Category

Human Resources

It All Starts With Self-Awareness

If I had to pick one human trait that is the single most impactful in one’s ability to have positive and successful interpersonal relationships, there’s a hands-down winner: Self-Awareness. This is true no matter what kind of relationships you’re talking about — parent, manager, executive, friend, partner or spouse. Someone shared a framework with me years ago that helps explain why this is true, which I’ve been meaning to blog about for a long time. I found this image, which is close enough to the 2×2 that was once drawn for me on a whiteboard. The framework is at once incredibly simple and incredibly complex. Having true self-awareness and the ability to be reflective, to take in input and feedback,…

Book Short: Must-Read for CXOs

Lead Upwards: How Startup Joiners Can Impact New Ventures, Build Amazing Careers, and Inspire Great Teams, by Sarah E. Brown, is an amazing book – and one that fits really well with our Startup Revolution series, in particular our book Startup CXO. I kept thinking as I was reading it that it was the other side of the proverbial coin…that Startup CXO was about the details of each executive job in a company…but Sarah’s book is about the things common to ALL executive jobs – how to get them, how to succeed at them, essentially how to BE an executive. I read it front to back in a single day one weekend and loved it. Some of the most insightful…

My end of year routine (Taking Stock, Part III)

I have an end of year work routine that’s a pull-up and self-assessment. I’ve been doing this for years, and I’ve written about its evolution in Part I and Part II of this series. I’ve always taken a few minutes at this time of the year to ask myself these four questions: Am I having fun at work? Am I learning and growing as a professional? Is my work financially rewarding enough, either in the short-term or in the long-term? Am I having the impact I want to have on the world? If I answer at least 2.5 of these questions as yes, I feel like things are on track. If I am below that, or even at 2.5 sometimes,…

Book Short: New Advice from an Old Friend

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…

The Impact of a Good Coach

I’m pretty close to the executive coaching world. My wife Mariquita is an extraordinary CEO coach. I’ve worked for decades with Marc Maltz from Hoola Hoop, who helped me transform everything about how I lead organizations. I’ve been friends with Jerry Colonna of Reboot fame for years (I did a fun podcast with Jerry last year called “Everyone is Scalable). I’m pretty good friends with Chad Dickerson. Bolster’s marketplace helps place CEO coaches and even has a programmatic approach to coaching and mentoring called Bolster Prime. The list goes on. My friend Mitch, a fellow baseball coach, gave me a fun book a couple years ago that is a page-a-day called Coach: 365 Days of Inspiration for Coaches and Players,…

Best and Worst Practices (Plus FAQs) for Layoffs

Short of declaring failure and shutting down your company, laying off employees is the worst thing you may have to do as a startup CEO. I’ve had to lay people off on three separate occasions. It was difficult and emotional—those days were the worst of my career, and probably rank in the top 10 worst days of my life, period. This isn’t firing for cause—employees aren’t being asked to leave because of their own failings. They’re being asked to leave because the company can no longer afford to keep them. It’s not their fault. It’s a truly awful process. Some CEOs will fall into the trap of thinking that because it’s invariably messy, it doesn’t matter how you do it….

The Evolution of Feedback in Our Organizations

Across 22 years and two companies now, our system of giving performance feedback has evolved significantly. I thought I’d take a pass at chronicling it here and seeing if I had any learnings from looking at the evolution. Here’s how things evolved over the years: Written performance reviews. The first year of Return Path, we had a pretty standard process for reviews. They were more or less “one-way” (meaning managers wrote reviews for their direct reports), and they only happened annually. Written 360 reviews. We pretty quickly moved from one-way reviews to 360s. I wrote about this here, but we always felt that being able to give/receive feedback in all directions was critical to getting a full picture of your…

Our Operating Philosophy – the Mostly Self Managed Organization (MSMO)

Last week, I wrote about the concept of the Operating Philosophy, and how it fits with a company’s Operating Framework and Operating System and defines the essence of who you are as a company…what form of company you are. While we had a loose Operating Philosophy at Return Path, we never really crisply articulated it, and that caused some hand-wringing at various points over the years, as different people interpreted our “People First” mantra in different ways. So this time around at Bolster, we’re trying to be more intentional about this up front. We have labeled our company a “Mostly Self Managed Organization” or MSMO (pronounced Miz-Moh). We made those up. Our Operating Philosophy – we are a Mostly Self-Managed…

The Concept of the Operating Philosophy

I’ve always been a big believer in the Operating Framework and the Operating System as two of the management underpinnings behind every well run company. The Operating Framework is the company’s Mission, Vision, Values, Strategic Objectives, and Key Metrics. Companies have all sorts of different labels for this, from Balanced Scorecard to Salesforce’s V2MOM to Patrick Lencioni’s 6 Questions. It’s what you have to define up front, refresh annually, and tweak quarterly so that people in the company are aligned and know where you’re going. The Operating System, as I wrote extensively about in Startup CEO, is the collection of practices, meetings, mailing lists, routines/rhythms, and behaviors that your company and team use and depend on to run the business…

How to Get Credit for Non-Salary Benefits: The Total Rewards Statement

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some innovations we’d made in People practices around basic benefits. But that post raised questions for me like “Why do you spend money on things like that when all people care about is their salary? When they get poached by another company, all they think of it the headline number of their base compensation, unless they’re in sales and think about their OTE.” While that is hard to entirely argue against, one thing you can do as you layer in more and more benefits on top of base salary, you can, without too much trouble, produce annual “Total Rewards Statements” for everyone on your team. We did this at Return Path for several…

Open Expense Policy

I wrote a post the other day about innovating employee benefits practices, and I realized I’d never documented a couple other ways in which we have always tried to innovate People practices. Here’s one of them: the Open Expense Policy, which I wrote about in the second edition of Startup CEO in a new chapter on Authentic Leadership when talking about the problem of the “Say-Do” gap.  Here’s what I wrote: I’ll give you an example that just drove me nuts early in my career here, though there are others in the book.  I worked for a company that had an expense policy – one of those old school policies that included things like “you can spend up to $10 on a…