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Be the CEO Who Gives Gifts and Thanks

During the past two weeks, the business news has been dominated by tech companies that are laying off staff. Meta laid off 11,000 employees or 13% of their workforce. Twitter terminated the employment of 3,700, nearly 50% of its staff.  A long list of other companies followed. Intel, Snap, Robinhood, Stripe, Salesforce, Lyft, Microsoft, Shopify, Netflix, HP and Coinbase rounded out the list of companies laying off 10% or more of their team members.

The news of layoffs in the tech sector strikes fear in the markets and in those outside of the industry, too.  Meanwhile, unemployment remains at or near an all-time low. Most businesses are not laying people off but doing their best to meet the needs of employees and customers. Many CEOs are projecting an economic bounce back and predict 2023 will return to a more normal year. Outside of the tech sector, where most Americans work, is where the good stuff in our economy is happening, although it is rarely mentioned in the news.

One of my CEO clients in the medical device sector brought his top leadership team together last week to discuss their 2023 plans. Since he was hired just over a year ago, four of his eight direct reports are new to the company. Aware his team of leaders have been working hard learning the business, managing their responsibilities and building their credibility, he took them off-site for a few days to plan for the upcoming year and to recognize their contributions. It is a lonely journey most leaders walk, saddled with multiple demands and high expectations, yet rarely do they receive positive support and affirmation. He decided to change that.

His desire for his new team is not just to develop and execute the strategy, but to get to know one another better and build trust as they work together to create a great company.

During the last working session of the day, everyone wrote on a sheet of paper the name of each team member. Then they wrote three gifts each person brought to their work. These were not technical skills or work competencies; they were personal qualities demonstrated by the individual. At the bottom of the sheet, they wrote what they would miss if that person was no longer on the team.

Ten minutes later, each person received seven pages of their gifts as perceived by their teammates. They took a few minutes to each read their gifts silently, then they shared what they heard with the full team.

After each individual shared “What I heard”, their colleagues elaborated on the gifts and unique qualities that person brought to their work, sharing examples and a story or two.  Many smiles were shared. After everyone took their turn, to take it a step further, they reflected on what they heard, what they saw as their own special gifts and wrote and shared their unique gift statement.

Here is a sample of the gift statements shared:

  • I use my gift of enthusiasm, joy and a positive attitude, to lift people up, encourage and support others, to see the bright side and find a silver lining.
  • I use my passion and ability to connect with others, to create an environment that creates an opportunity for people to achieve excellence and enjoy the experience that leads to results.
  • My gift is passion and care for people. I use my gift to serve others, to increase confidence, so they can achieve increased fulfillment and impact in their lives.
  • I use my gift of a deep caring for people – to engage, support, serve and impact others – helping them elevate.

As they exited, the CEO thanked each team member for their willingness to lean in and work together. He said, “You’ve now landed on your unique gift statement, the uniqueness that no one else in the world brings. What makes you special. Let’s now bring our gifts to all the opportunities and situations that come our way.”

What do you think the collective mood of the team was walking out of the room that afternoon?

One team member stated, “I’ve never been through a process like this, giving and getting gifts from your colleagues and leader. I’ve worked with some companies for many years and never heard what others thought my gifts were. I feel tighter with this team already than the other teams I have been part of.”

Another said, “While it was at first a little uncomfortable to be recognized by my peers and boss in such a way, I am grateful you appreciate me for who I am. I am so happy to be part of this team and company. You make it safe and motivating. Thank you for your encouragement and letting me be me.”

As they wrapped up, high fives, smiles, thank yous and hugs were abundant. An uplifting and affirming afternoon. The team was tighter, more supportive and trusting at the close of their meeting.  Each person felt accepted, encouraged and inspired.

Is the collective emotional state of your top team, CEO, like this team’s? Do you invest in building relationships, trust and commitment?  If not, why not? What’s the price you’ll pay if you aren’t the CEO who gives your team gifts and thanks?

Intentionally building relationships, trust and commitment secures the foundation from which you build and grow your company. The bonds and tight relationships serve as the cement that holds the blocks of the foundation – the people, strategies, goals, products, execution and results – together. A small investment in time and effort can yield a tremendous return on investment.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and the holiday season, won’t you be the CEO who is grateful for your team and gives gifts and thanks?

CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

How Medtech CEOs Are Falling Short – On Purpose!

After two long years, Advamed’s annual MedTech Conference took place in Boston last week. Over two thousand executives, entrepreneurs and medical device professionals gathered to share ideas, learn, network and connect for three days.  The importance of a company’s purpose – the overarching guiding principle for why the firm exists – was raised many times by the CEOs who took part in panels and presentations.

Purpose was cited repeatedly in response to questions about how to encourage their people to accept change, how to motivate and inspire, how to recruit and retain the best, and avoid losing top talent due to the Great Resignation. In the three panel discussions I attended and recorded, purpose was mentioned twelve times during the Leadership in Times of Change session, nine times in the EY Pulse of the Industry panel and seven times during the Top Trends Shaping the Medtech Industry.

CEO Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference

Jim Welch – EY
Ashley McEvoy – JNJ MedTech
Geoff Martha – Medtronic
Gary Guthart – Intuitive

The gist of the CEO responses is the medtech industry has a “built in” purpose, or as one CEO described, an “Uber purpose”, due to the life enhancing nature of the sector’s work.  In other words, people employed in medtech should be motivated because the work they do improves lives worldwide. One CEO of a company that treats cardiovascular disease, said his company was unlike companies that make “toaster ovens”, which presumably have a less important purpose for existence. Another CEO remarked, “We’re not making and selling baked beans, what we do matters to patients around the world.” Every CEO stated their businesses operate in accordance with a shared company purpose.

Panel Discussion at The Medtech Conference 2022

Ashley McEvoy – JNJ Medtech
Mike Minogue – Abiomed
Barry Rosenberg – Boston Consulting Group

From my own early career experiences at Baxter and Boston Scientific, I agree working at a medical device company that operates by a shared purpose statement can be motivating. But that alone is insufficient. Purpose doesn’t stop with only the company purpose statement. While it is admirable these CEOs embrace purpose statements and purposeful work, that’s the beginning of the purpose journey. It’s only table stakes.

After their panel appearances, I asked a few of the CEOs if they helped their team members discover their own personal purposes. I received the “deer in the headlights” look in response. They apparently aren’t encouraging their people to discover and operate with a sense of personal purpose. By failing to do so, these medtech CEOs are falling short – on purpose! They aren’t embracing purpose-driven leadership.

What is purpose-driven leadership? For starters, it is leading and making decisions in a way that is consistent with the company’s purpose and values. But that’s not all. It’s believing that every person craves meaning in their lives. It’s understanding that every person has a personal purpose – even if they haven’t yet defined it. Purpose-driven leaders know their personal purpose. They live by their personal purpose as they carry out the company’s purpose. The two purposes are not in conflict. They openly share their personal purpose with others when asked. They teach and encourage others to find their unique purposes, too.

Why should leaders teach and encourage others to seek their unique personal purpose, when the company already has a purpose statement? Because they know that a personal purpose is the overarching principle that gives your life meaning.  It’s a forward-pointing arrow, that gives you clarity and helps you get out of bed in the morning. A personal purpose must serve a bigger cause than just yourself. The company purpose isn’t a personal purpose. You can be fired, quit or retire from the company’s purpose, but once defined, you’ll never quit your personal purpose.

Panel Discussion at The MedTech Conference

Nana Mohtashami – Russell Reynolds
Jim Hollingshead – Insulet
Bronwyn Brophy – Thermo Fisher Scientific
Quentin Blackford – iRhythm Technologies
Deepak Nath – Smith & Nephew

With personal purpose defined, purpose-driven leaders help their team members apply that purpose in a way that meshes with the company’s overarching purpose. Encouraging team members to create and live by their personal purposes is important for three reasons:

First, all medtech companies share an identical purpose. Each one is worded slightly differently, but it’s a version of, “We exist to enhance (or save) the lives of patients through _________ (pick a buzzword: innovation, technology, medical procedure, global, etc.)”

Don’t believe me? The company purpose statements of the CEOs on the panels are listed below. Throw the purpose statements of these companies in a hat (Abiomed, Insulet, Intuitive, iRhythm, Johnson and Johnson Medtech, Medtronic, Smith & Nephew, Thermo Fisher Scientific) pull them out, and match them to the respective company. I bet you can’t do it. There is nothing that distinguishes one from the other. (The correct matchups are at the bottom of this post.)

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology.
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.
  • Helping people get back to what matters most.
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible.
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.

Secondly, since we agree medtech company purpose statements are virtually identical, the company’s purpose statement can’t make the critical difference in the employee experience. What makes the critical difference then? A direct manager who is purpose-driven and coaches others to become their best. The direct manager creates upwards of 70% of the working climate a team member experiences. Many companies intentionally create a desired macro-culture for the company, but there are many micro-cultures within the firm that create very different employee experiences.

Gallup has reported that 70% of leaders don’t know their personal purpose. A study published in Harvard Business Review reported that fewer than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of their individual purpose. That number is likely even higher in the general population. If I’m a prospective employee, I need to know my manager’s personal purpose. Is the manager purpose-driven? How do they mesh their personal purpose under the company purpose? If my manager doesn’t have a personal purpose, why in the world would I want to work under that person?  I’ll take the managers who know their personal purpose and embrace the company’s purpose – while coaching and encouraging others to do the same – all day long.

Third, people who operate by their personal purpose in sync with the company’s purpose are your passionate value creators. They take great care of your clients. They are your “A” players. They are clear about their gifts, their purpose, their values and they know how to apply them in support of your company’s mission of enhancing and saving lives worldwide.

If it is true that fewer than 20% of employees operate with a defined personal purpose, as CEO, how can I expect them to take great care of our customers, perform at a high level, create great value, and grow and stay with the firm? If I’m not helping them define their purpose, and showing them how to thrive at our company, won’t they vulnerable to being poached by more insightful companies and leaders who are purpose-driven – and can help them discover and live by their individual purpose? Here’s how you can help others discover their purpose.

My invitation to medtech CEOs is to embrace purpose at both the company and individual levels. It’s your job to be a great value creator and make an enormous impact. You are the role models for purpose-driven leadership. Harnessing purpose in all your team members – and connecting it to the company purpose – is a critical step forward in creating great value for all your stakeholders.

“I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day. It’s the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned.”Clayton Christensen, late professor at Harvard Business School and bestselling author

Company Purpose Statements

  • To enable our customers to enjoy simplicity, freedom, and healthier lives through innovative technology. Insulet
  • A leading provider of groundbreaking medical technology that provides circulatory and oxygenation support.Abiomed
  • Helping people get back to what matters most. Intuitive
  • We unleash diverse healthcare expertise, purposeful technology, and a passion for people totransform the future of medical intervention and empower everyone to live their best life possible. Johnson and Johnson MedTech
  • To enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Smith & Nephew

Attention All CEOs: Torpedo the Performance Review – Try the “W5” Instead

The loathed performance appraisal is raising its ugly head again across corporations. Many companies that halted reviews during the pandemic now have employee performance in their crosshairs. The Dreaded Performance Review Makes a Comebacappeared as the lead article in the Wall Street Journal’s C-Suite Strategies section on September 19, 2022.

Meta Platforms (Facebook), Google, McKinsey, CarParts.com, and Goldman Sachs were identified as ones where performance reviews are returning. It’s a big mistake. Performance reviews at most companies, as conducted for decades, is an inherently flawed process. There is, however, a better solution for managing performance.

What’s required for any business that seeks to serve its clients well and grow? A group of motivated, high-performing people is a necessary component. And how do most businesses monitor the performance of its people? An annual performance review is typically used. And who feels the performance review process works well? Just about no one!

Consider these facts:

  • Employees – Only 13% think performance reviews are effective.
  • Managers – 70% of managers admit they have trouble giving a tough performance review.
  • Human Resources – 58% of HR executives grade their performance review process a grade of C or below.
  • CEOs – Only 6% of CEOs think their performance review process is effective.

Clearly all the stakeholders of the annual performance review see the process as broken. If that’s the case, isn’t it time to obliterate – instead of bring back – the traditional performance review?

Why don’t companies blow up their performance review processes? Three reasons:  1. Because it is necessary to give feedback on performance and this provides a mechanism for the exchange of feedback; 2. Because (pre-pandemic) we’ve always done performance reviews before; 3. Even if we acknowledge performance reviews don’t work well, we don’t have a better solution for delivering performance feedback.

I’m all about giving and receiving feedback, improving performance and fanatical about creating performance-oriented cultures. But I’m adamantly opposed to the annual performance review process, which sadly is the antithesis of high performance.  So, what can companies do differently?  I suggest the W5 meeting.

Five-way view

The W5 (work in 5 directions) meeting is an innovative idea in performance management.  These meetings offer a powerful opportunity to promote self accountability.  Very simply, a W5 meeting is a one-to-one meeting between a team member and the direct manager.  At these meetings, the team member should report a self-assessment on their performance from five directions:  customer, direct reports, peer, manager and self (how they are learning and growing). 

Coaching discussion between manager and direct report

Typically held monthly, the focus of this meeting is about the results the team member is achieving.  It is the team member’s responsibility to schedule the meeting and report in full.  During the W5 meeting, which should be conducted in 30 minutes or less, the team member gives a full accounting of progress on how they are meeting and exceeding the requirements in the five directions as listed above.

The team member provides an overall assessment of how they are delivering, taking accountability for performance shortfalls and reports on a plan to correct any deficiencies.  Both problem areas and success stories are shared.

Specific topics on which the manager can assist are identified, and together a plan is developed.  For both the team member and the manager, the W5 meeting is held in a spirit of collaboration, alignment and coaching for future performance. The manager should look for ways to encourage, support and recognize the team member throughout the meeting, in a genuine way.  The meeting is supported by candor and an open dialogue.

Implementing W5 meetings monthly builds accountability for performance with an eye on what is required for future success.  If W5 meetings are held regularly and with the right intention, the manager will only need to hold team members accountable when they are failing to hold themselves accountable.

Companies that implement the W5 process across the board can discard their annual performance review process.  Using the W5 process provides for recognition of excellent performance. Meanwhile poor performance gets addressed quickly and is not tucked away for a discussion that may occur months later.

There is no ambiguity how work performance is perceived, in the world of W5.  Problem performers find themselves in a pressure cooker, have nowhere to hide and are quickly faced with a choice:  dramatically improve or leave. Mid-level performers are encouraged and coached on ways they can lift their contribution.  Excellent performers are recognized for their superb work.

So, if we are committed to growth, extraordinary results and a performance-driven climate, it’s time to obliterate the old performance review process, substituting it with real time feedback and the W5 process.

 The biggest challenge of W5 meetings is the discipline to initiate and sustain these meetings, which take time.  But what could be more important to leaders and managers than creating a team of motivated, high performing team members that are positioned to achieve sustained results?  After all, taking great care of clients by creating the capability and climate for sustained results is what leaders are paid to do.

If you are getting great results with your traditional performance review process, you wouldn’t be reading this article.  If you want great performance in the future, I encourage you to consider committing to the W5 process.

 

 

What Do Exceptional, Value-Creating CEOs Actually Do?

Every CEO has six key responsibilities they must embrace. Exceptional CEOs think and act differently as to how they carry out their responsibilities.  They take different actions and deploy practices that create great value. These mindsets and practices can be learned, applied, and mastered.

The first responsibility is set the direction. The accompanying mindset of the highest performing CEOs is to be purpose-driven, to create an exciting vision of the future and to and take the bold actions to reframe the game in your sector.

The second responsibility is to optimize the top leadership team. The prevailing mindset is creating a high performing top team. Hiring, coaching, and investing in team members, who are capable, are candid in addressing the challenges facing the business, and are committed to the company’s success.

The third responsibility is to align and mobilize all to execute. The mindset is shaping a working climate that is energizing, is friction-free so individuals and teams can operate efficiently, and building a culture that reinforces and rewards value creation.

The fourth responsibility is to guide your stakeholders. To be credible, you’ll need to master and deliver one compelling narrative that helps you connect with both internal and external stakeholders and be seen as trustworthy.

Excellent CEOs know they need to count on a wise board of directors. Responsibility #5 is leveraging your board. The mindset is to be transparent about your business and its challenges. To educate and engage the board and embrace a forward-looking perspective.

The sixth and final responsibility is to lead yourself. The hardest job you’ll ever undertake, is leading yourself. The mindset is a commitment to professional growth, of operating with humility and gratitude, and a practice of recognizing and encouraging others, even during challenging times.

Do these mindsets describe how you embrace your six key CEO responsibilities?

When you get better, everyone around you gets better. Go to YourCEOCheckUp.com, take the self- assessment to measure your current performance on these mindsets and practices. You’ll receiver your results instantly.

Then, for more on the practices excellent CEOs deploy to create massive value, go to YourCEOResourceGuide.com to discover what you can do to raise your game and put yourself on the path of becoming the exceptional, value-creating CEO you are meant to be.

Every CEO Needs a Coach

As CEO, your job is to create great value. More than any other person, your impact as CEO is the single biggest predictor of your company’s success. Perform in the upper 20% of CEOs and you’ll generate a nearly 3X greater return to shareholders than the average performer.

Yet sustaining top performance and value creation is not so easy. Today’s environment is riskier and more challenging than just a decade ago. You operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, where disruptive technology abounds, talent is scarce and shifting, new business models and competition threaten the status quo, and social unrest, a pandemic, and the climate crisis loom. You have a lot of weight on your shoulders. To help you navigate this treacherous terrain, can you benefit by having a CEO coach, whose sole goal is to help you become more successful in work and life?

Every top performer has a coach. World-class athletes, musicians, and entertainers all have coaches. Best-in-the-world performers hire coaches to help them improve their games, become better and stay on top. It’s the same for smart CEOs.  Eric Schmidt, former chairman and CEO of Google said, “The best advice I ever got was from John Doerr (chairman of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins) who said to get a coach.” A CEO coach sees you with a different set of lenses, making suggestions and offering insights that help you create great impact.

 

Your CEO coach’s only agenda is a desire to see you operate at your best and succeed. Your coach is a confidant who plays a role no other stakeholder can play. Board members, direct reports, or well-meaning spouses aren’t coaches as they have their own agendas. Your coach sees your greatness, beliefs, and blind spots. Listening carefully, your coach learns your biggest challenges and opportunities. Your coach asks thoughtful questions, explores options, and offers perspective and wise insights.  Your coach helps you learn new skills and strengthen your relationships. Your coach shows you how to grab hearts and minds. Your coach will teach you how to connect with, persuade and inspire others to act. Your coach encourages and inspires you to become your best.

When you get better, everyone around you gets better. You serve as a role model for others to grow and lift their games, too. That’s a powerful way of building a team of high performing, value creating leaders.

What to look for in your CEO coach? Your coach must understand your context, bringing senior level executive experience in your industry sector along with a track record of success working with CEOs on the topics where you seek assistance. Your coach must clearly describe what you can expect working together and provide examples and references of client success stories that resonate. Your coach must always keep your discussions confidential. Finally, your coach must be a good personal fit with you. The chemistry has be right.

Every CEO needs a coach. When you select and engage with an outstanding CEO coach, and commit to do your work, the benefits you’ll receive can be enormous. You’ll gain a brainstorming partner, a confidant, a trainer, a sage, and a motivator, who’ll help you thrive. So, you become better – in work and life – creating great value for yourself and all your stakeholders.

What Do Exceptional CEOs Do Differently? Where Do You Fall on the Scale?

As CEO, your job is to create great value. More than any position, your impact is the single biggest predictor of your firm’s success. What you control accounts for up to 45% of company performance. In an increasingly volatile world, your impact will become even more important in the future.

Every CEO has six key responsibilities they must embrace. Exceptional CEOs think and act differently as to how they carry out their responsibilities.  Finally, we have a self-assessment tool that measures your performance on these areas.  It’s called Your CEO Check Up. It takes about 10 minutes to complete on-line, it is confidential, you get your results instantly, and best of all, it’s free.

How you perform matters – a lot.  You can be a boost for your company or can set it back.  The risks are high. With CEO turnover on the rise, fail to create the value you must and you’ll be shown the door.

 How about you? Are you winning or losing? Every CEO has blind spots. What’s the risk if you don’t perform to your full potential? What price will you pay?

With results in hand, you’ll want to know how to create the value you must. For more on the mindsets and CEO practices that drive value, you’ll need Your CEO Resource Guide.  It’s full of valuable insights and information, its downloadable and it is free, too.

When you get better, everyone gets better. Go to YourCEOCheckUp.com, take the self- assessment and get your results. Then, go to YourCEOResourceGuide.com to discover what you can do to raise your game and put yourself on the path of becoming the exceptional, value-creating CEO you are meant to be.