Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Vistage Members Report Continued Slowdown in Economic Growth

More than 1600 Vistage members surveyed in the Q4 Vistage CEO Confidence Index reported a continued slowdown in the pace of economic growth and anticipated overall economic conditions would remain subdued in the first half of 2013.

On the other hand, optimism among small business owners who took the WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey reversed last month’s decline as renewed economic growth offset concerns about political and economic uncertainty.

Below are some key highlights from the Q4 2012 Vistage CEO Confidence Index (all members surveyed):

  • 63% of CEOs anticipated revenue growth during the year ahead in the fourth quarter survey, down from 73% last year.
  • 49% of CEOs expected increased profits, down from 52% last quarter and 55% last year.
  • 35% of CEOs at year end reported improving economic conditions, down from 60% at the start of 2012.
  • Combined 86% of CEOs said higher sales, new orders, and an improving economy were the most important influences on increasing the likelihood of hiring new employees.
  • Planned hiring fell to 45% in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from 55% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

See the remainder of the Q4 2012 Vistage CEO Confidence Index results with this interactive tool.

Below are some key highlights from the December Vistage/Wall Street Journal Small Business CEO Survey (members leading companies in the $1 million-$20 million range):

  • 65% of small business firms expect their sale revenue to increase in the next year.
  • 51% of small business firms expect their profitability to improve in the next year.
  • 48% of small business firms say they plan to increase their hiring in the next year.
  • 27% of small business firms think U.S. economic conditions in next year will be better than they are now, up from 20% in November.

See the remainder of the Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey results with this interactive tool.

Read The Wall Street Journal article about the Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey results, featuring a Vistage member.

PostHeaderIcon Are Your Employee Evaluations Worth the Time and Paper It Takes to Do Them?

According to Denis Wilson, writing in Fast Company, annual evaluations “build up pressure and make feedback sessions feel like indictments. And most importantly, they do little to alter behavior and improve performance and productivity, which should be your goal.” If you’ve read Three Signs of a Miserable Job (if you supervise, manage, or lead—you must) by Patrick Lencioni, one of my favorite business authors, Lencioni asserts that there are three things often missing for most employees that create a great deal of dissatisfaction.

Immeasurement refers to an employee’s desire to know how their performance will be measured. It also hinders clarity regarding where to focus one’s time and attention. Irrelevance refers to an employee’s lack of understanding how their work and performance contributes to the company’s overall success. And anonymity refers to an employee’s feeling of generally not being known.

The boom-surprise-explode cycle of typical annual performance evaluations does little to alleviate these three conditions, although when done well and thoughtfully they can help. Instead, consider how you can transform an annual evaluation into an ongoing conversation that provides regular feedback on performance requirements derived directly from corporate strategy;  promotes alignment with corporate culture; and for those who manage or lead provides important feedback on their number one job—the performance of the teams they lead.

With the turning of the calendar, this is a great time to consider a change in this area. There are many tools available. Our favorite is Evaluate to Win, based on the work of Vistage Member Lee Benson in Phoenix and on the management operating systems designed by former GE CEO Jack Welch.  To read the complete Fast Company article, simply follow this link

PostHeaderIcon Is There One Leadership Trait That Serves CEO’s Above All Others?

Is there one trait that serves others above all others? If yes, what might it be?

In the opinion of Anthony Tjan writing in a Harvard Business Review Blog, that leadership trait is self awareness. Tjan opens his piece by proposing that, “Without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weakness, your “super powers” versus your “kryptonite.” It is self-awareness that allows the best business-builders to walk the tightrope of leadership: projecting conviction while simultaneously remaining humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions”

Tjan concludes as follows.

Self-reflection and its reward of self-awareness cannot be thought of as passive exercises, new era meditation, or soft science. They’re absolutely essential. There is a reason why in rehabilitation programs the starting point is being aware enough to admit you have a problem. So, too, is the case in business leadership and personal development.

Read the complete entry here.

PostHeaderIcon Why Your Business Needs A Peer-Advisory Group

Peer-advisory groups discuss some of the tough issues that your business faces every day, such as investments, uncertainties, moral conflicts and accountability.

On this week’s episode of The CEO TV Show, Rafael Pastor, CEO of Vistage International, discusses peer-advisory groups and the CEO’s role. Rafael explains peer-advisory groups: putting executives together into a group that meets for 8 hours every month. No one can be in the group who is the same business as another group member to avoid competitiveness. And whatever is said in the room, stays in the room.

Peer advisory groups talk about things that they don’t talk about anywhere else, professional or personal. Accountability is a big part of the group. Group members will follow up at the next meeting and the chair of the meetings will visit your office for a one to one coaching session.

Rafael also mentions that the group members usually either don’t know what they should do, or want an opinion on a decision they’ve made in their mind. An advantage to having executives from very different industries is that it allows a fresh perspective that they might not be able to get within their own industry.

The breath of experience and the willingness to look at an issue in an entirely different way is very effective. Pastor says this system works for two reasons: A CEO’s most valuable commodity is their time and yet they return time and time again so they must be getting something out of it. Second, they have quantitative results. They have conducted studies that show an improvement in growth rate from before to after an executive joins the group.

Find out more about Vistage International and how they can help your business in this week’s episode of The CEO TV Show.

PostHeaderIcon Time Span and the End of the Story

About 18 months ago, Vistage speaker Tom Foster spoke to my Tucson Chief Executive Group about a concept called Timespan. It is based on the work of Elliot Jacques (pronounced Jakes), a professor at George Washington University. To parphrase my understanding of  Timespan, it defines the ability of an employee to understand the implications of his or her actions a certain amount of time into the future. It also describes the amount of time an employee can work without additional supervision or reassignment. According to Foster, and much to the dismay of many supervisors and managers, Timespan is more or less innate, meaning that you cannot take a production worker with a timespan of a few days to a strata of a senior manager, which may require a timespan of several years. Mismatching timespan is the proverbial square peg in a round hole, except the pets are people and the result is non-performance, frustration or boredom.
For many of my Tucson CEO members, this talk was on of the most impactful of the five years our Tucson Vistage CEO group has been meeting. As one CEO said, “This explains a lot of things I haven’t been able to get my arms around!”
The following excerpt is from Tom Foster’s blog. Read the full entry here. 

“I don’t understand,” Roger shook his head. “If Brad would just start earlier on these longer projects, things would be under control, and he wouldn’t be cutting unnecessary corners which compromise project quality.”

“Why do you think he procrastinates until the end?” I asked.

Roger shook his head.

“Because,” I continued, “he cannot see the end until he is two months away.

PostHeaderIcon What Does “Peer” Mean to You

Thanks to Leo Bottary at Vistage International for Permission to Reproduce His Content.

Let me start by saying I don’t mean “peer” the verb. I’m not asking about the creepy type of peer which is defined by as 1) to look narrowly or searchingly, as in the effort to discern clearly; 2) to peep out or appear slightly; or 3) to come into view.  I’m talking about the noun, which is also used as an adjective in the case of peer group.  The definitions are as follows: 1) a person of the same legal status: a jury of one’s peers; 2) a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status; 3) something of equal worth or quality: a sky-scraper without peer; 4) a nobleman; 5) a member of any of the five degrees of the nobility in Great Britain and Ireland (duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron).  One advantage to researching questions like this is stumbling upon cool online tools like the new visual thesaurus.  Here’s what “peer” looks like through the lens of the visual thesaurus:

So what we know about the word “peer” is that it’s rooted in nobility and common status.  We also know that while words have definitions, they also carry connotations that evolve over time and influence the very meaning of words and how they are interpreted.  So if you asked someone to define the word peer, or to describe a peer, they might respond by saying, “Someone like me.”  While that’s partly true, it doesn’t mean you can’t have peers who are very different from you as well.  When you think of the word peer in this way, you can start to consider the implicit value of peer diversity.

The very notion of peer diversity may feel like a number of successful industry-specific peer groups out there.   While industry-specific peer groups can be valuable, people typically join them because they assume they will learn more and receive the best advice from people who already understand the nuances of their business.  This is where I would suggest that there’s additional value to be gained from a peer group with greater diversity – one whose members operate outside your everyday world.

By broadening your definition of peer, it allows you to consider working with people who may be from very different industries and backgrounds, but who share common challenges and similar aspirations.   In this type of group, you become exposed to strategies and practices that are everyday occurrences in some sectors yet completely foreign to your own.   You’ll find yourself leveraging the diversity of expertise in disciplines common to your organizations (HR, communication, finance, etc.) and sharing similar experiences from your respective work environments.

To illustrate the point in a different context, let me offer a brief anecdote:  Years ago, I founded my own PR firm in Florida; I had a terrific team and a healthy list of great clients including McDonald’s, Sprint PCS, CSX Transportation, etc.  Turns out Wal-Mart needed an agency in North Florida to assist with opening a new store.  I believed that with all our team retail experience, we were the perfect fit for this assignment.  In making our case to Wal-Mart, I touted our retail experience, great list of clients, blah, blah, blah.  We lost the opportunity to work with Wal-Mart because they didn’t care about our retail experience.  (They have some of that already as you might have guessed!)  What they needed was a firm that really understood all the other issues involving the local community – areas where Wal-Mart lacked the requisite expertise.

The point is: You don’t need to surround yourself with people who know what you know; you need to engage people who know things you don’t know. When you think of it this way, it’s easy to see how much additional value you can glean from people outside your industry.  If nothing else, a peer advisory group that offers greater diversity can serve to augment the advice you’re receiving from your industry colleagues.

Peer diversity is not an oxymoron.  Whether you’re a member of an industry peer group or not part of a group at all,  consider joining a peer advisory group comprised of members outside your industry.   Give it six months and you’ll be astonished at what you will learn and how much you will contribute to others.   If you’re not convinced, consider this quote about curiosity from Seth Godin: “A fundamentalist considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it. A curious person explores first and then considers whether they want to accept the ramifications.”  Be curious!


PostHeaderIcon ‘How Can I Motivate My Gen Y Employees?’

“How can I motivate my Generation Y employees?”

If you’re a CEO over 40, this question has probably perplexed you in recent years. You are seeing new, young and clearly talented employees integrating into your companies. Yet, they’re different than any other generations of employees you ever had to deal with.

Between 16 and 31 years old, “Generation Yers” (or Millennials) are typically described in the hundreds of workshops my company has conducted over the years as unengaged and entitled, while technological savviness seems to be the sole positive.

Below are a few concrete steps you can take to reap the benefits of a younger force:

Review Process

According to the Labor Department, the average Millennial has a two-year tenure with his or her current employer — meaning, these are employees that aren’t likely to stay with you for an extended period of time.

Therefore, using a yearly review process with a hypothetical raise 12 to 14 months after the date of hire makes more sense to a boomer, whose average tenure is around nine years, than it does to a member of Generation Y.

And let’s face it, business cycles are faster today than they ever were before, so a quarterly process will be more attuned to the current needs of your company than a yearly one.

SurveyMonkey has a built-in 360 tool ( that, for a few dollars a month, will do the leg work of a cumbersome paper-based review, while providing you with valuable information on your employees, and yourself too.

Instant Rewards

Do not hesitate to carry a few $20 Starbucks gift certificates and reward them on the spot for a job well done. This will appeal to the instant gratification Millennials are used to.

Office Environment

Open-floor plan, low-walled cubicles, plenty of meeting rooms both formal and informal (cafeteria or employee lounge) — that’s how to get the most energy flowing into your company.

Without remodeling your office, you can still break the monotony of office life by having “Dress-up Mondays” to encourage employees to come with their most formal attires, or “No internal e-mail Fridays” to encourage employees to talk to each others, either directly or via phones.


Your average Generation Y employee is using e-mail with close to unlimited storage, and has constant access to all of her or his pictures and personal files via mobile phones and tablets. They don’t expect less from your company. It goes beyond looking uncool or dated. It’s about harnessing that social collaboration and transform it into productive, work related collaboration beneficial to your business.

Cloud computing will allow your business to deliver such collaborative tools without the up-front capital costs and probably lesser monthly expenses than you can manage on your own.

Check out those leading providers:

(The last two link to videos that will make you rethink your current collaborative system.)

Work Site

A client company was looking towards making working from home available to their employees a few years back. The company decided to ask its employees first what they thought about that opportunity, and second if they would indeed work from home if offered.

Looking at the results by generation was eye opening. The majority of boomers expressed resistance to the idea, citing the need to actually physically leave home behind during the day and the fear of missing important meetings. Millennials were evidently more enthusiastic about the concept, although the term home was misleading in that case, as they expressed opportunities to work from a coffee shop or a friend’s house.

The keys to a successful work from home integration is to monitor the output of your employees and to make sure the vast majority of the week is spent in the office, where impromptu meetings will happen that will contribute towards homogenous company culture and higher socialization.

Core Hours

We advise our clients to have core hours, typically 10 a.m. 3 p.m., during which meetings are scheduled and all employees are expected to be available. This schedule accommodates workers who need to leave early to pick up kids after work or beat traffic as well as those who are stretching their college life and simply can’t function well early in the morning.

This guideline goes hand-in-hand with a strict meeting policy of 30-minute increments, with agenda and deliverables and without electronics. Computers are to be used for note taking and remote participation only.

And remember, if you are a CEO belonging to the Boomer generation (50 to 66 years old), you have longer managerial span and experience to handle Gen Yers than Gen Xers (30 to 50 years-old) do. And if you still have a hard time dealing with Gen Yers, you might take comfort in the fact that Gen Xers will have to work with them for an even longer period of time.

This topic and more are included in the Vistage Connect™ peer advisory sessions. Learn more.

Philippe Cesson is CEO of CESSON 3.0, a marketing and training company based in California, with offices in San Diego, New York City and Miami. Cesson’s speciality is helping companies succeed in social media, bridging the generational divide and “Navigating the New Normal.”

PostHeaderIcon Where Are You Setting the Bar?

Where Are You Setting the Bar?

I had the privilege today of spending an hour with Ron Clark, who is known as America’s Educator and is the recipient of America’s Teacher of the Year Award. A best-selling author and guest of Oprah’s, Ron talked first about going into some of the nation’s worst schools and instilling a work ethic and respect for education that some of the best schools would envy. Later he talked about raising funds, in some cases $5 at a time, to build a school in Atlanta that embodied all of the principles he had practiced on his path to that achievement.

One of his practices remains at the front of my mind. He spoke about having classes with a few great students who, because of their natural ability were not used to having their limits tested. He also spoke about the legions of mediocre and poor students who were simply left behind. His solution, which he practices to this day, is to teach to a level that stretches even the great students, and insist that entire classes rise to that standard.

It made me think about the average workplace and the way in which we assign work and choose staff for our most challenging projects. I think it’s worth asking ourselves: “Am I consistently raising the bar to the level of my highest performing employees, or am I setting the bar lower as a level that all or most employees can attain?” In his book, “How to Hire A Players,” Eric Herrenkohn asserts that the best way to convince A Players to leave, is to tolerate mediocrity.

So ask yourself, “Where am I setting the bar in my company or organization?”

PostHeaderIcon What Your Employees Don’t Know Will Hurt You

In discussions with Tucson Vistage CEO’s the discussion often turns to the question of how much company financial information to share with employees. The answer differs between companies, and even within divisions of each company. This article in today’s Wall Street Journal offers an excellent discussion of the topic.

Find the discussion here. 

PostHeaderIcon It’s Not Who You Hire–It’s Who You Fire

By Executive Coach Lee Thayer via  Vistage International

Firing someone is often a distasteful, sometimes painful, act. It is the end of something. Hiring someone is usually full of hope and expectation. It can be exciting. It is the beginning of something.

Yet you don’t learn much when you hire someone. It often turns out to be not all you had hoped.

You could learn a great deal about yourself and about others from the process of firing someone, however.

If you can do a better job of firing, you could do a better job of hiring. The most direct way of learning how to do a better job of hiring lies in what you can learn from the process of firing.

Here’s why:

  • Hope and wishful thinking clouds your perspectives when you are hiring someone. But when you fire someone, you are challenged to understand why.
  • Firing can clear the lenses. It can be – ought to be – a very rational process. If you do it right, you are dealing with bedrock criteria, not wishful thinking.
  • If you can figure out why and how and when to fire someone, it will clarify why you went wrong in the first place.
  • If you did a perfect job of hiring people, you would have a perfect understanding of how to fire people. But most organizations haven’t done a better job of hiring people in spite of the tsunami of advice about how to do it.
  • You have to come at it the other way around. There is no reliable recipe for doing a perfect job of hiring. You have to learn from your failures – as all leaders have had to do.
  • It is figuring out who needs to be fired and why that provides the clarity needed to get better and better at hiring.


There are always the conventional reasons for firing someone: poor performance, redundancy, obsolescence, RIF, attitude, and myriad others. There are reasons. And then there are the real reasons.

It is these real reasons the chief executive needs to uncover. You have to plow through the verbiage and your own thinking to arrive at the real reasons. Was it a poor hire? Was it just a poor “fit”? Was it the culture of the organization that was at fault? Was it the attitude of the person’s peers? Was it the person’s boss? Could it even be you?

Done well, this kind of forensic exploration begins to illuminate better hiring practices by starting with reality rather than the jargon of the day.

To the person targeted for being fired, there is often no correlation between the reasons offered and that person’s assessment of his or her own performance. Big clue.

Here is the crunch issue:

The person beingfired was probably not told at the time of hiring the specific reasons that might lead to dismissal.

Three mistakes were likely made:

  1. The person was probably provided with a list of activities to be performed. That’s the way conventional “job descriptions” are constructed. There may have been some past experience or credentials thrown in for the company to hedge its bets.
  2. It was likely nothing was said about what was to be accomplished. You can’t measure activities objectively. But you can measure accomplishments.
  3. The person was most likely hired for a “job.” He or she was not hired to a role in the organization’s future. It is the future that really matters, not the past. Past performance does not predict well to future performance.


Competence is difficult to measure. So most organizations measure what’s easy to measure – the financials. But, to use a provocative metaphor:

Financial performance can only be measured in the wake of the ship. It is where the ship is headed that matters most. And then it is how it is powered and steered to get there.

It is full competence in every role in the organization that seals its fate. If you hire for full competence to carry forward in a well-specified role, you won’t have to fire for incompetence.

A key ingredient of competence is being in the “learning mode.” The best evidence for being in the “learning mode” is that the person performs his or her role better today than they did yesterday. You fire for lack of that. Maybe you should hire for the presence of that.

And, if it isn’t necessary for the person to perform his or her role better, poor performance may not be the person’s fault. It may be your fault for not making continuous improvement in every role necessary.

What is necessary will likely happen. What is not necessary may not happen.

Every organization, like every person, arrives at a status quo – ways of doing things that take precedence over doing them right. Percy Barnevik of ABB fame considered the status quo to be the enemy. His suggestion? Kill it.

There are people who have one year’s experience repeated 20 times. They become deadwood. How frequently do you clear the deadwood? Ranchers cull their herdsat least annually, in order to get better breeding.

Jack Welch eliminated the bottom 10% of performers annually. That takes the uncertainty and pain out of firing.

Outstanding performers are disruptive of the status quo. They are therefore more likely than mediocre performers to get the axe. If the culture of your organization is a safe haven for mediocrity, you are not doing a good job of firing.

And if you aren’t, you can’t do a good job of hiring.

One of the hidden reasons for firing people is that they don’t seem able to learn from experience. They never seem to get consistently better at what they do. Lesson? Make that explicit.

The best CEOs are not in their role to do the job. They are there to learn how to perform their role better today than they did yesterday. They expect the same of others.

If that’s not why you are there, you should be fired. You are, after all, the exemplar.

The best time to fire someone is the day before you hire them. If you can do that, you will be doing a far, far better job of hiring.

The bonus is that firing the wrong people for all the right reasons makes room for hiring more of the right people for the right reasons. But you have to know clearly what those are.

This is why knowing the real reasons for firing people will help you to make better and better judgments about hiring. In other words, the best way to get better at hiring is to get better at firing.

For what good reasons would you fire yourself? If you really figure that out, you will do a far better job of hiring – including casting yourself in the right role.

Lee Thayer has been a CEO coach and consultant for 45+ years and is known worldwide for his work “in the trenches” with executives to create high-performance organizations. Dr.Thayer has also held distinguished professorships in many of the major universities worldwide.His recent, acclaimed books include: Leadership: Thinking, Being, DoingThe Good Leader; Leaders and LeadershipLeadership VirtuosityHow Leaders ThinkExplaining Things and The Competent Organization.