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Be the Warrior CEO


Your competition is lazy, and you can sense it.  Others desire a return to normalcy.  Not you.  You see an opportunity to exploit weakness.  There may never be a better time to attack your competitive enemies.  You are the warrior CEO, and the window for taking offensive action will not be open long.  Do not allow this pandemic to go to waste.

A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead be brought back to life. "-Sun Tzu

The warrior mindset is not for everyone.  Business tends to be more passive than active, and big corporations move slow and react even slower.  They seek peace and tranquility.  Unfortunately, small business mimics the big business as the model for success.  This approach is a flawed strategy.  Big business has mass and can withstand the constant attack from smaller competitors.  Small to medium size companies are fighting to grow large enough to survive.  They must attack to survive.

The warrior CEO understands business is war.  Lonnie Ogulnick shares three rules for warrior CEOs.  The first rule, take action when it benefits your business.  Do not follow the proverbial herd to slaughter.  Just because others are doing something does not make the strategy optimal for your business.  If all your competitors are doing the same things, you should likely do something altogether different. 

Differentiation is a common denominator for successful businesses, yet it is so challenging to articulate.  After coaching many sales reps, I have found differentiation to be highly elusive.  During a recent coaching call with an experienced sales rep, I asked what made the company different from its competitors?  Upon hearing her answer, I asked if she would say the same things if she worked for the competition?  Her response (drum roll) was yes!  Differentiation is the job of the warrior CEO, not the sales rep.  Relying on the sales rep to differentiate is like depending on a ten-year-old to pay the mortgage.  It is not impossible, but it is much more challenging to achieve success.

Rule number two is to know what unlocks your inner beast as CEO, VP of sales, or whatever leadership position you occupy.  Ogulnick says you should know what triggers your beast mode.  War is hell!  You must prepare your mind and body for the daily battle.  Just like a fighter prepares for the fight, you should prepare for the daily grind.

"To be a warrior, you need to figure out what triggers your beast mode and make it part of your routine."

For me, an intense twenty-minute workout is enough to charge my warrior mentality.  I need the endorphin rush to unlock my inner beast.  Determine your key and open the fighter in your mind if you want to be the warrior CEO for your business.  It may be quiet time, reading, affirmations, or even a podcast.  One person likes Metallica to get his beast stirring.  It can be as simple as a sticky note on the mirror.  Please do not overthink this, do it!

Also, it would be best if you considered battle fatigue in your troops.  Operating with a wartime mindset is difficult to sustain.  People (your team included) seek the harmony of peace.  The infection of mediocrity can creep into the minds of your team just as soldiers get complacent on the battlefield.  They will ask you to lower your standards and accept average results.  Your team will pressure you to accommodate these demands.  It would help if you reminded them (and yourself) that you are at war.  Give them periods for rest, but bring them back to the frontlines to fight another battle.

Rule three is to commit to your plans and goals without shame.  Ogulnick says most people understand this intuitively, but they feel uncomfortable committing themselves intensely to higher expectations. They are afraid of what other people will say, of being labeled as the person who "takes themselves too seriously."

[No successful military campaign begins with a vague objective. No general says, "We want to generally win more battles than we lose." You need a clear vision of victory to aim for.]

Stop accepting people who question your "ambition and focus" in life.  Do schedule blocks of time when you are 100% focused on work.  When you are at war, there is a constant threat from the enemy.  The enemy is after your best people now.  They are calling your customers.  What are you doing about it?

"Do you think soldiers answer FaceTime calls during combat? When they are engaged, they are fully engaged. Nothing distracts them. You need that same level of mental commitment."

Weak companies do not last; strong companies endure.  Kill or be killed sounds hyperbolic, but is it?  As the CEO, you set the tone for the entire organization.  You can be complacent; you are the boss.  You can accept mediocrity and allow the comfort of the past to become your future.  Many companies are seeking a return to pre-pandemic normalcy.  They want the good-ole-days to return.

If you are completely honest with yourself, the pandemic has surfaced weakness or apathy on your team. Whether you were overwhelmed with more business or troubled by declining industry, the response to pandemic has created an opportunity.  Just like the world war, a global pandemic impacts everyone and every business.  Your job as CEO is to exploit both with a plan.  You can attack as the warrior, or you can react.

Your mindset gets developed by creating a mental attitude that guides your decisions and actions to a given situation.  It is your mental readiness for the many choices you make each day.  It would help if you prepared for the difficulties that lie ahead.

"Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting. It's about being so prepared to face a challenge and believing so strongly in the cause you are fighting for that you refuse to quit." -Richard Machowicz

The magic is in the preparation of your mind for long periods of intense stress.  For your business to survive and win, you must accept the challenge to fight.  You must be relentless as the warrior CEO when it comes to your expectations and those you keep on the team.  To achieve victory, you must first see it in your mind.  Next, you must share the vision (of success) with your team in a compelling manner.

When I played football, we put on our pads for battle on the field.  When I served in the Army Infantry, we painted our faces with camouflage.  These simple tasks served as mental preparation for what was coming.  What are you doing to prepare for battle?  How do you achieve the state of mind to win each day?  Are you taking the troops to war each day instead of hoping for a return to normalcy?  We do not question Navy Seals for being well prepared to fight.  We expect them to be elite.  What do you expect of yourself?  Go out there and get some!