My New Book

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Since today’s post contains a bit of self-promotion I’ll keep it very short and to the point…My new book, “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual” was published this week and is available for sale in Hardcover at and various other online retailers and bookstores throughout the country. In today’s post I’ll give you a brief overview of the book… 

While the book is written primarily for CEOs or aspiring CEOs, it is also a useful read for anyone interested in improving their leadership skills. The book takes my years of experience as an executive, entrepreneur and professional advisor (code for brain damage) and distills the history of my professional observations into an actionable roadmap for sustainable success as a CEO. The “CEO Survival Manual” contains the following chapters:  

Chapter 1:     Introduction A Little Perspective On What Really Matters
Chapter 2:     CEO The Toughest Job On The Org Chart
Chapter 3:     Becoming a True Leader Do You Have What It Takes?
Chapter 4:     Speed, Timing & Innovation Leading Change as a CEO
Chapter 5:     Talent Management for the CEO
Chapter 6:     Creating Dominant Corporate Brands
Chapter 7:     The Value of Process
Chapter 8:     The 7 Secret Weapons of Great CEOs
Chapter 9:     The 5 Traps That Great CEOs Avoid
Postscript:     It’s How You Finish That Counts 

I hope you will read the book and any support in making this book a success will be greatly appreciated. Best wishes for continued success…  




Investing In Talent

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I recently read a blog post on all the reasons not to hire “superstars” and I could not have disagreed more with what I read. The more I continued to read the drivel being espoused by this blogger the more I realized how prevalent his assertions and positions have become in today’s business world. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that the quality of an organization’s talent will have a direct correlation to their success…In other words the better a company’s talent the more successful the enterprise will be. In today’s blog post I will discuss the benefits of hiring Tier-One talent. 

I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve witnessed companies pass over the right hire, or worse yet, not even look for the right hire because they let perceived financial constraints serve as a barrier precluding sound decisioning. I’ve actually personally observed HR managers filter better qualified candidates because they were $1,000 dollars outside the “top-end” of the salary range. It is precisely this type of thinking that will keep a company from being competitive in the market. I so vehemently disagreed with the blog post I noted above that I decided to put forth a point-by-point rebuttal below for your consideration in hope that you won’t fall prey to the flawed logic put forth by who for sake of this post shall remain a nameless blogger (I’m feeling kind today):  Point: “Superstars = Expensive. Seek a superstar, and expect to pay a bundle. Financially, and the other stuff: feelings of entitlement, benefits, environment necessities, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Myatt’s Counterpoint: To put it bluntly, you get what you pay for…Real talent produces real results and is worth the investment. I’ll take a proven performer over a wannabe performer eleven times out of ten. Always hire up where possible…find the right talent and then do what it takes to secure the services of said talent, but resist the temptation to hire down based upon salary constraints. Point: “You demotivate your current crop of talent. Jimmy’s been working his butt off for your company. Instead of promoting him, you bring in a superstar €” give him power, authority, extra resources and benefits. What does that signal to Jimmy? Importantly, what does that signal to your other employees?” Myatt’s Counterpoint: I have absolutely nothing against promoting from within, however this assumes that the best talent has been organically incubated and is available. Whether the talent in question is internally or externally procured doesn’t matter…you hire the best talent for the position period. If you have the ability to attract a bonafide “superstar” and you don’t do it, shame on you…Inserting tier one talent into your business makes the statement that your company values talent and that in and of itself will raise the chinning bar for all employees. There is an old saying: “Talent Begets Talent” and I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. Moreover, my definition of a superstar does not mean primadonna, rather it means team player. I expect our top talent to mentor our up-and-coming superstars.  

Point: “The people became superstars elsewhere because they thrived in the right environment; they became superstars because they had fit the mold, the structure, and the culture of their organization. Since your company won’t have the same environment, superstars probably won’t achieve the same results in your company.”  Myatt’s Counterpoint: The issue described above has nothing to do with talent, but rather it describes a lack of discernment on the part of the leadership and/or management doing the hiring. A superstar by definition is a proven performer and it is up to the leadership and/or management doing the recruiting to determine if the company can create an environment that will allow the proven performer to flourish prior to making the hire. If you properly support great talent you’ll receive great rewards…Moreover, the point noted above would also hold true for a junior hire as anyone regardless of talent will fail if not supported. That being said, superstars have a better chance of successfully navigating a challenging environment than someone less talented.  The following quote is something taken from an article I authored some time ago on the topic of talent and I believe it accurately summarizes my feelings on the subject at hand: “Quality human capital is a catalytic asset that can be effectively leveraged across the enterprise to generate creativity, collaboration, momentum, velocity, client loyalty, a dynamic corporate culture and virtually every other positive influencing force in the corporate universe.  It is quality talent that designs best practices, understands the value of innovation, overcomes obstacles, breaks down barriers, creates growth and builds a lasting brand.”  

The bottom line is that if you follow the advice of the unknown blogger quoted above with regard to talent you will have a mediocre company doomed for failure. My advice…Hire the best talent you can find!

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Crisis ManagementI was corresponding with a colleague earlier today who was inquiring into my experiences with crisis management, and after reviewing my e-mail to her I thought the subject was worthy of being published in today’s post. In the current always-on, real-time, and often invasive world of media coverage any company is only a slight faux pas away from crisis mode. It is not really a question of if your organization will encounter a crisis, but rather it is a matter of when and how often a crisis will occur. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts on how to successfully navigate a crisis…

Much of my personal practice deals with managing perception surrounding both personal and corporate brands. In working with professional athletes, politicians, brash entrepreneurs and overly confident executives there is little in the way of crisis that I have not experienced over the years. I have dealt with everything from Federal investigations, felony convictions, sexual indiscretions to just plain-old poor judgment. Sometimes crisis can be thrust upon an unwitting and/or undeserving target, and other times it is self-inflicted. Regardless of the cause, when crisis strikes the appropriateness of the response can have a dramatic impact on the future of a company and/or individual. Make no mistake…effective crisis management skills are mission critical to corporate and professional sustainability.

My personal belief is that nobody is perfect, but it is often my job to make them appear as such…Everyone makes mistakes and from time-to-time conducts themselves in a manner that they regret, it is just that some people’s baggage is more public than others. I have witnessed the mismanagement of trivial mistakes which have taken very prominent public figures to their knees, and I have handled exceedingly difficult circumstances such that barely a ripple was felt. In most cases, it is not the indiscretion that is an issue, but rather how it is dealt with that determines public opinion.

While there are certain key principles underlying successful crisis management, it is certainly far from a formulaic process. Each individual instance of crisis requires a completely unique strategy engineered to fit the context, environment, constituencies and a virtual plethora of other potential issues that may be encountered in managing the perception and risk of crisis. The following guidelines are meant to give you a basic framework for dealing with crisis:

  1. The truth is your friend: No matter how tempting it may seem do not travel the delusional path of the cover-up. The truth will always eventually come out, and your problems will only be exacerbated by layering mistake upon mistake, and lie upon lie… 
  2. Anticipate and insulate: When it comes to crisis management the best defense is a very prolific offense. Where possible, you need to seek out potential areas of conflict, crisis, and risk in order to effectively neutralize a threat before it becomes a reality. Remember that crisis avoidence is better than crisis managmement.
  3. Impulsivity is not your friend: Never, and I repeat never, speak to the media if not prepared. No comment is better than an off-the-cuff comment of frivolity. All members of your management team should be media trained prior to making any public statement (whether in crisis mode or not).
  4. Get professional help: Just as a defendant who represents himself is said to have a fool for a client, a person/entity at the center of a crisis that attempts to solve their own problem deserves the outcome they are likely to receive. When the stakes are high, seek the counsel and advice of a subject matter expert who knows how to walk from one side of a mine field to the other without getting blown-up.
  5. Passivity is not your friend either: Sticking your head in the sand and hoping a crisis will blow over is a recipe for disaster. Aggressive, confident, proactive and rapid response is always a better choice than not taking any action whatsoever. Left unattended most problems will only grow in severity and add to the potential for lasting damage.  Remember that sleeping dogs are nothing more than contingent liabilities as they always awaken at some point…  
  6. Understand the real issues: Get to the root of the issue as quickly as possible. Often times what appears to be a crisis is really just the calm before the storm. If you miss addressing the real issue out of the gate you may not get a chance to recover…It is critical to understand all of your constituencies as well as the media’s real interest in the story.
  7. Cover all the bases: Never rely on the media to exclusively deliver your message. The media is only one delivery channel, and effectively managing perception is based upon influencing all channels. Create allies who have a vested interest in your success, and utilize all back-channels to influence the desired outcome.
  8. Think long-term: Don’t win the battle and lose the war. Your credibility and brand are rarely worth risking over a short-term gamble. Resist the temptation to bluff unless your can bear the fall-out if you’re hand is called.
  9. Monitor your results: A crisis is rarely a static event…problems tend to be very fluid and can rapidly evolve and/or escalate. It is imperative that you know where you stand at all times and consistently evaluate your position and strategy relative to the risks and rewards at stake. Never allow yourself to get locked into a strategy that paints you into a corner you don’t want to be in. 
  10. Go for the win: At the end of the day, the best way to manage a crisis is to create a win…With all risks and controversies come opportunities if you understand the subtleties of crisis management. Controversy usually involves more than one party and where there are multiple parties involved there are multiple interests to be leveraged and needs to be addressed.

The world is not fair, and the business world is most certainly not fair. You will likely face a variety of crisis situations during your career, and how you handle them will impact your ability to achieve your goals, protect your interests and secure your future.

Note: I only work with those who have been unfairly treated, or with those who have sincere regret and remorse surrounding their mistakes…dirt bags need not apply.

ROI Reexamined

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

There is little doubt that measuring Return On Investment (ROI) is a solid business principle that helps guide corporate decisioning. However for purposes of this blog post, I want you to think of ROI as return on imagination, ideas and innovation. It is the return on innovation that will allow companies to maintain their competitive edge and create sustainable growth even during a rough recessionary period. Peter Drucker said, “An established company which, in an age demanding innovation, is not able to innovate, is doomed to decline and extinction.”

Drucker’s quote mirrors my sentiments exactly…I have observed far too many companies forget about the need for, and power of innovation.  Without a dedicated focus on innovation it is only a matter of time until a business cannot attract or retain talent, suffers from obsolescence due to the innovation of others, and watches their brand fall into decline.

Does you company suffer from the lack of innovation, or does it reap the many benefits of innovation? The answer can likely be found by examining your company’s organization chart. Who is in charge of innovation management? If you don’t have a dedicated C-suite position focused on innovation you might really want to re-evaluate your direction. While I’m not typically a fan of “title inflation,” I have rarely witnessed a company with a chief strategy officer, chief innovation officer, chief imagination officer, chief idea officer, chief thinking officer, etc. who are not experiencing sustainable growth and increases in brand equity. It is these companies who have a positive culture, and who are attracting and retaining the best talent.

Innovation is not the same thing as process engineering. Implementing Six Sigma or other process engineering programs to achieve short-term incremental gains in existing processes is not the same thing as adopting an innovation management approach. A focus on innovation seeks gains in new areas which may require completely new business processes to be adopted. While both process engineering and innovation management are necessary, and can and should overlap, they are not the same thing. Simply open up any business magazine and look at the companies receiving the majority of the news and editorial coverage, and you’ll find they represent the best in innovative organizations. These companies realize the value received from innovation and choose to be market leaders as opposed to market lagers.

So how do you adopt an innovation management approach for your business? Begin by considering the following best practices recommendations:

1. Make innovation a full time initiative: Part time efforts yield part time results and even worse zero effort yields zero results. Externally hire or promote from within the best creative thinker and innovative strategist you can afford. Equip this individual with resources and watch your company grow. Nothing catalyzes growth and change like innovation.

2. Gain “active” leadership support: Innovation doesn’t work in isolation. It is one thing for your executive team talk the talk, but quite another to have them walk to walk. Form a “thinkubator’ facilitated by your chief innovation officer and comprised of department heads, business unit leaders and other senior executives to regularly brainstorm about innovation  Great ideas come from great minds and if your leadership isn’t involved in the practice of innovation your business will suffer.

3.   Get your head out of the sand: Avoid the DITWLY (Did It That Way Last Year) syndrome. It has been said that the definition of insanity is to continue doing things the same way that you always have while expecting different results. Attend trade shows, conferences, continuing education workshops and other events that expose your leadership team to the latest thinking. Hire an executive coach, bring in consultants, outsource or do whatever is necessary to drive new ideas, creative thinking and innovation.

Interview – Robin Koval

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Interview - Robin KovalAdvising CEOs and entrepreneurs for a living I have had the pleasure of working with a wide variety of truly amazing individuals over the years. However when I look back amongst those individuals who have left an indelible impression on me it is not the smartest, toughest, wealthiest or most powerful executives, but rather it has been the “nicest” executives that made the lasting impression. Let’s face it, most C-level executives are savvy, intelligent, resourceful, shrewd, calculating and successful but how many of them are truly warm, caring and friendly? Sadly not as many as I would hope to be able to report. That being said, if Robin Koval has anything to say about it (and trust me she does) there is a paradigm shift in process within the business world which is bringing “nice” back…

Robin Koval is smart, talented, creative, successful and you guessed it…nice. Robin is the President and a founding member of The Kaplan Thaler Group, which is one of the country’s most respected and successful advertising agencies. KTG generated more than $1 billion dollars in billings last year and represents blue-chip clients like Procter & Gamble, Revlon, Pfizer, Office Depot, Outback Steakhouse, US Bank and others. Some of Robin’s most notable successes include the AFLAC Duck and the edgy “Yes, Yes, Yes” campaign for Herbal Essences. Robin is also a best selling author with her latest book (which she co-authored with partner Linda Kaplan Thaler) “The Power of Nice” being both a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller. Now that you’ve had a brief introduction on with the interview…

Mike Myatt: The world of advertising is not only big business but it’s also one of the toughest and most competitive businesses in the world. What has been the thing that differentiates you from the legions of other ad agencies?

Robin Koval: While I like to think our work product is a testimony to our creative capabilities and talent and stands on its own merit, it is our culture of “nice” that is our real competitive edge. The bottom line is that we produce tremendous results for our clients while being nice…

Mike Myatt: What do you mean when you refer to “a culture of nice”?

Robin Koval: We believe our success is in large part due to the fact that we really are nice and people like working with us. We are nice to our clients, employees, vendors and anyone we come into contact with. In today’s digital world your reputation is everything…poor behavior will follow you around for a long time as you cannot un-Google yourself so it is just easier and smarter to be nice.

Mike Myatt: What inspired you to write “The Power of Nice”?

Robin Koval: Linda and I had great success with our first book entitled “Bang!” which is essentially about what we do and “The Power of Nice” is more about how we do it…

Mike Myatt: While I have written often on the merits of being nice in the business world, I’d love to hear your perspective on the following question…Can “nice” really be effective in the dog-eat-dog business world? 

Robin Koval: We really believe that “tough” doesn’t work in the business world anymore as most people just won’t put up with arrogant behavior. Furthermore just being smart or credentialed won’t get the job done either, as consumers have a variety of choices and at the end of the day want to work with people they like. All I can say is that in 2005 as we were writing the book Linda and I were not only more conscious of our own behavior, but also of the behavior of everyone at our agency and 2005 was our best year ever as an agency…That is until the book came out in 2006 and we had even a better year.

Mike Myatt: How does “nice” impact your clients?

Robin Koval: We represent some of the most successful brands in the world and we believe that “nice” has a positive impact on brand equity. There is great brand association and a significant brand promise tied to “nice”. Being nice doesn’t mean you can’t be edgy or creative, but it does mean understanding where to draw the line…

Mike Myatt: Can you point to any single defining moment in your career?

Robin Koval: When I decided to leave the comfort and security of my job as a Senior Vice President of Interpublic’s Gotham, Inc., to join Linda. While going from an executive in a high rise double window office to the entrepreneur in the three story walk-up brownstone was a huge move, I never had any doubts and never looked back…

Mike Myatt: How do you gauge your success on a day-to-day basis?

Robin Koval: My success is born out of making those around me successful. At the end of each day I ask myself; “have I inspired anyone today?” If the answer is yes then I’ve succeeded.  

Mike Myatt: If you could give any advice to our readers what would it be?

Robin Koval: When you’re tempted to say no, stop and find a way to say yes. If you can help someone then it will definitely pay big dividends to do so. There is usually a way to say yes if you look for it.

After speaking with Robin for a while my conclusion to this interview became obvious…It has been said that some of the most powerful principles in life also happen to be the most obvious and simple things. So I’ll ask you this: who would you rather work with if given a choice…a genuinely nice person or an arrogant, egotistical person? I don’t know about you but I don’t have much patience for executives who operate on the premise of a “win at all costs, business is business” attitude. Remember there is power in being nice…