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The Psycho CEO Vol. 1

Recently, one of our executive team members told me that the profession boasting the most psychopaths is the CEO. I laughed, but later was paranoid enough to Google it, and found his statement to be true. The chief executive officer tops the list of those most likely to be a psychopath. Sure, I share the list with lawyers, surgeons, and clergymen, but CEO is at the top. Number one, baby! So, if you’re a CEO, a VP of Sales (also on the list), or a potential psycho, I’m writing this series of “reflections” with you in mind. I hope you relate. I hope you’ll gain something of value too.

Reflection #1: “Reflections of an Obsessive 5th Grade Coach”

5th Grade Football

I’m a CEO (psychopath) of an engineering and manufacturing company. We have about 200 employees. We’re international. As Ron Burgundy in the movie Anchorman says, “I don’t know how to put this, but we’re a pretty big deal.” As I look back, many of my successes and proud moments did not come from my office chair, a board room, or a strategic planning retreat. They came on the field or the gym while coaching youth sports.

I’ll never forget coaching the 5th grade football team. A goofy group of rural farm kids, we were the smallest and lightest team in the league. When you’re eleven-years-old, size and weight are a competitive advantage, and we were at a severe disadvantage. It’s no coincidence that our mascot was the “Bears.” See Bad News Bears here! And yet, here we were on a dreary November day, playing the mighty Bucs for the championship. How did we make it here? As a coach, my time was filled with many victories, championships, and lasting relationships. As the “head coach” of my business, the success hasn’t been as consistent. I recall too vividly the years where we struggled to make a profit, laid off employees, and suffered broken relationships. A leader in both coaching and corporate, it’s clear to me that coaching came easier and generated sustained, positive results. Why?

I’ve obsessed (psychopath, remember?) over the answer, and I keep coming back to an answer that I don’t like: it was the soft stuff. Below are some of the soft items that contributed to our successes and how they apply to my business:

Vision, mission, and values were constantly communicated

Winning was our desired result, but the vision and mission for our team was to learn the game, improve and experience the joy that comes from accomplishing something as a team that we never could have done as individuals. Also, we were always talking about who we were, our identity, and our values. For my teams, we preached toughness, defense, unselfishness, playing hard, and embracing adversity. We asked, "Who are we going to be when it gets tough, or when it rains, or when the ref misses a call? How do we celebrate an unselfish play? Are we playing through the whistle?"

Reflect: Have you made the mistake of creating an unrealistic vision in your business? How often in a business setting do you talk about your identity and values. 

Boundaries were obvious to everyone

Sidelines, goalposts, bases, end zones, scoreboards. Boundaries are a great thing about sports. If you cross them, there’s a referee there to blow a whistle, throw a flag or issue a yellow card. Boundaries can be more difficult in a corporate setting as the rules and expectations aren’t always black and white. They can change from one year to the next, one division to the next, and have different interpretations form one co-worker to another.

Reflect: Are your boundaries clear? If not, you could actually be limiting freedom for your people. Clear boundaries will increase innovation, creativity, and freedom for your people to do their best.

Accountability was built in

If boundaries are a great thing, then accountability might be the best. You’ve probably heard, “Do your job or ride the pine.” For my teams, it was “Embrace the values, or ride the pine.” We had scoreboards, clocks, and stat keepers to enhance accountability and drive improvement. We tracked stats that promoted our culture too. Example: In basketball, players received a standing ovation from the bench and a Twinkie (corny, I know) for taking a charge. Taking a charge was a tangible expression of our values of toughness and unselfishness.

Reflect:  As a business leader, what accountability tools do you use? Are they clear and communicated to everyone? Are you measuring results or the behaviors that lead to those results? Do you hand out any Twinkies?

Timeouts

They work in sports and they work in business. If you spend all your time running the plays, you’ll lose perspective on the entire game. Timeouts were sacred on my teams, used for thoughtful feedback and input for coaches and players alike.

Reflect:  Does your team take retreats? Do you break away from the everyday details to strategize and plan?

The CEO of GE, Jeffery Immelt, said in a recent interview that his least favorite class in business school was organizational behavior. “I thought it was too soft, all this fancy stuff, blah, blah, blah,” he said. “Now, it’s all I do, right?” If you’re a CEO or leader within your organization, how do you spend your time? Are you working the X’s and O’s, or are you working on the soft stuff?

By the way, we won that game in November. Players and coaches hugged me. Parents hugged me. I hugged them all back. It was a cold rain that pelted us as we celebrated, but I still feel warm when I remember that championship season.

The Psycho CEO

Kasa Companies 418 East Ave B Salina, KS 67401