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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Friday, January 19, 2018

Introducing Square Table: a New VACEOs Meeting Concept

Square Table banner

VACEOs is announcing a new meeting concept for its members and sponsors. The new event, called a “VACEOs Square Table,” is designed to be similar to the confidential monthly roundtables members currently enjoy, but the intent is to offer participants the opportunity to set up a meeting at any time and discuss specific topics of their choice in a supportive, solicitation free environment.

Scot McRoberts, Executive Director, Virginia Council of CEOs (VACEOs), explains: “One of the biggest reasons why entrepreneurs and CEOs join the Council is to become a member of a peer roundtable. It can be very lonely to be an entrepreneur, and a roundtable is a powerful tool for our members. It’s a safe haven to share things they can’t share with their staff or spouse.”

“We’re very excited to offer a new way for members to connect and learn from each other and our sponsors,” McRoberts continues. “The new Square Table meetups are about offering our membership and sponsors a way to solve challenges or learn something new in a no-sell, experience-sharing encounter. It’s another way to leverage the experiences and expertise of more than 260 members and sponsors.”

The concept was given a soft introduction to a small group of VACEOs early in the year and was immediately well received. At press time, several Square Table events have already been scheduled.


The concept for the Square Table is based on the successful monthly VACEOs roundtable experience, but because the makeup of each event will vary and the meetings can be arranged at any time, for any reason, it’s thought to be “like a roundtable, but with different parameters.” Hence the name “Square Table.”

Square Table is a new experience-sharing program that will allow any member or sponsor to invite others in the VACEOs community to a small meeting to:

  • get help from others
  • gather like-minded peers
  • learn something new
  • run a focus group
  • share a passion

Organizers may choose to follow the VACEOs formal Gestalt meeting protocol or one of their own choosing. VACEOs staff will manage event registration and promotion. Only members and sponsors may attend VACEOs Square Table events.

Want to learn more or organize an event? Visit the VACEOs Square Table resource page today.

Posted by Staff at 10:48 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, November 28, 2017

New Perspectives – From the Desk of Scot McRoberts

35,000 decisions a day.

Ever since Danessa Knaupp shared that statistic with us at her presentation last month, it has been gnawing at me. Certainly most of these decisions are tiny and meaningless. But hundreds must be meaningful, having impact on others in my orbit. I am working on better decision-making in several ways.

First, I have been looking critically at my own beliefs and broadening the data that I consider when making decisions. Certainly, hewing to long-held beliefs makes decision making easier, but I’m don’t think it is the best way in this rapidly changing world.

I also rely on my CEO roundtable as a source of perspective. I love the way that our discussions broaden my view and help me see my own blind spots.

Finally, I am making a point of seeking out and engaging people different than me. It is not easy, but I am always enriched by the experiences of others, especially when they are different from mine.

As we enter this season of peace and goodwill, I encourage us all to draw closer to one another and to connect in meaningful ways. Whether that is a CEO roundtable, your church or another group, let’s seek out experiences from diverse sources. Our leadership decisions will be better for it.

Best wishes for a successful year-end and a happy holiday season,


Posted by Staff at 3:52 pm
Sunday, October 22, 2017

VACEOs Members Make 2017 Most Watched Business Lists

The company we keep is mighty fine. In fact, our members are frequently listed within the annual RVA 25 and Inc 5000 “fastest growing” company lists. This year we find our members on Venture Forum’s “RVA Companies to Watch in 2018” list as well.

We’d like to formally congratulate ALL these amazing business leaders on their success. Honored to be in your midst.

VACEO Members Top 2017 Business Lists

CTW/Emerging StartupBrandon BruceFood Not Flowers
CTW/Emerging StartupJamie ChristensenOutdoor Access
CTW/Growth AwardDuane SlyderSeasonal Roots
Inc 5000James AddisonBlue Ridge Product Solutions
Inc 5000Juan BialetProductive AV
Inc 5000Brian Bortell
Timmons Group
Inc 5000Jamie ChristensenWorldview Solutions
Inc 5000Ryan Davis
Dietitians on Demand
Inc 5000Jim FitzgeraldTaradel
Inc 5000David Gallagher
Dominion Payroll Services
Inc 5000Edwin Huertas
Inc 5000
David IngramCapital Tech Search
Inc 5000Greg Samuels
RVA 25
Andy BeachUrban Core Construction
RVA 25Ben HumphreysSimplicity VOIP
RVA 25Todd MawyerTK Promotions
VACEO Members Top 2017 Business Lists
Posted by Staff at 11:52 am
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