12 Game Changing Practices That Fast-Track Success, According To Top CEOs

Author

Robert Reiss

January 12, 2017

In my quest of uncovering what it takes to build a great company I’ve had the privilege of interviewing 750 top CEOs. I’ve recognized that many CEOs learn their best leadership insights directly from other CEOs. So for this article I asked four of the great leaders of our time to explain their most important leadership philosophies. While they shared many, many ideas, I thought the 12 below quotes had potential to be game changers for CEOs and executives seeking to fast-track success:

Craig Benson – Founding CEO Cabletron Systems, former New Hampshire Governor

Ted Leonsis – Owner & CEO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment

Scott McNealy – Cofounder and 22 year CEO, Sun Microsystems

Haywood Talcove – CEO, Government, LexisNexis Risk Solutions

Ted Leonsis: Major in the majors. “Leaders must know what are the most important things and focus deeply on those. As a leader, I worry about really, really big things and really, really small things and leave everything else to the organization. For example, I like to walk around the arena before every game for 30 minutes. It keeps me in touch with my employees and it also sends the message that little things matter, like if the ketchup is low, that is a small thing, but it is important to a fan’s overall experience.”

Craig Benson: Stand up meetings. “You can’t waste time. It’s the only asset you have and you can’t get more of it. I’ve found meetings if done incorrectly can be a huge waste of time. So I do stand up meetings. I don’t want more than about 15 people and we go around the group and each sums up where they are, what their biggest problems are and if they need help. We start at 8 a.m., and if someone arrives at 8:01 a.m. they can’t get in. Consequently people arrive early, and the meetings and relationships they have with each other before the meeting is often as important as the meeting itself. I had some government employees who had never met each other before so this helped. Everyone standing both energizes people and makes them want a quicker meeting.”

Scott McNealy: Dunk leaders under the water. “You don’t develop leaders you only identify them. You can’t make someone a leader if they’re not one. I have found the best way to take leaders down the wisdom curve is by putting them in a new job and uncomfortable position, which I call dunking them under the water. Good leaders will find a way to succeed. With good leaders you dunk them under the water again and they become way wiser sooner. They might initially hate the dunk under water, but they look back and love the experience. They create significant business successes, while growing tremendously and quickly as true leaders.”

Haywood Talcove: Randomness. “I want unpredictability and I learn a great deal from random encounters. So I will FaceTime customers and salespeople. I will show up at a site or a customer meeting. If I want success, I want to manage them, I don’t want them to manage me. Also, my belief is great leaders make themselves available to the market. Anyone can find their email or phone number. The worst thing a leader can do is to hide behind hierarchy – that just creates blind spots.”

Benson: Ban organizational charts. “From day one at Cabletron I banned organizational charts. Org charts kill culture. The biggest thing in both business and government is culture. And culture has different advantages in business and in government. Business is better at getting things done quicker. Government is better at process, and what most people hate change and the process makes people feel more comfortable in change.”

McNealy: Rule of 11. “Flat organizations are best. At every level of the organization structure you lose 20% of the message, so if you have five levels the worker bees have none of the correct information. A problem is everyone wants to be promoted to be a manager not doer, yet I believe too many managers are the real problem of an organization. When a manager manages only six people, they will tend to micromanage and also if someone wants to quit they can hold their manager hostage. I’ve found what’s best for an organization is what I call the ‘rule of 11’ which means each manager manages 11 people. And having 11 reports has the additional benefit of elevating someone from being a manager to a leader, and organizationally with the ‘rule of 11’ you have only the best managers.”

Talcove. Be a simplifier.  ”I am a simplifier. Customers and your team need to simply understand value. We start with organizational accountability so everyone knows their job and understands what good looks like. Everyone must know their strategy and completely our ‘3 big rocks’ – which are our key focuses. Another way of keeping things simple is by having internal promotions, which simplifies career paths and organizational success. Frankly, an organization who that takes too many outsiders takes the wind out of the sails for the team.”

Leonsis: Select the right business model. “Most professional sports teams don’t realize they are in the SaaS (software as service) business, but I recognized early that we are in a business built on long-term contracts with highly credible clients. For example, we have naming rights that last decades, long-term sponsorship deals, corporate suites and season ticket holders. When Steve Ballmer bought Clippers for $2 billion which is 10x multiple, he understood the power of long term deals with slight annual increases. So using the SaaS model has helped us redefine both our revenue as well as our multiplier.”

Talcove: Reinvent legacy markets. “Great leaders are about market creation. This means adding value to the end user they didn’t initially see. I define market creation as new innovative solutions that didn’t previously exist that rearrange the competitive ecosystems, providing an advantage that is difficulty to replicate. The key to do this is to have a role like engineer or market development team who understands the market needs and gaps. That person who heads it up must be a free thinker – don’t have a corporate person. They should share their insights with a team because teams make better decisions.”

Benson: Be in the game. “We started Cabletron because we saw a market need. Challenges and opportunities arose that we never could have imagined. When you start a business you’re in the game and you have to be in the game to see how it changes.”

Leonsis: Separate the signal from the noise. “One more thought is, I separate the signal from noise in everything I do and focus on outcomes instead of processes. I only respond to the emails where my response is impactful and helpful and I prioritize meetings that are focused on an outcome and not just a status update. If I paid attention to the noise it would distract me from making any meaningful decisions on the things that really matter or where my attention is required and as a team owner, my main goal is to make life long memories for our fans.”

McNealy: Sharing. “Everything we did to build the incredible culture and success at Sun Microsystems was based on the concept of sharing. We gave out stock options up and down the organization and we worked with distributors so they grew and profited with us. We broke all types of records for community service.  Businesswise we pioneered open networking so all computers could share files. We created Java. We open sourced our processors and everything to change the world – a lot of people used our tech and even competed with us, but we did just fine and we all felt great about what we accomplished…and most Sun employees will say it was the best place they ever worked.”

If anyone has a 13th game changing business practice, would love to hear it.

This article was written by Robert Reiss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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