September 25, 2014

PTJD

Post Traumatic Job Disorder. As we have been scaling up Return Path, we have been increasingly hiring senior people in from the outside. We believe in promoting from within and do it all the time, but sometimes you need an experienced leader who has operated at or ahead of the scale you’re at.  Someone with deep functional expertise and a “been there, done that” playbook. When you get a hire like this right, it’s amazing how much that kind of person gets done, how quickly. One of the pitfalls of those hires, though, is cultural fit. Many of the larger organizations in the world don’t have the kind of supportive, employee-centric cultures that we have here, or that startups tend to have in general. They tend to be much more hierarchical, political, command-and-control. There is a real risk that hiring a senior person who has been trained in environments like that will blow up on you — that, as I’ve written before, the body will reject the organ transplant. I’ve taken to calling the problem PTJD, or Post-Traumatic Job Disorder. Some of the stories I’ve heard from senior people about their experiences with their bosses or even CEOs at prior […]


September 11, 2014

The 2×4

The 2×4 I took a Freshman Seminar in my first semester at Princeton in 1988 with a world-renowned professor of classical literature, Bob Hollander.  My good friend and next-door neighbor Peggy was in the seminar with me.  It was a small group — maybe a dozen of us — meeting for three hours each week for a roundtable with Professor Hollander, and then writing the occasional paper.  Peggy and I both thought we were pretty smart.  We had both been high school salutatorians from good private schools and had both gotten into Princeton, right? Then the first paper came due, […]


August 14, 2014

How to Manage Your Career

I gave a presentation to a few hundred Return Path employees in January at an all-hands conference we did called “How to Manager Your Career.” The presentation has three sections — The Three Phases of a Career, How to Get Promoted, and How to Wow Your Manager. While it’s not as good without the voiceover and interactivity, I thought I’d post it here…see the presentation on Slideshare. As I said to my audience, if there’s one thing to take away from the topic, it’s this: Managing your career is up to one, and only one person – you.  It doesn’t […]


July 1, 2014

Book Short: Culture is King

Book Short:  Culture is King Joy, Inc.:  How We Built a Workplace People Love, by Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, was a really good read. Like Remote  which I reviewed a few weeks ago, Joy, Inc. is ostensibly a book about one thing — culture — but is also full of good general advice for CEOs and senior managers. Also like Remote, the book was written by the founder and CEO of a relatively small firm that is predominately software engineers, so there are some limitations to its specific lessons unless you adapt them to your own environment. Unlike […]


May 22, 2014

The 90-Day Reverse Review

The 90-Day Reverse Review Like a lot of companies, Return Path does a 90-day review on all new employees to make sure they’re performing well, on track, and a good fit.  Sometimes those reviews are one-way from the manager, sometimes they are 360s. But we have also done something for years now called the 90-Day Reverse Review, which is equally valuable.  Around the same 90-day mark, and unrelated to the regular review process, every new employee gets 30 minutes with a member of the Executive Committee (my direct reports, or me if the person is reporting to someone on my […]


April 24, 2014

Breaking New Ground on Transparency

Breaking New Ground on Transparency I’ve written a lot over time about our Live 360 process for senior leaders in the business.  (This post is a good one, and it links to a couple earlier ones that are good, as well.)  We take a lot of pride in feedback and in transparency at Return Path, and after 15 years, even for an innovative business, it’s unusual that we do something big for the first time around people.  But we did today. This image is of something never seen before at our company.  It’s my own handwritten notes about my own […]


March 6, 2014

Open Vacation

At Return Path, we’ve had an “open vacation” policy for years, meaning that we don’t regulate the amount of time off people take, and we don’t accrue for it or pay out “unused” vacation if someone leaves the company.  I get asked about this all the time, so I thought I’d post our policy here and also answer a couple follow-up questions I usually get about it. First, here’s the language of our policy: Paid Time Off You’re encouraged to take as much time off as you can while maintaining high performance and achieving your goals. We don’t count the […]


February 13, 2014

HR/People Lessons from Netflix

It feels as if almost everyone in our industry has read the famous Netflix culture deck on Slideshare, and with over 5mm views, that may not be too far off.  If you haven’t looked at it before, and if you care about your organization’s culture and how productive and happy employees are the best kind of employees, then take the time to flip through it. As part of a benchmarking exercise we did on employers with unique and best HR/People practices a few years ago, a few of us did either site visits or at least live interviews with leaders […]


January 30, 2014

New New Employee Training

Years ago, my co-founder Jack and I developed a training presentation to give to new employees who were not just new to Return Path but also new to the workforce.  This is another one of those things, like my last post on our sabbatical policy, that people ask me for all the time. Bringing new people into the workforce is different from just bringing new people into an organization.  I know I got a huge amount of value in my first job in management consulting from just learning how to go to work every day and how to be successful […]


January 2, 2014

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 […]


December 19, 2013

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 […]