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Chris Efessiou's Blog
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.


Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1” by Erika Andersen, Contributor, appeared on on Jan. 18, 2012. My comments, which were called-out by the author appear at the bottom of this page.

Eric Jackson, a fellow Forbes blogger I follow and find both funny and astute, wrote a really spot-on post last month about why top talent leaves large corporations. He offered ten reasons, all of which I agreed with – and all of which I’ve seen played out again and again, over the course of 25 years of coaching and consulting. The post was wildly popular – over 1.5 million views at this writing.

So why do we find this topic so interesting? I suspect it’s because we’re genuinely curious: What would make a very senior executive – someone who most certainly has been courted by his or her organization and then paid huge sums of money to join – decide to pack it in? Is it greed (an even richer offer down the street)? Hubris? Short attention span? Or do 1%ers actually leave jobs for the same reasons as the average Joe or Josie?

According to Jackson (and, again, I agree with him) top talent does indeed leave for the same reasons everyone else does. If I were to distill his ‘top ten reasons’ down to one, it’s this: Top talent leave an organization when they’re badly managed and the organization is confusing and uninspiring.

About half of Eric’s ten reasons are about poor people management – either systemically, as in poor performance feedback, or individually, as in, my boss sucks. And the other half are about organizational lameness: shifting priorities, no vision, close-mindedness.

It really is that simple. Not easy, mind you, but remarkably simple. If you want to keep your best people:

1) Create an organization where those who manage others are hired for their ability to manage well, supported to get even better at managing, and held accountable and rewarded for doing so.

2) Then be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization – not only in terms of financial goals, but in a more three-dimensional way. What’s your purpose; what do you aspire to bring to the world? What kind of a culture do you want to create in order to do that? What will the organization look, feel and sound like if you’re embodying that mission and culture? How will you measure success? And then, once you’ve clarified your hoped-for future, consistently focus on keeping that vision top of mind and working together to achieve it.

I’ve worked with client organizations that do those two things, and people stay and thrive. I’ve worked with and observed client organizations that don’t – and it’s a revolving door. And that’s true at all levels – not just for “top talent.”

It’s fascinating to me: Why don’t more CEOs and their teams make sure these two things happen in their organizations? What do you think?

My comment to this article is below:

 Called-Out Comment Alert. Your comment was called out!  ” You are so right. I’m a small business employer. In the last 20 years I have hired over 1,000 employees. Of those, less than 20 were terminated for cause and only 2 left to take another job. Why? Because a CEO, if he/she is truly a leader, must lead and manage by example. Most do not. They care far more for their image than the organization as a whole. The CEO’s image does not grow an organization. Her vision, communication and buy-in of that vision by the ranks and leadership does.

Most employees do not know what the team stands for and do not care for its leader, because he never bothered to tell them. When that happens the good and capable people, the very people that any organization would want to retain, leave for better options. Those who are left behind are the “rubber stamps” the people who would just execute and do not think. CEO’s or heads of an organizations that surround themselves with such individuals are on a collision course with their destiny, but as ignorance would have it, they are the last ones to know it. Management, much like Parenting is leading by example.

This is precisely the subject of the book “CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood” co-authored by Persephone Efessiou and me, which examines common business and management principles and applies them to parenting. After all, it is my own personal story of raising my daughter from the age of 7 to adulthood as a single dad, relying or little other than my business knowledge. The results exceeded my wildest dreams.

The bottom line is, if you 1. Lead by Example and with Logic and Compassion 2. Mean what you Say and Say what you Mean, and 3. Treat everyone with, and Earn your people’s Respect and Loyalty, you would have created a family (either at work or at home) that everyone associated with it could not help but feel as a contributing and productive team member. And that is a place where people want to Enter……Not Exit. “

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


Published in Leadership
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!


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