The Great CEO Within

Welcome to The Great CEO Within summary!

One-Sentence-Summary: A guide for CEOs of startups with aspirations to become a large company ($50M+ valuation).

Current booboo rating: ★★★★★

Thanks for visiting and thanks to Matt Mochary for writing The Great CEO Within!

The book is written for those planning to grow a large business with hundreds of employees. However, the overview of this professional environment, even if you will work in one provides valuable insights. I would even recommend it for college students to understand the corporate environment and how business operates.

A lightbulb moment for me was when he talked about simple money management. Don’t put your money in commercial banks (ie Wells Fargo), instead use a Brokerage like TD Ameritrade or Fidelity where you can invest your extra cash in government treasuries until you figure out a better investment strategy rather than just leaving it in the bank!

Related: How to Start Investing for Beginners

Similar to the strategy in The Effective Manager, this book recommends the following feedback model:

  1. Ask for permission.
  2. State the trigger behavior or event. Try to be factual (“When you are late to meetings…”) instead of interpretative (“When you disrespect me…”)
  3. State how that trigger behavior makes you feel in terms of anger, sadness, and fear (feelings).
  4. State the thoughts, opinions, and judgments (story) you have around this situation.
  5. Make a request of what you would like to see. Try to frame is as a positive action, rather than a negative.
  6. Ask if the person accepts the feedback and the request. If yes, hold them accountable to doing it.

The best advice comes from Chapter 29: Recruiting (the part about references). When interviewing about prior jobs, ask for the names of prior bosses and colleagues, and how to spell those names. That indicates to the interviewee that they better just tell the truth. Do this often/for every prior job so you have a large list of potential references. Do not use the list provided by the interviewee. Then choose some and ask the interviewee to make the connection with those who you want to talk with. While talking, hesitation or neutrality is a NO. People are not going to talk badly about someone for a random stranger (you, doing the reference check). People generally don’t talk bad about people because it’s a risky/dangerous thing. My note: but also be careful as someone may speak very well of an employee who they want to get rid of, or speak neutrally about a current employee they want to keep.

This keeps coming up in book after book: “..we perform our best when we are having fun and feeling good about ourselves.” (p. 30) Your job, as manager, is to praise often and use caution with criticism.

“You create buy-in when you make people feel that they are part of the decisiosn and that their input contrinbutes to the finaloutcome. The more influence they feel they have on the outcome, the more they’ll be invested in the final result.” (p. 52)

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Conflict Resolution

When there are conflicts, to avoid getting into a blaming match, you must first repeat back what they’ve said in summary form (“I think I hear you say..”) until that person says “That’s right!” Then they will feel heard. They will now be open to hearing what you have to say.

The section Screening Interviews in Chapter 29: Recruiting is worth the full price of the book and your time. It describes very specifically how to conduct and initial 15-minute screening interview and what to look for in order to continue the conversation or screen out the candidate early in the process.

  1. “Thanks for taking the teim to talk to me. I’d like ot spend the first ten minutes of our call getting to know you. AFter that, Im happy to answer any quesiton you have about us. Sound good?”
  2. “What are your career goals?”
    1. If the candidate’s goals sound liek an echo of your company’s website or they don’t have any ,screen them out.
  3. “What are you really good at professionally?”
    1. Push the candidate to give you eight to twelve positives, with examples, so that you an build a complete picture of their capabilities. You are listening for strengths that match the scorecard.
  4. “What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally?”
    1. Push the candidat for real weaknesses, five to eight of them. If they don’t respond thoroughly, cal lthem out on it. They they still don’t, then say, “If you advance to the next step in our process, we will ask for your help in setting up reference calls with your bosses, peers, and subordinates. What do you think they will say are some things that you are not good at or not interested in?”
  5. “Who were your last three bosses, and how will they each rate you performance on a 0-10 scale when we tlak to them?”
    1. Press for details of why each personal would give them such a rating. We are lookihn for consistent 9s to 10s. A 6 is actually a 2, But ask why it’s a 6.
  6. Throughout the interview, get curious. Ask follow-up questions that start with “What,” “How,” and “Tell me more.”
    1. “What do you mean?”
    2. “What is an example of that?”
    3. “How did yo udo that?”
    4. “How did that feel?”

If you can’t definitely say ‘This is an A Player’ then screen them out. It is better to miss out on an A player than to waste many precious hours on a borderline case that turns out to be a B or C player.

If you think the candidate is an A player, let them know that you think they’re great and that you are open to extending this phoen interview to get ot know them more and answer their questions abou the job and the company.

At the end of the phoen interview,let the candidate know that yo uwould like to immediately schedule the next interview.

You are reading my The Great CEO Within summary and book review.

Reference Interviews

  1. Pick the right references – bosses, peers, and subordinates (sometiems two to three levels down). Do not use the reference list that the candidate gave you.
  2. Ask the candidate to contact the reference you choose nad set up the calls.
  3. The hiring manager conducts at tleast two (but preferably four) reference interviews, and other team members do at least one (but preferably three) for a total of at least three (but preferably seven)


  1. “In what context did yo uwork with the person?”
  2. “What were the person’s biggest strengths?”
    1. Get curious by using the “What? How? Tell me more” framework
  3. “What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?”
    1. It is very important to say back then. This liberates people to tlak about real weaknesses, assuming that the candidate has improved them by tnow. (In reality, past performance is an indicator of future performance).
  4. “How would you rat their overall performance in that job on a scale of 0-10? What about their performance causes you to give that rating?”
  5. “The peson mentioned that they struggled with ___ in that job. Can you please tell me more about that?”

People do not like to give negative references, so listen for cures. Faint or qualified priace is damning, as is hesitation.

Favorite quotes:

  • “Sell results, not features” (p. 207)

New Words!

  • Accretive (p. 230) – characterized by gradual growth or increase

Did you know I’m an author? I wrote four books on real estate investing, travel, and language learning.

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