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Fight for Focus

Do NOT Embarrass Your CEO
By Derrick Van Mell
Posted on 2/25/2019 4:50 PM

No one will pay attention to your big idea if you’ve missed something little.


Have you ever slaved over a presentation only to have an executive say, This is pretty good, but did you think about X?  If you could slap your head, you would, but instead you say something like, We did think about that, but we could look at it again.” It’s awkward. 


But you know what’s more awkward?  That the CEO just handed off your presentation to the board without knowing it’s got a hole in it.


Get to Know the Unknown Unknowns


It was Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense during the Iraq war that cautioned about “unknown unknowns.”  Too bad he didn’t have a good checklist.  Or a history book.


Look at It Upside Down


It’s essential to have a tool for making sure you haven’t forgotten something, something that reminds you to look at your idea from every angle.  A great Chicago architect, Mark DeWalt, checked his designs by looking at the drawings upside down.  He said it never failed to reveal an error or an opportunity for improvement.


But what can you use in management?  Click through the one-screen General Manager’s Index of Terms.   There’s never been a usable master checklist for management issues before. 


Get on the Same Page.  The Correct One.


I know what you’re thinking.  It’s really boring to go over a big checklist every time you present something important.  Yes, it is.  But you know what’s not boring?  Giving your boss a report that’s got a fatal error in it.


Click through the entire Index.  (For a physical checklist, use the Management Self-Assessment in the GM’s Toolkit.)  Do it with your team.  You’ll learn right away whether you think about things in the same way (you don’t).


A Reputation for Solid Information


Mastering the unknown unknowns will earn you a reputation for ideas and information that are rock-solid.  So don’t hand your presentation to the CEO with your fingers crossed that it’s not missing something.  Instead, do your homework, so you and the CEO can be confident the board discussion is a lively exploration of your big idea—not a disappointed lecture on a detail.  

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