January 7, 2016

The Illusion and (Mis)uses of Certainty

September’s Harvard Business Review had a really thought-provoking article for me called How Certainty Transforms Persuasion.  Seth Godin wrote a blog post around the same time called The Illusion of Control.  The two together make for an interesting think about using information to shape behavior as leaders.  I’ve often been accused of delivering too many mixed messages to the company at all-hands meetings, so I enjoyed the think, though not in the way I expected to. Let’s start with Seth’s thesis, which is easier to get through.  Essentially he says that nothing is certain, at best we can influence events, we’re never actually in control of situations…but that we think we are: When the illusion of control collides with the reality of influence, it highlights the fable the entire illusion is based on…You’re responsible for what you do, but you don’t have authority and control over the outcome. We can hide from that, or we can embrace it. Moving onto the much longer HBR article, the key thesis there is that certainty shapes our behavior, as the more certain we are of a belief (whether it’s correct or incorrect), the more it influences us: In short, certainty is the catalyst that turns attitudes into action, […]


August 27, 2015

The Joy of Coaching

I was the head coach of my two older kids’ little league team this past spring.  The whole thing was a little bit of an accident – I vaguely volunteered for something and ended up in charge.  The commitment was a little daunting, but I was ok with it since the season was only a couple months long, it was both Casey and Wilson, and both kids, especially Wilson, are really into baseball.  Other than helping out a bit here and there, I’d never coached a sports team before. What started off as an unclear assignment ended up as one […]


June 25, 2015

The Difference Between Culture and Values

The Difference Between Culture and Values This topic has been bugging me for a while, so I am going to use the writing of this post as a means of working through it. We have a great set of core values here at Return Path. And we also have a great corporate culture, as evidenced by our winning multiple employer of choice awards, including being Fortune Magazine’s #2 best medium-sized workplace in America. But the two things are different, and they’re often confused. I hear statements all the time, both here and at other companies, like “you can’t do that […]


December 18, 2014

Typing as Core Competency

Typing as Core Competency We just had our annual typing tournament in the Return Path New York office, and it got me thinking on this topic.  Fits, hats off to my colleague Rosemary Girouard for her smashing victory this year, even with an injury, and to fellow finalists Caroline Pearl and Nicole Niemiec for excellent showings. So this is going to sound silly, but I’m increasingly thinking that typing speed is a core competency for many jobs.  With special thanks to my 8th grade typing teacher, Mrs. Van Vranken, my typing training on an old-school typewriter has paid off.  I type 100 […]


November 26, 2014

Autocorrect for life

Autocorrect for life I used to joke that life should have an undo button, the ultimate Control-Z for when something goes wrong. But lately, I’ve been more of the mind that life should work like an Apple device with a good Autocorrect function. Why just undo things when they can be fixed in the blink of an eye, before anyone even knows they went wrong? Press reply-all when you are bcc’d on an email because you forgot to look at the header closely enough?  No problem, Autocorrect for Life(AFL) will change it to a simple reply. Fender bender while parallel […]


May 13, 2013

Book Short: Getting to MVP

Book Short:  Getting to MVP Usually, when we hear the term MVP, we think Most Valuable Player.  But in my line of work, that acronym has come to mean something entirely different:  Minimum Viable Product.  Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, by Ash Maurya, is an incredibly useful, practical how-to guide for any entrepreneur with an idea from concept through to MVP, or the smallest bit of functionality that you can get customers to pay for. This is one of the best books I’ve read that encapsulates most of the contemporary thinking and writing about […]


January 31, 2013

A Little Quieter Than Usual, For Now

A Little Quieter Than Usual, For Now As many of you know, I’m writing a book called Startup CEO:  a Field Guide to Building and Running Your Company, which is due to the publisher in a few weeks.  I’d originally thought the book would be an easy project since the idea was to “turn my blog into a book.”  But then it turned out that for the book I wanted to write, I’d only written about 1/3 of the content on the blog already! So the past few weeks I’ve been writing my brains out.  I now have a nearly […]


January 17, 2013

How to Wow Your Employees

How to Wow Your Employees Here at Return Path we like to promote a culture of WOW and a culture of hospitality.  Some of you may be asking, Why Wow your employees?   The answer is, there is nothing more inspirational than showing an employee that you care about him or her as an individual.  The impact a WOW has is tremendous.  Being a manger is like being in a fishbowl.  Everything you do is scrutinized by your team.  You lead by example whether you want to or not and showing your own vulnerability/humanity has an amazing bonding effect. Why do you want […]


October 4, 2012

Scaling Horizontally

Scaling Horizontally Other CEOs ask me from time to time how we develop people at Return Path, how we scale our organization, how we make sure that we aren’t just hiring in new senior people as we grow larger.  And there are good answers to those questions – some of which I’ve written about before, some of which I’ll do in the future. But one thing that occurred to me in a conversation with another CEO recently was that, equally important to the task of helping people scale by promoting them whenever possible is the task of recognizing when that […]


September 6, 2012

The Best Place to Work, Part 7: Create a Thankful Atmosphere

The Best Place to Work, Part 7: Create a Thankful Atmosphere My final installment of this long series on Creating the best place to work (no hierarchy intended by the order) is about Creating a thankful atmosphere. What does creating a thankful atmosphere get you?  It gets you great work, in the form of people doing their all to get the job done.  We humans – all of us, absolutely including CEOs – appreciate being recognized when they do good work.  Honestly, I love what I do and would do it without any feedback, but nothing resonates with me more than […]


March 8, 2012

People Should Come with an Instruction Manual

People Should Come with an Instruction Manual Almost any time we humans buy or rent a big-ticket item, the item comes with an instruction manual.  Why are people any different? No one is perfect.  We all have faults and issues.  We all have personal and professional development plans.  And most of those things are LONG-TERM and surface in one form or another in every single performance review or 360 we receive over the years.  So shouldn’t we, when we enter into a long-term personal or professional employment relationship, just present our development plans as instruction manuals on how to best […]