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Posted: August 22, 2011

Six great ways to stay at the top of your game

Take a page from this CEO's book

Todd Ordal

I have a client who runs a mid-size global firm with many pressures and a jammed schedule. This CEO is very talented and successful, and he's growing his business faster than the market. His profitability is well above his industry's norm. He's on top of his game. I offer this so you might give a hard look to the below list (reprinted with permission), which is posted in his office as a daily reminder of his priorities. The questions are his, the comments are mine.

1. Have you talked to the board today? This can be a challenging relationship for CEOs. If you don't develop trust and open communication, you'll never get the benefit from the board that you should, nor will they have the level of faith required for long-term success.

2. Have you reviewed the numbers today? Having a dashboard in place to monitor your business and address critical issues can eliminate surprises and help you take corrective action before small problems become real problems.

3. Have you walked the hallways today? In this CEO's world, he literally means walking the hallways to make sure he interacts with his co-workers. He understands that visibility is important for leadership. If your "hallways" are distant, take this metaphorically and think about your interaction with your team.

4. Have you talked to a customer today? Too many CEOs insulate themselves from the people who really matter: their customers. Stay "on" the business rather than just "in" the business by getting unvarnished information. As a friend of mine says, "If you're constantly facing inward, your butt is facing the customer!"

5. Did you read today? Constantly educate yourself.

6. Did you think about the future today? This CEO's industry has some pending changes that might radically alter how they do business. Yours probably does as well. You can't isolate thinking about the future to a two-day planning event every year. Continually question the vision to develop a clear, compelling picture of the future to make effective decisions and align the organization.

Does he do it all every day? No. It does, however, keep him centered. What's your daily list? If you don't have a structured way to stay focused, you won't.

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Todd Ordal is President of Applied Strategy LLC. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He speaks, writes, consults and advises on issues of strategy and leadership. Todd is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Follow Todd on Twitter here. You can also find Todd at,  303-527-0417 or

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Readers Respond

Todd, a wonderful way to focus. Thanks for the list. However, I'm not sure I appreciate the visual image you crated for me,"If you're constantly facing inward, your butt is facing the customer!" It keeps flashing in front of my face, and in my image, I'm the customer! By TC North on 2011 09 04
Thanks Robert! You hit another great point--leaving white space in your calendar. Too many of us cram every last minute with activity. I'm much more productive with some white space (and a white board). By Todd Ordal on 2011 08 22
Todd, our mutual friend Ron tells me he's learning to sit quietly in front of his white board where he's sketched out any business problem. This "becoming quiet," no matter whether you do it in prayer, meditation, skiing or running, seems increasingly important given the pressures and distractions impacting executives. Great column! Thanks! By Robert White on 2011 08 22
Thanks Carol. I have never learned to meditate, but for some reason, the world becomes very clear when I'm on my bike or a ski lift. I know a very successful CEO who meditates every day in his office. By Todd Ordal on 2011 08 22
Thanks for all this. I find that nothing focuses me more than meditation. I meditate every day, each morning. All the real answers to every question come and I am focused and peaceful no matter what arises during the day. By Carol Rathe on 2011 08 22

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