Today is a special “Ask Cameron Anything” episode!
We’ve polled our audience, sought out social media, and given you the chance to ask YOUR questions that you’ve been burning to ask from the CEO Whisperer himself, Cameron Herold! With over 20 years of building businesses and coaching some of the top leaders of business worldwide, Cameron has proven time and again to build roadmaps to success.
With Cameron’s recent online course launch, Invest In Your Leaders, COOs, CEOs, and other leaders of the industry have been able to get connected to these incredible game-changing concepts from Cameron’s experience, and many have left rave reviews over how much they have learned from his online course.
Some of which include:
And many more!
This special “Ask Cameron Anything” episode of the Second-in-Command podcast will give you some incredible value and tease what you will get from the Invest In Your Leaders course.
To get direct access to Cameron’s game-changing course, click here now.
Some Of Your Questions Include:
- How have you set the benchmark for key metrics when market data is not readily available?
- What actions can you trigger out of the results? Other than marketing your service, does it really inform change in the business? How do you avoid the trap of “chasing” the feedback (what do you do?)?
- For a successful COO, what would be 3 things that the CEO should make sure to teach them during their training process?
- What are the top three things the COO must prevent the CEO from doing, why must they stop them, and how to stop them?
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Before we jump into this episode, you need to know about two important ways that we can help you and your company grow. Number one, check out the COO Alliance. It’s for COOs, Presidents, VP Ops, or whoever your company’s second-in-command to the CEO. The COO Alliance is the world’s leading community for the second in command, and it gives COOs the tools and connections to grow themselves and the company. Head over to COOAlliance.com to learn more about our members and the results, the program, and our 10X guarantee. If you qualify for membership, you can set up a complimentary call with our team to discuss if it’s right for you. I will tell you about number two in a bit. First, let’s start this episode.
On this episode, I wanted to do a Q&A, ask me anything. We went out on Facebook and LinkedIn, and just asked a bunch of our fans, some of our members of the COO Alliance, and some of just the random people in our network for some questions that they wanted to ask me. I thought I would answer those live and give you a COO’s perspective.
As most of you know, I was the Chief Operating Officer for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. I have also played the show a couple of times with a couple of other companies over my career. Over the last years in coaching CEOs all over the world, typically companies of 50 to 500 employees, I acted almost like a CEO whispering into the brain, so the CEO Whisperer. I’m going to go ahead and answer a bunch of questions right now, and try to also give credit to the people who on social media shared the questions with us.
Metrics And Benchmarks
The first one is from Amber Cooper, who’s the COO at Two-Brain Business. Amber is also in her second year as a member of the COO Alliance. Amber, thank you for this first question. It’s regarding metrics and benchmarks. How have you set the benchmark for key metrics when market data is not readily available? What I do is think of the leadership team dashboard. I will assume that that’s where we are going with right now is the benchmark for metrics at the leadership team level, and then I will drill down into each of the individual department levels.
What I would like to do is take each department, and ask them for an all-inclusive list of all of the metrics that they believe their business area should be tracking, both predictive indicators and also lagging indicators, and look at those metrics for their success. What metrics should marketing be tracking? Maybe, they will have 20 or 30 metrics that marketing needs to track to ensure that they are successful. Finance might have 12 or 15 metrics, IT, sales operations, etc. Each business area will come up with an all-inclusive list of all the metrics.
You whittle those down so that at the leadership team level. You only have 2 or 3 core metrics that roll up to the leadership team level for each business area. Once you have done that, then you want to establish how often to track each of those metrics, what the benchmark is, or what the goal is for each of those actual metrics or KPIs that you are going to be tracking.
Let’s say, as an example, you are going to set a metric or a KPI for employee net promoter score. Maybe that’s a metric that you are going to be tracking. Maybe every 3 to 6 months, you are going to run a survey, and you want to report on your employee net promoter score and your customer net promoter score. As an example, for every COO Alliance event, we get a customer net promoter score. My benchmark is I want 80% or higher. At our last event, we got a positive 82, so that’s good.
What you want to do is set a goal, benchmark, or level that is acceptable for you. If there is no industry data available, then you just want to make one up. You do a silly wild ask guess. I also like using a little bit of the wisdom of the crowd, and I will go out and ask maybe a few different members of the leadership team what they think might be a solid benchmark. We usually use that as the first number that we will track against. I will set a band of acceptability. A goal, maybe I set 80 as the goal for net promoter score, and then if it gets too high, maybe it’s over 80 or 85, maybe there’s something wrong and I need to demand more from those people and I can bring that number down. If it’s too low, what am I going to do below that?
That’s how we approach it is looking at, first off, what would the industry give us or what could we get from maybe mastermind groups that we are in? Maybe we ask others in our community or we just try to ask some of the people on the team for a number, and just use that as the initial benchmark that we might go with.
Chasing The Feedback
The second one that we have is for the net promoter score. This is another question from Amber Cooper, COO of Two-Brain Business. For NPS, what actions can you trigger out of the results other than marketing your service? Does it inform or change the business? How do you avoid the trap of chasing feedback? What do you do?
What I like doing with a net promoter score is only asking one core question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastically would you recommend this as a place to work? If you are asking your customers, on a scale of 1 to 10, how enthusiastically would you recommend our service to a friend? I take that data point, and then you calculate the net promoter score. Your 9s and 10s are your promoters. You subtract the 1s through 6s, those are your detractors. You end up with a result of somewhere between negative 100% and positive 100%.
The goal is to move from the positive 50% or greater. A positive 50% or greater is considered world-class. I like being at positive 80% or better, just because the reality is if world-class is positive 50%, that means that 50% of the companies out there generally suck anyway. I like to be more in that positive 80% plus range.
The second question that I ask, and it is only the second question that we ask in every survey is, what’s one thing we could do to have you increase your rating the next time we ask the question? I won’t chase it with 12 or 15 follow on questions, I just ask one question. Six months later when I do the survey the second time, I sometimes will ask the second question, and I add a little twist to it and I say, “What’s one thing we can do that doesn’t cost money that would have you increase the rating the next time we ask the question?” Those data points using the wisdom of the crowd help you take some good insights and some good information that you can use going forward, and that’s usually enough to go with. Hopefully, that’s helpful.
Using the wisdom of the crowd helps you take some good insights and information that you can use going forward.
CEOs Training COOs
The next question we have got is from Theresa Fette, who is the CEO of Fintruth. She said, “For a successful COO, what would three things be that the CEO should make sure to teach them during their training process?” It depends on what level the COO is that’s coming into your organization and what size your organization is.
If you are a company of maybe 20 to 50 employees, that’s going to be very different on what you are going to be teaching them or how you are going to be onboarding that COO if you are a 500 to 2,000-person company because they might be a little bit more seasoned and a little bit more skilled than maybe a more junior level second in command.
It depends on the title of the person you are bringing in. Are they truly a COO or are they more of a VP of Operations, Director of Operations, or General Manager? The core three things that I make sure that every CEO trains the onboarding of the COO with is about the core culture, history, and vivid vision of the company. It’s the core. If you think about Simon Sinek when he talked about his Golden Circles, you do the why, how, and the what. It’s the why you exist as a company. It’s the history of the company, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal, your BHAG. It’s your core values. It’s your vivid vision and where you are going.
That’s the real core that you want every COO to be inducted with, and not worry as much about the actual business itself. If they can truly understand why you bleed the way you do, what matters to the organization, and where you are going, that vivid vision, that 4 or 5-page written document describing your future, that’s the critical key parts of bringing that COO onboard into a new organization and the training process. After you get them trained in that, you can then move into more of how they are doing the job or what we are doing in terms of the organization.
Top Three Things CEOs Must Avoid
The next question I have got is from John Loucks, who is the VP of Operations at Royal Engineered Composites. John and I went to high school together in Sudbury, Canada, so it’s funny seeing John’s name pop up. He is the VP of Operations, thank you for this question. What are the top three things that the COO must prevent the CEO from doing? Why must they stop them and how to stop them?
One of the core jobs of the COO is to be the person who says the emperor has no clothes. It’s like the emperor’s new suit. It’s to tell the CEO what they are doing wrong. It’s to tell the CEO maybe the reverberations they are causing inside the organization or the negative ripple effects. Maybe it’s to pull the CEO aside, and tell them the stuff that no one else is telling them, but to do it privately. The how to stop them part is to always tell the CEO privately what’s going on, don’t do it publicly, so it’s almost that private criticism, public appraise.
Anytime you criticize a CEO in front of others, they are going to tend to get their back up against the wall, and they are going to let you have it, maybe in person or maybe later, so it’s best to do it privately. The CEOs, the strong ones, really love to hear from the CEOs of what’s going wrong. They like to hear it privately, for sure.
The top three things that I would say to prevent them from doing this are. The first one is to make sure the CEO understands their core role is to be the chief energizing officer. It’s to bring positive energy into the organization and to prevent them from doing anything that causes negative reverberations inside the organization, any negative ripples.
Make sure that the CEO is there as the chief energizing officer, that they are raising the energy of the group, they are praising people, they are thanking people, they are reinforcing the core values, and that they are not coming down too negatively or too hard on the organization. Secondly, and this is more in an entrepreneurial organization than maybe a professionally managed company. This tends to happen more in the maybe 20 to 250-employee range.
Most of those CEOs tend to be very entrepreneurial, and they tend to wing it and shoot from the hip. They tend to make it up on the go. They tend to have an idea of the day or hour that they like to roll out. The COO’s core job there is to make sure that the CEO has a place to keep all of their ideas, but you don’t necessarily want to start them right away. The COO’s job is to go to the CEO and say, “I love that idea. Let me ask you a few questions to fully understand it.” Then we will decide whether we are going to green-light the idea, meaning you are going to start it right away, or whether you will yellow-light the idea, meaning it’s a good idea, but not right now, maybe next quarter or two quarters from now, or red light after you have asked a bunch of questions. The CEO feels heard. It doesn’t necessarily get started, and you can kill it before it gets started. That’s a core role of the COO.
The third part would be to prevent the CEO from getting too into the weeds. The CEO’s job is to grow people, to be the caretaker of the vision, to be the caretaker of culture, to make sure they are always steering the organization in the right direction, and to make sure that they are climbing up the mountain to see where we are going, but to not get too in the weeds. The COO’s job is to prevent the CEO from getting too into the details and to make sure that we keep them at that strategic level. John, thanks for that question. Hopefully, that’s helpful on the answer side.
Top Three Things COOs Need To Stop Doing
The next question we have is from Gareth Hermann, who’s the Cofounder and CEO of Magic, which is a marketing agency. He said, “What are the top three things that a COO needs to stop doing?” Another great question. I love the top threes around this stuff. It keeps me on my toes. What are the three things the COOs need to stop doing? The first one is they need to stop getting involved in the areas the CEO is running. COOs need to be the ones figuring out how to grow the organization and how to make the vision come true. They need to be the ones who are figuring out the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the plan that the vision the CEO has. The COO needs to stay away from vision and needs to stay on that operational side.
The next thing the COO needs to stop doing is to stop doing the work. The COO’s job again is to grow people. The more that they invest time and resources in growing their managers, growing the skills of the managers, growing their managers’ skills around delegation, time management, coaching, and problem-solving. Growing their skillset around email management and delegation, and skilling up their management team versus doing the actual work. The COO’s job is to get results through people. I think that’s a core thing the COO needs to stop doing there.
The COO’s job is to get results through people.
The last one that the COO needs to stop doing is to stop being so focused on the next project, and maybe start praising a lot more. More CEOs and COOs need to praise their direct reports much more than they do. I think about if you were raising children that the more praise you give your kids, you are raising their confidence. COOs tend to be so driven on the next project and the next goal that they often forget, and they stop doing the praise. I think what we need to do is stop driving so hard, and start remembering that our role again is to grow people. Growing them means growing their skills and also growing their confidence as well.
Handling Rejection With Grace
The next question we have is from Tina Hamilton, who’s the CEO and Founder at OurVirtualHR. Tina and I have been connected on social media for about the last several years. Tina, thanks for the question. When you have a potential client who needs the services you offer, but the client does not meet your cultural requirements. We are an HR outsourcing company, and they won’t deal with companies that do not treat their employees well, how do you handle rejection with grace?
I always just go back to the core values. I just go back and say, “Sorry. You are not a fit for our company’s core values, and I don’t think that we are the right client for you to work with.” That sends a huge message, not just to them, but to your entire organization. When you are core values and a culture-based organization. It sends a really strong message to all of your employees that you are just not willing to deal with people like that.
When I was the COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we had a franchisee who was being rude to some of our employees. I walked into the call center one day, I think it was on a Saturday, and one of our employees was in tears, and they told me what had happened. They had been rudely treated by one of our franchisees. I said, “If you ever do this again, I’m going to find a way to pull your franchise agreement.” It was probably 6 or 8 weeks later, I walked in, and heard that he had been extremely rude, and had made one of the people in our call center cry.
I worked hard, and about three weeks later found enough just cause in his agreement that we were able to terminate the franchise. That sent a huge signal across the entire organization that we just do not put up with people who break our core values. It’s a really simple situation, and you don’t have to feel bad about it. If a client or potential client isn’t a good cultural fit, just tell them that, and don’t worry about them because that old saying of those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. I would just say it and don’t worry about trying to do it with grace. Just say, “You are not a great cultural fit for us,” and politely decline.
The next question I have is from Erin Nelson. Erin is a long-term member of the COO Alliance. She’s also the VP of Operations and Organizational Effectiveness at Kindred Bravely. Erin has a question. She said, “You and your sister are both entrepreneurs. How did your parents foster this mindset?” We were groomed to be entrepreneurs. My sister, my brother, and I have all been running our own companies for between 15 and 25 years. It’s all we’ve ever known is either being entrepreneurs or building entrepreneurial companies.
Both sets of grandparents were entrepreneurs. My mom’s parents were entrepreneurs. They ran a hunting and fishing resort up in Northern Canada. My dad’s father was the CEO of a pharmaceutical organization. My father was an entrepreneur. A couple of aunts and uncles are entrepreneurs, and we were groomed that way as kids in high school to be entrepreneurial.
Lots of business ventures that we got involved in. I did a TEDx talk that’s been on the main TED website now for quite some years. It’s about raising entrepreneurial kids and just talks about how we were groomed. Maybe take a good listen to that. We were groomed to be entrepreneurial. I don’t think that everyone should be an entrepreneur, but I think that people should be more entrepreneurial in their day-to-day lives and their work as well.
Everyone shouldn’t necessarily be an entrepreneur, but people should be more entrepreneurial in their day-to-day lives and work.
Being A Better Communicator
The last question we have is, I lead a team of ten people. I have diagnosed myself as being a bad communicator. I don’t talk enough. Where should I start? Start talking more. I think you want to sit down, and just say, “Where is it that you are not talking enough?” Is it that you are not talking enough by stating what your opinions are or telling people what you want them to do? Are you afraid of conflict? I always believe that the leader should speak last. In any meeting, the leader should be the last person to voice their opinion or to voice their ideas because the leader’s job is to grow their team or employees. It’s to grow their skills and their confidence.
If the leader’s always speaking first, it’s really hard for the employees to speak up, feel heard, and gain confidence that their ideas are valued. I always believe that you don’t want to be speaking necessarily more, you just want to be speaking at the end, because often your ideas have already been shared by somebody in the group.
One area that you really can start practicing to communicate more is praising your team as well, praising your employees. All leaders need to work harder at praising people twice as often as we give them new things to work on or areas to fix. Praising twice as often as you are critiquing or giving new projects to your team is one area to start as well.
On the communication side, I think all leaders need to be better at asking really strong questions. I will give you an example of a really strong leadership question. One of my mentors years ago when I was the COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I was being groomed by someone who was being groomed as a COO at Starbucks.
My mentor was talking to me one day, and he gave me an example of a sign in Seattle where the letter B on the sign wasn’t working. Howard Behar, who at that time was the CEO at Starbucks, there’s been Howard Schultz, Howard Behar, Orin Smith, and I think there’s a fourth CEO now, but Howard Behar was CEO and he called Greg, my mentor, and was upset. He said, “Why is the letter B on the sign at 50th and Wallingford in Seattle not working?” Greg said, “That’s not a good question. It’s not a leadership question.” Howard said, “Fine. What’s the leadership question that I should be asking?”
Greg said, “What system do we have in place to ensure that every letter on every sign that all of our locations is always working?” He said, “Those are the kinds of questions we should be asking.” As leaders, those are the kinds of things you should be focusing on in terms of communication as well. Lots of praise, lots of really good questions, and speaking last would be the core of what I would be focusing on as a leader.
Hopefully, that is a great episode for all of you, quick and dirty. I think there were eight solid questions. We will do this again pretty regularly. I think this is the 2nd or 3rd time that we have done it. Hopefully, you got lots of value in there. I encourage all of you as well to take a look at the Invest in Your Leaders course. If you go to the COO Alliance website, click on the course link. The Invest in Your Leaders course will be something that you will all appreciate, all the good content that’s in there as well. I hope you all have a great week.