Dear CMO:

We’ve discussed rats already. Let’s talk about fish. It’s hard to get worked up about fish. They have no discernable facial expressions. Their children aren’t cute. They’re just guppies or larvae or something. Regardless, there’s an interesting story about how to land a big fish. But first, let’s explore how not to land a big fish.

First, go fishing. Find a way to hook a very big fighting fish on your line. I’m not an avid fisherman, but I’ll use the Wahoo as an example because of the name. Hook a Wahoo and I suppose the guy holding the pole says something along the lines of, “wahoo.” Hopefully with more intensity than what I’ve managed to convey here.

If you lean back and pull, the fish will win. It’s fast, strong, aggressive and doesn’t want to leave the water. Your line will snap. Or, you could swing your pole from left to right in a sawing motion, changing the direction the fish thinks you’re going. The fish will get confused and quickly give up.

Amazing. First, how to drown a rat and now, how to land a fish. The fish story presents us with a second outstanding way of confusing your team. Just keep changing directions. Move dates, targets, priorities, and generally be as passive/aggressive as you possibly can. And relax. You’ll wear out your team quickly. Soon, they’ll stop being fast, strong, and aggressive and lie on the dock with that glassy look in their eyes.

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Key Takeaways:

> Good people like accountability. From you, preferably. Tell them what you expect and when you expect it. They’ll figure out the rest. They’re good, after all.

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I’ve had the opportunity to work with exceptional management in equally exceptional companies in my career. The best of the best consistently pointed the way forward based on facts, not feelings, and gave consistent and generative feedback down the line. We knew where we were going and how we were getting there. “Our drills were bloodless battles, our battles bloody drills.”

Whatever credibility you have with your team depends on your consistency. Flip flopping – like a fish, come to think of it – means you don’t know where you’re heading. And you can’t lead anyone if you don’t know where you’re heading yourself.


Copyright © 2007 Stephen Denny