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Chris Efessiou's Blog

Now that Will and Kate’s bundle of joy has arrived, I’d like to share with them five things I wish my father had told me about parenthood. Incidentally, if you’re not destined for the throne, worry not; this advice applies to royals and commoners alike.

Published in Family & Parenthood
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 18:38

The Bling Ring? It’s Not for Keeps

bling-ringIf you haven’t heard about the summer movie the Bling Ring–don't fret! You’re not uncool, I had no idea either until my daughter shared what a mess these teens were depicted in this movie. In short, it’s about a group of teens and young adults burglarizing the homes of several celebrities and boasted about it on social media. Paris Hilton was the target on several occasions – {alright people - contain your empathy for the poor girl!}

Tuesday, 09 July 2013 15:10

The Day the Door Came Off the Hinges

slamming-the-door-oTo a teenager, the door is everything. It’s their direct path to closing out the world, but mostly closing out the world from their parents. I’m not one who likes having lots of rules at work or at home. I prefer a few basic rules

Published in Family & Parenthood

Wise women have observed that the qualities that make for a “good” boyfriend are not necessarily those that make a good husband. The wild, unpredictable heartthrob in a romantic comedy may be great for a few dates, but he’ll probably be an unreliable partner in life. In the same way, the quiet, compliant child who never does or says anything to displease you may be an easy 6-year-old, but she may not make a very strong adult.

Allowing your children to speak their minds in a respectful manner encourages them to develop the thinking skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Don’t shut them down like a tyrant, but don’t let them become dictators. Remember that power cannot persuade the heart.

A boss that rules with an iron fist will lose every employee who can find a better opportunity, leaving him with the “rubber stamps.” The parent who runs a house that way will either lose his child when she’s old enough to leave or will raise an adult utterly dependent on a stronger person to tell him what to do. You don’t have an obligation to give them the answer they think they want, but you do have a responsibility to listen and help guide their thinking. 

In business, the most valuable people are those who can solve problems creatively by introducing fresh ideas and solutions. Those who never ask “why” may be too willing to comply with the status quo and are less likely to proffer new solutions. Others are simply not invested enough in the company to care. Understand that it is not your authority that persuades. It is your reasoning and your care.

Only weak leaders view questions as an attack on their authority, and it is their loss as well as their employees’. Stifling creativity and discouraging alternative perspectives on problems leads to the kind of myopic decision-making that drives entire industries out of business. Embracing the ingenuity of your employees brings out their best and the best for your company.

The same is true at home. Two-way communication with our kids not only strengthens our relationships with them, it also nurtures their imagination and confidence. If we think their viewpoints are important, they will too. By discouraging questions and squelching independent thought, we are telling them that they do not have anything valuable to contribute.

Expect pushback and welcome it. You are not wasting your time by doing so; you are investing in your team. Seize pushback as an opportunity to converse with and motivate your people at work and at home. That is the foundation of leadership.

This is my opinion. It worked for me and it can work for you. You just have to try it!

About Chris Efessiou: Chris Efessiou is an Entrepreneur, Leadership Expert, Marketing Strategist, Negotiations Architect, Educator, Mentor, International Speaker, Radio Show Host, and best-selling author of CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood based on his own experience from raising his daughter as a single dad by applying his business knowledge to the business of parenting. For more information visit, connect with Chris on Facebook, follow on Twitter and listen to his radio show Straight Up with Chris: Real Talk on Business and Parenthood Thursdays at 6:00 PM Eastern – 3:00 PM Pacific on Voice America Internet Radio


Published in Leadership
Monday, 27 August 2012 11:46

Dare, Dream, Risk, and Lead

tight-ropeOn August 27, 1976, when an almost 19-year-old man left his homeland of Greece to enroll as an exchange student at Weston High School just west of Boston, it was as though the young man were taking his first bold steps out onto a wire suspended a hundred feet above the ground. He had only one year to learn a language he did not speak and earn admittance to an American college or else he would be forced to return to Greece to work for his father’s company—a future that would be undoubtedly secure, yet dishearteningly dependent. Thirty-six years later he has founded numerous companies, is presently the CEO of Strategic Pharmaceutical Advisors (SRxA), an international consulting, marketing, and education firm, and considers himself more American than his American-born daughter.

This story is neither atypical from that of millions of immigrants who chose to leave the comfort of home, familiar surroundings and support systems in search of the American Dream, nor different from every young person’s brave first steps out along that quivering, indefinite, yet ultimately rewarding wire of risk.

On that August day, 36 years ago today, I took my first steps on that wire. That was the day I arrived in this country and I’ve since celebrated this day as my birthday. Much like a baby’s arrival to this world marks the opportunity for its parents (or its village) to raise a happy, well-adjusted, confident, unentitled adult, my arrival to this country gave me the chance to do anything I was creative enough to dream, daring enough to risk, and disciplined enough to lead myself to my goal. It gave me the opportunity to become my own person. It gave me the opportunity to become Persephone’s father, Juliana’s husband, the employer of more than 1,000 people, a mentor to many, and the leader of myself and those who believe in what I hold dear; respect for self and others, ethics, integrity, team spirit, performance toward the common goal, and actionable compassion for those less fortunate.

american-flag-with-blue-sky-e1346105765615In the past 36 years I’ve lived a productive, satisfying life. Sure I worked for it. Sure there were challenges but, there were many more opportunities; opportunities that would have never come my way had I not chosen to make this country my home. I often say that America gave me everything and it gave me nothing at all. It gave me no special treatment, no easy passes, no entitlements but, it gave me everything by allowing me to partake in what was available to everyone else, and that my friends, isn’t something that occurs in too many places away from our shores.

As I cogitate and celebrate the last 36 years, I feel blessed beyond words and look forward to the future because I am convinced that my best days, and those of this land, are yet to come. Happy birthday to me!

Published in Leadership

In a recent TV interview on FOX 5 News WTTG Washington DC the anchor, Allison Seymour, asked me what fathers really want on Father’s Day.  I said that while ties, shirts and cuff-links always make a nice gift, what a father really appreciates more than anything else is a genuine note from his child. I referenced my daughter’s wonderful notes outlined in my book, and read an excerpt from her most recent one.

She gave it to me on May 27, 2012, the morning of her wedding.  The note is titled My Chief Daddy Officer and she submitted it for publication a week earlier to an online magazine, hence the reason it is written in the third person.  I love every note she has ever written to me, but this one will always stand out in my mind.  I am sharing it with you here with much humility and pride. She wrote…

As a child, I never looked at my relationship with my Dad as ‘different’ – I just knew it as unique and special.  When I was 7 years old, my parents went through a tumultuous divorce resulting in my mother deciding to leave and move to Boston. Most kids by default would follow their mothers and though some may have had that same expectation for me; at the tender age of 9, I made a decision that one could say marked a pivotal point in both of our lives and paved the way for my relationship with my Dad being what it is today.

I made a choice – I wanted to live with my Dad full-time.  As the CEO of his own pharmaceutical marketing company and now a single-Dad, he did not run away from the challenge, he ran towards it – he embraced it, cherished it and gave me a life and parent that some never get to experience.

I am a direct reflection of everything he has taught me and raised me to be and I’m proud of that fact. He has instilled values and life lessons in what would seem to be an obvious way, but what I’ve learned is not obvious to most. He showed me by example and then let me arrive at my own decisions (both good and bad). What I never grasped until later in life – he was always strategic and by that I mean he was always laying down the wire frame for an opportunity to teach me a life lesson. I always felt like he was 5 paces ahead of me (which when I was a teenager wasn’t always fun); however, it always was for my benefit.

One of my favorite stories is when I was in high school and in the midst of college application time, I was struggling with what to do with my life (as most 17 year-olds will ponder). At the time, I was dating someone who my Dad was less than fond of, and whose lack of motivation was most worrisome to my Dad. When I shared what my college aspiration were, which was to take a year off of school, work as a hostess at a local restaurant and reconsider in a year with community college, he responded with “what a wonderful idea – minus the hostess job. In your year off you can apply to the Peace Corp or AmeriCorps and build houses for those in need.”  What he was doing was letting me decide for myself, but giving me alternatives and guidelines so that this would benefit me; he allowed me the ability to lead myself to make the right decision for my career. Suffice it to say I submitted college applications the next day, because I realized Peace Corp equaled no blow-dryers.

It wasn’t until my years in college when I realized that I was never missing anything in life – my Dad filled me with more love than a village of parents, and provided me with a childhood and an adulthood serving as both Mom/Dad, confidant, best friend, designated driver, career advisor, relationship coach, fashion aficionado … just to name a few.

My Dad is the businessman in a French-cuffed shirts, who rolled up his sleeves to do his 7 year olds nails, the CEO that would pick up my calls during business meetings so he knew I was okay, and the father who without an iota of embarrassment in the inflection of his voice, would call asking for what kind of tampons I needed.  When I reflected in my early college years, I recognized that most people didn’t have one parent that behaved as lovingly and as selflessly as my Dad always treated me. There was never a time where my Dad wasn’t present – he drove me to school in the mornings and tucked me in every night (which is still to this day some of my fondest memories.)

In the 24 years of my young life, he has always gone above and beyond to be physically and emotionally available to me, and he’s never missed any important (or non-important event.)  A few years ago, my Dad was traveling to Thailand for a huge meeting. Conveniently, my long-term boyfriend broke up with me. The person I always turned to was half way around the world, but it felt like no distance was between us. Despite the 13-hour time difference, he made himself available to talk to me, listen to me wail and cry and offer me his kind words to ease my heartache. It wasn’t until I reached milestones in my own career that I could truly comprehend the magnitude of what he did. His emotional presence never dissipated as I got older – in fact in a lot of ways has increased. Throughout my two-year long engagement, my fiancé and I would turn to my Dad for his input as far as color schemes, floral combinations and most importantly for my dress selection. He has delayed trips, rearranged schedules, all of which seemed effortless to me because he’s never missed a beat.

I always noticed that my friends were drawn to my Dad for many of the same reasons I had taken for granted because he is all I knew – they too wanted a piece of his intellect, his astute business sense, his real-world wisdom. He is giving of his time, though he has little of it, to dedicate himself in helping my friends.  He has employed two of them and has advised personally and professionally no less than 10 of my closest friends. He’s helped prepare 5 other for job interviews – all of which were great successes.

It was at this time when the idea of my Dad writing a book begun. His book CDO Chief Daddy Officer:  The Business of Fatherhood is his story on how he applied his business knowledge to the business of parenting.  When the concept arose, he told me the only way he’d go through with it is if I was a contributing author. If at all possible, this has brought us even closer because it gave us a unique opportunity to work together and pull back the layers to the fundamentals of our relationship. The irony is that he wrote that book to discuss what he describes to be his crowning achievement to be – raising me – but what he doesn’t know is that my proudest accomplishment is being just that – an accomplishment in his eyes.

Now, a week away from taking a walk down the aisle, I will have my number one man walking by my side. Though weddings usually represent out with the old and in with the new, I am blessed to say that my soon-to-be husband is just receiving the passing of a baton from one man who I love to another.  Because truthfully, nothing really has to change – our lives are just transitioning harmoniously together.  Every day I cherish the blessing that I was born with and I can only pray that as I turn a page in my life and start my own family, that I will be half as great of a parent as he was – I will then feel that I succeeded.

I am a blessed man indeed.


Friday, 16 March 2012 09:41

Avoid the Buddy System

Let me address what I believe to be a prevailing myth in parenting today: that to truly empower your child you must prematurely become his or her “buddy” or friend. I say prematurely because I believe that our children can become our dear friends when they are fully grown adults. Indeed, this is one of the greatest rewards of successful parenthood. But in the meantime you do not need to be your child’s buddy to empower him. In fact, you may unwittingly do just the opposite. 

The Buddy System of parenting did not exist in the culture in which I grew up. I got to know it as I watched the parents of some of my daughter’s friends, and frankly, I found it disturbing.  

The essence of parental mentorship is modeling and teaching how to be a responsible adult. If you become your child’s buddy too soon, you will in effect lower yourself to her level. You will not be modeling adulthood, but instead will be acting like a child yourself. How is this possibly helpful?

As the parent, you must be their trusted, honest—often constructively critical but never judgmental—mentor to whom they can feel comfortable to turn with any issue. You will not hold their hands every step of the way. You will not simply tell them what to do or how to do it, but you will give them the tools and the guidance of your experience and insights that will enable them to choose the right course of action for themselves.

Remember that kids naturally think they know more than they do. Empowering them means giving them opportunities to gain knowledge and experience so they will actually know what they are doing, not pretending they are as clever as they think. You wouldn’t hand a teenager the car keys if he had no driving experience and call that empowerment. You would make sure he passed his driver’s education class and take him for behind-the-wheel hours. The same instruction and mentorship goes into every part of life.  Too many parents are so concerned with their children liking them that they shy away from giving clear instructions or enforcing rules which all children want and need.

Think about how this plays out in a typical office environment. A boss who is so eager for all his employees to like him will rob himself of his ability to lead and will soon lose their respect. Before long, all the workers are doing whatever they want and chaos ensues. It is OK not to be liked sometimes. Not being respected is never acceptable, and trading respect for popularity is always a losing proposition.

The same goes with our kids. Every child is born wanting to please his parents. You do not have to win your child’s approval, but you can never risk losing his respect. Even a grumpy teenager wants your love whether she admits it or not. So stick to the rules you have carefully established for your family, keep a good sense of humor, and don’t forget to tell them that you love them. Next time I’ll share with you a personal exchange with my daughter which will illuminate this point.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Over 2,500 years ago, Socrates demonstrated a way by which teachers, employers and parents could instruct and empower their students, employees and children at the same time.

The Socratic method of teaching requires debate. It forces both student and teacher to back up their hypotheses with supporting evidence, and trains the mind to search for inconsistencies. It demands much more in-depth thinking than the “instruction and regurgitation” method popular in schools today. It does not require that the teacher and student disagree: indeed the teacher will often take the opposing position in a debate to help the student develop a more firm sense of her point of view. 

The benefits of applying this method in business are obvious. When we employ it in parenting, we are showing our kids that we believe our point of view can stand on its merits, not just our authority. This becomes increasingly important as our children grow older.

In the spring of Persephone’s junior year of high school, she had a boyfriend whom I’ll call Troy. Troy was not a bad kid, but he was not particularly motivated. He was a couple of years older than my daughter, and was taking a few classes at the local community college while working. By my evaluation, his choices in life had been consistently less than ideal. Needless to say, I was not thrilled with the relationship. Persephone was not quite an adult; however, I knew that insisting that she end the relationship would do no good. I also knew she was not anxious to leave him to go away to college and that their attachment to each other might become a real obstacle to Persephone’s future success. I pondered all this on a daily basis while saying very little.

One morning, after all her college applications had been submitted, Persephone approached me tentatively. “Dad,” she said, “I think I want to take a year off before going to college.” “Why?” I asked.  “Well, I’m just really stressed out with my work at school. I feel like I need a break from being a full-time student.” I knew she just didn’t want to leave Troy behind, but I did not say this.  “Persephone,” I answered, “I think that’s a marvelous idea. This is probably the only time in your life when you can take a year off without worrying about it.” I said nothing more, observing that she was surprised by my response.  “OK,” she continued. “I was thinking that I would take a few classes at community college and work part-time in retail.”  “I see,” I replied. “But, that’s not really an option for a year off. This is a wonderful opportunity for expanding your horizons by serving others. I propose you decide between joining the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.”  She was stunned. She looked at me as if I had grown a second head!

When she protested, we entered a brief discussion of the merits of her plan versus mine. She could not say that I was being inflexible, because I fully supported her idea of taking a year off.  She was forced to defend her plan against a better one, instead of preserving her right to forgo college for a year.  In the end, she went off to her four-year institution quite happily, leaving Troy behind.

Now, I am fairly certain if I had just ordered Persephone off to college without listening to her reasons for wanting a break, she would have found a way to rebel. Certainly, she might have complied with my wishes, but her heart would have been eager to be rid of my authority and influence at the first opportunity. On the other hand, if I had allowed her to waste a year of her life with a boy going nowhere, I would have set her up for innumerable further mistakes.

The Socratic method of debate and instruction helps build a long lasting relationship with your child. It teaches them to support their beliefs with evidence, as well as thoughtfully consider the evidence presented by others. We need to remember that our kids will not always have to listen to us: active debates and discussions can help them want to listen to us. Often these kinds of discussions, as long as we remember to be mature and controlled, will help us find common ground even in a seemingly insurmountable disagreement.  And like you, I have frequently experienced the benefits of applying this method at the office.

The fact is that most teenagers know when they are being ridiculous. They often want to test the waters to see if we will call them out. I’m happy to say that Persephone and I have laughed many times about her “year off” proposal, now that it is far behind us.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it!


Whether you run a company or a department of one, you know it is impossible to have uniform opinions about everything. So why would we expect our kids to think exactly like we do?imagine-peace-blog-5-3-5-121 Sometimes the most heartfelt discussions with your kids reach an impasse. I have at times failed to convince my daughter of something and she has failed to convince me. I don’t mean that we refused to give in to the other out of stubbornness; we legitimately did not see eye to eye. And we learned together that this was OK. It was more important to me to raise a daughter who could think for herself than to agree all the time.

What is not OK during a disagreement is to storm out of the room. My daughter tried this a few times when she was younger. We would reach that impasse in our discussion and she would get up and walk away. I was irritated with her behavior to no end, but instead of yelling, I explained to her in a stern but polite way exactly how I felt: “I expect you to treat my opinion with the same level of respect as you want me to treat yours. If you storm out when I express a viewpoint you don’t like, don’t expect me to even entertain a discussion of the next thing that is important to you. You will likely be pleading your case to my empty chair.”

Instead of venting my frustration at her, I taught her that I expected her to invest in our relationship in exactly the same way I did.  I explained that because I always treated her with the respect I believed she deserved, I expected the same treatment in return and that the reciprocity was not optional.

As a boss or manager, you can talk about the things that irritate you with colleagues at your level or above you. If your practice is to unload your frustrations on your subordinates, you automatically lose their respect and your ability to lead them. Of course all of us have let a self-contradictory comment slip out with our kids: “Didn’t you hear what I just said to you?” we’ll ask, or seem to invite further details by asking “Please explain to me how could this have happened?”  Then, when the child tries to respond or explain, we add: “Don’t talk back to me!” or “I am not interested in hearing anything that comes out of your mouth.” These silly exchanges are bound to happen now and then, but do your best to keep them to a minimum and apologize when you’ve calmed down.

Although storming out is never OK, sometimes it is best to halt the discussion if one or both of you are getting too emotional. We must remember that children are children: They get moody and struggle with controlling their tempers or their tears. Sometimes more talking will only fuel the fire; if you give the subject a rest, cooler heads will prevail.  When you choose to shelve the discussion, be deliberate with your words and set a specific point in time when you’ll both come back to the table and revisit the issue. Otherwise you will be perceived as the parent who uses a time-out to stop a discussion in hopes that your child will either forget or tire of it.

In my experience, both at work and at home, each time I suggested revisiting an unresolved issue at a later time, the other party’s first question was, “When?” When we reopened the discussion, I was always surprised and impressed that they always came back with well-thought-out arguments that, more often than not, convinced me in whole or at least in part.

This is my opinion.  It worked for me and it can work for you.  You just have to try it! 


Published in Leadership

Whether in the board room or in the living room,two way-street effective communication is a dialogue, not a monologue. Unfortunately, when more than one person is involved in a conversation, there is the potential for misunderstanding. Confusion and miscommunication can range from humorous to disastrous. The best way to guard against this is to think deliberately about how we communicate, being mindful of our tone of voice, our choice of words, our body language. We must also think about our audience and prepare accordingly.

Why is it that some of us will spend hours perfecting a sales pitch, but spend little thought on how we interact with our children? Certainly, our livelihood may depend on that sale, but much of our home’s harmony depends on our ability to communicate effectively with our kids. This does not mean that family life is not full of spontaneous exchanges that we do not think about at all, just like our interactions at work. It just means that our communication will only get better if we take time to examine it critically from time to time.

Consider this proven sales technique. You have delivered your sales pitch flawlessly and it is time to close and ask for a commitment. To do this, pose an open-ended question such as, “Based on everything we have discussed, do you see any reason why this product is not the perfect fit for your needs?” And then be quiet. The first person to speak following the question will almost always be the one who agrees to your request.

The technique takes discipline to learn, but it is really quite easy. Ask your question, and then resist the urge to fill the quiet until the other person responds. If you can master that, you will find that you’ve usually elicited the desired response. Most of the time, the speaker will not want to disappoint. The person will either answer affirmatively or will give you information you can use to your advantage.

Parents, on the other hand, tend to be masters of the monologue: the irritating speech that puts everyone in the audience to sleep. This is true whether you are lecturing your 6-year-old on picking up his toys or your teenager on getting his grades under control. A monologue pushes information on the listener; it does not welcome information back. Not only is there no way for the listener to respond, there is no way for the talker to know if he’s being understood.

As a parent, do not let yourself get caught in the monologue trap. Instead, learn to ask those open-ended questions. “Honey, how are your toys supposed to look?” “Son, what needs to happen to get these grades to an acceptable level?” Then wait. Refrain from saying all the things you want to say: (“You know that your dolls shouldn’t be all over the floor!  No college will accept you with C’s in math!”)  Let your child talk to you, and be silent. You’ll be surprised how much of what you wanted to say to him actually comes out of his mouth. The biggest advantage of all this is that because he feels he received the courtesy and respect he deserves, he will repay you with the same. This is indeed the win-win scenario.

Communication is a two-way street—a street that should have a lot of traffic moving in both directions.  Life gets busy, but make sure you are making time to communicate with your kids on a daily basis. A lapse in communication is almost always interpreted negatively. Children will feel you don’t care, you are mad, or you’re too wrapped up in your work. Even the most sullen teenager secretly wants to know that you care. Consistent communication is one of the best ways to guard against miscommunication.


Published in Business Topics
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