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The Great CEO Within

If you’re looking for a primer on many of the responsibilities of being a startup CEO, read The Great CEO Within. Matt Mochary wrote the book. He founded a company which he sold to MCI and now coaches startup CEOs, amongst other philanthropic efforts. The best part of this book is that it combines descriptions of the key jobs to be done and the frameworks to accomplish them.

As CEOs grow their teams and their companies, their calendars densify with meetings until there’s no space to work. “The top goal framework will help you fix this. Greg McKeown, who wrote a phenomenal book on productivity called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, boils this down to one key concept: Schedule two hours each day (i.e., put an event in your calendar) to work on your top goal only. And do this every single workday. Period.”

There are other tips. On meetings: Encourage more junior members of the team to speak first to ensure their views are heard and unbiased by more senior teammates. Move away from presentations to written briefs that attendees read at the beginning of a meeting. Amazon is well known for this technique.

On delivering feedback: ask permission; state the trigger for the feedback; share your emotional reaction to the trigger; share your opinion, and then request what you would like to see. Last, ask if the person accepts the feedback. These frameworks are useful in many ways. For me, these frameworks provide a sense of confidence in a conversation that I’m conducting it well.

And a discussion of Bain’s RAPID - a coordination system is used at Coinbase and many other places. The acronym stands for Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input, Decide. This is a way of managing teams by explicitly declaring who Recommends an action, who Agrees, who will Perform it. And then whose Input must be solicited and last, who Decides. This process ensures important decisions are well socialized.

The book is structured simply and the chapters are short - maybe 1000 words each. Plus there’s commentary from the stellar Alex MacCaw along the way that voices the perspective of a modern day successful founder. It’s well worth the few hours to read this manual that covers topics from Conscious Leadership to Fundraising, and shares habits to make you and your teams more successful. It’s a terrific distillation of years of experience across many startups.