Wednesday, February 21, 2018

VACEOs Members Learn How to Ditch the Drama with Cy Wakeman

Got drama in your workplace? Gossip? Tattling? Employees constantly complaining about a colleague’s poor communication skills? Are you spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with unproductive behaviors like jealousy or resistance to change? If it seems like hours every day, you’re not wrong, and you’re not alone.

Cy Wakeman, researcher and New York Times bestselling author, has determined that employees spend nearly 2.5 hours a day more than 17 hours a week, or 68 hours a month (816 hours a year!) on negative behavior that results in drama in the workplace. And for the average business, that can add up to millions of dollars in wasted time and energy.

Earlier this year, Wakeman shared her research and conclusions with Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs) members and University of Richmond MBA graduates and alumni at a workshop co-sponsored by VACEOs in which she challenged attendees to think differently about leadership. Her view: Your role isn’t to motivate employees or find ways to engage them and keep them happy. “Drama is really emotional waste!” she exclaimed. “We need to modernize our leadership philosophy.”

“I’m here to tell you, the research I’ve done on drama will blow your mind,” Wakeman told the CEOs and future leaders in the room. “And there are businesses that are saving millions of dollars – actually actualizing on their bottom lines – by leading differently. That’s the good news. The bad news is that much of what we’ve been teaching you about leadership doesn’t work.”

“Your role is to help [employees] use good mental processes, live skillfully in current realities and deliver on organizational promises.” – Cy Wakefield


Think about it: What if you could recapture those 816 hours a year, PER EMPLOYEE, and put that energy back into improved customer experience or a new revenue stream? Wakeman believes there are millions of dollars’ worth of potential for the average organization.

Not sure where to begin? First, realize that there only three ways drama can enter the workplace:

  1. You hired it;
  2. You keep it or enable it; or
  3. You ARE it.

“This waste,” says Wakeman , “is completely treatable.”

Wakeman’s research finds that ego issues – behaviors where a scorekeeper mentality and/or judgment are the culprits – are the greatest source of wasted time (30 percent) for employees and management. Other drama offenders that can drain your business’ potential are lack of accountability (23 percent) and resistance to change (13 percent).

Main Sources of Drama in the Workplace*

  • Ego
  • Lack of Accountability
  • Lack of Buy-in
  • Resistance to Change
  • Lack of Earned Engagement

By the end of Wakeman’s day-long workshop, members and future leaders learned how to:

  • lead differently to combat ego;
  • foster accountability more effectively;
  • create earned engagement and buy-in; and
  • stop feeding into the drama.


The day was full of valuable takeaways. Here’s what two VACEOs members had to say about their experience.

“… I left Cy’s talk no longer preoccupied with obstacles; I left focused on opportunities.” Charlie Connell, Principal, Punch.

Charlie Connell, Principal, Punch

“Cy Wakeman’s ‘Reality-Based Leadership’ presentation is yet another example of a great educational opportunity I gained access to through my participation in the Council. I walked into the talk preoccupied with work, but it didn’t take her long to grab my attention.

‘I’m not responsible for the happiness of my coworkers’? ‘You can’t purchase buy-in’? These are things you know are true, but you still want the happiness and the buy-in. Cy explained other ways of thinking about these statements that made sense.

My favorite takeaway was combating ‘Why Can’t We’ statements with a ‘What If We Could?’ mindset. Again, a simple concept, but delivered in a way that was impactful for me. The segment about accountability and the fact that it cannot be enforced – it’s something that must be chosen – also hit home for me. All in all, I left Cy’s talk no longer preoccupied with obstacles; I left focused on opportunities,” says Charlie Connell, Principal, Punch.


The learning opportunities that are offered through VACEOs have been invaluable for my professional and personal growth.”–   Jennifer Boyden, Chief Executive Officer, Heart Havens

Jennifer Boyden, CEO, Heart Havens

Jennifer Boyden, CEO, Heart Havens

“I was delighted to attend the presentation by Cy Wakeman! Aside from providing a straightforward, common-sense approach to workplace issues, she offered humor and personal examples. It’s frequently challenging to step away from daily operations, so I like to consider that my time is well spent. VACEOs offers these kinds of opportunities.

This workshop provided many take-away actions – not the least of which was implementing an SBAR Sheet to control the energy in the workplace and move from thought processes to ‘how to make it work.’

What’s SBAR?
S = present the situation in one sentence
B = share the relevant background
A = conduct an analysis/fact check
R = present recommendations (with an emphasis on the plural)

The learning opportunities that are offered through VACEOs have been invaluable for my professional and personal growth,” –   Jennifer Boyden, Chief Executive Officer, Heart Havens.



Do you have a thirst for knowledge that will help you grow your business? Do you need inspiration to help you get “unstuck”? VACEOs can help you work ON your business – not just in it. Our members are regularly exposed to inspiring presentations by local and national thought leaders. Topics range from management techniques to trends in technology and marketing, and much more.

Next up? “Future-Proofing Your Career” – a special knowledge-sharing and networking event for women co-sponsored the Robins School of Business, a VACEOs sponsor. Become a member today – or contact us about attending an event as a guest.

Cy Wakeman speaks to UR MBA alum

About Cy Wakeman
Cy Wakeman is a dynamic international keynote speaker, business consultant, New York Times bestselling author, and global thought leader with more than 25 years’ experience cultivating a revolutionary new approach to leadership. Grounded in reality, Wakeman’s philosophy has helped organizations and individuals all over the world learn to ditch the drama and turn excuses into results. Learn more.

*Cy Wakeman Presentation: “Reality-Based Leadership”; January 12, 2018; University of Richmond

Posted by Staff at 10:47 am
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dear CEO: Your Decision-Making Process Is Holding You Back

Danessa Knaup

The average person makes more than 35,000 decisions in a typical day. “We are decision-making machines,” says Executive Coach Danessa Knaupp. “We’re making thousands of decisions a day – all the time – so naturally we develop a shorthand.” But, Knaupp cautioned during a recent Knowledge Network luncheon, that shorthand could be holding us back.

“People who rise to positions of leadership are widely regarded as good decision-makers,“ she explained. “You get rewarded by the small and large decisions you make, over and over again. But the number-one reason leaders fail is they stick to a process that has delivered them up to a point but cannot deliver them further.”

Her advice?

  • Change your perspective (realize the potential pitfalls of your shorthand)
  • Realize the information you’re taking in is an assertion or opinion, NOT a fact
  • Broaden your perspective

Check Your Perspective. It’s Probably Skewed

Knaupp teaches that all decisions we make flow up a Ladder of Inference. First, we select or gather data. The trouble is, our previous experiences affect how we perceive that information. For example, one CEO might look at an image and see a random putting green in the middle of a pond; another, one of the most iconic holes on the PGA tour. It’s all about perspective.

Ladder of Inference

“We have a set of experiences – all of us – where we sit in a space with a huge pool of data and we select that data using our distinctions,” says Knaupp. “Then we make assumptions about that data. We draw conclusions. Those conclusions form beliefs.” From there, we make decisions. And this is where our shorthand can get us into trouble. Shorthand is very powerful, but it can handicap us. Once we’ve formed a set of beliefs, we’re continually processing data selectively based on those beliefs.

Two Important Things to Know About the Ladder of Inference

  1. Realize that the data before you is a tiny faction of the actual information available to you to make a decision.
  2. Realize that what you believe is influencing any action you take.

So the next time you gather data on the flow up the Ladder of Inference, ask yourself, “Is this a fact, an assertion or an opinion?”

Great Leaders Distinguish Between Facts, Assertions and Opinions*

  • Fact: Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed; an objective state that can be measured.
  • Assertion: Something declared or stated positively that cannot be objectively proven.
  • Opinion: A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated.


“The VACEOs roundtable experience offers leaders an opportunity to gather a broad set of perspectives on the challenges they face. Those confidential conversations allow each to broaden his or her view, noticing opportunities in a different way. By expanding perspective, leaders expand their potential solution sets in a way that is nearly impossible to do alone.”- Danessa Knaupp, Founder and CEO, Avenue 8 Advisors.

Knaupp says that peer groups like the Council can be a useful tool for broadening our perspective. “The VACEOs roundtable experience offers leaders an opportunity to gather a broad set of perspectives on the challenges they face. Those confidential conversations allow each to broaden his or her view, noticing opportunities in a different way. By expanding perspective, leaders expand their potential solution sets in a way that is nearly impossible to do alone.”

Danessa Knaupp

Summing It Up: How to Shift Your Perspective:

  1. Come down from your ladder.
  2. Explore facts vs. assertions.
  3. Seek ways to broaden your perspective.

*Source: “Shifting Your Leadership Perspective” VACEOs Knowledge Network presentation by Danessa Knaupp, Founder and CEO, Executive Coach, Avenue 8 Advisors.

Posted by Staff at 3:53 pm
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Former Honeywell Exec and Kloke CEO Shares Leadership Lessons

Greg Herceg of Warren Whitney

The two businesses could not be more different. One company (Honeywell) is a multi-national, publicly traded Fortune 100 conglomerate that produces an array of products, serving a wide variety of industries and employing over 130,000 people around the world.

The other (Kloke Group) is a small, privately held, local and interstate moving and storage company with revenues under $20 million and approximately 150 employees and contractors.

But Greg Herceg, consultant for Warren Whitney and former Honeywell exec and Kloke Group CEO, says these two dissimilar businesses offered him very similar leadership lessons during his time at each. While he was at Honeywell, Herceg led an $84,000,000, 250-person global business unit. He then moved on to Kloke Group, where he increased the company’s total revenue by over 30 percent and diversified its revenue base, among other accomplishments.

Herceg candidly described his trials, tribulations, successes and challenges in a recent Knowledge Network presentation. He shared what he’s learned about motivating employees, hiring outside resources, maintaining financial dashboards, strategic planning and much more.

Like many CEOs, his biggest challenges involved employee management. “I wish I had paid a lot more attention to my HR-related classes than to the heavy finance classes [at Darden School of Business], because that’s what I spent most of my time on at both companies – HR-related issues,” said Herceg.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned in leadership is to build a strong team around you through developing deep, trusting relationships and by understanding how to uniquely motivate each person. A close second to that is to leverage your internal resources in order to grow by collaborating and partnering with those outside of your organization,” says Herceg.

Here are a few more takeaways from his presentation to VACEOs membership. In regards to #5: We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Thanks for sharing your experience, Greg!

Five Memorable Lessons in Leadership

(Source: “Lessons from the Trenches” Knowledge Network presentation; Greg Herceg, Consultant, Warren Whitney)

  1. A Controller is not the same as a CFO. “Controllers tend to look back. CFOs tend to look forward. But they are both very important.”
  2. Financial dashboards are a must. “Especially for CEOs who are more marketing or sales or technically oriented. It’s very important to keep a pulse on your financial health.”
  3. Update your strategic plan. “Create a new plan at least every three years.”
  4. Expanding your market? Consider partnering with other businesses. “I encourage you to look for opportunities to partner with companies on things that are hard for your business to accomplish on its own.”
  5. It can be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. “You guys are here at the Council, so you know this: Being around other CEOs is wonderful. It’s so great to be able to talk and learn. And sometimes misery loves company. Sometimes it’s reassuring to talk with other people who are going through the same things you’re going through.”



This moment courtesy of “Lessons from the Trenches.” Greg Herceg, former VACEOs forum member, currently a director at Warren Whitney.

Posted by Staff at 1:07 pm
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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Five Simple Video Content Marketing Tips for SMB Owners

Are you using video content to engage your audiences on social media? As we reported in “Video Marketing on a Small Budget” post, video content is expected to be the driving factor behind 85% of search traffic in the U.S. by 2019.

Glenn Lock, TachLock Video Services

“Understand that one video is not going to change the world,” says and Glenn Lock, VACEOs sponsor and owner of TachLock Video Services. His advice is to create a video library. “I suggest you create more than one video about different aspects of your business. Having content that people can explore is better as it increases your SEO and it’s going to maximize your presence in keyword searches.”

Your library might include demonstrations on how a product is made, a location or facility tour, or an introduction to your employees or customers, for example. Or it could be a chance to highlight your involvement in community or charitable event.

Whichever type of video you choose to shoot, don’t forget to optimize your content for search engine and social media marketing. Here’s are FIVE simple tricks that can elevate the impact of your video content.

Is your business video library full of interesting content? What advice do you have for SMB CEOs?


Five Ways to Use Ensure Your Video is Optimized for Social Media Marketing*

#1: Focus On One Message
Probably the most important tip to remember. Keep your video content simple and concise. Videos that focus on only ONE point or message perform the best.

#2: Take Note of the Sound Quality
Sounds obvious, but bad sound quality is a social media audience turn off. Make sure you’ve chosen a good location to shoot your video to ensure there is as little background noise as possible. Do a sound check before you say, “Action!”

#3: Optimize Search By Adding Keywords, etc.
You’ve made a great video, but before you begin to market it, make sure you’ve added carefully crafted descriptions, keywords, key phrases and/or hashtags so the social media platforms can find it.

#4: Optimize for Autoplay
Some social platforms offer Autoplay so your video is automatically playing as the user passes over it. Bonus tip: Make sure you have movement in the first few frames to grab attention quickly. (Use this feature sparingly, as it can increase data charges for mobile users.)

#5: Add Subtitles
This allows you to reach the hearing-impaired AND users who are unable to turn the volume up or locate their headphones at the moment. Bonus tip: Consider ways to repurpose this written content into an article!




Posted by Staff at 1:05 pm
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Work-Life Balance for CEOs

Council member George Forsythe called me last fall. He told me that like most CEOs, he has struggled with work-life balance, trying to fit it everything in, and reacting to everyone else’s needs. He told me how he had found Stew Friedman’s Total Leadership and he started changing his life. George shared that he now enjoys better health, better relationships with family and co-workers, and increased community involvement. George said, “I feel much more in control of how I choose to spend my time.”

I happen to know 200 more CEOs who face the same challenges! I got off the phone with George and called Stew. I learned that he did not develop his work in some ivory tower, but in the trenches at Ford Motor Company. Stew now teaches Total Leadership to business students at the Wharton School, where his course is perennially ranked a favorite. And, he takes his life changing work to major corporations all over the globe.

We convinced Stew to offer a one-day workshop for us in Richmond on October 13. We are opening up this workshop to area CEOs and their executive teams. I hope that you will take the time to change your life for the better. You can learn more and sign up here.

Posted by Scot McRoberts at 5:40 pm
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