September 22, 2011
Who Are Your CPO and COO?
Every senior management team needs a CPO and a COO. No, I’m not talking about Privacy and Operations. I’m talking about Paranoia and Optimism. On my leadership team at Return Path, many of us are Paranoid and many of us are Optimistic, and many of us can play both roles. But I’m fortunate to have two business partners who are the Chiefs – George Bilbrey is our Chief Paranoia Officer, and Anita Absey is our Chief Optimism Officer. Those monikers fit their respective roles (product and sales) as well as their personalities.
My view is simple – both traits are critical to have around the management table, and they’re best when they’re in some kind of equilibrium. Optimism keeps you running forward in a straight line. The belief that you can successfully execute on your plan, with a spring in your step and a smile on your face, is very motivating. Paranoia keeps you looking around corners. It may also keep you awake at night, but it’s the driving force for seeing potential threats to the business that aren’t necessarily obvious and keeping you on your toes. I wrote about the benefits and limits of paranoia (with an extreme example) years ago here.
Too much of either trait would be a disaster for a team’s psyche. But both are critical points of view that need a loud voice in any management discussion. It’s a little bit like making sure your management team knows its actual and target location along the Fear/Greed Continuum.