Crack The Behavior Code


Sink or Swim: A New Leader's Guide to the First 90 Days

Season 3, Ep. 7

There are about 350 new CEOs at the world’s largest public companies right now, with 102 new CEOs in North America alone.

What do new or incoming CEOs need to know? Three key things.

1-    Secure Acceptance From The Team Overall

Successful CEOs frequently take the pulse of their culture. When you’re just starting out, it’s crucial to establish a baseline in order to:

  • Gain insights into how to grow the company in a healthy, optimal way supporting core company objectives
  • Improve and expand a unified company culture—and discover any silos or warring factions
  • Effectively motivate team members—what truly motivates them may surprise you
  • Identify the next generation of leaders—and determine who is your best investment

When we’re brought in to help a current or new CEO take the pulse of their culture, we’ll look at the company’s org chart. We’ll pick a sampling of 5% of the employee base or 15-20 people (whichever # is smaller) to interview across different departments, roles (up and down the org chart) and tenures with the company.

We’ll then ask them a series of questions including:

What is it like to work here now?

What frustrates you the most?

What motivates you the most?

How do you feel about your role and responsibilities?

If you could wave a magic wand and have the culture be any way you want, what would that be like?

How would you describe the executive team’s leadership style?

Be sure to add a number of additional questions based on what you learn from the above. When we do a Cultural Assessment, we gain tremendously valuable info that helps us:

1-    Reduce CEO direct reports by up to 50%

2-    Increase CEO and key executive strategic/high value time by 5-15 hours per week

3-    Increase annual profit per employee by up to 40%

4-    Increase gross revenue by up to 60%

5-    Shorten the sales cycle by up to 50%

6-    Increase accountability and team performance by up to 35%

Whether you do it yourself or get outside help, be sure to keep your eye on this information. Simply interviewing the team won’t move the needle. Interviewing, assessing, creating and executing a plan, and generating results is key to turn the tide to your favor.

One of the top new CEO team mistakes includes:

  • Avoiding the “regular people” and only spending time with the exec team and Board. This makes them feel they aren’t safe and you don’t care. How to remedy this:

1.    Institute Town Hall meetings, where a brief company update is provided, a vision for the year and quarter is reinforced, team members are celebrated, and a 20-minute educational session is provided. Then, end with a Q&A session where anonymous questions may be submitted in advance… no topic is off limits. A culture of candor with kindness is key. Use social technologies to create increased communication and collaboration too.

2.    Remember your team needs to feel safety, belonging, mattering… continually foster this.

The other top CEO team mistake is:

  • Not having a key team member assess and enroll outside help in performing a complete Cultural Assessment and then following it with a People Plan to optimize your culture.

The 2nd Key Thing a new CEO Needs to do is:

-Secure Acceptance from the Executive Team (will they follow you?)

Next, a new CEO (or existing leader wanting to optimize their impact) needs to gain acceptance from their executive team.

How: Inquiry vs Advocacy.

Ask tons of questions—focus on 5 inquiries (questions) per each tendency to advocate (give orders). You must show the executive team from the start that you don’t support a culture of order takers. You support a culture of leadership, and you create them and grow them via inquiry. Ask your executive team members individually (or get outside help if you think you’ll get more pure answers) the following questions:

What frustrates you the most? Have you tried to change this? If so, what happened?

What motivates you the most? What motivates your team the most?

If you could wave a magic wand and have the culture be any way you want, what would that be like?

What is the company’s vision? Do you feel aligned with it? Do you think the entire exec team is aligned with it and executing toward it?

What are our top 3 business priorities? What should they be?

Then, lay out or enhance the People Plan I mentioned above. You will win the hearts and minds of your team post haste. To summarize the People Plan, you’ll need:

  • Individual Development Plans
  • Leadership Development Programs
  • Lean Training
  • Accountability Structures and Rewards/Consequences

Top new CEO exec team mistakes include:

  • Not getting everyone aligned and focused on the fresh new priorities asap
  • Not setting up communication and accountability structures immediately
  • Not focusing on culture immediately

The Third Key Thing a New CEO Needs to do is

-Secure Acceptance from the Board

How: In my Boardroom Ninja blog, I outline exactly how to manage your Board of Directors to avoid a rip tide.

Here are some tips:  Provide a format for Board reporting. You need to make your brand equal results immediately. Provide a 90-day plan with tangible deliverables, and monitor and communicate your progress every 2 weeks. Find out who the tribal leader of the Board is and establish deep rapport---and run all potentially challenging situations past them way in advance.

Top new CEO board mistakes:

  • Not meeting with each board member one-on-one to find out what their biases are, their past challenges with the prior CEO, their past challenges with one another, their top issues with the current company performance

  • Not communicating to the entire board in a structured manner every 2 weeks for the first 90 days. This is the make it or break it time. Overcommunicate so the Board sees you’re on top of things. Highlight concerns so they don’t feel blindsided later.

Being a new CEO, or even a CEO in a growing company can be super stressful at times. Pressure is reduced considerably when a CEO gets clear on his/her areas of strength and improvement. Every CEO must assess their degree of Focus, Directness, Accountability, Influence, Sustainability. To do so, take 5 minutes by taking the SmartTribes Leadership Assessment. Your confidential results will be emailed to you immediately.

Are you a new leader? What are your top priorities?



1.    STI’s Culture Quick Win (see our website and link to it) or reach out to us for a Cultural Assessment

2.    Safety, Belonging, Mattering infographic

3.    IDP sample from STP 4.0

4.    #1 CEO Mistake Blog with People Plan:

5.    Boardroom Ninja Blog:

6.    Leadership Assessment:

More Episodes


Resistance is Necessary for Optimal Organizations

Season 3, Ep. 14
Resistance is Necessary for Optimal OrganizationsYou may be familiar with the Chinese finger trap. It’s a toy that traps the victim’s fingers (often the index fingers) in both ends of a small cylinder woven from bamboo. The initial reaction of the victim is to pull their fingers outward, but this only tightens the trap.Resisting our experience has the same effect. We resist things, situations and people we perceive as hurtful, painful, or threatening to our safety, belonging, or mattering. Without these three key emotional experiences, we can’t shift to our Smart State and we can’t navigate our constantly changing landscape to reach self-actualization. Also, we are wired to resist what we believe will create a worse feeling for us.Resistance is the First Step Towards ChangeThe origin and etymology of resist (Late Middle English) is from the Latin resistere: re- (expressing opposition) + sistere (to stand). Aha! So resistance really means to stand in opposition. What are you taking a stand against?Let’s also take a look at the word reject, which is what we’re doing when we are resisting our Present State. The origin and etymology of reject (Late Middle English) is from the Latin verb rejacere: re- (meaning back) + jacere (to throw). Reject means to throw back or throw against. This stance isn’t just in opposition, it is opposing by attack. Yikes, this is even worse than resisting.Resistance isn’t necessarily bad. It’s often simply the first step of navigating change. The goal is to move forward rather than get stuck resisting. Resistance shows that someone is engaged to a degree, which is much better than being disengaged. Don’t be surprised if resistance turns to mockery, as some people express their upset that way. As leaders, it’s essential to move your team through this stage by asking what they are resisting.To help them identify what’s being resisted, ask them to contemplate what’s:Annoying about the particular change or initiativeDumb about the particular change or initiativeUnreasonable about the particular change or initiativeThen we address what we can, with the agreement that they’ll try the new initiative or plan. Ultimately, they’ll find some aspect of it to be useful. Over time this process will become habitual and eventually a new standard is established. Voilà! Enjoy the afterglow, until the next change comes along.Embrace Change and Gain EnergyThe trouble with resistance is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy in the form of pushing back and rejecting. When we direct energy toward what we don’t want, it actually helps draw it toward us. For example, the more you try to pull your fingers out of the Chinese finger trap, the tighter it becomes.You’ve likely heard the expression “what we resist persists.” Look at what you’ve resisted. Did they stick around in your life longer than you would’ve liked?Resistance merely stabilizes your Present State. Whatever we focus on, we fuel. When we resist the emotion, we make it stronger.Let’s consider the resistance vs consent path...Once we consent to resistance, we are ready to transform resistance.Show Notes:1.Image of Resistance vs Consent path2.Infographic: Safety, Belonging, Mattering3.SmartTribes graphic – Critter State, Smart State

Why Your Team Doesn't Care

Season 3, Ep. 13
Why Your Team Doesn’t Care: The 4 Ways You’re Crushing Your CultureAre your team members highly accountable?Do they have a “Thank God It’s Monday” attitude?Do they take tons of initiative?If not, you’ve likely gotCrushed Culture.It’s a disease. And it’s going to become an epidemic if we don’t do something about it. Evidence: three companies I used to love now haveCrushed Culture: Lenscrafters, Hilton hotels, and evenat times(gasp) JetBlue.It’s spreading.According to the recent Gallup poll on employee engagement:“Seventy-one percent of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive. This trend remained relatively stable throughout 2011.”What?This trend has remained relatively stable.Wow.Does this concern you?A lot?And don’t thinkCrushed Culturesymptoms are in the rank and file alone.“Our team is full of order takers.”“Why do we have so little accountability around here?”“We’re going through a lot of change. Why don’t our people embrace it?”These are but a few of the most common complaints and concerns I often hear from the C Suite. And I’ve been listening for a long time—almost 30 years. Employee disengagement, orCrushed Culture, has spread to the C Suite too.Four Steps to CureCrushed Culture:Step1: Emotional Equityis greater thanFinancial Equity.We all know what financial equity is—money—stock, comp packages, golden handcuffs. All the things we think will make people loyal to a company and keep them engaged. But this no longer works, as Gallup proves, and especially with Millennials. Nope, they, like the rest of us, want to feel like we’re part of something bigger, like we’re on a glorious mission, like our work matters, like we’ll leave the world just a little better than we found it, and we want to achieve that (in part) during our work hours.Here’s the formula:Put energy into someone by explaining why your company is doing what it is doing, what your mission,vision, andvaluesreallymean, mentor them, talk challenges out with them, pay attention to them and you’ll start to build emotional equity. That equity will now give you access to their heart, mind, Rolodex, idle thought cycles. Now they’re thinking about how to help the company innovate better, solve a specific problem, etc. as they shower and commute and whatever. That access to a person’s additional resources will enable you to influence outcomes more effectively. Now you have a shared cause, you’re on the same team, you’re safe and you belong together.It’s emotional.Step2:StopTheWhining.The C suite, management, staff, everyone needs to get off what I call the Tension Triangle. This is where people bounce from victim to rescuer to persecutor. Stephen Karpman, MD, first created this as theDreaded Drama Triangleor DDT. The DDT is comprised of three roles: Victim (the role where someone is “doing” something to them),Rescuer (who tries to remove the Victim’s suffering, often without being asked), and Persecutor (which the Victim blames for their suffering, yet the Persecutor is often feeling victimized too).David Emeraldhas extended this triangle, and I have extended it further. The net-net is Victims are complaining because they want something—so we help them shift to be an Outcome Creator. The Rescuer is just trying to end the suffering, so we help them become an Insight Creator by asking the right questions so the Victim can get what they need by themselves. The Persecutor is usually frustrated by trying to make things happen, so we help them become an Action Creator. Once everyone is trained in shifting their most prevalent role to a healthy alternative,the whining ends. Nowthat’s empowerment.Victim becomes Outcome CreatorRescuer becomes Insight CreatorPersecutor becomes Action CreatorStep3: Invest ONLY for ROI.Training your team is expensive. So only do what matters. Every person in your company needs to be trained in Problem to Outcome(to stop the Whining),LeadershipEffectiveness (so they become leaders in their own right), Influencing Outcomes and Others, Accountability,Communication, andExecution. Allthesebe neuroscience-based to get far more bang for your buck.This training willcost you about$750-1,000 per person. If your people aren’t worth that amount, then embraceCrushed Culture. Because that’s the risk we’re talking about.Step 4: Career Path—or Exit Strategy.Dave Peacock, President ofAnheuser-Buschrecently shared their refreshing approach to team member reviews. Each team member knows exactly where they stand based on the numberplusletterthey receive through their on-going review process. If you’re a 4A,you are such a corporate asset that your boss is obligated to promote you in a year. 4Bs must be promoted within 2 years. 3As need to be tested in a different role before they’re moved up. 3B means you’re in the right job at the right time. 2s are new in a position—it’s too early to judge. 1As are put on a recovery plan, 1Bs need to exit the company. We recommend to our clients that a team member should know their next 2 potential promotions, and what exactly they need to do to earn them. Are they loyal and engaged?Oh yes.Sothe harsh reality is that we, the leaders, createdCrushed Culture. Now we need to fix it.Here iswhat I’ll do to help:Number1) I’ll lay out the neuroscience processes you need to do to help cure yourCrushed Culturein record time.Keep listening to this podcastso you don’t miss any.Number2) I’ll give a30-minute strategy session (gratis, of course) to 3 of you. We’ll work on curing yourCrushed Culture.Go to my website,www.smarttribesinstitute.comto request a session.Together we'll cureCrushed Culture... one company at a time.Show NotesDDT (Dreaded Drama Triangle): to Empowerment chart SmartTribesInstitute Strategy Session Request Form: