Is it I? Am I a Wildcard CEO?

Author: Bryan Ritchie

The goals are set, the teams have identified their key performance activities, scoreboards are up, the organization is aligned, everyone is excited! Things are great, right? Well, maybe not. Are you, or do you have, a wildcard CEO?

Wildcard CEOs rarely see themselves as a problem. But ask any of their employees and they’ll tell you the same thing: the CEO cannot stay focused on one thing long enough for the rest of us to succeed to the level of our potential. In fact, it can often get to the point that employees will react to the latest CEO-driven initiative by saying “here we go again!”

This skepticism turns people who would normally (and like to) be “let’s go now full steam ahead” into “let’s wait and see if this is real.” If you are that CEO or know one who is transforming high adopter employees into laggards, the following questions might help you take the blinders off:

  1. How well did the organization do on the last 5 initiatives you (CEO) initiated? I mean from an objective, quantitative measure?
  2. How well did you (CEO) celebrate your last success or post mortem your last failure?
  3. When was the last time you (CEO) asked your top leaders how well they think previous initiatives have been implemented? Do you even know if the initiative failed or succeeded?
  4. How well do you (CEO) know whether the balance between the number and intensity of the initiatives you are undertaking are appropriate for your team?
  5. How would your organization rate itself on its ability to focus?

Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple once said “We are the most focused company that I know of…. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose….” If the CEO (you?) is constantly swooping in and adding, changing, deleting, detouring, distracting, and otherwise changing direction, NO MATTER HOW GREAT THE NEW IDEA MAY BE, it is damaging the organization’s progress.

Now, please don’t misunderstand, change in and of itself is not negative. Change is a constant that must be embraced. And whether it comes discontinuously or incrementally, it should most often be well thought out, vetted, and supported. Notice that I’m not talking about speed of change. Change can happen frequently and quickly, but if it’s happening arbitrarily or without clarity, it is more likely to be damaging than helpful. Remember the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

The following ideas can help make sure your change is beneficial:

  1. Learn to say “not yet” to great ideas. Just because an idea is great doesn’t mean you should do it. Apple had the iPad ready to ship almost a decade before they actually did.
  2. Learn to score the implementation of your strategies. Strategies that are not working should be changed. But everyone should understand that it needs to be changed.
  3. Realize that successful implementation and execution requires that everyone in the organization is aligned to that change with respect to their KPAs.
  4. The people who know best what’s working are on the front line of your organization. Change should be bubbling up more than it’s raining down

Often the CEO’s who are most destructive don’t know they are having this impact on their teams. Ironically, it’s the same sense of direction, vision, and energy that, unchecked, can lead to this problem. But if balanced by the right discipline, structure and testing, these same impulses can ensure that strategies and their implementation are constantly course-corrected and aligned throughout the organization.

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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