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In today’s minisode, I wanted to bring to you five new lessons from the Chiefs from 2022, and we wanted to bring to you and share with you these lessons to help you finish out the year and then come out fighting even better next year.
1. Hire people smarter than you and let them bring their magic
Jay Bonaretti, one of our first ever guests this year, founder and CEO of Amino Z, said: “Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. This was completely at odds with my understanding when I started being the owner and the manager. I thought I'd have all the answers. I have to know everything. People come to me and I give them direction.”
Jay goes on to say, “I'd never really appreciated what that meant, but this has been one of the biggest learnings over the years. I don't have all the answers. In fact, if I do have the answers, they're not always the best answers. Usually, more often than not, the rest of the team have much better answers. So just listening to the team and getting the team to maybe make decisions and own those decisions with me, the chief, taking a step back and allowing the team to do a lot of the stuff and just giving them ownership and giving them accountability. It really does drive the business.”
He's backed up by Daniel Penny, Managing Director of Mustard Creative Agency. Daniel says, “Who you surround yourself with is your ceiling in terms of what you can learn and how you can drive new behaviours.”
In a similar vein, Angus McPherson, who is the CEO of Diageo in the Asia Pacific said, “My team is all better than what I am at doing specific roles. So it's crazy not to include them in strategic planning. I can harness all of their capabilities and skills in developing the plans and then we go about executing them. My role is then to hold everyone accountable to the agreed plan.”
That is acting like a true chief, where he's bringing all the great wisdom, energy, creativity of his diverse team and bringing out their absolute best. So, Chief, conduct that audit of your team and determine if you have enough people in your team that are smarter than you at doing those key roles. Then make sure you are creating an environment where they can just thrive.
2. Get external support from your peers in roles similar to you
Alison Mirams, CEO of Roberts & Co. and Cass Spies, Founder and CEO of Twisted Healthy Treats, two of our wonderful guests this year, bounce ideas off each other and are great friends but also give one another honest counsel. They're in very similar roles, similar backgrounds. They're helping each other out to solve these issues day in and day out.
Ben Simon, Managing Partner of Rose Partners, says, “Often one of the best things to do is to talk about other people at your level. Business owners tend to be in the same basket. They love to talk about business because often they don't have anywhere in their own business to talk about it. Generally, people are pretty open and want to mix with people from other industries and have a chat. They just want to share similar experiences.” So Ben is constantly leveraging his network and looking for people in similar roles.
Mark Calabro, CEO and Co-Founder of HungryHungry, spoke about a peer network that he's in and he says, “Primarily, I get learning and support as a business owner and it's something I can't put a value on. You have people who are in business just like you, going through similar problems and challenges. They say there is no new problem in business, just one that you haven't come across yet.”
So, reach out and get external support, just like these fine Chiefs do. Make sure you have that network in place for you.
3. Invest generously in your team
We come back to Cass Spies again, who said, “Most importantly, I invest in my people. I'm incredibly passionate about my team. We do lots of on the job training. I think we're in this for the long haul. If I'm going to build a great and exciting business, then we need to be investing in it.”
Mark Pomeroy, MD of Pomeroy Pacific, had this to say about his early career experience working for KPMG, “It was the importance and the investment that KPMG did and what they did to put into their people in training, and that is something that I took and really value a lot in business. I take it a step further. If you can prove your capability and you've got the right values, approach and are respected by others, there's no reason you can't be at a certain level at a certain age. That is Pomeroy Pacific. We invest in culture and training for our people. I've always believed that you need great people. They need to be smart, they need to be passionate, they need to be aligned with your values, but ultimately, they're the ones that create the value, so they're the ones we must invest in.”
Ryan Gair, CEO and founder of Rate Money says this, “Depending on what size you want to get to, you've got to be willing to reinvest back into the business. A lot of people get scared when they're reinvesting because they see it as a debt. They make the mistake of not seeing it as an investment. Every time we hire somebody, every time we develop someone, I see that as an investment. If we change and get a better or new system, it's an investment which allows you to continually grow.”
So, check yourself, Chief and ask yourself, “How much am I investing in my team?”
4. Build strong relationships with the Chair and the Board
Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Well, maybe I'm just not quite at that level yet.” But I want to tell a bit of a story. We're on the Mini-MBA recently, the programme we run for executives across Asia Pacific. There is a leader on this course who's rising up through the ranks in the operational level and reports directly to the COO. Recently, there's been a major strategic change in their company and he’s risen up and now he’s in a lot of strategy meetings.
He tells me, “I've realised that historically I've failed to build good relationships with other people across the business. I simply didn't think it was that important, but now I'm in this room with all these great executives, they don't think I've been nice to them. They think I've been ignoring them on purpose. It just wasn't my intention, but now I've got to mend all these relationships!”
Chief, this is vital. If you are stuck in this world where you're thinking the relationships you have to build are just at your level, then there's a very good chance down the track you're going to run into some trouble. We have to be thinking up in the organisation, senior stakeholders, senior executives and even the board, and be building those relationships. Go and ask them questions. Ask them what's going on for them, what are their priorities? What kind of pressure are they under?
Scott Williamson, MD of Blackstone Minerals, says this about his relationship with the Board Chair: “Every two or three days, we're talking about high-level strategy. It could be a deal that we're working on or it might be a HR issue that's come up. Whenever there's a major decision to be made, the Chair is a sounding board and I believe that's what their role should be. It's about guiding the CEO in those decision moments, very high-level strategy, not really changing the decision, but supporting the decision making process.”
Chief, it might not necessarily be the Chair for you in your current role, so perhaps you just need to work out who is the person who is senior in the business who is your sounding board?
Alison Gaines, CEO for 30 years across a whole range of different organisations and the MD of Gaines Advisory, says, “Understand where the tension is. It might be that the Chair is not available sufficiently or the CEO doesn't feel there's a proper connection or that the Chair is not curious enough about the business. If it's to do with the personal style of the Chair or some independent director, this is when you've got to talk to someone independently to start mending those relationships. You must lean into them.”
She said in our episode, “Don't let any toxic relationships fester at the executive team and the board level. Lean into them as quickly as you can. Some CEOs are unsure about the role of a Chair because they'd never worked with boards before.” That might be you. Maybe you've never worked with a board before and you're unsure about how this relationship works. Get across it, Chief. It is so important, not only for results, but for your happiness and reduction of stress.
If you're in this situation, Alison has some counsel for you: “You're often not used to having someone who's taking such an interest in your activities and you might find it a bit intrusive. So some training is often required. A very good Company Secretary can help coach a CEO around what a board can legitimately expect and what a CEO needs to do.”
So, Chief, get out there and gain that understanding. It is so vital for senior executive positions.
5. Keep things simple
I want to talk about two brilliant Chiefs we had on the show this year. Dean Salakas, CEO of The Party People, said, “If you're talking to the CEO and you're the technology kind of person, you just need to simplify it, keep it short, sweet and succinct. Founders and CEOs love to talk all about their business and all the detail. As an employee, you're often thinking, “Hey, I'm losing interest in you because they're just going on about details I really don't care about.”
Chief, you own the communication that comes out of your mouth. You own the message that is received by someone else. Keep it high level, go into details later. Dean goes on to say, “People think the opposite, that you've got to give them all the features so that they realise your product or what you're doing is really cool. In reality, however, most people just want to hear the basics first, to get drawn in with a few unique selling propositions about how you're different. Then they want to learn more. That's when you get to go into more detail from there. So keep it simple at first.”
Vince Lebon, Founder and CEO of Rollie Nation, says this, “If you imagine all your problems are a puddle, if you look down at that puddle, you can see them all and you can see them clearly. But the minute you keep pondering over them and constantly trying to workshop them and get stressed out by them, it's as if you're stepping on the puddle. Then you'll keep trying to solve every problem, but you don't actually know which one to tackle first and you lose clarity and all you're doing is making a mess. So, keep it simple. One thing at a time.”
Mark Calabro, echoes this sentiment with this great quote: “Business is not a sprint, it's a marathon. So keep things simple.”
Chief, they're the big five lessons on relationships and culture from 2022. Now, let's just ask ourselves, what happens if you don't do those five?
What happens if you hire people that are dumber than you, not as smart as you? Or even worse, you hire smart people, but you don't let their magic shine?
What happens if you isolate yourself from peers in similar roles to you? Are you isolated now?
What happens if you don't invest in your team's development? There’s a great saying, “What if I develop my team and then they leave? What if you don't and they stay?”
What if you have a strained relationship or no relationship with the board or senior stakeholders?
What happens if you make things complex for your people?
Lately, I've spoken to a lot of Chiefs via our Council of Chiefs, which is our executive peer network across Australia. The last two to three years have been the most stressful and difficult for everybody for a whole range of reasons. But now is the time to take a deep breath.
If you recall, we have the P2R2 model – Prepare, Perform, Recover, Review. Give yourself the time now to recover. Fill the tanks, fill them mentally, physically, spiritually, socially so that in 2023, you're 100% fresh. Then, when you’re feeling ready, sit down and reflect on how you're going. Be honest about your trajectory. Be honest about your track record. Be honest about whether you’re in the right role or even the right company.
So be clear about where you are right now, and if you keep going as you currently are, will things improve? Are you making an impact? Are you standing out? Are you on fire physically, mentally, socially, spiritually? If not, Chief, put in place some 30, 60, 90 day plans to start 2023 on fire.
Closing thoughts on 2022
Chief, I want to thank you for all of you that have sent me messages this year, or if you've just enjoyed listening to our wonderful Chiefs, our minisodes and our Best of Series, it has been our pleasure.
I want to thank all the Chiefs who've given their time and been so generous in so many ways with their wisdom and their stories and their authenticity. What a year it has been. Here’s to 2023!
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