Zuckerberg's 2015 Resolution

I am not sure why this fascinates me but it does. See below. It must have to do with me being intensely curious about what is on CEOs' minds. I also think it is a great example for others to follow about doing something every year that adds value to one's work and personal life. Let's hope that more female-authored books make the list since I read elsewhere that many of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's literary tastes, judging from his Facebook page, run mostly to nonfiction works written by men. 

All of this reminds me of a few CEO examples. I recall a CEO who started a book club among his senior management team so they could all expand their horizons together. And when I was at my prior agency, our terrific CEO Chris Komisarjevsky used to give us books when we had our management team dinners. I found that gesture very meaningful because it reinforced the importance of ideas which was always on his agenda for the firm. Additionally, the books served as signals about what we should be thinking about to succeed as a team. 

So Zuckerberg's 2015 resolution is a good one. The other day I was talking to a communications person about the First 100 Days of their new CEO and told him a story about a new CEO who was somewhat worried that when he showed up at HQ to park his car that he'd see a sea of same cars in the parking lot. I bet many Facebook employees are following Zuckerberg's book lead. 

Insider-Outsiders as CEO Candidates

We all know about boards choosing "insider" or "outsider" CEOs as successors. For years, there's been debates about which is better and usually insider CEOs take the lead. I used to track CEO succession when I started my first blog ever, www.ceogo.com. We were one of the first firms to track the comings and goings of CEOs, reasons why and CEOs' average tenure. At the time, we defined insider CEOs as executives who had worked inside the company for three or more years before being announced as the new CEO. Outsider CEOs were defined as executives who either had never worked for the company or had been employed by the company for less than three years before being announced CEO. Of course, all of this is predicated on the premise that the board has a succession process in place in the first place. But sorry to have to break the news but two-thirds of American public and private companies have no such plan (National Association of Corporate Directors). A professor at Harvard Business School, Joseph Bower, now recommends that boards of directors pay attention to "insider-outsiders," that is, strong candidates who know enough about the company to ensure continuity but also have outside experience from having spent time at other companies or at a non-HQ office fairly far from the center. In other words, someone who is not tainted by "head-office group think." At least these individuals wont be totally insular from having spent their entire careers at the company and they will be a mash up of internal and external perceptions so that they can bring new thinking into the fold. Considering that Millennials switch jobs so often (last I heard was that we can expect 11 different jobs in a career path), we might actually see a new wave of young CEOs who have spent time at several different companies before bedding down with one institution for more than a few short years. Time will tell but thought the idea of an insider-outsider was a new twist.

Great CEO Offsite Idea

McKinsey just issued an interview with Pieter Nota who runs Philips' Consumer Lifestyle sector. The article was about his first 100 days at Philips and how he turned around the unit. In the interview, the author provided insights into Nota's off-sites for his senior team and how they incorporated "courageous conversations" where team members got their gripes out on the table and then collectively resolved the conflicts constructively. Or as the article says, turned the negative energy into positive energy. 

But the lesson learned was an exercise that Nota built into a second off-site a few years into his tenure which I think could work well at senior management off sites that new CEOs often hold. The off-site started off with lots of blue sky collaboration on where the future of their business could possibly go. And here's the kicker that just entranced me because it's such a good idea. The day ended with a brainstorm on "the ten excuses we could use two years from now for not having made the aspiration a reality." The team addressed each excuse head on and committed themselves to not using the excuses to explain away why they did not turn their dreams into reality down the road. A great exercise for many of us. I can already think of excuses that I use as to why I can't do one thing or another. And applying it to teams is just brilliant to create greater ownership. 

I am going to add this Top 10 Excuses brainstorming idea to any counsel I give.


de Blasio's One Year of Grace Closes In

In New York City, we have a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He has been interesting to watch, especially as he exited his first 100 days and is moving into the last quarter of his first year. [Also because he is from my Brooklyn neighborhood where is a local figure.]

But this article in The New York Times this week was written almost as a mid year round up and makes it clear that the new mayor is still trying to find his balance. From watching CEOs, the first year is one of reckonings too. De Blasio, like new CEOs, has many more constituencies to worry about now besides rallying the troops to get out the vote.  The complexity of managing all those constituencies can be overwhelming and fraught with fault lines. As the mayor deals with racial tensions, police reform, availability of low income housing and budget constraints, he is disappointing the left who were his stalwart base. The alleged police-related death of Eric Garner on Staten Island does not help and heightens the scrutiny on the mayor's progress so far. The article interested me in particular because Bertha Lewis, former CEO of Acorn, is cited asking friends to give the mayor a full year before "discounting Mr. de Blasio as just another politician." From my work on CEO tenure, people begin to cement their impressions at about nine months. Luckily, mayors and CEOs do get a grace period when they first start but the mayor's next moves are critical to setting his legacy and reputation in stone.