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Plans and Performance Visible to All

Fans wouldn’t tolerate going to a game where no one kept or knew the score.

Yet, many companies expect employees to be excited & engaged without making their plans or performance visible to everyone. (Kind of like going to a soccer game without knowing or posting the score – hardly engaging.)

How can we make the 10th Rockefeller Habit (The company’s plans & performance are visible to everyone) a reality & make the game of business more exciting?

Here are four items on the Rockefeller Habits Checklist that can help:

  1. A “situation room” is established for weekly meetings (physical or virtual).
  2. Core Values, Purpose & Priorities are posted throughout the company.
  3. Scoreboards are up everywhere displaying current progress on KPIs and Critical Numbers.
  4. There is a system in place for tracking & managing the cascading Priorities & KPIs.

Already doing these things? Goooooaal! Want to up your game? We’re here to help.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #10 of 10 Rockefeller Habits.

How Clear is Your Strategy for Your Executive Team?

On a scale of 1-10, rate the alignment of your Executive Team on each of these: Your BHAG? Your Core Customer(s)? Your Brand Promises? Your Elevator Pitch? Gutsy?

Ask your team if they can articulate each of these key elements of your company’s strategy from the 8th Rockefeller Habit:

  1. Does everyone know your company’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)? Is progress tracked & visible?
  2. Is everyone clear on who are your Core Customer(s)? (The ones who you love to serve, deliver your best margins, pay on time, & refer you to others.) Can they articulate what they look like in 25 words or less?
  3. Can everyone articulate your 3 Brand Promises? (Primary & 2 Secondary) Do you have KPIs tied to these & are you reporting on them weekly?
  4. How aligned are they on your Elevator Pitch? (A compelling response to the question, “What does your company do?”)

If you’re happy with the results, congrats! If you aren’t satisfied with the results, there is HOPE. You must make alignment on these foundation stones of your company a PRIORITY. It doesn’t just happen on its own.

Want facilitation? We’re here to help.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #8 of 10 Rockefeller Habits.

“Can you give us perfect “10s”? “If not, why?”

Some customer surveys seem so selfish. They annoy me. HOWEVER, when was the last time you & your management team directly asked your customers about how they are doing?

How about their perspective on your company’s competitors? Now THAT is engaging.

It’s amazing the valuable information you can uncover if you simply change the questions & ask your clients DIRECTLY vs. outsource customer feedback to the marketing department.

Here are 4 game-changing questions from the 6th Rockefeller Habit:

  1.  Are ALL of your executives (& middle managers) having a 4Q conversation with at least one end user weekly?
    • a) How are YOU doing?
    • b) What’s going on in YOUR industry/neighborhood?
    • c) What do you hear about OUR competitors?
    • d) How are WE doing?
  2. Are the insights from customer conversations shared at your weekly executive team meeting?
  3. Are all employees involved in collecting customer data?
  4.  Do you have a mid-management team responsible for the process of closing the loop on all customer feeback?

If you are actively addressing these, congrats! If not, we’re here to help.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #6 of 10 Rockefeller Habits.

Feel like the weight of the organization is all on your shoulders?

Working longer hours than ever? Has complexity increased while freedom & fun have diminished? CEOs & management teams: It’s time to distribute the load!

Identifying & assigning accountabilities throughout the organization is critical to lightening your load. Here are a few items found in the Rockefeller Habits Checklist that deal with Habit #4: “Every facet of the organization has a person assigned for ensuring goals are met.”

  1. The Function Accountability Chart (FACe) is completed (right People, doing the right things, right).
  2. Financial statements have a person assigned to each item.
  3.  Each of the 4-9 processes on the Process Accountability Chart (PACe) has someone that is accountable for them.
  4. Each 3-5 year Key Thrust/Capability has a corresponding expert on the Advisory Board if internal expertise doesn’t exist.

Insight CXO helps bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization — from the management team on down.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #4 of 10 Rockefeller Habits.

Communication is Consistently the Biggest Challenge

The #1 challenge when two or more people are working together is communication (anyone married?)*

So how can we make it less frustrating and more effective?

The key is an effective communication rhythm.

How is yours?

Give yourself a gold star for each of the following meetings that you and your team are consistently implementing:

A) Daily?

B) Weekly?

C) Monthly?

D) Quarterly?

E) Annual?

If you didn’t get a 5-Star meeting rhythm rating, don’t give up. There’s still time to dramatically improve your meeting rhythm, drive greater organizational communication, alignment, and effectiveness. When executed properly, you’ll save you and your team precious time and unnecessary frustration.

Insight CXO helps bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization – from the management team on down.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #3 of 10 Rockefeller Habits.
Business Stress

Three Reasons Why Success Causes More Stress And What You Can Do About It

Business Stress

As an aspiring professional mountain bike racer, I knew the quickest way to turn pro was to win as many amateur races as possible in order to build my resume quickly. Part of what drove me was I thought turning pro would make training and racing easier because I would know exactly what to do.

But after turning pro, I had a strong dose of reality. Racing at the professional level was not necessarily physically or logistically harder, but it was instead psychologically harder. Expectations were higher for myself, and I felt as if I was the target at all the local and regional races. I was the person everyone wanted to beat. As an amateur, I had a small number of A-level races and many B- and C-level races I used to test and train in. As a pro, I felt like they were all A-races, and it was mentally grueling.

As a lifelong entrepreneur and now business coach to scale-ups, I believe success in business creates a similar problem for entrepreneurs and CEOs. As the entrepreneur or CEO scales the business, new roles are created with the intention of streamlining the workload and giving team members the ability to focus on a few important things versus being spread too thin. This is a great move for the business and helps the CEO with the workload — but not always with his or her stress levels.

Here are three reasons I believe executive roles can be more stressful even as the workload becomes more evenly distributed throughout the organization:

1. Delegating projects and initiatives can bring a new set of challenges. Building a leadership team that is healthy and cohesive is often very different than the earlier stage of the business when the CEO could call all the shots and make things happen instantly. Having to work through other people takes intention and time. Focusing on developing the people who drive results versus solving problems yourself can be stressful as the business really starts to scale.

To help combat this, I suggest evaluating how much experience the person to whom you are delegating the task has with the specific type of project. Regardless of how accomplished they are as a leader in your company, adjust the monitor and review intervals based on their project-related experience. This will help eliminate unwanted surprises and frustration on both sides later on.

2. Leading a business often means you’re held to a higher level of management practices. The CEO of a successful company is a role model both inside and outside of the business. How things are done is just as important as what is done. Being aware of the lasting impressions regarding decisions and actions, as well as having to always be a cultural role model, can add to the stress. One common mistake entrepreneurs and CEOs often make is unintentionally undermining their direct reports by not letting them know of key decisions in advance. Nothing is more frustrating to a manager who hears from one of their reports about company decisions first.

I believe one possible solution to this miscommunication is to add a cascading messages line item at the end of all executive meeting agendas. This can help make sure everyone knows the who, what and when of key information that will be shared with the rest of the company.

3. Sometimes you have too many great ideas. In my experience, the biggest cause of stress (and one that has taken me 20 years to figure out) is that success often brings more opportunities and big ideas, but these cannot always be executed at once. Success also brings resources and people who are eager to make things happen. But again, the reality is there is still only one CEO. It becomes even harder to prioritize what the company should work on strategically; the opportunities become higher grade and are often more difficult to distinguish from one another from an impact perspective. In the early days of a business, nine- and 10-level ideas were few and far between. But once the business grows, all the ideas seem to be nines and 10s. It is not always clear which is the best one to pursue, and the CEO’s mind begins to feel like a blender trying to sort it out.

To help resolve this, try asking yourself these four questions:

  • Which of my priorities or ideas will get done (or mostly done) even if I don’t personally spend much time developing them?
  • If I were to line up my personal and company priorities and ideas like dominoes, in what order could I put them so the first one I knock down also knocks down a majority of the rest?
  • Which opportunity gives me energy just thinking about it, and when it is done, will feel great and build confidence?
  • What can I delegate to someone else while monitoring their performance?

Becoming a successful entrepreneur or CEO can be very exciting as the company scales, but it also tends to create a whole new set of stressors. Learning to manage these three attributes is a critical skill for creating a healthy business and happy life.


Article originally seen on Forbes.com

Forbes Coaches Council

Effective CEOs

Six Disciplines Of The Most Efficient CEOs

Effective CEOs

Whether you are an entrepreneur running your own company or you were brought in to take a company to the next level, as a CEO, there are many forces at play that try to prevent you from performing at your best. And as a leader and chief executive, if you are not performing at your best, your team and company will suffer the same fate.

As a coach, I get the opportunity to see what is really going on in the minds of entrepreneurs and CEOs. Often times, it looks like a blender running at full speed. There are so many competing ideas, priorities, deadlines, people issues, etc. that want your full attention right now, and without discipline, they could prevent your company from scaling up.

Here are six critical disciplines for becoming the most efficient CEO possible: a breakaway CEO.

1. Accept that conflict is part of the role.

The mental energy CEOs spend working through conflicts can slow down decision making more than anything else. All CEOs have conflict management built into their role, it’s just important to determine what the conflict is about and how much of it is present. Becoming more aware of the different forms of role-related conflict is crucial for CEOs to make the best decision quickly.

For example, there are people-related conflicts, such as an underperforming key manager, resource conflicts or constraints within the company, or time conflicts, like managing the strategic versus the urgent or helping a manager solve a problem versus stepping in yourself. Accept these conflicts as part of your role and leverage them as learning opportunities for you and your team.

2. Differentiate the people and operational sides of the business.

There are two sides of the business that drive growth. One side, the “spirit side,” is related to people. This is company culture, how employees show up mentally every day, and the values and standards that teams live and make decisions by. The opposite, “mechanical side” is more operational. It relates to meeting functionality, agendas, company process and procedures.

Breakaway CEOs focus on always improving both the people and the mechanical side of the business in a balanced way. Being able to step back and ask, “Is this issue really a people-related problem or is it more of a process-related problem?” is a powerful way to make better decisions. Don’t let poor processes and a lack of routine create drama on the people side of your business.

3. Develop your leaders.

As CEO, you have an immense influence on how works get done and by whom. You have the authority to command and direct people and resources in an instant to take advantage of an opportunity or solve a problem. Breakaway CEOs know they must develop leaders before they step into leadership positions and continue their development once in that role.

A lack of true leadership in a company that’s trying to scale up creates a chaotic organization in which culture crumbles and operations slow down due to lack of trust. Though it takes more time and energy in the short term to develop someone into a leader, it pays off in dividends later when you really need it.

4. Put your own mask on first before helping others.

The body and mind are connected, and an unhealthy body leads to an unhealthy mind. I see a strong pattern of CEOs who don’t take care of themselves, and the overall health of their organization suffers as well.

Breakaway CEOs know they have the power to prioritize their agenda and personal well being. This all comes down to discipline. There is nothing worse for a company than a stressed-out CEO with his or her mental blender on full speed.

Even if you feel you can’t step away from the business to work on yourself, know that your team members will support it. They see and feel the benefits themselves.

5. Align your agenda with the company’s priorities.

The No. 1 trap CEOs fall into is becoming the fixer. Fixing problems creates immediate results, but the price is slower team development and ultimately slower company growth.

Breakaway CEOs know their agendas need to closely reflect the company’s short-term and long-term initiatives. Don’t let day-to-day issues creep in excessively to slow down advancement. Your calendar should reflect initiatives that support growth.

6. Understand how your behavior drives the business.

How you do things is equally as important as what you do. Breakaway CEOs know that the key to driving culture, values, trust and influence rests on how they behave on a daily basis.

How are major issues handled? What is the public persona of the CEO? What values and frameworks drive the big decisions?

If you are going to be a CEO, be a breakaway CEO. The result is a company that scales faster while being more fun to run along the way.

Article originally seen on Forbes.com

Forbes Coaches Council


The Power of Core Values & the Impact of a Hand Grenade


My boss welcomed me into her office & shut the door. I had no idea that meeting was about to deliver the impact of a hand grenade.

“Welcome to OUR company. We’re glad you’re here,” she greeted me.

She quickly moved to a topic sacred to her & to the company: Core Values.

She smiled but took on a serious tone. She said, “We stand for 3 things: 1) Do the Right Thing, 2) Teamwork & Trust, 3) Have a Passion for Winning – in that order.”

It wasn’t marketing gibberish. These were expected & rewarded behaviors here. She continued, “My job is to make sure the CEO knows who Gary Frey is. Your job, once you’ve built your team, is to make sure I know who your stars are. Hire your replacement & never be afraid to hire people smarter than yourself.”

Servant Leadership: She didn’t just talk about it. She LIVED it. She led by example.

Her peers & the CEO recognized her for it. She had the most coveted object in our company tucked away on her shelf: a Waterford crystal hand grenade. She never mentioned it. She didn’t have to. It was legendary. A precious few were given by the CEO to associates who had “jumped on the grenade” on behalf of our associates & customers.

She remains the best boss I’ve had. My takeaway: Know your core, lead by example, & when necessary, “jump on the grenade.”

(NOTE: This post launched on LinkedIn on 1/15/2018 to honor my former boss and our former CEO who set the tone as well as gave the coveted “Crystal Hand Grenade” award. By 2/14/2018 it had been viewed by 7.9 million people. Amazing.)

Make This Quarter Count. Align.


Is everyone aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward?* Do they even know what it is?

If not, consider these 3 questions:

1) Have you and your management team identified & prioritized the three most important “rocks” or priorities that must be accomplished in this quarter to hit your one-year goal?

2) How have you communicated these priorities & gained buy-in/ownership throughout your organization?

3) Have you set a “theme” for this quarter’s #1 priority & set up a “scoreboard” to make the metrics top-of-mind & increase engagement?

Insight CXO helps coachable CEOs inspire leadership, accelerate growth, & crush the competition. We bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization – from the management team on down. Our goal is to help you double your business (or more) in 3-5 years.

*Verne Harnish created the “Rockefeller Habits” based on the leadership and management principles used by John D. Rockefeller. #2 of 10 Rockefeller Habits: “Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the company forward.”
Outward Focus

Mind Whiplash for Overcoming Stage Fright: Focus Outward vs. Inward

Outward Focus

A comment card from many years before was tormenting me again… “Gary is better 1-on-1 than in speaking in front of a crowd.” My take: “He sucks at public speaking.”

As I was preparing to serve as the emcee at another 2-1/2 day retreat with hundreds of notable business owners & their spouses, I was being haunted by stinging (& true) words from my past.

I felt like Moses must have felt when he was asked by God to go back to Egypt & deliver a speech to Pharaoh. Moses replied, “Oh, my Lord,…I am slow of speech & tongue.”

As I poured out my fears in prayer the night before our retreat, it hit me: “A servant isn’t to be concerned about how he is PERCEIVED. A servant is to focus on SERVING — not on how people are perceiving him.”

Mind whiplash: Focus outward, not inward.

At the retreat, I fought hard to focus on SERVING our guests in my emcee duties rather than how they were perceiving me. When I would see someone in the audience tune me out, I forced the thought, “Serve them!” Not, “How am I doing?”

Amazingly, as I shifted from how I was BEING PERCEIVED to focus on how I was SERVING, I started having a blast.

Those pesky post-event comment cards? Many commented on how welcome I made them feel & how natural I was in speaking before an audience.

If they only knew…

Insight CXO helps bring clarity and alignment to people, strategy, execution & cash flow in measurable sprints across the organization — from the management team on down. We’re here to serve.