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Earl R Smith II, PhD

(Read More From My Blog)

“Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Yoda

A significant part of my mentoring practice is focused on a clients’ personal growth. Even when the executive mentoring engagement is centered on the company, the client and I spend a lot of time working on improving personal habits, behaviors and productivity. This is true particularly during the early stages of each engagement. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we are working on developing a strategic plan, expanding a senior team, building an advisory board as a business development engine or evolving an exit strategy, the growth of the CEO always becomes an integral part of the process.

Partially this is because, as an organization grows, it is necessary for founders to re-invent themselves – to become what it is the larger and more rapidly growing company needs them to become in order to effectively manage and direct growth. The culture of the business begins to change, additional people are added with new and more professional skill sets, management of the business becomes a more important issue and the CEO needs to fill a different role.

Another reason is that the founder needs to grow personally and professionally in order to understand and support that accelerating growth. Many of my clients have started out as experts in technology only to find, as the company grew, they were less and less involved in the doing of the company’s business and more and more involved in managing the business of the company. This new role requires a rather different person – and the really good CEOs put in the effort to make that metamorphic journey in advance of the need.

So where does our old friend Yoda come in? Well, the quote above can morph into a myriad of variations – each of which illustrates a different aspect of the process. Here are just three that come to mind. Let’s start with the original.

“Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.”

What is the old saying? Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades! Well in business, trying is the same as not trying. In a very meaningful sense there is no try. You either do or it doesn’t matter. I have worked with clients who have spent months (and sometimes even years) trying to master the concepts behind marketing or business development only to find that the ‘trying’ has become a profession in and of itself. The idea of marketing or business development has become a kind of intellectual puzzle while the process of implementing those concepts finds no sponsor.

In truth none of these areas are nearly as complex as rocket science for instance – let alone cosmology (an area that I have some passing experience with). Marketing is not something you study it is something that you do. Business development is not something you consider and then reconsider or delegate. It is something that you do. And, if you are the CEO of an emerging business, you do them better than your competition or you lose!

“Always in motion is the future.”

One of the challenges that I frequently face is to stop a CEO from incessantly moving the flatware around on the table and calling it progress. This ‘constantly getting ready’ is, in its simplest form, an avoidance of doing by repeatedly getting ready to do. I am big on avoiding avoidance!

I have started engagements with clients who have spent years going from one management theory to another – fervently espousing the wisdom of this or that old fart who is well past his prime and in the business of selling books and looking to his legacy. But when I ask for specific examples of how the company has benefited (and by that I mean at either the top or bottom line) the examples offered are insubstantial and mostly obvious attempts to justify the wasted time and expense and organizational confusion that has resulted.

Any football fan who has watched the parade of coaches and schemes march through the Washington Redskin organization in recent years will know exactly what I mean by this. Football is about winning and, if you don’t win, it doesn’t make any difference how many pages there are in your play book. In business, as in football, you either do or it’s irrelevant that you tried.

“Want not. Have or do not have, there is no want.”

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