September 21, 2017

Book Shorts: Summer Reading

I read a ton of books.  I usually blog about business books, at least the good ones.  I almost never blog about fiction or non-business/non-fiction books, but I had a good “what did you read this summer” conversation the other night with my CEO Forum, so I thought I’d post super quick snippets about my summer reading list, none of which was business-related. If you have kids, don’t read Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy unless you’re prepared to cry or at least be choked up.  A lot.  It is a tough story to read, even if you already know the story.  But it does have a number of VERY good themes and thoughts about what creates resilience (spoiler alert – my favorite key to resilience is having hope) that are wonderful for personal as well as professional lives. Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters, is a member of a genre I love – alternative historical fiction.  This book is set in contemporary America – except that its version of America never had a Civil War and therefore still has four slave states.  It’s a solid caper in its own right, but it’s a chillingly […]


August 10, 2017

The Value and Limitations of Pattern Recognition

My father-in-law, who is a doctor by training but now a health care executive, was recently talking about an unusual medical condition that someone in the family was fighting.  He had a wonderful expression he said docs use from time to time: When you hear hoof beats, it’s probably horses. But you never know when it might be a zebra. With experience (and presumably some mental wiring) comes the ability to recognize patterns.  It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen, no matter how smart you are, without the passage of time and seeing different scenarios play out in the […]


July 27, 2017

Normal People, Doing Wonderful Things

  All three of our kids were at sleep-away camp for the past month, which was a first for us.  A great, but weird, first!  Our time “off” was bracketed by the absolutely amazing story of Come From Away.  One of the first nights after the kids left, we saw the show on Broadway (Broadway show web site here, Wikipedia entry about the musical and story synopsis here).  Then the last night before they came home, we saw Tom Brokaw’s ~45 minute documentary, entitled Operation Yellow Ribbon, which you can get to here or below. Come From Away is an amazing […]


July 13, 2017

The Gift of Feedback, Part V

I’ve posted a lot over the years about feedback in all forms, but in particular how much I benefit from my 360 reviews and any form of “upward” feedback.  I’ve also posted about running a 360 process for/with your Board, modeled on Bill Campbell’s formula from Intuit. I have a lot of institutional investors in our cap table at Return Path.  I was struck this week by two emails that landed in my inbox literally adjacent to each other.  One was from one of our institutional investors, sharing guidelines and timetables for doing CEO reviews across its portfolio.  The other […]


June 15, 2017

Don’t Confuse Sucking Down with Servant Leadership

I love the concept of Servant Leadership.  From the source, the definition is: While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said: “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to […]


June 1, 2017

Company of Origin

Most psychologists, and lots of executive coaches, end up talking to their clients about their “Family of Origin” as a means of more deeply understanding the origins of their clients’ motivations, fears, hopes, and dreams.  Presumably they do this in service of helping their clients gain self-awareness around those things to be more effective in their personal or professional lives. A smattering of highly-ranked search results on the term yields snippets like these for its definition: One’s family of origin—the family one grew up in, as opposed to the people one currently lives with—is the place that people typically learn […]


May 4, 2017

Why Our Executive Team Does Daily Standup Meetings

Another CEO with whom I trade notes on the craft of running a company asked me this question the other day, and I thought the answer would make a for a good blog post.  Any product team (or other kind of team) who has Agile practices, does some kind of a Daily Standup (DSU) meeting in which each team member reviews progress against goals for a given period and highlights issues where he or she is blocked and needs help.  I wrote about Return Path‘s journey to implement Agile across the whole company last year here. My meeting routines have been […]


March 2, 2017

Stamina

Stamina A couple years ago I had breakfast with Nick Mehta, my friend who runs the incredibly exciting Gainsight.  I think at the time I had been running Return Path for 15 years, and he was probably 5 years into his journey.  He said he wanted to run his company forever, and he asked me how I had developed the stamina to keep running Return Path as long as I had.  My off the cuff answer had three points, although writing them down afterwards yielded a couple more.  For entrepreneurs who love what they do, love running and building companies […]


January 19, 2017

Reboot – Founders’ Dinner

Brad wrote a fun post a couple years ago about rituals, including one about The Annual Dinner that he and Amy, Fred and Joanne Wilson, and Mariquita and I have been having not quite annually for almost 15 years now.  His most poignant comment (other than that apparently he and I are both getting larger and greyer in sync with each other) is about the power of marking the passage of time together with the same group of people.  We have a similar tradition at Return Path that’s worth noting in the context of my reboot program since it happened a […]


March 3, 2016

Agile Everywhere

I’ve written a bunch on this blog and in Startup CEO, about Agile Development and the Lean Canvas and Lean Startups in general (see a really old post on Agile Development from 10 years ago when we first adopted it here, and one on Agile Marketing here).  The basic premise of all of this is that there is an old way to build software products and businesses, and a new lighter way loosely based on Toyota’s lean manufacturing principles.  The old way is HEAVY — you spec out a product and build it and hope you got it right; you write […]


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 […]