Warfare at the Top: CEO vs Chairperson Battle Royale

We just experienced possibly the largest wave of CEO departures in recent history. Was it due to falling profits? Poor succession planning? Or is there more drama behind the scenes? Think firings, hurt egos, politics, and personal infighting. Author Isabelle Nüssli uncovers one of the big reasons for turmoil at the top ― the fractious relationships between egos at the executive level, particularly between CEO and chairperson. Hence the brilliant title of her new book, Cockfighting: Solving the Mystery of Unconscious Sabotage at the Top of the Corporate Pyramid.

“When you read the news, usually the reason [given for the CEO leaving] was strategy misalignment or different leadership style or different chemistry, etc. But the story that is not put out to the public is that there was a relational conflict, which apparently is the case most of the time,” says Nüssli.

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What is My Business Strategy? Owners Need a Game Plan

No organization is immune to challenges, not if it has any ambition. But how do we as owners and leaders put our strategy hat on to see down the road, or attempt to see, to predict where markets will go, how customers will act and react? To play the great game of chess in the real world – which is strategy.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. The eloquent Mike Tyson put it so well when he said, “everybody has a plan until I punch them in the mouth.” We would do well to remember how limited our brilliant strategies in fact are, how fragile in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and future black swan events.

Just look to history to see how companies have been blindsided with the punch they never saw coming. Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975, but put launch on hold in fear of cannibalizing their film business. We all know the story from there….Kodak who? Or take Blockbuster – which failed to pivot when Netflix showed up. And then Borders and Barnes & Noble, crushed under the Amazon onslaught. And the examples of business strategy gone wrong go on…

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The Best Organizations Have a Good Company Action Plan for the Future

How many owners or executive teams are truly confident that their organization is operating at it’s best? How many have a true action plan for the future? And how many of those can actually execute on the plan?

Donald Sull, a lecturer at MIT and an expert on strategy execution surveyed hundreds of companies on how strategy is executed and found that many lack agility or have difficulties adapting to market circumstances. In a HBR article he reported that most organizations either “react so slowly that they can’t seize fleeting opportunities or mitigate emerging threats or react quickly but lose sight of company strategy”.

These fears are echoed by executives across companies and industries.

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Non-Profit, Vision Share, is the consortium of eye banks that banded together in 1998 to get corneas ready for transplant, into the hands of surgeons around the globe. With 18 eye banks, the consortium provides a space to share best practices, help advance innovation and technology, and pool resources to reach surgeons fast.

After having a full-time CEO on board for two years, the board determined they were not getting the results they were looking for.

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Four Factors That a Predict if a Company Will Fail or Fly High

Companies that have sought out true interims will tell you that during initial conversations, the executive interviewed the company as much as the company interviewed the executive. Having jumped into everything from manufacturing to healthcare, to AI, interims are choosy about the assignments they take on. They are not shy about a challenge, but want to have major impact. The best interim execs have a finely honed internal screening check-list to decide what’s best to parachute into.

Cleve Adams is no stranger to high growth situations, having built a SaaS cyber security software company from pre-revenue to a $1B IPO in three years. As an interim exec and four-time VC-backed CEO, Cleve says there are four vital components to evaluating a company.

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2017: Done. Predicting the Future in 2018 and Beyond

2017 offered daily excitement. The markets continued an unrelenting upward streak. While some debate the strength of underlying fundamentals, valuations public and private rose all year long.

In our business at InterimExecs, demand for interim management continued strongly while gaining momentum in the US. We had fun matching inspiring companies and executives together that were focused on growth, transformation, or taking on big initiatives and goals (see some of our favorite moments of 2017 here: www.interimexecs.org/2017-review).

Thanks to Peter Diamandis and the Abundance360 team, I now know 2018 will prove to be even better in all respects.

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The Collapse of Leadership in a Digital World

In a digital world where everything that can be measured is measured, do you still need strong leadership? What difference does management make when data steers the ship?

Many technology companies have the mindset that data trumps all, but are some companies suffering as a result? Look to the news to see how this is playing out:

•Zenefits’ founder Parker Conrad was thrown out for creating a culture that violated insurance laws
•Uber’s CEO resigned for multiple behavioral reasons (writing code to defy local authorities; sexual harassment allegations; staff and senior team exiting or fired)
•Volkswagen techies wrote ingenious code to defeat auto emissions testing. Smart, but illegal.

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In 1932, one of history’s greatest architects, Frank Lloyd Wright founded the Taliesen Fellowship and welcomed 23 apprentices into his world. For the next 27 years Wright taught and lived between Wisconsin and Taliesen West in Scottsdale, Arizona, with numerous sets of students, some of whom went on to work for his firm after graduating. In his 1943 memoir, Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography, Wright listed a Taliesen fellow’s ideal qualities:

Fellowship Assets:
I. An honest ego in a healthy body – good correlation
II. Love of truth and nature
III. Sincerity and courage
IV. Ability for action

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Selling in a Few Years? Start Packaging Your Company Now

According to a Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for mergers and acquisitions sits between 70 and 90%. Even before the deal closes, it’s not uncommon for deals to unravel.

If the odds can be overwhelmingly negative, what can you do to increase your chance of success if you are looking to sell your business?

Prepare.

Don’t wait for the M&A process to begin to get your team in gear – that’s a sure fire way to fail.

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