Personal Development

How executives can achieve growth past early stage success with CEO tools from speaker Jim Canfield

achieve growth past early stage success jim canfield

Jim Canfield encourages CEOs to answer the question “what’s next?” Often, executives started and fostered a great business, but aren’t sure how to change with growth or market shifts.

“I help CEOs continue the success that they built on so naturally in the early stages,” Canfield said. “This is where we move to a systematic approach of leading the business, managing the activities within it, and optimizing it to deliver those big picture goals.”

For three years, Canfield has guided Vistage members on how to be better leaders, better managers and better doers in their organizations. Now, Canfield has been named the 2020 Vistage Speaker of the Year. His program, “CEO Tools: Actionable Insights for Every Leader and Manager,” makes the process of growth approachable and easy to execute.


The chief tasks of a C.E.O. are hidden in the title

A chief executive should think of their title as an acronym: Communicate, execute and optimize. Canfield built his system around these three tasks, with a series of tools that helps with each.

Some tools work on a monthly basis, like metrics, and some that work on a weekly basis, like coaching. Other tools work on a daily basis, such as the two questions he tells CEOs to ask themselves every day: “No. 1, is there a message that my team or my organization needs to hear from me today? And No. 2, what kind of leader does my organization need me to be today?”

Canfield said that he looks at three broad leadership development categories: “Do I need to be more of a leader where I’m setting the direction? Do I need to be more of a manager where I’m delivering specific activities? Or more of a doer where I’m actually involved in the activities required to deliver the outcome?”

The CEO tools

Of all his tools, Canfield said that the most fundamental is the one-page business plan. This includes every element that organizations need to have people in the organization behind them—including mission, vision, values, tactics, metrics and goals.

A great quarterly tool, he said, is the quarterly priority manager. This allows CEOs and the executive team to set priorities for the next 90 days, giving a sense of urgency to accomplish important tasks.

A monthly tool CEOs can use is the leadership letter. This is a four-paragraph letter that CEOs write to keep people in the organization in the know. “It holds us accountable for past results,” he said. “It recognizes some people who have done things consistent with the goals we’ve laid out and values we have for the organization. And it indicates where we’re going next.”

Coaching is emphasized through all of Canfield’s CEO tools. Executives have the hardest time with giving honest feedback, he’s noticed, but the coaching tool focuses on “a call to greatness, not a cause for embarrassment.”

“By repetition, bringing the same tools back every month, every quarter, every year, the team starts to center around those tools and their results,” Canfield said. “The tools become a conduit for the results you’re getting.”

As for his own “what’s next?” — Canfield plans to certify coaches to use his tools. He’s also building an online platform to give smaller companies access to the tools.

“This is an approach that just about any company can use,” Canfield said. “Any leader can follow and deliver better results in a more stress-free fashion for their organization.”

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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