May 30, 2013

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 […]


November 29, 2012

The Value of Paying Down Technical Debt

The Value of Paying Down Technical Debt Our Engineering team has a great term called Technical Debt, which is the accumulation of coding shortcuts and operational inefficiencies over the years in the name of getting product out the door faster that weighs on the company’s code base like debt weighs on a balance sheet.  Like debt, it’s there, you can live with it, but it is a drag on the health of the technology organization and has hard servicing costs.  It’s never fun to pay down technical debt, which takes time away from developing new products and new features and […]


August 9, 2012

The Best Place to Work, Part 3: Manage yourself very, very well

Part of creating the best place to work  is learning how to self manage – very, very well.  This is an essential part of Creating an environment of trust , but only one part.  What does self-management mean?  First, and most important, it means realizing that you are in a fishbowl.  You are always on display.  You are a role model in everything you do, from how you dress, to how you talk on the phone, to the way you treat others, to when you show up to work.  But what are some specifics to think about while you swim […]


May 3, 2012

Skip-Level Meetings

I was talking to a CEO the other day who believed it was “wrong” (literally, his word) to meet directly 1:1 with people in the organization who did not report to him.  I’ve heard from other CEOs in the past that they’re casual or informal or sporadic about this practice, but I’ve never heard someone articulate before that they actively stayed away from it.  The CEO in question’s feeling was that these meetings, which I call Skip-Level Meetings, disempowers managers. I couldn’t disagree more.  I have found Skip-Level Meetings to be an indispensable part of my management and leadership routine […]


January 24, 2012

Is It Normal?

A friend who is a newly promoted CEO just wrote me and asked me this: I’m having a sort of guilt complex.  Let me explain. I’ve set up a bunch of positions, which people are grooving into.  We just completed our budget for our new fiscal year, probably faster and easier than ever before.  Sales are going really, really well. BUT, despite all of this, I feel more relaxed than I have in years.  And I am struggling with that. I’m relaxed because we seem out in front of stuff, I’ve reduced my span of control from a dozen direct […]


March 17, 2011

Connecting with Other CEOs

Connecting with Other CEOs CEOs get introduced to each other regularly.  Sometimes it’s through VCs or other investors, sometimes it’s through other CEOs, sometimes it’s because the two companies are already partners.  I try hard to meet personally or at least on the phone with other CEOs every time I get a chance, sometimes because there’s business to be done between Return Path and the other company; but always because I come away from every interaction I have with another CEO with some learnings to apply to myself and the company. I have noticed two unrelated things over the years […]


September 6, 2010

What Does a CEO Do, Anyway?

What Does a CEO Do, Anyway? Fred has a great post up last week in his MBA Mondays series caled “What a CEO Does.”  His three things (worth reading his whole post anyway) are set vision/strategy and communicate broadly, recruit/hire/retain top talent, and make sure there’s enough cash in the bank. It’s great advice.  These three are core job responsibilities of any CEO, probably of any company, any size.  I’d like to build on that premise by adding two other dimensions to the list.  Fred was kind enough to offer me a “guest blogger” spot, so this post also appears […]


August 26, 2010

Style, or Substance?

Style, or Substance? I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend who sits on a couple of Boards, as do I (besides Return Path’s).  We ended up in a conversation about some challenges one of his Boards is having with their CEO, and the question to some extent boiled down to this:  a Board is responsible for hiring/firing the CEO and for being the guardians of shareholder value, but what does a Board do when it doesn’t like the CEO’s style? There are lots of different kinds of CEOs and corporate cultures.  Some are command-and-control, others are […]