Friday, April 19, 2013

Your CEO’s Worst Mistake!

This week The Accelerators blog, published by The Wall Street Journal, asked their panel of experts, “What are some of the worst mistakes startup founders will make this year?”

Board members who have helped launch new ministries would likely relate to several of the worst mistakes mentioned:
   • Introducing a good idea to the market too early
   • Having too much vision—and missing what is right in front of us
   • Not talking to customers
   • Robbing yourself of helpful growing pains by sweeping mistakes under the rug

But one mentor’s insight arrested my attention. One issue is common not just to startup nonprofits, but in many, many organizations. Michael Lazerow, who has started four companies and invested in 25 more, asks founders one simple question:
What are the top three things 
you need to accomplish in the next 
six to 12 months to give the company 
the best chance of long-term success?

The think-ahead CEO will lead the board by focusing on this question at every board meeting. But if the question, and the board-affirmed answers, are not discussed, then the board must address it promptly.

Lazerow laments, “Most entrepreneurs I speak to can’t name their priorities right away. If an entrepreneur can’t name their top priorities without hesitation, how will the rest of the company know? It’s bad enough for a founder to work on the wrong projects. But if the entire company is not focusing in the right areas, game over!

“I encourage all leaders (of companies, divisions and small teams) to write down the top three areas of focus somewhere visible in the organization and communicate them to the entire team. By doing so, you are not only able to focus on what is most important, but you are also able to eliminate distractions, which is the biggest gift you can give as a leader.”

Amen! I encourage CEOs to seek board approval on up to five written annual CEO “S.M.A.R.T.” Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-related). To keep the goals top of mind year-round, CEOs should email the board a one-page dashboard by the 15th of every month—with color-coded YTD bullet point commentaries for each goal:

  • Green: on target
  • Yellow: caution
  • Red: needs more focus!

Christ-centered organizations, by the way, should have a culture of grace that acknowledges “worst mistakes” because everyone makes mistakes. Yet, by settling for an activity-driven culture versus a results-driven culture, we needlessly delay Kingdom advancement. That’s the worst mistake.

QUESTION: What are the top three things you need to accomplish in the next six to 12 months to give your organization the best chance of long-term success?

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