Follow the Leaders
To address the unique stressors in your life as a busy business owner with many people depending on you, let’s first consider what you can change. Grab a pen and piece of paper and write down:
Now that you’ve written down the main areas of current cause, effect and management of stress, we can start to refine your unique stress management strategy. And just as unique as we all are, each of us will end up with different way to manage our stress. In general, there are three main steps better stress management.
Now that you’ve identified your stressors, you can start to determine how to remove or minimize these external sources of stress. This might be what runs through your head at night and keeps you from falling back asleep at 2:00 a.m. It could be a situation you are avoiding because you’re not quite sure how to handle it yet. As long as you’re not dealing with it all, it’s not going to go away.
So, next to each of your stressors, write down why you’re not dealing it. Be honest with yourself. Are you afraid to have the tough conversation? Do you think you need more time to decide? Is there not enough time in your day?
Next write down one small step towards starting to solve this stressor. Is it a question that needs to be answered first? Do you need to delegate it to someone else? What one step can you make on each one to start to limit and remove that stress – or at least remove the physical or emotional roadblock to solving for it? Even a small step in the right direction starts to minimize the stressor, plus it lowers your body’s negative reaction to that stressor by knowing that you’re working on it.
As busy as you are as a CEO, you actually can take a mini-break from stress through short periods of avoidance or distraction. In fact, the irony is that taking mini-breaks from stress allows you to take on even greater stress in short bouts. This is probably the most common method of stress management, and it comes in many forms as you listed above under your distractors.
Examples can be checking your social media feeds, brief exercise or even a walking break in the middle of your day, playing a video game, or binging the latest on Netflix at night on the sofa. Anything that allows your brain to think about something other than your stress counts as a distraction that helps you avoid feeling stress for a brief period and allows your body and mind to recharge. Even the greatest athletes in the world take small breaks from training so that their brain and muscles can recharge and come back even stronger.
Changing your internal response to stress requires introspection, but it also helps you develop a new set of skills to better manage stress for the long term. Now that you’ve identified the symptoms you exhibit when you’re stressed, you can more easily recognize them and change your reaction in the moment. Instead of the short-term reactions like raising your voice, choosing the unhealthy menu item, or delaying a critical business decision yet again, you can now work to change your reaction to a healthy one – both for you and your business.
Our physicians and health coaches at PartnerMD often recommend various forms of box breathing, meditation and mindfulness to assist in stress management. Learning to breathe more deeply through your belly and with intention to clear your mind can have powerful effects on your body’s physical and mental reaction to stress. Plus, it allows you as a CEO to get out of the rut of responding quickly out of habit and reflex, and into the more effective method of reacting with intention and productive outcomes. And if nothing else, just watch what happens to your employees and your kids when they see you inhale and exhale deeply with your eyes closed instead of yelling or complaining about the latest problem to solve.
Meditation is a powerful tool that allows you to become a neutral observer. One of the most important parts of meditation is the non-judgmental awareness — of seeing things for what they are rather than what you think they should be. The goal of meditation is not to think of nothing; it’s to ground you in the present making your more aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without necessarily reacting to them. We can recognize our thoughts and then let them go. This physical practice over time can actually rewire your brain to stimulate calm, happiness and even more creative problem solving. In order to change how we react to stress, we first need to have this awareness.
In addition to the three-step process above, here are a few additional tips and easy activities to get you started.
Ready to learn more about managing stress? PartnerMD is hosting a VACEOs Square Table event on June 20. Seating is limited and is for VACEOs Members and Sponsors only. Learn more and sign up.
Editors Note: PartnerMD is a Sponsor of VA Council of CEOs. This article was originally posted here.
Whether it is with your boss, co-worker, or client, difficult conversations are challenging to manage, and the fear of failure can sometimes be paralyzing. The key to ensuring the best outcome for everyone involved is knowing how to manage the exchange.
Here are the crucial steps to ensure a smooth, successful, and productive discussion.
1. What is your purpose for having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish and what is an ideal outcome?
2. What assumptions are you making about this person’s intent? Be cautious about making any presumptions.
3. Which “buttons” of yours are being pushed? Are you more emotional than the situation warrants? Be aware of your heightened emotional state.
4. How does this person perceive the situation? Are they aware there is a problem? What solution do you think they would suggest?
5. What are your needs and fears? What are theirs? How have either of you contributed to the problem?
No matter how well the conversation begins, you’ll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose, and your emotional energy. Your attitude toward the conversation will influence your perception of it. Being positive will impact its effectiveness. Be mindful of your body language.
Pretend you don’t know anything and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view. What do they really want? What are they not saying? Do you know all the facts?
Let them talk until they are finished; don’t interrupt them other than to show your understanding of what they are saying. Most importantly, do not take it personally. Your goal is to learn as much as you can.
Acknowledgment shows you are listening. Explain what you think is really going on from their perspective; anticipate their hopes and honor their position. People rarely change their position unless they see you understanding. Also, take ownership of your role, this will help move the conversation forward. Lastly, know that acknowledging and agreeing are not the same. Saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean you are going along with their decision.
When you sense that the other has fully expressed his or her side, then it’s your turn. Clarify what you think they may have missed and explain yourself without minimizing their point of view. For example: “From what you’ve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not a team player. But I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.”
Now you can start building solutions. Brainstorming and asking questions are essential. Ask what they think might work and then find something you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to asking questions. The result will be sustainable solutions.
Additional tips and suggestions are:
Practice, practice, practice.
Use one of these conversation openers.
About the Author
Kevin Grey is a Fractional HR Director for Warren Whitney. He serves clients requiring senior level human resource leadership and organizational development expertise across Virginia.
Editors Note: Warren Whitney is a Sponsor of VA Council of CEOs. The article was originally posted here.
“Less Doing” was the theme of this year’s VACEOs Retreat, and there’s no better expert on the subject than Ari Meisel. The founder of Less Doing, Meisel is a self-described “overwhelmologist” who helps entrepreneurs find focus, flexibility and freedom in their work. His methodology enables founders to become replaceable so they can scale their business.
During his workshop at this year’s Retreat, he asked the audience, “What are some of your biggest productivity challenges?” No surprise: Many members in the audience reported managing email as problematic.
Here are a few email tips we gathered from Ari’s presentation. What techniques do you use to manage your inbox? Leave us a comment. We’d love to hear about them!
“Email is a transactional communication,” says Ari. “Internal conversations tend to be exactly that – conversations, brainstorming, ideas, arguments. That’s why, when people try to use email, we get the 20 BCCs and forwards. It’s just not designed for it. People don’t use email very well to begin with. Using it for internal communication is terrible.”
To maximize our productivity, we need to stop unnecessary email from getting into our inbox in the first place. The best way to do that is by not using email for things we’re not supposed to use it for, says Ari. He suggests using at least four communication tools for different internal communications needs.
There’s a tool for every job, and Ari suggests you have these four, at minimum, in your toolbox:
For daily check-ins and conversations, Ari is a big fan of Voxer. “Every morning in our company, at 8:00 a.m., there’s a message that pops up in our Voxer group, and it says, ‘Hey team, time to check in. What are you going to work on today, and what’s your biggest obstacle?’”
Ari also suggests a tool like SLACK. Use it for conversations that aren’t brainstorming and not really conversational. Use it to share things people need to know. Ex: “Hey everybody, make sure to respond to our recent Facebook post.”
Lastly, you need a place where things get done. That’s important, because once you’ve decided something needs to get done, it needs to be removed from the communication stream and put into a project management space – a place where things get accomplished. “Trello is my choice for project management,“ says Ari.
So you’ve got your communication tools in place to help with internal communications. Great! But, of course, you can’t stop the emails from coming in. Your productivity will soar if you learn how to streamline your sorting process when they do. First step? Make a dramatic change to your folder structure.
According to Ari, you only need two folders: Archive and Optional. “The inbox is the place where work should happen. That’s the Zen place. Then there’s the Archive in Outlook and Gmail, which is not garbage. It’s not deleted, it’s not gone – it’s just not in inbox. Everything else goes there. You need one other folder – the Optional folder.
To keep your email streamlined and your energy focused on the essential, it’s vital that you create an automatic method to filter messages to your Optional folder.
“In Gmail, it’s called a filter,” says Ari. “In Apple, it’s called a rule. It’s a very simple rule. It says that if an email enters your inbox and has the word ‘unsubscribe’ in it, it should skip your inbox and go right into the Optional folder. That usually takes care of about 62% of the emails that come into your inbox.”
“I know some of you are thinking, ‘But there’s that newsletter I love reading!’ which is fine,” Ari says. “It’s going to be there in the Optional folder. And you get into a habit, because our brains are not quite there with the technology, when you click on the Optional folder – which you might do once a day, or maybe once a week – and you’re now in “optional” mode. You know there’s nothing essential in there, so you can go through those Facebook updates, newsletters, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll read that,’ much faster. It’s a stress-free environment, and the inbox gets filtered for you.”
Ok, most of our messages have been filtered and moved. But we’ve still got messages in our inbox. Now what?
Delete: Ask yourself, “Do I really need to respond?” “Something like 42% of the emails we reply to don’t require a response,” Ari explains. “If you’ve ever found yourself sending an email that says, ‘Got it’ or ‘Hey, thanks,’ don’t do that. There’s a boomerang effect in email: The more you send out, the more you get. We can get better about saying no. And sometimes ‘no’ is just you see it and you don’t respond to it.”
Deal With It: The second decision is deal with it. “Dealing with it could include a little Subset D, which is to delegate it,” say Ari. “If you can deal with something right now – like within the next three minutes – deal with it right now. I don’t know where we got this concept that something’s going to magically change three minutes later.”
Defer: (not to be confused with procrastination): Deferring is making an active decision and deciding that there’s a better time to do some things. “If you look at deferring as a way to decide that there’s a better time and place that you’re going to do things, it becomes really empowering for you,” Ari reveals.
Start using this decision-making matrix each day and watch your productivity soar!
*Source: Ari Meisel Workshop, VACEOs Retreat 2019
Cameron Herold is the mastermind behind hundreds of companies’ exponential expansion, and he’s rightfully earned a reputation as a growth guru by guiding his clients to double their profit and their revenue in just three years or less.
During VACEOs Retreat 2019, Herold taught attendees actionable, practical tactics for taking their business to the next level. More specifically, he explained how to build a culture, how to define your big hairy audacious goal (BHAG), and how to leverage a second in command. His most important message: Growth won’t happen unless you define your vision first.
Kelley Powell, CEO of MacLaurin Group, has already taken Herold’s words to heart. She netted an extra hour with Herold after submitting the top wager in a friendly bidding war that raised funds for an amazing cause, the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation. She’s recently spent her time working with Herold on her company’s Vivid Vision.
“I am humbled and appreciative that Cameron Herold is a part of MacLaurin Group’s journey,” said Powell. “For those who know Kelley Powell best, you will not be surprised to hear Cameron had me at ‘Goals. Measurements. Outcomes.’ Data always tells the true story. The only way to reach a Vivid Vision is to know you are on pace to get there,” she says.
“How you reach your destination of a Vivid Vision? Simply, focus,” Powell adds. She suggests you start as she did, by purchasing Cameron’s recent book, Meetings Suck for everyone on your team.
Ever think to yourself, “I wish my employees were as intuitive as I am”? If you’re like most CEOs, you have. “We’ve all said it,” said Herold at the VACEOs Retreat 2019. “The only reason you’re so intuitive is that you see the picture no one else can see. If they could see what you can see, they would be just as intuitive.”
So how do you get them to see what you can see? Create a Vivid Vision.
“The first step is you’ve got to get out of the box,” Herold told the VACEOs Retreat 2019 crowd. “You have to go, get out of the box, get out of your office, and go somewhere around nature – somewhere where you can get inspired. Pretend you’re flying in a time machine and you leave today and you arrive in the future to December 31, 2021, and I want you to look around your company, and I want you to describe what you see as if you’re standing in your company and you’re describing what you see.”
Herold’s approach includes capturing three or four bullet points about:
Then move on to what your suppliers are saying, what your banker is saying, what your accountant is saying … your lawyer. Describe meetings, customer service, marketing, operations, IT, engineering and finance.
“Don’t worry about how these things are going to happen,” Herold explained. “Just describe what it feels like and then start pulling together your first rough draft. Your job as the CEO is to only pull together the first rough draft. A rough Word document – three or four pages of a Word document.”
Next, pass off your rough draft to a writer to capture it in such a way that it becomes a magnet and pulls people toward your business. Later, add some design elements to it to make it feel more like your brand.
Your Vivid Vision should attract AND repel those who take it in. “You have to be willing to push people away,” said Herold. “The alignment around vision is where culture starts. The media talking about the massages, the free bicycles, all the lunches – that’s not culture. That stuff comes way later. Culture starts with alignment on vision and getting a good employee in the same direction. Our role as CEO is to be the Chief Energizing Officer and communicate vision – and to bring in the people who buy into it.”
About the overall experience with Cameron she tells us: “With a shared spirit of investing in others, our time was incredibly meaningful knowing together we contributed to the beacon of hope for those affected by teenage mental illness, the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation. I have personally signed up to run the 5k in the fall. I encourage each of you reading to do so as well. Special thank you to Cameron and to the team at Virginia Council of CEO’s for creating truly meaningful connections.”
Want to hear more about Kelley Powell’s journey with Cameron Herold? Cameron will be joining Kelley on the MacLaurin Group’s “Demystifying Technology” podcast soon. (Subscribe here: https://maclaurin.group/demystifying-technology-podcast/)
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Kelley!
We often hear that the VACEOs Annual Retreat is “worth the price of membership alone,” and it’s no wonder: It’s a three-day event filled with opportunities to learn from national thought leaders, participate in CEO workshops and network. But there are many other reasons to become a member of the Virginia Council of CEOs. Learn more about the benefits of membership.
It seems like they are everywhere these days, doesn’t it? On every street corner. In every advertisement on the radio. And don’t even look at the Business section of the newspaper! Though the number of banks in the U.S. has fallen by nearly 3,000 over the past fifteen years, it seems like you cannot go anywhere without hearing about another bank that is the best financial institution for you and your business.
Banks are an important partner for your business, and it is critical to find the bank and banker that will work with your culture. But with so many out there, how can you find the right one? The three factors below may be vital in determining the correct financial partner for your business.
For some businesses, especially those in a growth phase, it is important to know whether or not you are looking for a bank that truly wants to partner with you in an advocacy and advisory role or one that is simply looking to provide products with limited interaction.
A relationship-focused bank will work with you on a regular basis to understand the financial picture of the company, including its history and future expectations, the diversity, expertise, and experience of the management team, and will keep you updated frequently on products and services that may be critical to your business.
A relationship-focused bank will value your input (maybe even on loan structure or interest rates!) and will usually work with you to educate the entire management team on the best loan or treasury management product services that most appropriately allows the business to progress. A relationship-based bank will seek a financial partnership with you and your company and will often have experienced, well-trained employees that have worked with companies in various industries and phases.
Conversely, other banks are focused on transaction volume and may not be seeking as much interaction between its bankers and customers. These banks are generally searching for sales opportunities and may not provide as much feedback or guidance as a relationship-focused institution.
Often with a transaction-focused bank, you may provide financial information for a loan request and then get a response some time later with a financing offer and limited interaction during the initial prospect meeting and the underwriting process. Likewise, there may not be much communication between you and your banker until a renewal period or when financial information is due on an ongoing basis. If this type of bank is best for your business, a relationship-based approach banker may feel like a “nuisance” to you as they attempt to understand your business more.
Though banking may sometimes be considered a commodity product, there can be a large difference in the way a bank works with its clients simply based on its size and location.
Regional and national banks have a much larger presence with retail and commercial centers throughout a large footprint. If your business maintains a presence in various geographic locations, a regional or national bank might fit your need for check cashing, ATM services, and lending in multiple markets.
Additionally, financial institutions are governed such that they are only allowed to lend up to a certain amount according to their capital bases. Because of this, larger regional and national banks may be able to provide funding for loans that is in excess of smaller community banks. If your business maintains significant lending needs as well as the potential for large growth, a regional or national bank may fit your business’s culture.
A true community bank maintains a strong presence in the community in which it serves often engaging in activities and sponsorships that will impact its locality. Their bankers also live in and are consumers of the area to which they lend and may have a solid understanding of economic conditions within the market. Most notably, loan and deposit decision makers, including the Executive Management team, often reside within the same market and are easily accessible to the customers of the bank.
You may have heard from your lender or other bankers in the market that each institution has a certain “credit culture.” This terminology usually refers to the amount and type of risk that your bank is willing to take. For example, one bank may be highly reliant on financial covenants for loans they extend while another may not feel obligated to require covenants. In some bank cultures, your business may also require significant financial reporting while a more liberal credit culture could allow for providing less frequent financial information.
Some business owners appreciate financial reporting and covenants that could allow them to focus on profitable growth while others may find them burdensome, especially if the company has been operated successfully for an extended period of time.
When determining the bank’s credit culture that is best for your business, make sure to work with your accounting team or advisory service to ensure expectations are clearly defined and reporting requirements are feasible.
There are many factors that can help you determine the right banking fit for your business, and the three detailed above may be important in understanding the steps you should take to find the most advantageous current and future financial partner as your business grows.
While your need for banking services may feel immediate, take the time to get to know your bank and your banker. When you can build a relationship with a bank that fits closely to your organization, short-term opportunities can then turn into long-term positive experiences that meet the needs of your business both today and in the future.
Matt Paciocco is a Senior Vice President, Commercial Banker with Virginia Commonwealth Bank. Matt is passionate about working with a community bank that enables him to build strong relationships with his business customers and the surrounding communities. Matt has spent the last 14 years specializing in commercial banking and has positioned himself as a leading community banker in Richmond. Please visit Virginia Commonwealth Bank’s cottage at the upcoming VACEOS Retreat.
Editors Note: VCB is a trusted Sponsor of VA Council of CEOs.