There’s something in the water because I’ve run into several instances in the last week where people have become new managers. I’ve managed folks in many different capacities over the years including soccer teams/ organizations to consulting project teams and to direct management like today.
There’s an art and science to management of people, and as I think back to those who have managed me (or do still), the key ingredients include authenticity, trust, and goals/ challenges.
Here are some thoughts on management and accompanying books I recommend:
  • Maximize total motivation (TOMO) by implementing the Play, Purpose, and Potential motives while mitigating Emotional, Economic, and Inertia motives. (Check out Primed to Perform.)
  • Understand the role of culture as the “invisible hand”. Build a culture that enables emergent opportunities while mitigating “slippery slopes”. (Check out How Will You Measure Your Life.)
  • Managing a team requires a leader to effectively communicate, trust, and delegate responsibilities. (Check out Leadership Moment.)
  • Coaching is key to develop successful executers today and tomorrow. It’s how leaders enable C players to become B players, B players to A places, and beyond. (Check out Challenger Sale.)

Leading and managing a team can be difficult, and it doesn’t make sense that just because you’re good at something, you should be leading others. How well you lead them also goes beyond how you impact them directly. Effective leadership is best assessed by the downstream effects of those your team member end up leading. Management is surely one of the hardest and noblest tasks you can do. Be prepared.

One of the reasons I joined the current startup I’m at was to learn from a successful CEO/ founding team – to be mentored. So far, I’ve appreciated every moment.
It’s fascinating to me how he thinks. He’s highly successful with prior startups; so, to say his mindset is different from mine would be an understatement. In fact, we’ve approached many things from completely different perspectives.
Some observations and disparities in viewpoints:
  • Him: time and money (big). Me: test and money (small). Oftentimes, he thinks in time first, money second. He recognizes time is a resource we don’t get back. Meanwhile, time is also money. Recently, we debated about testing messaging. As I thought about testing variants for efficacy that may take time, he thought about burn rate. Specifically, how much time and money will have been spent for an effective test? He would rather test quickly and burn through a list, for example, and then get another list later, not go through 4 weeks of burn before finding something that works.
  • Him: Get results now, and get efficiency later. Me: Get results soon, and get efficiency later. To the point above, my CEO is acutely aware that we may have to freestyle a bit now which may be inefficient. However, he’s cognizant of what he needs now to show success. If we find success now, we can build out the right strategy to be more efficient and scale.
  • Him: top-down numbers. Me: Bottom-up numbers/ approach. Having boot-strapped my startups in the past, I think “organic”, bottom-up like acquisition. I think about acquiring a handful of customers through highly tailored approaches. I think about piecing together the grander message for marketing. My CEO thinks about conversions. He thinks about the math of filling the pipe with XX number of cold leads converting to YY leads converting to ZZ opportunities converting to AA customers. He thinks about what he can do now, how much more resources to commit to yield customers at the bottom. Then, refine the approach for scale.
  • Him: Get on the plane. Me: I’ll try to get them on the phone. That is, we need to learn as much as possible as fast as possible and keep everyone happy. From bootstrapping, I’m reticent to spend $100 on a customer (even if that fits in fine for our cost of acquisition). Again, I’m thinking about money, but from a “small pockets” perspective. For my CEO, I can spend what’s needed now (including hopping on a plane) to meet with prospects or working with an early customer to ensure we get the most out of our customers (beyond revenue). 
  • Him: Everyone pays. Me: Friends and family five-finger discount (free). Friends or not, if they find value, they’ll pay. I was always under the impression of giving a handful of friendlies free use of the product in exchange of learning. For my CEO, he wants to test if even his connections value our service enough to pay for it. That’s pretty important. Getting things free is great, and using it can be great. But that doesn’t tell you if you’ve created a product of VALUE.
  • Him: Your time is valuable. Me: I can discount my time. Same as the first couple points and the “finding value” bullet preceding, my CEO ensures contractors and the like get paid. When I was starting out, I offered to work for free as a trial to see if this relationship would be worthwhile. He was adamant on paying. It sets expectations. Free can discount effort. Don’t discount your value.

It’s been a fun ride, and I will continue learning from him. I haven’t set up explicit “mentoring” or “coaching” sessions. Instead, I’ve just taken so many mental notes on his approach to… everything. It’s fascinating, and I know this experience will pay off in the long-run. Heck, they’re paying off today.

I attended a Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Sales Leadership event a couple weeks ago on High Velocity Sales Organizations.

(I’m a little late to posting this. Having scaled down to one post a week as I round up 100 Strangers, 100 Days (today’s day 89!), my posts are being stretched out.)

The event headlined:
My take-aways from the event:
  • It’s hard to get the attention in sales, right? Every second counts – literally. The first 10 seconds are to earn a minute. Prospects are looking to be interrupted – pattern interrupt. Kyle mentioned how he was interrupted by a great cold call. Kyle told the caller to “email him later” because he was busy. The sales rep responded with, “are you sure you want to do that?” Kyle was taken back. “What did you say?” The sales rep responded slowly this time, “Are you… sure… you want… to do that?” At that point, Kyle was unsure. Kyle gave him the time. Or another cold call, “Hi, this is SO-SO. How do you handle cold calls?” It broke the ice.
  • Modern sales orgs are challenged to find the balance between “analytical scalable, measure” and “human, empathetic, customer-centric”.
  • Brian has a great track record of growing sales teams from the ground up. At Rubicon, Brian has grown from 1 to 85 sales reps in 10 months. Brian shares the keys to growth are: evangelizing the company message and vision; enable sales professionals to be pioneers; and separating the volatility of sales processes to an innovation team. What works then, gets implemented with the sales team.
  • Wanda shared how she grew from old-school orgs to very dynamic sales organizations. She recognizes the aspects of sales she can affect and what she cannot. She cites the importance of dumping baggage (possibly rigid sales professionals who do not align to the culture). Look for people who are agile, and enable them with the right tools – right tools in the right hands of the right people.
  • Brian also highlighted how the culture of sales people have a consistent theme from previous lives (applicable beyond sales, too). He looks for hustle. Can this person hustle? Is this person intrinsically self-motivated? Can candidate be beat down over and over again, and keep going? He looks for resiliency. To assess this, he tries to get the other person to open up about vulnerable moments.
  • Wanda stresses the importance for excellent communicators. If the email is trash, it says a lot. She’s looking for someone who is aggressive for the job in email. Customers will see the same type of emails. She wants her team to have lots of empathy. Be researchers and technologists – seamlessly pivoting between sales and marketing.
  • Tyce describes three types of people – 1. Person you can tell what to do, and it’ll happen. 2. Just won’t get done. 3. With no instructions, it’ll get done no matter what. Understand the different types and how the generations of people may affect them.
  • Two suggested sales books – 1. Message to Garcia by Elbert Hubbard. 2. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Sat down with a young film Director and Producer recently who is having trouble with his team. He’s produced several independent pieces and is about to work with a massive brand and big time director. He’s real excited about the opportunities coming up, but more recently, he’s frustrated with his colleagues who also happen to be good friends.
There have been pains and frustrations with key individuals which have threatened production; meanwhile, relationships between his brand and his clients have been strained due to the same colleagues. The crux of the problem is working with friends who are amateurs and are not as determined as he is.
While this Director is working hard and building a name in the industry, his colleagues are neither at his level, nor are they working as hard to be better. The production is HISbrand, and he is realizing it is his brand that is being harshly affected. His visions are being muddied by those representing him. In an industry based on brand and can be fickle, every negative relationship can tarnish opportunities for years.
Thoughts here:
  • It’s real, so treat it as such. One of my lessons from Body Boss is that you have to treat your startup as a true company (or Production Company in this case). It’s not a hobby if you want it to truly turn into something special. You can start from a hobby, but eventually, you must treat it as a company. Everything counts. Everything matters.
  • Your team is an extension of you. For entrepreneurs, it’s the co-founding team, the leadership, the employees. Top-to-bottom, everyone represents your brand. Hire slow. Fire fast.
  • It’s not about friends, it’s about quality… about passion… about vision. Some say working with friends is bad, but that’s not the real problem. The problem arises when you can’t work professionally together, and how working relationships can impact personal ones. Sometimes, friends should just stay friends.
  • Re-frame the hard talks. The Director is worried about impacting personal relationships when considering how to approach his colleagues about moving in different professional paths. However, the longer he procrastinates, the more mistakes occur. It’s important to realize that hard talks will occur as the company grows, as more customers onboard, etc. Re-frame the difficult talks into interests (rather than positions). Each talk needs to happen for a reason, so re-frame to the positive outcome of this.

One of the greatest challenges of any business is maintaining a positive culture rooted in its founding mission and values. The candidates and partners businesses bring on board has a tremendous say in how companies can be successful.

For the Director, it’s important to realize that not everyone will fit the culture and passion of the company, and he needs to take action sooner rather than later. The Director is the leader, and must lead by example.

I just finished reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. If you aren’t familiar, Brené gave one of the most popular TED talks regarding the Power of Vulnerability.  
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B007P7HRS4
This book was recommended by a friend who has known a bit of my roller coaster through entrepreneurship over the years and my ability to go into a “hole” and not ask for help. I’ve learned over the years through my stubbornness how not asking for help, and indeed being vulnerable, tends to put myself on a secluded island. 

My take-aways:
  • Shame vs. guilt… completely different. Guilt is a feeling of having done something wrong, whereas shame is a feeling of BEING wrong. There’s a difference there, and though subtle, is powerful in understanding that people are not wrong, but our actions can be flawed. It’s important to address actions, not the people behind them.
  • Vulnerability is powered by confidence. It’s the ability to be “good enough” at the moment. It’s about knowing not everyone is going to be there, but the right people will be. It’s about being grounded in your vision and values.
  • Aiming for perfect is great, but by its very definition means there is no better. Too often, people aim for perfection before stepping into “the arena”. All that time striving for perfection avoids the opportunities of new relationships, new learnings, and more which could be fostered by being vulnerable and accepting the potential to fail but going into a new venture with courage.
  • Daring greatly is accepting the possibility of failing, but enables us to aspire for greater. It’s not about failure, of course, but moving past failure having learned what we needed to learn. Then, it’s being vulnerable to try again.
I often hear about how the best leaders are those who are also capable of being vulnerable. However, I’m still figuring this one out in how to be vulnerable — how to involve others and ask for support, and taking on risks that are highly out of my control. 

Anyways, as an entrepreneur and a leader, it’s important to do some soul-searching and have self-awareness before leading others. In this way, Brené shares how vulnerability can help… err, dare greatly. 

Going to end with an excerpt from Teddy Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” speech that Brené shares:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

… 200 posts, that is. Since this time last year (just about), I’ve published twice weekly to hit the 200-post mark in much faster span than my first 100. I have to say that 200 posts really doesn’t seem like much, but it really is.
Each post (with the exception of maybe two) has taken a couple rounds of editing and some thought process to author. It’s a good bit of work, especially now as I’ve taken on the full-time gig at SalesWise wearing lots of different hats from sales to marketing to customer support to website build.
So reflecting on my last 100 posts, here are the most popular posts:
It’s interesting to see which posts have resonated better than others, and I’m starting to draw some conclusions. I’ll share them on my next post – #201!

While writing last week’s brainstorming post, I read NY Times’ article about Google’s pursuit of finding the “perfect team”. The article touched on how the most effective teams all operated very differently, and there was no clear pattern amongst groups… kind of.
There was no clear correlation to successful teams being friendly outside the office versus those with no outside office interactions. There were successful groups of full of introverts and those full of extroverts and then teams mixed. Teams made up of exceptionally bright individuals didn’t directly translate to outperforming teams with less-exceptionally intelligent individuals.
Instead, one key element that all high-functioning teams exhibited was everyone having an equal voice – speaking roughly equal amounts. Teams heavily dominated by a few did not function nearly as well as those more “talkative” groups.
Further, high-performing teams had team members who would engage in conversation regardless of function or experience. Everyone weighed in with general thoughts plus their experience and area of expertise. These teams exhibited high “psychological safety” where team members could speak out without fear of others judging or being critical. Everyone could freely and respectfully interject one another.
Perhaps then, it’s no surprise high functioning teams scored high on emotional intelligence in order for psychological safety to exist. Team members would be perceptive of how others in the group felt and would address those feelings directly, rather than ignoring or not knowing at all.

The article pointed what subtly fascinated me in my team’s recent brainstorming – this implicit psychology safety net (and indeed culture) that I’ve noticed has been lacking in many companies I’ve worked with over the years. There’s still this notion of the leader(s) having full direction and control and everyone else are subordinates. It creates a gulf in leadership abilities, detracts from confidence, and hampers innovation.
Michael Useem’s The Leadership Moment
This is my second book review – The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem. The book shares nine short, true stories of moments of leadership. Useem does a great job capturing stories from executives of large corporations to fire chiefs and extreme climbers. Each story details the events and decisions of the leaders and the implications of each leader’s actions (or inaction).
Takeaways from the book:
  • Successful leaders take action decisively, and as soon as possible. Extreme leadership moments tend to occur out of extraordinary circumstances like Apollo 13’s Eugene Kranz. Eugene was the NASA Flight Director in charge of the control room, and he had the unenviable leadership moment to bring back the astronauts of the crippled Apollo 13. Given the incredibly depleting oxygen levels and power, Kranz had to make decision after decision quickly and decisively.
  • Inaction is sometimes the most damning action of all. Useem shares the story of John Gutfreund’s fall at Salomon Inc. Gutfreund failed to address continuous SEC infractions by one of his employees, Paul Mozer. Paul was pocketing millions of dollars while misappropriating Salomon’s clients funds to side-step SEC regulations. Gutfreund knew of Mozer’s transgressions and failed to not only reprimand Mozer, but also failed to share the known infractions with the SEC. Investigations would embroil Salomon into scandals that eventually forced Gutfreund to leave the CEO post while the company fought for survival.
  • Communication, trust, and delegation enables a leader to accomplish more than s/he could ever achieve alone. Leveraging Apollo 13’s Eugene Kranz again, Useem shared how Kranz created several specialist groups to find solutions to some of the most complex scenarios NASA has ever experienced. Kranz knew his team members were some of the brightest, most capable people. He bestowed the greatest trust and delegation to his teams with the lives of the Apollo 13 astronauts at stake.
  • Remember the ethos of the company to have a great impact. Roy Vagelos at Merck Pharmaceuticals had developed a drug that could cure and prevent early stage river blindness called Mectizan. Problem was, the 20M people who needed it was largely poor. To develop the drug would cost Merck hundreds of millions including testing, adhere to regulations, distribution, etc. Roy decided that despite little to no return to shareholders, it was Merck’s responsibility to develop and distribute the drug at no cost forever. Roy leaned on the company’s mission to “provide innovative, distinctive products and services that save and improve lives”. Since 1986, the drug has been distributed to over 55M people.

These were just a few of the lessons from The Leadership Moment. There are several implications per story.

I really enjoyed the book as it made me put myself into the situations of the leaders. It’s easy to see some of the missteps and challenges each leader was faced with. It’s even easier to assume I would make the smart, best moves, but in the situation, much is happening that decisions will be complicated. However, by reading these stories, I hope to be ready for my leadership moments in the future.
I love psychology. I love getting to know people – what interests them, what are their tendencies, and the like. One of the best ways to learn more about people (and yourself) is to go to a therapist. Or, like the rest of the world today, you can go online and take a test. Enter the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

MBTI is a self-reported survey revealing the psychological tendencies of people – how they view and react to the world.

MBTI was first developed by Katharine Briggs and later refined by (and with) her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. The original Briggs Myers Type Indicator Handbook was published in 1944 with several editions published since then, including the 3rd in 1998. 
The MBTI aligns people into 16 personalities along four dichotomies:
  • Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I) – where one draws energy (external sources or internal)
  • Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N) – information-gathering functions
  • Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F) – decision-making functions
  • Judging (J) vs. Perception (P) – preference for using either the thinking or feeling functions vs. sensing or intuitive functions

Using something like MBTI can help in business in all sorts of ways. You can use MBTI internally with team members as a colleague and leader — communication, work styles, etc. MBTI personality types can help salespeople communicate with prospects. MBTI can also help marketers better understand value points and spark emotional intrigue in customers.

You can find more about MBTI at 16personalities.com, and even take a personality test to discover yours – it’s an abbreviated version, but can be generally in the right direction.
How else can MBTI be used in the workplace? What are advantages to using a personality tests in the workplace? Disadvantages?

Brené Brown’s recent talk at Hubspot’s Inbound Conference was captured in Inc.com’s article “How to Avoid a Perfect Shame Spiral at Work”, and it was incredibly relevant to me just yesterday.

Brené Brown, behind the famous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability”, spoke about the common miscommunication that happens in the workplace where parties neglect to speak their honest thoughts, and often spiral into shaming themselves.

Brené gives an example where she had unilaterally dismissed her CFO’s idea in a meeting without a clear explanation as to why. Commonly, someone in the CFO’s shoes would think the worst as to why his idea was dismissed. He’d focus on his greatest vulnerabilities as potential causes.
However, in Brené’s real-world case, her CFO was brave enough to speak to Brené afterwards about the matter. Her reply was that the CFO’s idea was so important it needed its own meeting and action plan.
A similar shame spiral was close to happening to me recently. At one of the companies I’m working with, my role has shifted greatly away from product management and towards marketing. However, marketing-wise, much is in a holding pattern while we wait for campaigns to trigger and the new product to launch. Thus, I’ve stepped back, wary of micro-managing a very capable marketing team.
To the company’s Founder, it looks like I am less passionate in the product and company. In my head, I am aware of timing and thinking how I can best bring value to the company given where we are in the product launch and marketing campaigns. Except, unlike Brené’s CFO, I’ve kept these thoughts internalized till I figure out how best to proceed.
The Founder realized my diminished role and stepped up to talk to me about my situation. We had a great talk about what was happening, and developed a plan moving forward. However, it took him to speak with me, not me being more proactive.
Thinking about Brené’s message, I can fall into a shame spiral often, but hopefully, don’t. If I do fall victim, it’s because I’m afraid of the possible outcome or that I am not good enough. This is where I can improve in being more assertive and viewing these situations as more collaborative rather than my singular view with set outcomes to avoid the shame spiral.
What was a situation where you fell into a shame spiral? How could you mitigate against these occurrences? Also, what are vulnerabilities did you start to rationalize for yourself, and what are you doing to overcome those?