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Does This Powerpoint Make Me Look Fat?
June 10, 2011
Written By: Russell Jensen

If you have been stopping by this blog for some time you know how much I love leading our executive Roundtables.  Over the past 16 years I’ve led approximately 360 Roundtable discussions, and so far it hasn’t once felt like Groundhog Day.  And with all those discussions logged in my head, somehow a recent Roundtable might have been the most amazing of them all.  It was a powerful day.

A seasoned executive (we’ll call him Buddy) checked his ego at the door, got naked in front of the group (figuratively, thank goodness), and asked his peers for some direct, uncomfortable and challenging feedback.  His industry is in a period of turbulence, the business is facing a crisis they have seen coming but have not adequately prepared for.  His partners are restive and are considering selecting a new managing partner.  Buddy plans to walk into the next partner meeting, make a case for radical, painful change, chart a vision for the future, tell the group what he needs to win, and ask to run the business.

He recently test drove all this with his peer group.  He asked his peers to bring their A game, and they did.  The feedback he heard was encouraging, insightful, and at times challenging.

  • Don’t do anything until you are clear about your vision and what you will need to achieve it.
  • Crisp up your message.  Don’t get stuck in the details.
  • You need to be all in on this, 100% committed or don’t start.  Better to be shown the door after that meeting than be set up to fail later.
  • Your partners need you to step up and lead them.
  • You most likely don’t have the team in place you will need. Make that a priority.
  • Be prepared for a season of long hours and heavy lifting.

Oh, how I wish I had a strong, confidential, committed peer group like this earlier in my career.  I can think of three specific moments in my career when a peer group would have been invaluable to my growth and performance as an executive.  One was defining my role as the youngest and newest member of the senior leadership team. Another was stepping up and redefining my role with my CEO.  The third was when I leading a major change initiative in my business unit.  And leading it badly.

So kudos to Buddy for going all in with his Roundtable and asking for their best.  And kudos to them for giving it to him.  And while I’m jealous that Buddy and the group have something this valuable to lean on, I’m even more grateful that I get to be part of making that happen for them.

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