 90% of projects have at least one member not physically located with the rest of the group. In addition, a recent study from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com showed that the number of employees who telecommute more than one day per week increased over 79% from 2005 to 2014.

While the principles of effective leadership and team management haven’t changed, maintaining peak performance and keeping employees engaged when separated by miles, time zones and culture is a tall task for any manager or organization.

Let’s be honest—leadership of others is already hard enough when they are down the hall or on the shop floor. When you add in the challenges of them being remote, it gets harder—and more stressful.

  • How do we communicate successfully?
  • How can we make meetings (that are already painful in person), work using technology?
  • How do we build the relationships and trust with the team—and help them do that between each other?
  • How do we present ideas, change and more at a distance?
  • How do we coach and give feedback successfully?
  • How do we deal with the unknowns? After all, we can’t see what they are doing, how they are doing it and if they are ever working?

If have ever struggled with even one of these questions, you know what we mean. Leadership is hard…doing it remotely is even harder. We have partnered with the Remote Leadership team to create bite sized e-learning courses that build the skills needed to successfully lead and manage a virtual team. With 18 courses, covering six topic areas, remote leaders now have the tools they need to be successful leaders, no matter where their employees work in the world.

To get a copy of our latest e-learning catalogue email us.