January 31, 2018

CEO School: Accoutrements

The number one job of the CEO is to communicate: the dream, vision, goals, values, etc. The effective CEO will do this in writing, and in meetings, but consider that we are all communicating all the time, whether we know it or not.

The CEO will be watched for clues as to his priorities. People will adopt the CEO's persona unconsciously. The CEO's character determines the corporate culture.

Here are 10 thoughts about the CEO's basic accoutrements and the messages they send:

Smile, a lot more than you do now!
Your Smile - the only Free thing on this list, yet it is the most powerful. It's easy to forget this because CEOs are always thinking serious thoughts, solving problems, doing analysis, critical thinking. Your team sees that serious look on your face and they easily think you are angry, unhappy, and getting ready to unleash some negative statement. They hold back. Cultivate an easy smile and your team will do the same. Smiles are contagious. Enthusiasm ensues. Great work follows. "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other free super-powers: eye contact, handshake, remembering names.

Your Business Card - this is the first thing you give to everyone you meet. It's also your lasting impression. Spend a little extra to show the world you value Quality. Most people leave the back blank, but you'll be surprised how many people turn the card over when they receive it. Reward them with a personal statement of your philosophy, or a great quote that communicates your character. Remember that the number one job of the CEO is to communicate the dream. Do it here!

Your Pen - Do you even carry a pen? Do you find yourself embarrassed to have to borrow one and show how unprepared you are? A 29 cent Bic will do the job just as well as a $100 Mont Blanc, but what is the message you send when you pull out that chewed on disposable that skips and deposits globs of ink on important documents? A serious pen demonstrates seriousness of purpose. A professional writing instrument says to all that you are a professional.

Your Notebook - of course you can take short notes on your phone, or your tablet, but consider the lowly notebook's advantages, in a professional leather binder that also holds your business cards, and your great pen. Taking notes in a meeting is one of the most powerful signals you can send that you are respect the speaker, you are paying attention, and you value what is being communicated.

Pilots wear these to
show the world
they're pilots! 
Your Watch - Time is of the Essence, as always! Of course your phone can tell you what time it is, but there is an extraordinary advantage to wearing a watch, because it can be checked much more subtly and easily than using your phone, especially while driving. Your watch is a necessity to be on time for meetings. You are always on time, right? To be late is an insult, and shows your team and your clients that you are unprepared, or worse, uncaring/disrepectful. An Apple watch is very productive, and I favor it over no watch. But it's commonplace, and you are extraordinary, right? Tip: in a meeting, take your watch off and put it on the table in front of you to signal to everyone that you have a serious respect for staying on schedule. You don't need to spend a fortune to wear a quality timepiece. It's a lifetime investment that will start many interesting conversations.

Your Car - you are what you drive! Above all it must be clean and uncluttered inside and out. Imagine what message you send when your ride is loaded with junk and Burger King wrappers. You will be judged by our car, whether you like it or not. It's the second most expensive purchase you'll make and one of the most visible expressions of your priorities in life. What does your car communicate about you?

Your Clothes - Dress for Success! You may be surprised by the effect this has on the quality of your work, and the work of your team. If you look like you just fell out of bed, or like you just don't care what you look like, that will filter down throughout your organization. Show your team, your clients, and your suppliers that you are a first class company and they will up their game to your expectations. Women are a great judge of character based on first impressions and one of the first things they notice is your shoes! The strongest suggestion for the way to dress is to mirror the way your customers dress. Even more importantly, dress the way your VCs look when doing your presentation. This is a variant of "mirroring" described in NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming, an advanced communication technique. Overall, NLP has some seriously questionable claims, but mirroring is a technique that works if done properly.

Don't do this!

Your Face Piercings - just seeing if you're paying attention! Do you know any successful CEOs or VCs with piercings? Maybe if you're doing a rap startup, and looking for money from Dennis Rodman, then ok, but for the other 99.99% it's probably not the best way to communicate your intelligence and priorities. Same thing with face/neck/hand tats.

Don't be this guy!
Your Office - Set the tone. You're a leader. Create the example you want your team to follow. Above all, your office must be clean, uncluttered, organized. You will get more done and improve your mental health. Read this.

Your Home - Your home says everything about you. Make sure it sends the right message. Consider these words from "The Alchemist" by Paul Coelho: "See the wonders of my world," said the wise man. "You can't trust a man if you don't know his house." We all start out in humble surroundings, but even the most inexpensive abode can still reflect your priorities of cleanliness, organization, minimalism. Your books send a very strong message. Is your bed made? Is the sink loaded with dirty dishes? 

In Summary - The bottom line with all this is that you are sending messages at all times by your posture, what you wear, how you talk, and your "bling". Many people are completely unaware of the negative effect they are creating. Don't be this guy! 


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Energy and Persistence conquer all things.
Benjamin Franklin