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The jumping CEO

A big difference between startups and established companies is how they speak about their product. Where in startups people show their pride openly, in established companies I often hear people humbly say: “That’s nothing special.”

And it might not be. If you work with that product every day. For years. Refining it in tiny steps.

Yet, while indeed none of these tiny steps might be anything special, together they have added up to something extraordinary – albeit to something that people take extraordinarily for granted.

To the company, the product may have become second nature. But to an outsider, it might still be and continue to be awesome.

In established companies, I often experience humility to a degree that they have almost become blind to their own brilliance. And this then permeates the entire communication, both internally and externally. Achievements are hidden – almost ashamedly – in the third bullet point of the third page.

The thing is this: If you don’t believe yourself that what you do is extraordinary, it shows. If you are not a fan of your own product, you won’t easily turn others into fans, either. And that’s the reason why you need to work so hard to convince others of the bullet points.

The solution to this is not for all of us to become the jumping CEO as pioneered by Steve Ballmer. We’ll leave that one for those who were born for it.

The solution is to take a look from the outside, from our audience’s perspective. To not take for granted what we see each and every day but look at it with fresh eyes. Because you might as well discover that that’s actually something to be proud of. It might just turn you into a fan of your own product in a way that seemed gone long ago.

Often, that’s the pivoting point in a coaching session. When leaders start seeing what’s actually extraordinary, they stop trying to decorate the diamond that is their product and start polishing it. No longer do they sell a product, but they become glowing advocates of an idea. They no longer look for fancy slogans, but simply explain and tell what they themselves believe in. Each of them in their own personal way, some of them the complete opposite of the jumping Ballmer.

Every single time, it’s breathtaking to witness the transformation that takes place in that moment of time.

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