M.R. Asks 3 Questions: CEO and Co-Founder of Rhythm Systems, Patrick Thean

By Patrick Thean

Patrick Thean isn’t a boxer, but he loves to quote Mike Tyson in saying, “Everyone has a strategy until I punch them in the mouth.” Through his years as a CEO, serial entrepreneur, and coach to other company leaders, he has become an expert not only in crafting visionary strategy, but in executing with mastery.

Patrick is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. With his book Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth, he shares a simple system for encouraging teams to execute better and faster. He reveals early signs of common setbacks in entrepreneurship and how to make the necessary adjustments not only to stay on track, but also to accelerate growth.

His work has been seen on NBC, CBS, and Fox. Patrick was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996 for North Carolina as he grew his first company, Metasys, to #151 on the Inc 500 (now called the Inc. 5000). 

Currently the CEO and Co-Founder of Rhythm Systems, Patrick Thean is focused on helping CEOs and their teams experience breakthroughs to achieve their dreams and goals. 

M.R. Rangaswami: Crafting a compelling vision is often cited as a critical aspect of strategic leadership. How do you recommend leaders go about developing a clear and inspiring vision for their organizations, and what are the key components that should be included in a well-defined vision statement?

Patrick Thean: If you want to create a compelling vision, you first need to change how you approach strategic thinking. Strategic thinking should not be something you do randomly or squeeze into action-focused meetings. You need to get into a Think Rhythm. Start having regular Think sessions where you and your team reflect on your past achievements and challenges and imagine an inspiring future together. 

During your Think sessions, you really have to step back from daily operational work and focus on the future of your business. Make it clear to your team that this time is for thinking only – not for finalizing goals or jumping into action. Play around and have fun brainstorming! Don’t shoot any ideas down. 

When it comes to crafting a vision, use your Think sessions to dream big. Let your imagination run wild as you imagine what your company could look like five, ten, or even twenty years from now. Experiment with exercises like the Destination Postcard (which asks you to envision your company one year from now, but can be adapted to longer amounts of time). Be specific and include elements like the impact you want your company to make and the growth you want to achieve.

Once you and your team have talked through these ideas and have gotten excited about a shared vision, craft a vision statement that will inspire the rest of your employees to step boldly into the future with you. Avoid corporate buzzwords and “fluff” (marketing language). The vision should be easy to read, and it should connect with people’s hearts. You want the rest of your company to feel just as excited about the future as you are!

M.R.: Once a vision is crafted, what strategies do you recommend for fostering alignment across different teams and departments to achieve this vision?

Patrick: Alignment starts at the very top. The CEO and leadership team need to clearly and repeatedly communicate the company’s vision to all other employees. And as you’re doing this, you can enter your second Rhythm – the Plan Rhythm.

During the Plan Rhythm, you need to come together with your leadership team every quarter and every year to discuss, debate, and agree on priorities that move the company in the right direction. Each person on the team should know what they are responsible for accomplishing. Break each priority down into key tasks or milestones to avoid falling into the strategy execution gap.

Then you will cascade the company’s plan down to the departments. They will follow the same planning process to agree upon their own priorities, which align with and support the company’s goals. Teams need to talk cross-departmentally, too, to ensure alignment is horizontal as well as vertical. They need to plan for smooth project hand-offs to avoid waste, rework, and worst of all: disappointed customers.

Alignment isn’t just important when it comes to executing a plan with your team. Cultural alignment is important, too. Everyone on your team needs to be aligned with your company’s core values and have the right mindsets. This will ensure that they are behaving in ways that create the kind of work culture you’re trying to foster. If they’re seriously misaligned, you might see behaviors that create tension among the team or spin a priority off its track.

Even when you have a team of A-Players who are aligned on your core values and aligned on a plan, you need to keep realigning week after week by getting into a Do Rhythm. Hold Weekly Adjustment Meetings to discuss the progress of your top priorities. This practice will give your team thirteen opportunities to take action and reorient when your goals are veering off track. 

M.R.: What advice do you offer to leaders striving to cultivate a high-performance mindset within their teams, particularly during times of change or uncertainty? 

Patrick: If you are leaving performance conversations to once or twice a year, you are actually decreasing employee engagement. Nobody wants to wait six or twelve months to hear what they’ve been doing well and what they need to work on. A disengaged employee doesn’t perform well and is more likely to leave, which costs valuable organizational knowledge, time recruiting and training a new hire, and of course – money.

You need to take a proactive approach to performance instead. Make sure every person on your team, from the C-suite to the frontline employee, understands their role and responsibilities. I recommend using Job Scorecards to make this clear and easy to understand for employees and managers. When people know what is expected of them and what goals they should be working towards, they’re more engaged and they do better work. They also don’t waste time working on the wrong things that won’t really benefit the company. When performance reviews roll around, they will already understand what they’re going to be rated on, because they’ve been working on it the whole time in accordance with their Job Scorecard. This takes much of the fear of the unknown out of the process.  

Week to week or month to month, managers should be checking in with their employees by holding 1:1s. A regular 1:1 cadence encourages transparency and accountability. It’s a candid conversation that prompts ongoing feedback in both directions. Managers should also use these meetings to provide coaching and help employees grow their skills and careers. 

This is especially important during times of uncertainty, when employees may start to question their job security. If the line of communication is open between manager and employee, you help reduce your employees’ fear of being blindsided by bad news. And when managers are focused on growing and developing their people, employees will feel cared for and engaged. They will do their jobs much better than they would if they were kept in the dark about their own performance.

M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of


Patrick Thean


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