The Secrets of Success: +1

Ask any of my executive clients over the years and they'll tell you how I harangued them not about the projects they were working on, but what they were going to do immediately and on an ongoing basis after the projects were finished.

I call it +1.

1 minute. 1 day. 1 month. 1 year.

It's all about +1.

It doesn't matter what the project is. New product. New service. Improvement of internal operations. Expansion into new markets. Merger or acquisition.

It isn't about getting the project itself done. That's the easy part - because that's the part that everyone is focusing on.

It's that, too often, in doing the project we forget that there's something that has to happen afterward.

Because real success is all about how you make what you've achieved work over the long term.  Sure, you make immediate decisions and things move fast. But business is a long term proposition. At least it is if you want to succeed.

If you're in business you're always playing a long game.

So, what's the secret? Treat it like a mathematical equation that's applied to everything you do. It looks like this:

P + 1 = S

Where P is your Project, +1 is what you do after and S is your success.

Define each one. Know the exact components of:
  • What it takes to achieve the immediate goal (P)
  • What the specific, step-wise operational and tactical requirements are to ensure seamless execution from the first moment and on an ongoing basis after the "goal" is reached (+1)
  • The revenues, profits, markets, morale, partnerships, development, innovation and any other components you will monitor and measure (S).
By integrating +1 into your business planning, you're able to: 
  1. Build and monitor your future success in every phase of your project planning and execution, and
  2. Adjust, in real time at every step, if you're not seeing the results you want or expected.
Most important of all, by using +1, you'll identify the bridges and obstacles to success that exist and are operational in your organization every day. Then, when you decide on your next project, immediate and long-term success will be even easier to achieve - and maintain - than before.

Why Failed Executives Always Get Another Job

Here's a pop quiz for you:

What makes these the same?
If your answer was: "The CEO is a failure but there were no consequences," you're correct. If you added: "Even worse, they keep getting rewarded and being asked to take on new positions," you get extra credit - both for the "even worse" and for the answer, itself.

And that's the one of the biggest problems with big business today. There is no real scarcity of talent available at the senior level - but you would never know it based on the business pages. Because these failed and failing executives keep getting the jobs - even as their decisions negatively impact the employees of and investors in the companies they're 'leading.'

Worse yet, a lot of those investors are institutional pension funds - which means that you can have worked your whole life and expect a certain level of retirement remuneration, only to find out that the fund has been hit so badly the money just isn't there anymore.

So where does this problem come from? What creates the illusion of scarcity?

There are two aspects to this problem. The first is a "better the devil you know" scenario. The other is institutionalized, intentional and profit-driven.

In both cases, it's coming from the executive search firms. They're creating and perpetuating a perception of scarcity with their "recycled executives" policy.

For them it's a highly profitable, cheap and cheerful way of doing business. For industry, it's a killer. Here's how it works:

You get a call from a recruiter. You've either worked with their firm before or you've been recommended by someone who has. They have a job prospect that might be of interest. In fact, according to them, it's just perfect for you.

You get the job. (Or one of the other candidates does. It doesn't really matter because they're all being paraded in by the same firm.)

Now it's time to negotiate salary and broader compensation. Stock options, anyone? Bonuses? Perqs? This is the time to ask - and get.

You, of course, want the highest compensation package possible. The recruiter wants exactly the same outcome. That's because, in the majority of recruitment pay models, the search firm is paid - at least in part - based on a percentage of your annual salary and sometimes part of your broader package. So the more you're being remunerated in every form, the better.

Some time goes by - maybe a year, but no longer than two. The recruiter has been in touch periodically - to say hello, ask how things are going, maybe get a recommendation from you for another position that isn't right for you, but you just may know the right person….

But now, at least according to the recruiter, it's time to move you on to your next position - and they've got the perfect fit. It's you all over.

And it begins again. You're theirs now. Part of their executive recycling program.

Wait, you say. What about all those resumes I've submitted to the search firms' websites? Sorry. The sad fact is, the recruiters neither had to nor bothered to look. They just churned - even if you would have been the better pick.

And so we keep seeing the same faces. Over and over. With the same results.

Maybe it's time to adapt the financial services disclaimer, "Past performance does not guarantee future results" to one specifically for executive search firms who put forward candidates with histories of failure. Something like:
"Past performance is your best guide to future results - so if you want to pay someone tons to lose your and the company's shirt, here's your guy."
[This article appeared on Technorati.]

Executive Compensation: How Fear, Scarcity and the Wrong Measures Drive the System

Over a decade ago, I wrote an article entitled, "Worth Every Penny" for a local Silicon Valley business publication. My position was that the entrepreneurs who were building their dreams into companies should be compensated for the work they were doing.

My reasons for making that particular case at the time were that:
  • The entrepreneurs were building a new industry
  • They bootstrapped in for months and years before getting their funding
  • I had no idea that they were burning cash as stupidly as they were once they had it - nor that their investors were allowing them to do so.
This was the beginning of the executive compensation anger that is so rampant now.  Frankly, had I known then exactly how insane the compensation system would become for executives in all industries, I'd never have written the article at all.

If we want we can go into the blah-blah-blah of:
  • The reactive VC/Angel investment model of the day that led everyone to jump on the bandwagon and get their bucks in first (which led, interestingly enough, to the need to legislate to protect stupid investments by dentists - or stupid dentists, you choose)
  • The fear that someone else would take over the market before there was - or would be - a market
  • How eyeballs were considered currency...
You know the rest.

In fact, as you look at the newest social media IPOs out there, in some ways we're seeing the same thing.  Plus ça change...

But I digress.

Today, as the Governor of the Bank of England is calling for cuts in bankers' compensation, I listened to an interview with Ralph Silva, Director and Banking Analyst with SRN, talking about that subject.  He said:
"The assumption is that the actual shareholders care. The truth is if you tell the shareholders how much these senior executives are getting paid they're probably going to want them to get paid more. Why? Because they want the best of the best and the shareholders simply don't have a problem with these huge salaries."
Yes, in fact, they do have a problem with them.  Fund managers - in the form of shareholders - may not...but even they're getting a clue.  Because, just as eyeballs were considered currency in the lead-up to the DotCom Bust, so, too, are the measures of executive "success" tied to completely wrong measures now.

What, you ask, are those measures?  In too many cases, as long as the guy - or, in far fewer cases, woman - shows up, the money flows into their pockets in the form of cash, stock, options, perks....You name it.

The logic of this argument comes from the thought that there is a scarcity of talent to run these organizations.  That, too, is wrong.  In fact, too many executives currently in those positions make exactly the case for their own demise - because, clearly, the decisions they're making aren't good ones.

How do we know?  Because the measures that underlie what is considered "success" in these organizations are flawed.  Where there is no growth, there is no success.  Where there is only short-term thinking, there is no future.

The problem is, by the time the shareholders Mr. Silva is talking about realize their mistake, the executives in charge will have moved onto greener pastures in their next jobs.

It's time to get a clue.  Executive compensation is out of whack - but it's fixable.  Change the measures and create accountability for those in their positions.  At the same time, forget the fear and scarcity argument and look at the real talent pool that exists.

Very quickly and without too much difficulty, compensation and audit committees will find that there are a lot more good choices - at much more reasonable prices - than they think exist now.

Business Leaders, Weenies and the Question of Confidence: The Lessons of a Root Canal

Yesterday I had a root canal - and it got me thinking all about business confidence and the complaints that so-called "business leaders" are making about their lack of confidence in the economy.

What do a root canal and business confidence have to do with one another?  Everything.  Because in both cases, it's all about fear and paralysis or, conversely, the willingness to trust yourself and those around you to achieve success.

This all occurred to me at two different points in the process.

The first was when I realized that the procedure was going to take place in a foreign language.  No, not the language of endodontics, which would have been bad enough.  This was going to be done in French.  I was having a root canal done in Paris - and that meant that the endodontist and his assistant would be speaking rapid-fire and technical French to one another - which definitely left me out of the loop.

The second point was when, contrary to the assurances of my endodontist that I wouldn't feel anything, I felt something.  Not pain.  But something.  Most important was that the 'something' made me even more worried about what had the potential to happen.

Not what was actually happening - but what could.

And it was that realization that stopped my fear.  Because I realized that it wasn't what I was experiencing that was making me afraid.  It was what might happen - which was purely a product of my own imagination.

Sure, there was logic involved.  Let's face it, when you've got someone poking around with drills and metal probes in an area that is designed to hurt, there's a fair expectation that hurt will occur.

But that doesn't mean that it is or it does or even that it will.  It's simply something to be aware of and ready for.  And to have your resources lined up to help should that occurrence manifest.

Which I did.  Because I had a talented and accomplished endodontist doing the work.  I didn't have to worry about my decision to have the root canal or the resource I had selected to do the work.  I had already created success.

And that's what led me to start thinking about those business leaders.  Because they, too, are in a foreign situation operating within a global economy the likes of which they've never seen before.  As well, even with the amazing war chests of cash they've built up, they're so convinced that there's going to be pain that they're reacting as if it's already there.

Which led me to a simple and straightforward conclusion:  They're weenies.  They're allowing their fears to drive their decisions rather than taking the steps that would help the economy - global and local - to recover.

They'd rather be afraid and wait for someone else to take the big steps, instead of taking their courage and their smarts in hand and driving success forward.  For everyone.

What all of that says is that these aren't "business leaders."  By definition, weenies can't be leaders because they don't lead - and who'd want to follow them anyway?

So, as you look at what you're doing with your business, ask yourself:

  • Do I have trusted resources surrounding me?
  • Are there things I want to do and steps I want to take with my business that I think can succeed?
  • Am I not taking those steps because I'm afraid?
  • If so, where is that fear coming from?  Within or without?
Depending upon the answer to that last question, you'll know what to do.  If you're generating the fear from within, take your courage in hand and go forward.  If it's coming from those around you, the media or anyplace else, lose them.  

They're weenies.  You're not.

Make 'em Miss You - Big Time

When I read Al Sklover's blog post "18 Non-Volatile Reasons to Offer a Bully Boss When Resigning" , it reminded me of something else I read a lot of years ago:
When you're leaving - make sure you give your boss every reason in the world to know exactly what he or she is going to be missing when you're gone.

Now, this advice was delivered in a much more civilized fashion.  It came from Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners.  Baldrige was the sister of the man for whom the US Quality Excellence Award was named (that's Malcolm) - and, most importantly, the White House Social Secretary to Jacqueline Kennedy.

You've got to figure she knows of which she speaks.

Her guidance is that when you write your letter of resignation, make sure you lay out - in detail - what you've achieved on behalf of the organization during your tenure.  Quantify.  Specify.  Put it in bullet points.

But, whatever you do, make sure you'll make them miss you.  Big time.  Even before you go.

And in Karen from Brisbane, Australia's case - particularly because her boss is a bully - the letter will do double duty.

Because at exactly the same time she's showing her bully boss why he's going to miss her, she's repairing any damage having worked for a bully has done to her while she was there.