CEO Funhouse Mirror

I decided that in my journey to be a better CEO, I needed to get some feedback from those most impacted by the work that I do. So, I posted a SurveyMonkey for our staff, cleverly labeled “CEO Evaluation”. Not so catchy, but it didn’t seem like the right time for a blog like title. We’re about halfway through this exercise based on the number of responses thus far, if everyone puts in their two cents.
I’m not ready to reveal any of the details yet, but I promise to do so. I’m not a professional survey designer by any means, but here are the questions that I posed and the introduction I gave it, short and sweet:
Hi. I’m asking you to help me do the best job that I can do as CEO of EnergyLogic. You probably know I’ve never actually been a CEO and I’m always working to learn and improve my game, so here’s a chance to help me and be a part of an ever better EnergyLogic.
And just FYI, it’s completely anonymous!
1. Company guidance. How am I doing in navigating the company?
2. Company culture. How are we doing in maintaining or developing the company culture that we want?
3. Daily interactions. How am I to work with?
4. Suggestion Box: What would you like to see from me? More of something? Less of something else? Should I just get back to work?
5. If you’ve got even more you’d like to tell me, about me, or anything else in the company, tell me here.
6. Overall Grade. I’ll keep working to keep the honor of working as your leader. Let me know where I stand in the big picture.
A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D D- F

It’s pretty interesting thus far and I’m appreciating the feedback even when I have to swallow hard a few times to do so! I think that it’s pretty easy to get a distorted view of yourself as the leader of a successful, fast growing company that wins more than its fair share of awards and other forms of recognition. I have a ton of respect for our staff and am very proud of what we’ve created together. Really, ultimately, this is one part of my effort to be the leader that I want to be, to grow in my role as CEO.

I’ve read a lot of business books and one thing they almost universally recommend is that you seek out mentors, peer groups, others who can help you navigate the waters of growth, both from a business perspective and a personal perspective. This isn’t an easy job, in fact, I don’t really even think of it as a job per se. I’m a really lucky guy though, as even when it’s hard, even when it’s draining, even when it seems impossible, I always know, it’s the only thing I want to be doing.
I’ll post next week on the results. It may be remarkably stupid to put this out in the blogosphere, but I feel like regardless of the feedback I get, and believe me, some of it is quite pointed, ultimately, the staff has my back and it’s up to me to live up to the dream that I’ve written for myself and this company. It’s a bit analogous to putting the “fat” picture of yourself on the refrigerator, if I write it down, I have to own it.

Phosphene Ideas – Rubbing the Mind’s Eye

Where do my ideas come from?  I’ve loved this topic, really made me think.  I like to blog about business ideas that are real world for me and those who are like us, struggling through growth and business adolescence.  For me ideas are a constant stream, a little like Twitter, I’ve got to grab them or their gone, but it’s a bit like fishing too, there are more fish in the river, just keep on fishin’.

So, I pretty much just have to STOP in the name of IDEAS (okay, not quite the same ring as STOP in the name of LOVE, but I guess if you love ideas…).  They come when I take two seconds to reflect on the stream.  The stream is that which is before me.  Tonight, it was Glee with my girls, Ariel, Emma, Wynne and Fig.  YES, ideas do come during Glee!  They also come during my short commutes while listening to BBC or Bloomberg or odd foreign nation news streams on satellite radio (for some reason, I  just like the phrase “satellite radio”), or weeding the garden, when time slows way the hell down, or when I’m maniacally ingesting business books on the spin cycle.  Yes, perhaps sad, but business writing gets me spinnnin’ faster…

One thing I really like to do is link disparate topics into some form of coherent stream.  See the links between things that seem to have no connection.   Here’s a task and a trick.  Watch three TED streams back to back and if you don’t have some original thought or form some heretofore never perceived connection, pull the plug!  I promise, if ever blocked, try it!

Thanks to Allison @energyvanguard for bringing me into the fold.




Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Infographics

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

-Mark Twain (popularized)

We’ve all heard this quote.  It speaks to the ability of clever folks to manipulate data to tell a story that supports a particular point of view regardless of what the data actually tells us.  One reason that infographics have become so popular is that few Americans (and others I presume) are capable of understanding basic statistics.  There is an increasing flood of data and an ever increasing need for people to either deliver or understand data.  However, if you can’t understand statistics, it doesn’t do much good to either deliver the data or to receive it.

Infographics help to bridge this lack of statistical literacy.  We like pictures, we understand pictures and indeed, pictures can deliver an amazing amount of information in a short amount of time.  I also believe that pictures and thus infographics have become increasingly important as we’ve become an increasingly visually focused nation.

However, whether intentional or not, as you move from raw data to statistical summary to infographic, there is potential for manipulation or error at every step (think of it as analagous to loss of energy for every step of a physical process).  It’s incumbent on the designer of an infographic to understand the data that is being represented.  The more complex the data, the more difficult an accurate representation will be.   This link will take you to a great article that goes into much more depth on poor infographic representation.

and here, also wonderful:

I really like infographics and I think they have a great deal to tell us about how we use energy and where best to focus our efforts.   It’s just really important that we pay attention to the presentation of the data and that we take a step back from pretty pictures and both conduct a sniff test and ask simple questions about what we’re seeing.

Here is my very lame effort to show a very simple example of how easy it is to skew the perspective of a homeowner.  Same data, what’s different?  What conclusions might you draw if you don’t notice what’s different about how these two identical sets of data are depicted?




Energy Muckrakers’ Poker Party: Deal ’em

Smoky room, unhealthy snack food, plenty of beer and a few of my favorite muckrakers over for poker.  I’ve got a pretty sweet poker pad over my garage, it’s too bad I’m really bad at Poker.  Nevertheless, here is my short list of invitees (apologies in advance to those who I’ve left out):

Allison Bailes – Energy Vanguard – @energyvanguard blazing a trail in social media and general rabble rousing in the energy efficiency world.  Recent post musing about freedom vs building science should become a classic over time.  Allison writes not just for the rabble, but also for the very technical.  Double down!

Carl Seville – Green Curmudgeon – @greencurmudgeon Name says most of it, but Carl is a man of many topics and streams and I can tell you that you should beware if he puts on his dancing shoes!  Carl’s been at this for a long time and has irritated and offended a lot of people while he’s been on his beat.  That’s cool of course, but the point is to educate and he’s done a boatload of that too.  Watch out for the card up the sleeve…

Steve Andrews – Steve has been out of the residential construction world for awhile, though he’s returning to us currently.  He co-founded the Association for the Study of Peak Oil – US and has dedicated a good chunk of his life to helping others see the light on Peak Oil.  He ought to be blogging, but I don’t think he is, if you know Steve, harass him to get going here in the blogosphere!  Card shark for sure.

John Tooley – Advanced Energy – all-around great guy with a devilish sort of grin.  Dangerous at cards I’m sure.  John has been stirring the pot for years.  ACI Hall of Famer!  I’ve learned a lot just being in the presence of John at conference bar locations around the country.

Joe Lstiburek – Building Science Corporation – To many, the ultimate muckraker.  Doesn’t actually have Turret’s Syndrome, but can do a very convincing portrayal.  Some of the best work on Building Science on the internet, along with sense of humor and no suffering of fools.  May deal from the bottom of the deck.

It would probably be a fool who would actually play poker with this cast of characters.  But if you want to take a smack at the building science piñata or the wasp nest of construction, these are your peeps.

Conferences: Taking it to the Next Level

In a recent post, I presented some thoughts on conferences in general.  In this post, I’d like to encourage you to take the next steps for conference success.  After a couple or three years of conference attendance, you’ll likely be thinking, “Gee, was that worth it?  Seems like the same stuff this year as last.  I wish there was something more/deeper/new/etc”.  That’s an excellent signal that you need to be part of the action!  We’re in the season now for our industry where calls for papers are out.  Now is the time to be thinking and responding to those calls by becoming part of the action.  Figure out what it is that you wish was included in the conference, it could be attention to a technology, a region, a big issue, a business strategy, it really could be anything that you think would be valuable.  Chances are that if you think it’s valuable others will too!

Nothing makes you a better presenter and spokesperson for you company, brand or self than to stand up and give a really great presentation.  Polish your craft, don’t hold back, share with others and you’ll get back far more in return than you invest.  Partner up with other interesting and interested people.  Form a panel, perform a survey, do performance art, mix it up, we’ll all be the richer for it!

Keep your eyes open for the calls for papers, out now for ACI, out pretty soon for RESNET.  Think about your regional conferences for ACI and other presenting opportunities.

Good luck and I look forward to hearing what you have to say!