What’s impossible when you unleash your absolute potential?

Last week’s 3000 km (1800 mile) drive across Australia may have only covered a relatively small part of this great southern land but it enabled me to do three important things:

1. spend precious family time in the South Australian wine regions;
2. take down time and fly my drone across amazingly stark terrain; and
3. contemplate the work I’m doing and hone my thinking.

All three of these activities are essential for my continued well-being and overall spiritual fitness. I arrived back in Sydney exhausted, but full of energy and motivated to continue with my overarching purpose – using my wisdom to guide leaders unleash their absolute potential.

During this journey I both refined my purpose and crystallized a framework that succinctly explains our approach to strategic leadership.

Absolute Potential

Recently, one of my clients beautifully described how I was guiding her to ‘unleash her potential’. This really resonated as an apt moniker for my work. On the trip I realized that adding one extra word made a world of difference.  That word is ‘absolute’ – my focus is on “unleashing your absolute potential“. By this I mean your unconstrained potential, free of self-imposed limitations and societal constructs.

As I move into the second year of running EXOscalr I aim to apply this insight to my work and ask clients a really big question, “What’s impossible when you unleash your absolute potential?” Imagine what is possible when you operate without constraint.

Strategic Leadership

On my journey I also formulated the EXOscalr Strategic Leadership Model, which you can see in the diagram below.



This provides the framework for the way in which we work with clients. It is designed in three core modules that connect to drive deep self-awareness, build your momentum and empower you to achieve your absolute potential.

As I say in the EXOscalr Overview (Dropbox link), this sounds straightforward and may even give you a sense of comfort. However, don’t be fooled – EXOscale results are not achieved by following a curriculum, nor are they beholden to a set, linear path.

“You are the program. Your words, your voice contain your powers and they come to life within the coaching space.”

Under the Strategic Leadership Model a lot of work goes into self-inquiry and developing a growth engine, but the final element required for achieving your absolute potential is to be fierce, to harness your personal superpowers and, by doing the work, making things happen. This is a true sine qua non and I have seen people flounder who have put in the initial groundwork, but have not been sufficiently fierce, have not been proactive and seized opportunities.

To be fierce is that essential magical element and I have renamed this missive, Be Fierce, as a reminder to all of us to constantly step up and challenge ourselves.

I encourage you to take a read of the EXOscalr Overview and reach back to me if you’d like to talk about coaching yourself. Feel free to also pass it on to colleagues, portfolio CEOs and friends who may be interested in removing their constraints, refining their capabilities and unleashing their absolute potential.

At EXOscalr we work with our clients to unleash their absolute potential and make a difference. We draw on decades of experience, including insights gained in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

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Exponential Growth & Leadership #5: Are You Chasing Your Impossible?

The seeker is he who is in search of himself


In business, as in daily life, there are always goals that seem impossible to achieve. However, when you do finally achieve them you realise that what had seemed impossible only a moment ago is actually possible and, in hindsight, you wonder why you were so anxious about achieving those goals.

It is all a matter of perspective.

Take the word ‘impossible’ – the addition of one tiny apostrophe and it transforms into “i’m possible”.

How are you tackling your impossibles?

I’d like to share with you my recent interview with Anthony Kirby on his Chase Your Impossible podcast. You can listen to the entire 53 minute show on iTunes or Overcast. I’ve also included a direct link to the recording on Libsyn.

The reason I accepted going on the show was that I agree with its mantra:

Live a life of purpose – on purpose’ – this relates to every single person chasing that one thing that keeps them awake at night – and that one thing which everyone has told them is out of reach. It could be a world changing business concept or a management position. It is exactly what it is for each individual and the ethos does not change regardless of monetary outcomes or global outcomes.

The show is all about showing people that whatever that ‘impossible’ looks like for them – it can be achieved.

You can listen to the show to get my backstory. However, I felt it would be useful to highlight some of the nuggets I focused on.

My overall message, which is very much linked to my personal journey, is thatlife can take an unexpected turn at any point, so seize the moment.

My mantra in the 90’s, which I believe still applies today – especially with respect to viral activities – is that the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away and can do both at lightning fast pace.

Insights from my venture capital experience:
*Entrepreneurs are by nature intensely curious and as a result there is a tension between you being totally focused and wanting to satisfy your curiosities.

* Choose your co-founders carefully and your investors even more carefully. Less is usually more in both respects.

* You may have many advisers, but should only have one voice of reason against whom you parse the competing and conflicting sets of advice you receive. I recommend a coach for this voice of reason role.

* Don’t spend ages on a business plan, rather, find ways to demonstrate traction.

As business builders, we should focus on the big things, that make a difference, rather than on small technology plays. Apps may currently be all the rage, but do we really need another social X, Y or Z when there are so many challenges in areas like health for example.

You can be global from anywhere. Your issues are global issues. Your opportunities are global opportunities.

On life:
Remember to listen to your inner voice. Find your soul work. Don’t do a startup or activity simply for starting up’s sake or to keep busy – make meaning.

Society builds constructs and constraints around you. Break them down. Ignore them. Pave your own path.

There are some things you can control, many you cannot. Rather than fighting against them, go with the universal flow. Accept the path that appears in front of you and enjoy the moment.

So much of what guides us on our quests is internal, it is already within us, we just need to learn how to listen to it. Think of the squirrel that is born in summer. It has never experienced winter, but innately knows to store nuts for the coming winter.

To me chasing your impossible is not necessarily an external activity. We need to allow our impossible to emerge from within ourselves. It does not require travel to the far ends of the earth, nor does it require busy work.

Remember also that success is what you do, it is not a place you’re trying to get to. Find your reason for being, your ikigai, and you will find yourself.

Anthony asked me two questions which were really poignant:

* If everything was taken away tomorrow – what would you do?
Start again. The liberation that comes with starting afresh with no boundaries, no constraints is amazing. I highly recommend that everyone try this at least once in their life.

* If you couldn’t do what you doing now what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t coaching I’d write full time. But I really enjoy working with incredible people – they buoy me, I draw energy from them and would find another way to work with them.

My final advice came from a friend who recently lost his young son. His words are both powerful and moving:

All experiences change you;
Every day we fall asleep different than when we awoke.
Sometimes the differences are too small to honor and we let them go unnoticed.
Sometimes the differences are great and we tag them “life changing” and set out consciously to live under them as a banner worthy of our souls.
Losing my son definitely falls under the latter kind.
every encounter with everyone we meet, whether a stranger or an old friend, is a chance to leave that person all the better for it.
In that way, by losing my son, I am made a better person by having known him in the first place. Not because he has been lost to us, but because he was present.
When he was alive, he made our burdens somehow seem lighter.
when you leave someone leave them better than you found them.
Time marches on.
Growth happens.
Change is a constant, human condition.


At EXOscalr we work with our clients to burst the constraints of their potential and make a difference. We have created algorithms and an operating system to help leaders navigate their exponential growth. We also draw on decades of experience in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a coach and leadership adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181 and +1-646-480-0205. Feel free to reach out.

Please share this newsletter on your social networks or via email. If you received this from a friend, you can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here:http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1

Exponential Growth & Leadership #4: Let’s Achieve Success Together in 2016


2015 was a fantastic year in many ways. I broke away from being part of a big machine where I was an important cog, but a cog nonetheless. And with your support I laser-focused on where I believe I can add most value to society.

But make no mistake, there were moments of self-doubt, flickers of fear that I had taken on too much, too soon after my sudden-death experience. Again, with your help, particularly through my current clients who infuse me with huge jolts of energy, I looked at my negative thoughts and saw them for what they are – something undesirable, something I didn’t want. I was able to self correct and, steering clear of failure, gather my energy and guide myself onto continued success.

I mention this because if I, who coaches others, can have negative feelings that require not insignificant amounts of positive thinking to overcome, then how much more prevalent is such fear out there among CEOs and leaders who are exposing themselves and putting their necks on the line daily?

My main message to you is that you’re not alone – we all experience such negative thoughts. It is how you deal with them that sets you apart. I’ve got three mantras that help guide me in this respect and I want to share them with you:

1. Success is what you do, not a place you are trying to get to

Success is not a place, it’s not a noun. It’s a journey that you actively engage in, it’s a verb. Success is also subjective – your definition of what brings you joy defines what success is for you. If you allow yourself to be too influenced by others you will find that what you took to be success will be hollow, it won’t resonate with you and you will be unfulfilled.

2. Find your reason for being and you’ll find yourself

The Japanese talk about finding your ikigai, which translates to ‘reason for being’. When you find it and set yourself goals to strive for based on your ikigaithen you experience true joy. You will more readily enter the flow zone, you’ll find yourself experiencing the small things in life with more gusto – food will taste better, the air will be fresher, you’ll hear the birds. When you are in this state your unconscious will more readily take over the task of achieving goals that you set for yourself and things will feel like they are magically falling into place.

3. Embrace failure: don’t let your greatest mistake be making none

Failure is all around us. Accept it, learn from it and move forward. If you aren’t failing then you aren’t pushing yourself enough. This doesn’t mean betting the business at random, nor does it mean playing with the lives of your staff as if they are inconsequential. On the contrary, it means caring so deeply about your business and your people that you want only the best for them. The best inherently comes with more risk, the need for greater experimentation and following a path less trodden. If you’ve taken a considered action with this mindset, and that leads to failure, then embrace it, celebrate it, and push forward.


With 2016 upon us I want you to see this as your year. Seize it with gusto and make the most of it.

My quest, at EXOscalr, is to positively impact the lives of 2 billion people and generate $1 trillion in value, for and through our clients. To achieve this goal I need to keep pushing both myself and the people I’m working with.

And so let me ask you,

How can I help you more?”

“In what areas of leadership, of achieving success, do you most need a trusted advisor in your personal camp in 2016?

Reach out and let me know. I’m here to serve you!

Join me on my quest, or dive in deeper – let’s make magic happen!


At EXOscalr we work with our clients to burst the constraints of their potential and make a difference. We have created algorithms and an operating system to help leaders navigate their exponential growth. We also draw on decades of experience in venture capital, corporate innovation, building high growth organizations and advising the Fortune 1000 on transformation.

As a coach and leadership adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

I read all my email at rand@exoscalr.com and I’m also at +1-650-529-4181, +1-646-480-0205 and +61-417-655-947.

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Level Up With 5 Super Powers For Achieving Leadership Success


To be successful in 2016 being a good CEO is insufficient. Leaders need super powers to get to the head of the pack and outpace their competitors. Here we highlight 5 powers that can give you the edge.

1. Growth-hacker:
Corporate governance and cost cutting are no longer the main focus for CEOs. It is all about growth. You need to have a full panoply of growth skills on hand: acquisitions, adjacencies, corporate venture capital, disruptive innovation, geographical expansion and new ventures.

You also need to view your company’s activities as potential growth engines: What activities are funnels of growth for more lucrative activities, drawing customers deeper into your ecosystem?

2. Story-teller:
Humans engage with narrative, particularly transformation-centric narrative. As the world changes around us, a company that maintains the same story will quickly fade into irrelevance.

CEOs need to be able to weave a compelling story that creates a connect between the present and the future, between reality and aspiration, and that draws in all stakeholders.

3. Future-gazer:
Being able to predict the future is the best way to invent it, to paraphrase Alan Kay. With things changing so rapidly you will need to be able to come up with plausible scenarios and act in accordance with them.

Imagine if a decade ago you had said that mobile phones will never take off, the Internet will never amount to anything and that you refuse to learn how to use a computer. It would be almost impossible today for you to do your role without these technologies.

You need to be able to figure out what comes next, and what comes after what comes next. There is the next now, the stuff on the horizon that is almost visible if you look hard enough, and then there is the stuff that is way out there. How do you work out which things will be in the next now and which will only come later?

Your future-gazing should not be limited to technologies, but you should also be focusing on how technology will impact culture and business models.

4. Tech-speaker:
Technology is now so pervasive in its impact and influence on how business is conducted that, as CEO, you need to be as well versed in technology as your staff and you need to ensure that your board of directors can comfortably converse in tech-speak.

You cannot rely on a CTO or CIO to translate technology and its impact to you. You need to embrace technology, immerse yourself in it – surround yourself with cutting edge information, visit startups, talk to experts and researchers.

5. Multi-focus:
You have a range of drivers that you need to focus on. You need to continue to deliver on core business. Yet you also need to transform so as to future-proof your company. How can you do both?

You may decide to do both for a period of time, which requires you to have multi-focus. It requires you to think in two ways at once – traditionally and disruptively. Listening both to your current customer needs and determining what their future needs are before they do. It also requires you to maintain your current revenue generators while exploring new forms of revenue. This is an exceptional balancing act and not undertaken lightly.

Multi-focus is to be distinguished from multi-tasking. It requires focus, not the ability to flit between many tasks and ultimately not completing any satisfactorily. This is what makes multi-focus so hard to achieve.

At some point you also need to flip the switch and shut down your existing business while ramping up future-focused opportunities. Getting the timing wrong will be disastrous. Getting it right will empower you to leapfrog your competition.


Explore how to obtain these super powers further in the SuperCEO Leadership Accelerator Program which commences on February 8th.

Exponential Growth & Leadership #3: Accelerating SuperCEOs, the Psychology of Innovation and Life Lessons


My latest newsletter on Exponential Growth and Leadership:

As we move into the festive season, I’d like to wish you the best over this period. I’ve also got three things I’d like to share with you:

– SuperCEO: The Leadership Accelerator
– A piece on Innovation Psychology and Cognitive Business
– A series on Near-Death, Career Choices and Life Lessons

Announcing SuperCEO: No Holds Barred, Extremely Powerful Leadership Acceleration

I’m very excited to let you know that we have created a new program called SuperCEO: The Leadership Accelerator. This 10-week program provides leaders with insights and skills that empower them to exponentially scale themselves and grow their businesses.

The pilot program commences on the 8th February 2016 with a select cohort of CEOs participating in weekly workshops and one on one rocket coaching sessions.

The program covers a range of topics, including:
* Achieving Exponential Growth
* Becoming an Elite Performer
* Creating Contagion
* Shifting from Great to Extraordinarily Great
* Building a Plan, Data, Progress Operating System.

Rocket coaching is a unique methodology consisting of high powered 30 minute sessions designed to enable leaders to punch through on issues, making solid ground in areas they’ve been stuck on.

By the end of the program CEOs will feel like they’ve applied an accelerant to their issues and to achieving their goals as winning business leaders.

SuperCEO will benefit individual CEOs as well as those within a venture firm’s portfolio or part of a corporate venturing program as they will develop a common understanding and have access to a shared exponential growth operating system.

The program will run 2 to 3 times a year and as every aspect is conducted over the Internet, CEOs from anywhere in the world can participate. More details can be found on the SuperCEO Facebook Page.

Innovation Psychology and Cognitive Business:

It is fantastic to see the current high level of interest in entrepreneurship and innovation. However, I do harbor concern about its longevity. Without solid ROI much of this activity will eventually fall on fallow ground. The current fervour favours mechanisms and methodologies over nurturing talent, building capability and breaking new ground.

Hackathon junkies abound. Pitch panels prognosticate. CEOs yawn.

Just like us humans have cognitive capabilities, I believe so do organisations. Even more interestingly, organisational cognition is a mirror that reflects the collective cognition of its people. This insight is what my recent piece on Innovation Psychology builds on. It points to the arrival of a new cognitive business era, in which organisations are far more mindful than in previous eras. Tapping into innovation psychology CEOs can ensure their companies continue to forge ahead.

Near-death, Career Choices and Life Lessons

A two-piece series has been published by Thread Publishing profiling my journey over the past few years. Here are some highlights:

How dying redefined my career

At the time of my sudden cardiac death I was defined by my work as part futurist, part serial-entrepreneur, part advisor and part former venture capitalist. What I was doing allowed me to assimilate these different aspects into giving unique, analytical advice.

Coming through this experience I feel extremely grateful to be in the small percentage of people that survived. That gratitude has made me feel I have a responsibility to make more of a difference in the world.

Life lessons of a near-death experience

The experience altered my perception of time completely. I no longer feel the same sense of urgency to be busy and to track ourselves against a linear, progressive timeline.

We should focus less on keeping ourselves on an ego-determined path – or a path set by our peer group, culture or society. That way is fraught with artificial drivers and makes us feel like we have to do certain things to be successful and happy. Those measurements, for me, are no longer important. What’s important is listening to our inner voice, our soul, and focusing on what resonates with us deeply. This is where we find true joy.

My overarching goal is to bring about a stronger sense of empathy. Being more empathetic with others can not only create deeper connections and stronger leaders, it can also act as a forcing function for solving many of the big issues in our world: hunger, poverty, suffering, war.

We are limitless in our capability, but we need to break free from our societal constructs and personal constraints – and truly come alive.


At EXOscalr we draw energy from our clients by working with them to burst the constraints of their potential and make a difference. We have created algorithms and an operating system to help people understand and navigate their exponential growth and transformation and to keep them directionally correct and moving forward.

As a coach and leadership adviser I constantly focus on the trends in achieving exponential growth and how you can make more difference.

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Three Things Successful CEOs Do Exceptionally Well


Over the years I have taken on the CEO mantle a number of times, I have coached many others and  I’ve enjoyed being Chairman and working together with CEOs and their Boards.

From my experience there are three core activities that great CEOs have become expert at:

1. The ability to see the business and the macro environment from a 40,000 foot level;
2. While simultaneously listening empathetically to staff and customers (or users); and
3. Surrounding themselves with great people who they consistently empower to give of their best.

Creating this winning CEO algorithm in either a large corporation or a highly volatile startup atmosphere requires nerves of steel, a strong sense of self and belief in your ability to lead your team.

Should You Become an Angel or Venture Capitalist? Transitioning from Operational Executive to Portfolio Player


Leading executives can become totally focused on their operational role. Yet at some point, a trigger results in them losing their mojo for working in one business. What type of role is better suited to their next phase in life?

I posit that it is a meaningful transition for them to coach entrepreneurs and manage a portfolio of startup investments.

I’d like to illustrate my hypothesis by exploring two case studies.

Finding His Creative Mojo: From Ad Agency to Angel

David is a successful CEO of a world leading advertising agency. He has been focused for the last 12 years on growing the business, its reputation and its people. When he first approached me he felt that something wasn’t quite right. he had used an executive coach for many years, so understood the paradigm. Yet he realized that he needed to work more with a transformational coach. A coach who not only understood the business landscape, but also had firsthand knowledge and understanding of and empathy with people going through a transformational journey.

He loved to sing in the shower, especially on mornings before a big pitch, or when he was traveling on business. But he found himself no longer singing. This was the initial signpost for him to realize that it was time for him to go on a different journey. Many people ignore these early warning signals until it’s too late for them to change.

We spent our initial time together exploring what had excited him before. We delved into what areas he most feared. We explored if there were deep, unresolved issues that could stand in the way of him making a transformational shift. It is always best to work through such issues in the early phases of a transformation. They may cause blockages in your ability to perform. They could also act as blinkers to you discovering what you find purposeful.

We started the process of getting him to hear his inner voice. It had been suppressed for many years by his ego. This voice is always there in every one of us. We may suppress it to the point were it is so faint that we cannot hear it. What we were looking for from his inner voice was a deeper understanding of what resonated for David. What was his true soul work? In his 20s, he had worked with some start up companies on their market positioning. He had also been active in creating a technology spin out from his advertising agency.

He came to the realization that it was time for him to move on from running the operational, day-to-day side of his agency. It was time for him to get back into the world of creating. At his core he was a creative, which is why he had been so successful in the advertising arena. In particular, though, it was time for David to move deeper into the world of startups. Meaning and purpose for him was about building companies that were making a difference in the world.

This was never going to be a binary process, with him being an operational executive one day and a startup portfolio player the next. We had set that expectation early on. He knew it was a significant journey. It would have many moments: some positive, some negative.

A thought leadership position can benefit the move from operational CEO to Non Executive Chairman. David had no interest in writing books, but was keen to do outreach activities. He joined the board of a not-for-profit organization in the medical health arena. He was invited to be be a regular on a well-known, news-related television show. This significantly raised his profile. He took two further board seats of large companies. This positioning helped him make the mindset shift from single focus to portfolio player. It also ensured the right circles noticed when he made the announcement of his transition to Chairman and startups.

The next transition activity was a robust succession plan within the advertising agency. He identified two executives who had the skill set, drive and passion to step up into joint CEO roles. They were both positive about taking over the operational aspects of the agency. They began working with executive coaches to assist them in this process. David also began the discussion with his Chairman about his decision. They mapped out a plan for him to transition into the role of Non Executive Chairman within 24 months. The Chairman volunteered to take a less active board role.

We then began exploring the role that David should play within the start up space. He didn’t want to take on a CEO or other operational role in any one company. Instead he wanted to build a portfolio, working closely with startup CEOs as a coach. He wanted to ask the hard questions. He wanted to accelerate their growth and keep them on track as they scaled up. He preference was to invest into these companies, rather than consult to them. Their upside would be his upside.

He was comfortable working as an independent agent, as a lone wolf. Although he could see the benefit of teaming up with other investors when it made sense. He was suited to becoming an angel investor. He had significant net wealth at that point. His financial investment portfolio was diversified and included properties and blue-chip stocks. He could afford to allocate a few million dollars towards his initial startup portfolio. He was also of the mind that this was risk capital. He wanted to deploy his capital into companies taking bigger risks that had above average goals. He was mentally prepared for the fact that he may not receive a positive return on investment from this activity. It was to be a learning experience.

We worked closely on how to place him within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He began to get a feel for how he could determine whether a startup was worth looking at closer. He crystallized his Investment Charter. This set out his strategy for the kinds of companies, types of technologies, geographical preferences, stages of development and many other factors that assisted him make investment decisions. The aim was to ensure he was targeting the right kinds of businesses that could deliver him significant return on investment.

As he started doing meetings and due diligence on potential investee companies, we continued with his education in this area. The aim was to make sure that he was not making emotional investment decisions. It was also to ensure that he was able to draw on his significant business experience. He became comfortable that he could add significant value to the companies that he chose to invest in. He wasn’t keen to join a formal angel group. Nor did he want to become part of the herd that chased investments at pitch competitions.

Some of the companies that he was targeting already had angels circling them. In some cases he had a meeting of the minds with these investors. This was one way he was able to start growing a network of angels he was comfortable to invest with. He also reached out to senior executives were either already active, or wanted to get active, as angel investors. Within a matter of months he had four different informal networks that he was teaming up with.

David went on a three year journey from operational CEO to having a portfolio of board seats and angel investments. He has not only found his inner voice but is also singing in the shower again.

Adventure Capital: A Venture Guy’s Journey

Tom was the CEO of a large communications service provider. He had been in this role for six years, having worked his way there from inside the organization.

Similar to David, he reached a point where he no longer saw colors. Tom’s world became black and white. He approached me with the realization that he needed to make some significant changes in his life. He had worked with an executive coach for a number of years and so understood the power of coaching.

He wanted to explore how best he could get excitement back into his life. He had also become enamored with the entrepreneurial fervor that was sweeping the world. He initially sat on the investment committee of his company’s corporate venture capital group. He found that he enjoyed spending time with their investee companies.

His company had already created a succession plan and there was no need for us to revisit that. He was also well known in the business arena. He had a high profile thought leadership position that we could leverage. We could move forward at a fast pace.

Tom decided to make a clean break from his company. We explored the best positioning for him within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He didn’t want to operate as a lone wolf. He was more comfortable being part of a formal group that had significant track record and a brand name. He preferred to work with a group of partners from whom he could learn the ropes.

Through his corporate venture capital exposure he realized that he didn’t want to work with very early stage companies. He found this time in a company’s development frustrating. He was well suited to work with companies that had already reached product market fit and were experiencing rocket ship growth. For example, startup companies that were about to receive a significant Series A investment.

It became evident that the best place for him to play would be as a partner in a venture capital firm. He had discussions with venture firms that his company had done deals with. He got on well with some partners of these firms. He started receiving offers from VC firms. He chose to join a well-known firm. They were raising a new fund. This meant he could both participate as a limited partner in the fund and as one of the general partners deploying the capital they raised.

I continue to coach him in his position as a VC. There are many VC nuances he is finding a deeper understanding of – for example,

* the healthy tension between being an individual VC and a partner within a partnership;

* the potential for conflict between a venture guy and their investment companies.

* how best to coach portfolio CEOs – what kinds of questions he should be asking, what signs he should be looking for that they are on target and on track both operationally and emotionally.

Both David and Tom have not only stepped up through their transformations. They have also proven the power of having a virtuous circle by referring some of their portfolio CEOs to me and some of their former colleagues have also expressed interest in coaching.


1. Be aware of trigger signs that a transition is imminent. You may miss the signs and find yourself in a trough – it is significantly harder to catalyse a transformation the deeper you fall into a trough. Heeding the signs earlier is better. This ensures there is no urgency to your transformation journey.

2. Be prepared for significant change. Transformation is never linear and this organic journey may take you places you didn’t initially imagine. Go with that flow.

3. Be prepared to listen to your inner voice. You may have a tussle with your ego not wanting to let go. Eventually your inner voice will win out.

4. The world of startups is not for everyone. Nor is being an entrepreneurial investor. Go there for the right reasons – it resonates deeply with you, you enjoy creativity, you have the right risk appetite and profile. Don’t go there because you’ve read in a business or in-flight magazine how hot startups are or how much money you could make in the space.

5. Don’t burn bridges. Once you’ve made your mind up to transition, do so gracefully. Ensure the right succession plan is in place. Leverage your current position to create your thought leadership position. This will ensure you optimize your transformation trajectory. You already have a solid network in place, they want to help.

[Note: Names and situations have been altered for confidentiality reasons]

Boardroom Disruption: How Silicon Valley and the Fear of Missing Out Can Reinvent Your Business


The Silicon Valley tech-mythology-machine, replete as it is with unicorns and trolls, is a wondrous device designed as much to assist in reality distortion and suspension as it is in self-paving its streets with digital gold.

We all know the story of how the Valley has reinvented itself through various technology phases. Currently it is awash with apps and social media. Even though they helped create this social flow, a few of the tech pundits are swimming against this tide, reinventing themselves as mindfulness gurus, but that’s a fairy tale for another time.

There is a new tide washing into the Valley: autonomy – artificial intelligence, self-driving everything, asset-rich services on demand and cognitive systems that know us to the point where they are 2-3 moves ahead of us in our own personal game of thrones. Their aim is to be 6 moves ahead, and they are rapidly progressing to this point.

But this is all backdrop.

The real foundation of Silicon Valley, the grease in its gears is FEAR. In particular, the FEAR of MISSING OUT (FOMO) is driving the Valley’s sense of urgency.

FOMO is the ultimate reality distortion field creator. This is best explained through examining the fluidity between viewing a new venture in terms of its friction points versus how much it could scale with limitless fuel. Take Uber as an example. Donning friction-tainted lenses restricted many from seeing it as anything more than yet another taxi service, operating in a highly regulated market with well entrenched incumbents. However, for those who looked at Uber through fuel-filled lenses, they saw its true potential, namely to revolutionise transport. They were able to suspend reality long enough to understand the ultimate promise of Uber.  Those who then went on to invest early enough into the company may be rewarded handsomely.

In a low FOMO environment, i.e. most other places on the planet than Silicon Valley, there is little incentive for people to don fuel-filled lenses. They have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for a venture to achieve sufficient traction, they wait for the entrepreneurs to derisk the business. However in a high FOMO environment, those who hesitate: miss out.

Nowhere else on the planet is the FOMO-meter so high. In fact, it is off the charts in comparison to many other geographies. The same can be said for the boardrooms of so many companies. Does your company have a FOMO culture at executive level? For most organisations the answer is a resounding “no”. How then can incumbents compete against agile Silicon Valley startups? The short answer is that they cannot.

Ask the former Kodak board if they understood FOMO. Apparently not.

I’d like to advocate that every board, every senior executive needs to up their FOMO ante. How high you might ask? Not to hysterical levels, but high enough to palpably increase the urgency around tackling disruptive innovation. High enough to also burn the boats and chart new courses if necessary. Definitely higher than the dual path some would advocate of keeping business as usual turning over while exploring new paths on the side.

How do you instill FOMO into the boardroom?

1. In the short term, have your board do a tour of the Valley. Not the bells and whistles version with champagne on the tour bus, but the grungy start up tour where they get exposed to the highest levels of FOMO.

2. In the mid term, look to bring Silicon Valley into the boardroom. Place at least one FOMO expert on the board. Their experience and skills will prove invaluable to you in dealing with the status quo.

How to Ensure Chief Technology Officers Present to the Board Impactfully

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0857.Within the next six months as many as 75% of CEOs will institute regular Board of Director briefings by their senior executive team. CEOs will tap *CTOs to do such briefings. How can they ensure their presentation achieves impact with the Board? We run through a tried and tested slide pack template for Board presentations.

Let’s assume your CEO has asked you to do a presentation to the Board on your technology office and its impact on the business. What does the Board want from you? How can you ensure your presentation delivers the right level of impact? This deck provides brevity, cogency and focus to grab the attention of busy Non-Executive Directors.

 Executive Summary

Slide 1:  Treat your first slide as an Executive Summary. It needs to include items that ensure a director tunes in –  grab their attention immediately.

Provide a summary of the purpose of the presentation. This sets expectations upfront. It also accords with the wisdom of

tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then remind them what you’ve told them.

 Core Slides

Slide 2: The Money Shot
This is the first of your core slides. It must cover the contribution of technology to the business success of your company.

This slide should include:

  •  How your company will win as a business – make sure you list the top three things you need to do as a business to succeed.
  •  What business capabilities do you need to build? Set out the capabilities needed in the business to support that position.
  •  Competitive use of technology – detail how technology is playing out in your industry. Include your views on whether your company is ahead or behind with cost and capability. Note that the Board wants your views, not those of some research firm.
  •  How the technology office will contribute – qualitatively (what will your team do to make the business win) and quantitatively (what will your team do to costs/competitiveness/revenues/risks). Also focus on what you will do to close the gap or increase the lead with technology capability.

Slide 3: Technology by the Numbers
Your third slide is also part of the core set of slides and should be in table format.
In the rows you should include business outcomes (BO), technology performance levels (TPL) and technology costs (TC).

Set out a five year time line across the columns – last year, this year, year  +1, year +2 and year +3.

Wherever possible, you should include benchmark measures relative to competitors or similar organizations.

Slide 4:  Risk and its Mitigation
The fourth slide is your last core slide and it should set out the five biggest risks represented by your strategy and how you plan to mitigate them.

Use a quadrant that maps Impact on the vertical (low, medium and high) and Likelihood on the horizontal (also low, medium and high). Chart all your risks, but only include on the slide the five that feature in the top right corner.

Also include a table that itemizes each risk and summarizes how you will mitigate that risk.

Slide 5:  Appendix
Your fifth and final slide is an appendix. It should include items for drill-down with the Board.

What items do you expect to drill down on? Examples include a detailed cost breakdown or skills inventory.

And that’s it – three-core slides is all you should need with a cover slide and an appendix.

Pro Tip:
Make sure you get a copy of the template that your company uses for Board presentations. If there isn’t one, keep your slides clean and uncluttered.

A Director has no interest in fancy pictures or whizbang PowerPoint animations. Don’t subject them to Prezi-induced motion sickness.

 White space, large font and clear messages rule the day.

* This piece is directed at the Chief Technology Officer by name, but applies equally to the Chief Digital Officer and the Chief Information Officer.