In 2005, I wrote a post called Unfolding the Map in which I looked at these two seemingly opposing philosophies from successful entrepreneurs:
- If you don’t have a map, you can’t get lost
- If you don’t have a map, you can’t get where you’re going
and tried to combine them when thinking about product roadmapping. The same contradiction and combination could be applied to anything, including coaching and development.
That’s why I was excited to read my friend Matt Spielman’s new book, Inflection Points: How to Work and Live with Purpose. Matt worked at Return Path twice over the years — first as employee #3 (more on that in a minute) and then over a decade later as CMO. We live near each other and know each other’s families. I’ve been lucky enough to see his career unfold and develop into what it is today, a flourishing coaching business called Inflection Point Partners that helps clients tremendously…and that also feeds Matt’s soul.
When I first met Matt and he joined me and Jack to launch Return Path in 1999, he was fresh out of business school and focused on sales and marketing from his prior career in investment banking. Our idea was that he would do the same for us as we got our product in market. But as I started focusing more on what kind of company we wanted to build and how to get there, Matt became my leading thought partner on those topics. When we got to about 25 people, he and I created a new role for him — head of Human Capital and Organization Development. While a bit clunky, that title meant that Matt was the principal person helping me create at small scale what we later branded our People First philosophy. That philosophy and the practices we developed out of it led to 20 years of a strong track record of investing in people and helping over 1,300 colleagues grow their careers by being simple, actionable, and broad-based in the way we handled feedback and development planning. This started back in 2000.
Matt’s book puts the ethos that I saw percolating over 20 years ago into a tight framework around his coaching methodology of the GPS (Game Plan System). The book is short and sweet and walks through both the philosophy and the framework in accessible terms. And while it’s true that you have to be open to new ideas, open to serendipity, and go with flow sometimes…it’s also true that if you have specific goals in mind, you are unlikely to achieve them without a focused effort.
I’ve written a lot about coaching lately between The Impact of a Good Coach and another recent post about a strong coaching framework about intentionality in Russell Benaroya’s book. In that second post, I noted that “While I have become less and less of a life planner as I’ve gotten older under the headline of ‘man plans, God laughs,’ I am a huge believer in being intentional about everything. And that pretty much sums up Matt’s book: If you don’t have a map, you can’t get where you’re going.