We ran two CEO Boot Camps last week. One had six CEOs. The second had 75, spread across twelve tables. This note highlights the main ideas and insights from them around core focus, culture, operations, and personal influence and impact.


Two ideas: 1) All organizations design, produce, market/sell, deliver/distribute and serve. 2) At the same time, the most effective organizations make one of design, production, delivery or service the core focus of building their competitive advantage and align everything around that.

After much resistance, most of the CEOs present understood the value of having one primary, core focus and that once they made that choice, their other choices should follow from that. If, for example, your focus is design, your third value really should be innovation, not accountability.

Note some CEOs thought their core focus might evolve over time as their situation and business evolved.


In the first four editions of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan we said culture matters. We changed that in the fifth edition. Now we know it’s the only thing that matters.

Seth Godin defines culture as “People like us do things like this”

Others study every detail of everything to define it precisely.

We use a middle way approach, BRAVE, looking at people’s behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment to map the components of your ideal culture, current culture, and then identify and bridge the most important gaps.

In general,

  • Design cultures should be more fluid and flexible, diffused and premium-price oriented.
  • Production cultures should be the opposite, more controlled, disciplined, and high quality/low-cost focused
  • Delivery/Distribution cultures should be closer to production-focused, with a heavy dose of interdependence.
  • Service cultures should be closer to design-focused organizations with required interdependence and discipline.

The CEOs at these boot camps all understood the importance of culture and embraced this framework as a way to have a more deliberate discussion about its components and be more intentional about cultural evolution over time.


You should approach failures differently depending upon your core focus. I’m referencing Amy Edmundson’s definitions of failure: Intelligent, good failures necessary for progress; basic, stupid failures that can and should be avoided; complex failures with multiple causes.

This leads you to:

  • Design: Specialized organizations with freeing support based on principles to encourage intelligent failures.
  • Produce: Hierarchical command and control organizations enforcing policies to minimize basic failures.
  • Deliver/Distribute: Matrix organizations marked by shared responsibilities with strong team charters to minimize complex failures
  • Service: Decentralized organizations with bounded authority close to the customer using guidelines to encourage intelligent failures while minimizing basic and complex failures.
  • Need to keep in mind the four pillars of the art of delegation: inspiring direction, enabling resources, empowering authority, and credible accountability.


    As Ty Wiggins lays out, the key differences between all other executives and CEOs are the almost impossible time and energy management challenges and magnified personal influence and impact.

    The most effective CEOs spend 25% or more of their time and energy managing their boards and 25% or more dealing with outside stakeholders. That means they must manage their organizations with less than 50% of their time and energy. Hence the need for a strong first team and team of teams throughout the organization.

    As CEO, everything communicates to the extreme. Use whatever analogy you want, “under the microscope”, “in the spotlight”, “always being recorded”, “never off the record”. The point is that someone is watching everything you do and don’t do, say and don’t say as CEO. And the buck stops at the CEO for the big, lonely decisions that impact the future of the organization, its customers, owners, employees and their families.

    This means the “E” in CEO is different by core focus as Chief Enabling, Enforcing, Enrolling or Experience Officer:

These CEOs found the board two-step extremely valuable. The essence of it is:

  • Before step one, prepare the board by giving them the appropriate amount of information in advance. Think Goldilocks: not too little and not too much.
  • Step one: CONSULT or TEST with the board.  Be clear you are seeking their input, not decision.
  • Then, go away. Give the board time and space to mull things over and have one-on-one conversations with you.
  • Step two: SELL. Lead the board through a final conversation and seek their decision.

Bottom line, as CEO, the more you can focus on inspiring, enabling and empowering others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose, the better.

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