Jan 022014

Sabbaticals

I’ve written a few times over the years about our Sabbatical policy at Return Path, including this post and this post about my experience as CEO when one of my direct reports was on his sabbatical, and this post about my own sabbatical.

People ask me this all the time, so I thought I’d write the policy out here.  This is the language in our employee handbook about them:

You have big dreams. We know. This is your chance to cross something off your life list. Whether it’s climbing Mt. Everest, learning Russian or taking your kids across the country in a Winnebago, we believe in rewarding longevity at Return Path and know that a good long break will leave you refreshed and energized!  As such, you are eligible for a sabbatical after your first seven (7) years of employment; then again after every five (5) years incremental employment. The sabbatical provides you with up to six (6) weeks of consecutive time off provided you have that time off approved by your manager at least two months prior to the start of your sabbatical.

You will be requested to sign an Agreement before your sabbatical: if you do not return to work after your sabbatical or if you leave employment within twelve (12) months of returning to work, you will be required to reimburse all amounts received while on sabbatical.  If a holiday occurs on any of of the days of absence, you will not receive holiday pay in addition to your sabbatical pay.  During your sabbatical, your benefits will continue and you will be responsible for making payments for the employee portion of insurance costs if applicable. The period you are on leave will be counted as employment for the purposes of determining your applicable level of benefits.  If you are eligible and have not taken your sabbatical and your employment with Return Path ends (for any reason), you will not be paid out for sabbatical time not taken.

I also wrote an email recently to someone internally that is worth reprinting here, which is How to Prepare for Your Sabbatical, which is aimed at both the person taking the sabbatical, and the person’s manager:

As the employee:

-          Prepare your team

  • Make sure their goals and metrics for your time out are super clear
  • Make sure they know who to go to for what
  • Set their expectations of management coverage (see below). 
  • Remember that your manager has a day job so you should look to see how your team members can take over some of the responsibilities.
  • Give them stretch goals while you’re out

-          Prepare your individual contributor work

  • Hand off all loose ends with extra details. 
  • Make introductions via email if your manager/team member  is going to have to work with external parties
  • Can be to your team, to your manager, to someone else

-          Prepare your manager

  • Brief your manager thoroughly on everything going on with your team, its work, your individual contributor work
  • Good topics to cover with your manager:Discuss specifics of team and 1:1 check-ins and agree on a plan for coverage.
    • What are the big initiatives that you’ll need coverage on
    • Which team members would you like the manager to spend a little extra time with?  Are there any work you would like the manager to help a particular EE with?

-          Prepare yourself

  • Plan any personal travel early so you get good rates!
  • Figure out how to keep your work and personal communications separate – your email (autoresponder, routing, disabling from your smartphone), your voicemail if you use Google Voice or Simulscribe, etc.
  • Block out two full days immediately when you return to catch up on email and catch up with your manager and team

As the manager:

-          Prepare your team

  • Make sure the rest of your team knows your time will be compromised while you’re covering
  • Figure out what kind of coverage you need (either internal or external) while you’re covering

-          Rearrange your calendar/travel

  • Add new team meetings or 1:1s as it makes sense.  You don’t have to do exactly what your employee did, but some portions of it will make sense to pick up
  • If your employee works in another office with members of his/her team, you might want to plan some travel there to cover in person
  • It’s ok to cut back on some other things a bit while you’re covering – just remember to undo everything when the employee’s sabbatical is over

-          While you’re in charge

  • Surprise your employee with how much you were able to keep things running in his/her absence!
  • Learn as much as you can by doing bits and pieces of his/her job.  This is a great opportunity of the employee to get some value from a fresh perspective.

-          Prepare for your employee’s return

  • Keep a running tab of everything that goes on at the company, critical industry news (if appropriate), and with your employee’s function or team and prepare a well-organized briefing document so your employee can hit the ground running when he/she returns
  • Block out an hour or two each of the employee’s first two days back to review your briefing document

 

My main takeaway from this post?  I am overdue my second sabbatical, and it’s time to start thinking about that!

Dec 192013

5 Ways to Get Your Staff on the Same Page

5 Ways to Get Your Staff on the Same Page

[This post first appeared as an article in Entrepreneur Magazine as part of a new series I'm publishing there in conjunction with my book, Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business]

When a major issue arises, is everybody at your company serving the same interests? Or is one person serving the engineering team, another person serving the sales team, one board member serving the VC fund, another serving the early-stage “angels” and another serving the CEO? If that’s the case, then your team is misaligned. No individual department’s interests are as important as the company’s.

To align everyone behind your company’s interests, you must first define and communicate those goals and needs. This requires five steps:

  1. Define the mission. Be clear to everyone about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there (in keeping with your values).
  2. Set annual priorities, goals, and targets. Turn the broader mission into something more concrete with prioritized goals and unambiguous success metrics.
  3. Encourage bottom-up planning. You and your executive team need to set the major strategic goals for the company, but team members should design their own path to contribution. Just be sure that you or their managers check in with them to assure that they remain in synch with the company’s goals.
  4. Facilitate the transparent flow of information and rigorous debate. To help people calibrate the success, or insufficiency, of their efforts, be transparent about how the organization is doing along the way. Your organization will make better decisions when everyone has what they need to have frank conversations and then make well-informed decisions.
  5. Ensure that compensation supports alignment (or at least doesn’t fight it). As selfless as you want your employees to be, they’ll always prioritize their interests over the company’s. If those interests are aligned – especially when it comes to compensation – this reality of human nature simply won’t be a problem.

Taken in sequence, these steps are the formula for alignment. But if I had to single out one as the most important, it would be number 5: aligning individual incentives with companywide goals.

It’s always great to hear people say that they’d do their jobs even if they weren’t paid to, but the reality of post-lottery-jackpot job retention rates suggests otherwise. You, and every member of your team, “work” for pay. Whatever the details of your compensation plan, it’s crucial that it aligns your entire team behind the company’s best interests.

Don’t reward marketers for hitting marketing milestones while rewarding engineers to hit product milestones and back office personnel to keep the infrastructure humming. Reward everybody when the company hits its milestones.

The results of this system can be extraordinary:

  • Department goals are in alignment with overall company goals. “Hitting product goals” shouldn’t matter unless those goals serve the overall health of your company. When every member of your executive team – including your CTO – is rewarded for the latter, it’s much easier to set goals as a company. There are no competing priorities: the only priority is serving the annual goals.
  • Individual success metrics are in alignment with overall company success metrics. The one place where all companies probably have alignment between corporate and departmental goals is in sales. The success metrics that your sales team uses can’t be that far off from your overall goals for the company. With a unified incentive plan, you can bring every department into the same degree of alignment. Imagine your general counsel asking for less extraneous legal review in order to cut costs
  • Resource allocation serves the company, rather than individual silos. If a department with its own compensation plan hits its (unique) metrics early, members of that team have no incentive to pitch in elsewhere; their bonuses are secure. But if everyone’s incentive depends on the entire company’s performance, get ready to watch product leads offering to share developers, unprompted.

This approach can only be taken so far: I can’t imagine an incentive system that doesn’t reward salespeople for individual performance. And while everyone benefits when things go well, if your company misses its goals, nobody should have occasion to celebrate. Everybody gets dinged if the company doesn’t meet its goals, no matter how well they or their departments performed. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it also important preventive medicine.

Dec 052013

Onboarding vs. Waterboarding

Onboarding vs. Waterboarding

One of our new senior hires just said to me the other day that he has been enjoying his Onboarding process during his first 90 days at Return Path and that at other companies he’s worked at in the past, the first few months were more like Waterboarding.

At Return Path, we place a lot of emphasis on onboarding – the way we ask employees to spend their first 90 days on the job.  I’ve often said that the hiring process doesn’t end on the employee’s first day.  I think about the employee’s first day as the mid-point of the hiring process. The things that come after the first day — orientation (where’s the bathroom?), context-setting (here’s our mission, here’s how your job furthers it), goal setting (what’s your 90-day plan?), and a formal check-in 90 days later — are all make-or-break in terms of integrating a new employee into the organization, making sure they’re a good hire, and making them as productive as possible.

Nothing has a greater impact on a hire’s long-term viability than a thorough Onboarding. Sure, you have to get the right people in the door. But if you don’t onboard them properly, they may never work out. This is where all companies, big and small, fail most consistently.  Remember your first day of work? Did you (or anyone at the company) know where you were supposed to sit? Did you (or anyone at the company) know if your computer was set up? Did you (or anyone at the company) have a project ready for you to start on? Did you (or anyone at the company) know when you’d be able to meet your manager? Probably not.

Take onboarding much more seriously, and you’ll be astounded by the results. We have a Manager of Onboarding whose only job is to manage the first 90 days of every employee’s experience. You don’t need to go that far (and won’t be able to until you’ve scaled well past 100 employees), but here are some things you can, and must, do to assure a successful onboarding process:

1. Start onboarding before Day 1. Just as recruitment doesn’t end until Day 90, onboarding starts before Day 1. At Return Path, we ask people to create a “Wall Bio” – a one-page collage of words and images that introduces them to the team – before their first day. It’s a quick introduction to our company culture, and something the rest of our team looks forward to seeing as new people join. Your project can be different, but it’s important to get new hires engaged even before their first day.

2. Set up your new hire’s desk in advance. There is nothing more dispiriting than spending your first day at new job chasing down keyboards and trying to figure out your phone extension. We go to the opposite extreme. When a new hire walks in the door at Return Path, their desk is done. Their computer, monitor and telephone are set up. There’s a nameplate on their office or cube. They’ve got a full set of company gear (T-shirt, tote, etc.). To show how excited we are, we even include a bottle of champagne and a handwritten note from me welcoming them to the company. In the early days of the business, we even had the champagne delivered to the employee’s home after they accepted the offer. (That didn’t scale well, particularly outside of New York City.)

3. Prepare an orientation deck for Day 1. There are certain things about your company that new hires will learn as they go along: nuances of culture, pacing, etc. But there are some things that should be made explicit right away. What is the company’s mission? What are its values? How is the organization structured? What is the current strategic plan? These details are common to every employee, and all new hires should hear them—preferably from the CEO. You can present these details one-on-one to your direct reports, or do larger in-office sessions to groups of new hires over breakfast or lunch.

4. Clearly set 90-day objectives and goals. Other details are going to be specific to an employee’s position. What’s their job description (again)? What are the first steps they should take? Resources they should know about? People they should meet? Training courses to enroll in? Materials to read and subscribe to? Finally, and most importantly, what are the major objectives for their first 90 days? They shouldn’t spend their first quarter “feeling around.” They should spend it actively and intentionally working toward a clear goal.

5. Run a review process at the end of 90 days. Whether you do a 360 review or a one-way performance review, the 90-day mark is a really good point to pull up and assess whether the new hire is working out and fitting culturally as well. It’s much easier to admit a mistake at this point and part ways while the recruiting process is still somewhat fresh than it is months down the road after you’ve invested more and more in the new hire.

With that, the hiring process is done. Now, repeat.

[Note:  this post contains some passages excerpted from my book, Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, published by Wiley & Sons earlier this fall.]

Nov 212013

Debunking the Myth of Hiring for Domain Expertise vs. Functional Expertise

Debunking the Myth of Hiring for Domain Expertise vs. Functional Expertise

As a CEO scaling your business, you’ll invariably want to hire in new senior people from the outside.  Even if you promote aggressively from within, if you’re growing quickly enough, you’ll just need more bodies.  And if you’re growing really fast, you will be missing experience from your employee base that you’ll need to augment.

For years, I’ve thought and heard that there’s a basic tradeoff in hiring senior people — you can hire someone with great domain expertise, or you can hire someone with great functional expertise, but it’s almost impossible to find both in the same person, so you need to figure out which is more important to you.  Would I rather hire someone who knows the X business, or someone who is a great Head of X?  Over the course of the last year, I’ve added four new senior executives to the team at Return Path, and to some extent, I’ve hired people with deep functional expertise but limited domain expertise.  Part of that has been driven by the fact that we are now one of the larger companies in the email space, so finding people who have “been there, done that” in email is challenging.

But the amount of senior hiring I’ve done recently has mostly shown me that the “domain vs. functional” framework, while probably accurate, is misleading if you think of it as the most important thing you have to consider when hiring in senior people from the outside.

What’s more important is finding people who have experience working at multiple growth stages in their prior jobs, ideally the scaling stage that you’re at as a business.  It makes sense if you stop and think about it.  If your challenge is SCALING YOUR BUSINESS, then find someone who has DONE THAT before, or at least find someone who has worked at both small companies and larger companies before.  I suppose that means you care more about functional expertise than domain expertise, but it’s an important distinction.

Looking for a new industrial-strength CFO for your suddenly large business?  Sure, you can hire someone from a Fortune 500 company.  But if that person has never worked in a startup or growth stage company, you may get someone fluent in Greek when you speak Latin.  He or she will show up on the first day expecting certain processes to be in place, certain spreadsheets to be perfect, certain roles to be filled.  And some of them won’t be.  The big company executive may freeze like a deer caught in the headlights, whereas the stage-versatile executive will invariably roll up his or her sleeves and fix the spreadsheet, rewrite the process, hire the new person.  That’s what scaling needs to feel like.

Oct 032013

Book Short: Alignment Well Defined, Part II

Book Short:  Alignment Well Defined, Part II

Getting the Right Things Done:  A Leader’s Guide to Planning and Execution, by Pascal Dennis, is an excellent and extraordinarily practical book to read if you’re trying to create or reengineer your company’s planning, goal setting, and accountability processes. It’s very similar to the framework that we have generally adapted our planning and goals process off of at Return Path for the last few years, Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage (book, post/Part I of this series).  My guess is that we will borrow from this and adapt our process even further for 2014.

The book’s history is in Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing system, and given the Lean meme floating around the land of tech startups these days, my guess is that its concepts will resonate with most of the readers of this blog.  The book’s language — True North and Mother Strategies and A3s and Baby A3s — is a little funky, but the principles of simplicity, having a clear target, building a few major initiatives to drive to the target, linking all the plans, and measuring progress are universal.  The “Plan-Do-Check-Adjust” cycle is smart and one of those things that is, to quote an old friend of mine, “common sense that turns out is not so common.”

One interesting thing that the book touches on a bit is the connection between planning/goals and performance management/reviews.  This is something we’ve done fairly well but somewhat piecemeal over the years that we’re increasingly trying to link together more formally.

All in, this is a good read.  It’s not a great fable like Lencioni’s books or Goldratt’s classic The Goal (reminiscent since its example is a manufacturing company).  But it’s approachable, and it comes with a slew of sample processes and reports that make the theory come to life.  If you’re in plan-to-plan mode, I’d recommend Getting the Right Things Done as well as The Advantage.

Sep 192013

The Boomerang Club, or How to Quit Your Job, Part II

The Boomerang Club, or How to Quit Your Job, Part II

My post last week on How to Quit Your Job has generated about two dozen comments as well as a really lengthy thread on Y Combinator’s Hacker News.  My various replies to comments are worth summarizing here – this is a reprint of my comment on Hacker News:

First, my post was not intended to be general advice to employees of all companies on how to handle a situation where they’re starting to look for jobs.  Of course, many environments would not respond well to that approach.  My point was just that that’s how we encourage employees to handle the situation at Return Path, and we have created a safe environment to do so.  By the way, it doesn’t happen here 100% of the time either, by any stretch of the imagination.  But I wish it did.  When it happens, it’s better for everyone — the company as well as the employee, who either (a) ends up staying because we resolve some issue we weren’t aware of, or (b) has a less stressful and more graceful transition out.

Second, the way we run our business is around a bit of a social contract — that is to say, a two-way street.  And just as we ask employees to start a dialog with us when they are thinking of leaving, we absolutely, 100% of the time, are open and transparent with employees when they are in danger of being fired (other than the occasional urgent “for cause” situation).  We give people ample opportunity to correct performance and even fit issues.  In terms of someone’s question below about lay-offs, we fortunately haven’t had to do those since 2001, but if I recall, even then, we were extremely transparent about our financial position and that we might need to cut jobs in 30 days.

But I wanted to take this post to emphasize a related, second point.  If it’s a given that you are going to quit your job, then HOW you quit your job becomes super important.  And this is general advice, not something specific to Return Path.  Even if you’re unhappy – even if you feel totally wronged or burned in some way – there is never a good reason to burn bridges on the way out the door.  In fact, the opposite is what I would consider best practice:  make the transition as easy as possible for your company.

Document your job really well, including specifics of all open projects.  Work with your manager and teammates to hand off all responsibilities.  Be frank and constructive in your exit interview.  Make the extra effort to leave things in good working order.

We have a long history of hiring back former employees here.  We proudly call it The Boomerang Club, and there have been a dozen or so members over the years.  We try to make it easy to come back if you leave.  First, we celebrate the return of a former employee pretty widely, and we obviously modify our usual extensive interview process.  If you come back in less than a year, we pretend that you never left in terms of giving you credit for continuous service.  If your gap is more than a year, we don’t give you credit for the time you were gone, but we do give you full credit for the time you’d been here before you left.

But you can’t really be a member of The Boomerang Club if you leave your job in the wrong way.  HOW you do that says a lot about you, and everyone at your company will take note and remember it.

Sep 132013

How to Quit Your Job

How to Quit Your Job

I sent an email out to ALL at Return Path a few years ago with that as the subject line.  A couple people suggested it would make a good blog post in and of itself.  So here’s the full text of it:

ALL –

This may be one of the weirdest emails you’ll see me (or any CEO write)…but it’s an important message that I want to make sure everyone hears consistently.  If nothing else, the subject line will probably generate a high open rate.  :-)

First off, I hope no one here wants to leave Return Path.  I am realistic enough to know that’s not possible, but as you know, employee engagement, retention, and growth & development are incredibly important to us.

But alas, there will be times when for whatever reason, some of you may decide it’s time to move on.  I have always maintained that there’s more than a Right Way and a Wrong Way to leave a job.  For me, there’s a Return Path Way.

I suppose the Right Way is the standard out there in the world of two weeks’ notice and an orderly documentation and transition of responsibilities.  The Wrong Way is anything less.

So what’s the Return Path Way?

It starts with open dialog.  If you are contemplating looking around for something else, you should let someone know at the thinking stage.  Ideally that would be your manager, but if you’re not comfortable starting the conversation there, find someone else — your department head, someone in HR, me.  Let someone who is in a position to do something about it know that you’re considering other options and why.  The worst thing that will happen is that the company isn’t able to come up with a solution to whatever issues you have.  I PROMISE you that no one here in any management position will ever think less of you or treat you differently or serve up any kind of retribution for this kind of conversation.

After the open dialog and any next steps that come out of it, if you are still convinced that leaving is the right thing for you, tell your manager and whoever you spoke to at the beginning of your search process, not at the end of it.  That hopefully gives the company enough lead time to find a replacement and provide for enough overlap between you and the new hire so that you can train your replacement and hand things off.

Why do we feel so strongly about this?

We invest heavily in our people.  I know we’re not perfect — no company is — but we do our best to take good care with everyone who works here.  Hopefully you know that.  And hiring great people is difficult, as you also know.  Losing a well trained employee is VERY PAINFUL for the company.  It slows our momentum and causes at least a minor level of chaos in the system.  And as shareholders or future shareholders (even if you leave – you can exercise your vested stock options), I’d hope that’s something none of you want to do.

I realize the Return Path Way that I am outlining here is unconventional (and potentially uncomfortable).  But Return Path is an unconventional place to work in a lot of ways.

As I said up front, I hope none of you wants to leave…but if you do, please take this request and advice to heart.

Thank you!

-Matt

Now…I sent this out when the company was a lot smaller, when losing a single employee was losing a real percentage of our workforce!  But I stand by every word in the email, even at a larger size.  This kind of dialog is, as I note in the email, both unconventional and uncomfortable.  But just as one of my management mantras here is “no one should ever be surprised to be fired,” another is “we should never be surprised when someone resigns.”  Ultimately, it’s up to each individual manager to set the right tone with his or her team, and also be in tune enough with each of his or her team members, to foster this.

Aug 222013

Unknown Unknowns

Unknown Unknowns

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”   –Donald Rumsfeld

Say what you will about Rumsfeld or the Iraq war, but this is actually a great and extensible quote.  And more to the point, I’d say that one of the main informal jobs of a CEO, sort of like Connecting the Dots in that it’s not one of the three main roles of a CEO) is to understand and navigate known unknowns and unknown unknowns for your organization (hopefully you already understand and navigate the known knowns!).  Here’s what I mean:

  • An example of a known unknown is that a new competitor could pop up and disrupt your business from below (e.g., the low end) at any minute.  Or let’s say your biggest partner buys one of your competitors.  These are the kinds of things you and your team should be cognizant of as possibilities and always thinking about how to defeat
  • While I suppose unknown unknowns are by definition hard to pin down, an example of an unknown unknown is something like a foreign leader deciding to nationalize the industry you’re in including your local subsidiary, or a young and healthy leader in your organization dying unexpectedly, or September 11.  I suppose these are “black swan” events that Nassim Nicholas Taleb made famous in his book.

Helping your team identify potential known unknowns and think three steps ahead is critical.  But helping your team turn unknown unknowns into known unknowns is, while much harder, probably one of the best things you can do as CEO of your organization.  And there are probably two ways you can do this, noting that by definition, you’ll never be able to know all the unknowns.  As you might expect, the way to do that comes down to increasing your pool of close-at-hand knowledge.

First, you and your executive team can have as broad a view of your industry and corporate ecosystem, and of the economy at large, as possible.  It’s critical for business leaders to read diverse publications, to share insights with teammates, and to network with experts both inside and outside your space.
Second, you can design a culture so that information flows freely up, down, and sideways — so that people in your organization want to share information instead of hoard it.  That’s easier said than done, and there’s more than a blog post worth of what has to go into making that a reality.  But think about the CIA and all the flak they got about failure to connect the dots around September 11.  To close this post where I opened it, you can be the chief connector inside your organization…but you need to get your organization connecting the dots itself.

Aug 122013

Book Short: Is CX the new UX?

Book Short:  Is CX the new UX?

Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine from Forrester Research, was a good read that kept crossing back and forth between good on the subject at hand, and good business advice in general.  The Customer Experience (CX) movement is gaining more and more steam these days, especially in B2B companies like Return Path.  The authors define Customer Experience as “how your customers perceive their interactions with your company,” and who doesn’t care about that?

A few years ago, people started talking a lot more about User Experience (UX) as a new crossover discipline between design and engineering, and our experience at Return Path has been that UX is an incredibly powerful tool in our arsenal to build great technical products via lean/agile methods.  The recurring thought I had reading this book, especially for companies like ours, was “Is CX the new UX?”

In other words, should we just be taking the same kind of lean/agile approach to CX that we do with technical product development and UX — but basically do it more holistically across every customer touchpoint, from marketing to invoice?  It’s hard to see the answer being “no” to that question, although as with all things, the devil is in the implementation details.  And that’s true at the high level (the authors talk about making sure you align CX strategy with corporate strategy and brand attributes and values) as well as a more granular level (what metrics get tracked for CX, and how do those align with the rest of the companies KPIs).

The book’s framework for CX is six high-level disciplines: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture — but you really have to read the book to get at the specifics.

Some other thoughts and quotes from the book:

  • the book contains some good advice on how to handle management of cross-functional project teams in general (which is always difficult), including a good discussion of various governance models
  • “to achieve the full potential of customer experience as a business strategy, you have to change the way you run your business. You must manage from the perspective of your customers, and you must do it in a systematic, repeatable, and disciplined way.”
  • one suggestion the book had for weaving the customer experience into your culture (if it’s not there already) is to invite customers to speak all-hands meetings
  • another suggestion the book had for weaving the customer experience into everyone’s objectives was one company’s tactic of linking compensation (in this case, 401k match) to customer experience metrics
  • “Customer Experience is a journey, not a project. It has a beginning but it doesn’t have an end.”

Thanks to my colleague Jeremy Goldsmith for recommending this book.

May 302013

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

Although I still maintain that the three primary roles of a CEO are to set Strategy and communicate it, develop Talent, and ensure that the business has proper Resources to run (see post here), I am increasingly finding that I play a fourth role in the organization that’s probably somewhat important, which is Connecting the Dots.

What do I mean by Connecting the Dots?  I mean helping others network internally, or helping others connect their work to the work of others, or helping others connect their work to the mission of the company, or even to the outside world.

Here are a few examples of how I’ve done this kind of work recently:

 -          I joined an Engineering all-hands and stood up after each segment to talk about the business impact of that team’s work during the prior quarter

-          I met with a new senior employee and connected him to someone internally that he wouldn’t have otherwise met with…but with whom he had a common outside interest

-          I helped a team that’s a classic “support team” understand why their work was directly, but not obviously, contributing to one of the company’s strategic initiatives

-          I connected someone in one of our international offices who had expressed an interest to me in a new role with an operational leader in the US who was thinking of adding someone to his team outside the US

-          I talked to our professional services team about a customer visit I’d recently done where we got really good feedback on the next release of a product but which also pointed out some needs for services that we hadn’t focused on yet

As a business leader, you are in a really good position to help Connect the Dots in a growing organization because you have a pretty unique view across the organization – and you tend to spend time with people internally across different functions and teams and offices.

I am not going to change my position that there are three primary roles, because I’m not sure that a CEO is required to Connect the Dots – hopefully that role can be delegated and replicated.  It’s something to think about, for sure.  But in the meantime, I like doing that and find it useful for me as well as the organization.

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