Monday, August 29, 2016

3 Steps to Career Joy (Hint: it’s not $)

I’ve been on a little hiatus as I transitioned from California to Bend, Oregon, leaving behind my frantic pace in the corporate world. What did I learn?

One, my inspiration for writing comes from everyday interactions in business.

Two, there is a difference between career happiness and joy. Just as in life, these two things are profoundly different. Happiness is external. It's based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace.

I wrote about my pit of despair in a three-part series, Purpose: Find Yours. I was happy. I wasn’t full of joy.

I’m now on my journey back into the professional world with a newfound focus – finding career joy. My three guiding principles:

  1. You can have it all, just not at the same time. Wise words from my Mom somewhere along my struggle to balance career and starting a family. Have you ever noticed that when career is going well, home life is struggling or vice versa? Manage this by finding the joy in each of these selves, in that moment. I’ve found being present in the moment is key to finding joy. That looks like turning my phone to vibrate when I am at home. Silent/do not disturb after 9pm. Putting the phone down in conversation. And guess what – that looks the same in my professional interactions – just different hours. HT to Arian Huffington and her 5 Secrets to Thriving at Work and upcoming ThriveGlobal company aiming to change how we work and live.
  2. Do what you love, not for the title. These mentoring words from my CMO as I had just chuntered on for 10 minutes about where I saw my career going in 5 years… only using titles. It was a definitive turning point in my career. From that day I decided to stop worrying about the next promotion and in the words of Seth Godin, “started making a rukus.” The joy of this approach? Promotions are icing on the cake.
  3. No bad outcome. My former CEO told me this after we were acquired. If this sounds familiar, I blogged about this experience in “M&A: Surviving the Arranged Marriage.” How empowering this statement is. A reminder of the fact that joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. With peace comes the realization that there is no bad outcome. My husband likes to refer to this as the “position of FU.” 
Someone I greatly respect once proudly proclaimed to me that their goal over the next five years was to have a net worth of $25M. After an awkward silence I asked, “why?” Money will never equal happiness. Money will never equal success.

My goal is to have a net worth of 25M in joy. I feel like I’m just getting started…

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fear: Driving Corporate Mediocrity

Six years ago I read Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are you Indispensable? It pushed me across the finish line to never say “I can’t” or sit on the sidelines of inaction, imprisoned by a false definition of my work and title. The lizard brain wants you to fear. A linchpin smells fear and runs towards and through it.

In most of the corporate world, fear controls decisions. Coming out of a recent heavy change management leadership role, I thought I’d share my observations on fear driven outcomes and my experiences in how to push teams to bulldoze through the fear to being indispensable.

Two themes: Fear of Change and Fear of Confrontation

1.     Fear of Change: This usually looks like lack of structure. Lack of accountability. Both of which lead to extended and stagnant execution timelines. Culminating in an exit of talent (linchpins!) from the organization and subsequent impact to the health of the business.
a.     What Fear Looks Like: A litany of excuses: “We’ll do this later because… I have performance issues. I have a small team. If I do this, all the work will fall on me and I have no bandwidth. I have a long list of issues to address and need to prioritize other things. Changing things will only add to my list. I trust that people will do the right thing for the company.”
b.     The Fearless Approach: What better way to address performance issues than to move to action, hold people accountable and coach/develop your team? The biggest excuse I hear is, “if they fail, it will impact the business.” BS. If you’re doing your job, you’re setting up teams to win. It’s damn hard work. Regular and frequent 1:1s to identify fires before they happen. Documenting performance issues and having a live conversation for immediate feedback. Why is this so hard for so many organizations? Fear. Fear that one person leaving the organization (regrettable or non-regrettable) will impact the business. If you ever find yourself leading a team where one person is the single point of failure, you know immediately that you have been leading with fear and not addressing an urgent decision that needs to be made across people, process and/or technology. I have never seen one person carry the success of an organization.

I’d like to suggest we ban the word “bandwidth” from corporate America. Bandwidth is the energy or mental capacity required to deal with a situation.
Last time I checked, the only way to ensure your team is being developed and empowered to deliver and grow is to do the work (energy) of showing them what your expectations are (mental capacity) and then inspecting what you expect (situation). Make no mistake – this isn’t diving into every detail. This is being clear on the priorities, the outcome and then empowering the team to get things done. Which leads me to the next fear that collapses organizations…

Lack of accountability. Corporations highly underestimate the value of a clear structure. Structure provides clear accountability by defining roles & responsibilities. With accountability comes action. I’m amazed at how many organizations fight this simple exercise due to perceived disruption. The quickest way to stall M&As or start losing top talent is to put off structure. This includes leveling and scope consistencies. Many HR organizations like to think people don’t compare themselves against their peers. And this is simply ignoring why militaristic, command and control organizations work so well (fire departments, police, and military organizations). Consistency. All levels have transparent and defined roles, responsibilities and scope. Decision makers are clear. People do what’s right for the company when they have clear direction.

Change will shorten the issues list. And more often than not, when an issue is dealt with and removed, the business gets better. You find gems in the company that were otherwise stifled or almost walking out the door.

2.     Fear of Confrontation
a.     What Fear Looks Like: Everyone is cordial in person and back stabbing in the hallways. This is the surest way to let fear rule an organization. This behavior will destroy a culture like a fast moving cancer.
b.     The Fearless Approach: It is imperative that leaders have a no tolerance policy for this kind of behavior. What does that look like? Immediate 1:1 direct feedback on the behavior observed, why it will not be tolerated and the suggested approach going forward. The best leaders do this swiftly. In person 1:1. Immediately after the event. You feel the severity and you don’t do it again. And the great thing is you develop a culture that learns how to confront people in a way that is respectful and drives collaboration and execution across teams and organizations.

In one of my first management jobs I had a tenured direct report 15+ years my senior. I was made aware of several conversations she was having with other direct reports and cross functional partners unhappy with my approach to driving action both in and post meetings. I was seething. And then realized a live conversation was needed immediately. As the new manager, I couldn’t let this fester. I’ll never forget my heart racing as I sat at her desk and made her aware of the feedback I had received. Then the best thing happened – I asked her why she didn’t like what I was doing and what I could do differently. What ensued was a great learning for me. That one question enabled me to build a bridge of trust that still exists with this person today, long after we departed ways to different companies, and she even adopted some of the very practices that she complained about.

Confrontation doesn’t have to be a negative experience if you practice the mantra from Epictetus: We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Organizations that make decisions based on fear lose. Lose talent. Lose revenue. Lose innovation.

To close, I nod to “Star Wars Day – May the 4th be with you,” and my favorite character, Yoda.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Finding Purpose in Bend, Oregon

In December I wrote a three part series about finding your purpose (part 2, part 3). My journey ended with a strong purpose statement and a purpose destination. Bend, Oregon.

I was reminded during my Soul Cycle class this morning about the power of purpose (thanks, Andrew Stinger – you rock!). Not only does Andrew inspire with his story about beating some incredible odds to walk again. He also quit a job at Google to become a Soul Cycle instructor and joined the non-profit organization, watsi, funding healthcare for people around the world. That’s purpose!

The decision to move my family and career to Bend was not simple. I turned down a promotion and am leaving what many refer to as the mecca of career opportunities – the San Francisco Bay Area. Some have looked at me puzzled, asking the question, “What about your career?” My career is just fine. Opportunities on the horizon include: actually taking some months off to transition my family after the move (insert fist pump), starting a consulting gig, working for one of the many Bend startups (creating order out of chaos) or commuting to a new role outside of Bend.

I wrote the below travel guide entry for an upcoming school auction item. The words poured out easily. It was another defining moment that underpinned my purpose. All from the heart. For an area that has driven purpose into my life. Enjoy. See you in Bend…

Destination: Sunriver, Oregon
Name of Family: Newcomer

A little bit of Newcomer history… while Todd and I were dating, we spent quite a few winter moments snuggled up in Sunriver Resort. Todd eventually proposed to me on New Year’s Eve 1999 (millennial!) and we were married at the Great Hall in Sunriver on May 26, 2001. We subsequently have gone back almost twice a year – to celebrate Thanksgiving and to compete in the annual Pacific Crest Sports Festival (Olympic Triathlon is our favorite). Todd and I had always planned to retire in the Bend, Oregon area and decided why wait! We will move our family in July 2016. We will miss the Woodside community. This town welcomed us warmly from the beginning and our girls have flourished at Woodside Elementary. Thank you and come visit us in God’s country!

Age of Children/Recommended Ages: 0 -110

Length of Stay: 5 – 7 days (or move there when you fall in love with the area as we did)

Lodging Recommendations:
  1. Sunriver Resort – three options for all group sizes:
    • Lodge Village – sleeps 2 to 6 people in rustic central Oregon lodge d├ęcor
    • River Lodges – newer and more space to spread out with a deck and views of the Cascade Mountains and the Deschutes River. Todd and I stayed in the suite for our honeymoon.
    • Vacation Rentals – these are beautiful homes for rent that range from cute and cozy to simply luxurious, sleeping from 6 to 14. Todd and I rent a luxury home when we celebrate Thanksgiving every year with our family.
  2. Bennington Properties – the way to stay at Sunriver is to rent a house. Bennington is a pet and family friendly business that has never steered us wrong. They have beautiful homes, most with hot tubs (our favorite must have for winter soaking in the snow) and appropriately stocked kitchens for Thanksgiving cooking (dishes, utensils and double ovens). We have some favorite homes – just ask us.

Restaurant Recommendations:
  1. Blondies Pizza – we have a tradition of getting Blondies Pizza for dinner on the night we arrive. They never disappoint. And don’t forget to grab a large container of their famous garlic powder mix. We know it’s time to go back to Sunriver when this jar is empty…
  2. The Crosswater Grille – This is a great place for a more formal family dinner. The food is fresh Northwest style with seafood and free range animals. Todd and I have had many anniversary dinners here.
  3. Goody’s – This is a family sweet treat. With handmade chocolates, candy, caramel corn and ice cream, a family gathering is not complete without a stop here. There is also an assortment of cute stuffed animals that somehow always make it home with us…
  4. Marcello’s Cucina Italiana – We recently discovered this gem. Great Italian food. Won’t disappoint.
  5. Sunriver Brewing Company – A great place to wind down after a day on the mountain or the sunny trails. Tasty craft beers and a great atmosphere.
  6. Hot Lava Baking & Coffee Co. – Great cup of coffee and the best cinnamon rolls. Also great if you need a special occasion cake or cupcakes.

Local Transportation Recommendations:
We recommend you rent a car. Choose any of the national rental car companies that are at the Redmond/Bend airport or Portland airport (if you want to enjoy an easy and beautiful 3.5 hour drive to Sunriver).

Babysitting/Nanny Options:
We have not used these services, but have heard three great options to include:
  1. Bend Snappy Sitters – great website and recommended by Sunriver resort for wedding guests
  2. Babysitters on Call – Bend, Oregon. Around for over 17 years.
  3. Ft. Funnigan at the Sunriver Resort for day camp activities and supervision for all ages

Positives and Negatives of this vacation:
  • 1 ½ hour direct flight from SFO
  • Year round recreational fun: Summer or Winter
  • More than 40 miles of paved bike and running trails that cross the entire resort – most houses stock bikes to use
  • Four Golf Courses
  • Sharc Aquatic & Recreation center
  • Summer activities for the whole family, any age (see below)
  • Winter fun activities for the whole family, any age (see below)
  • Clean mountain air, including…
  • More than 29 micro-breweries in a 30 mile radius – the Napa Valley of beer
  • Mt. Bachelor ski resort is a short 20 minute drive away (see below for details)
  • No sales tax!
  • You need to rent a car… which you may need to chain up
  • Book early for July/August or you won’t get a good place to stay


Suggested Itinerary for Activities: 
  1. Mt. Bachelor ski resort: Boasting 88 total runs, 3,683 acres of skiable area, a base elevation of 5,700 ft and a top elevation of 9,065, sun and dry powder skiing abound. A new 10-year Master Development Plan was approved by the USFS in 2013. Approved projects include Summer Downhill Mountain Bike Park, Zip Line, eastside quad lift and trails, replacement of Rainbow and Sunrise lifts, new/larger Sunrise Lodge & expanded Sunrise parking, Alpine Race Training Center at West Village and West Village Lodge renovation/expansion. Sunriver has a Mt. Bachelor ski shuttle.
  2. Cross country skiing
  3. Tubing 
  4. Wanderlust Winter Tours: Moonlight snowshoeing is one of our favorites. Serene, beautiful and an insular quiet in the snowy mountain. Wanderlust also has other fun tours to include: Bend Brew Bus, Lava Tube Cave Tours, Deschutes River Canoe Tours and a Coffee Tour.
  5. Central Oregon Adventures Snowmobile Tours
  6. Oregon Trail of Dreams Sled Dog Rides
  7. Sage Springs Club Spa @ Sunriver Resort: I’ve been here for Swedish massages, maternity massages and pedicure treatments. Never disappointing. Always relaxing. I also love the lavender steam room and the hot tub room that mimics the starry Central Oregon sky.
  8. Sharc Aquatic & Recreation Center: Aside from sunbathing and water play activities, SHARC's 22-acres of fun includes a tot pool and sand play area, cafe, picnic area, playground, basketball court, bocce ball court, year-round tubing hill, picnic pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater. We have spent a lot of fun winter days on the tubing hill. The indoor water park area is perfect for little ones to burn off steam. Perfect for all ages.


Suggested Itinerary for Activities: 
  1. Pacific Crest Triathlon & Sports Festival: Pacific Crest is known as the jewel of multisport events in the Northwest and it has become a traditional destination race for athletes from across the nation, as well as from across the globe. Coupled with finishing in a five star destination resort, it is the perfect family vacation destination. Pacific Crest events begin Friday morning, with the competition and fun continuing into Sunday afternoon. The full, fun weekend includes Tour de Crest Bike Tours, Long Course, Olympic & Ultra-Sprint Triathlons, Duathlons & AquaBike, Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, 5k and three kids’ events – truly something for everyone! Todd and I have competed in the Olympic triathlon distance with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training for 3 years.
  2. Whitewater Rafting with Sun Country Tours: Todd and I took our family on a fun trip down the Deschutes River on our honeymoon.
  3. Crater Lake National Park: A two hour, 115 mile drive south is well worth it. The fifth oldest national park in the United States and the only national park in Oregon. The lake is 1,943 feet (592m) deep at its deepest point, which makes it the deepest lake in the United States, the second deepest in North America and the ninth deepest in the world. A natural wonder of the world, Crater Lake has inspired people for thousands of years. No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It is a place of immeasurable beauty, and an outstanding outdoor laboratory and classroom.
  4. Sharc Aquatic & Recreation Center: Aside from sunbathing and water play activities, SHARC's 22-acres of fun includes a tot pool and sand play area, cafe, picnic area, playground, basketball court, bocce ball court, year-round tubing hill, picnic pavilion and an outdoor amphitheater. We have spent a lot of fun summer days in water play and on the tubing hill. Perfect for all ages.
  5. Sunriver Golf: Named one of the top 10 destinations for family golf by Golf digest, January 2016. Four courses – Crosswater, Woodlands, Meadows and Caldera Links.  Caldera Links has golf boards instead of golf carts (all the rage). Each of Sunriver Resort's four golf courses was designed by an acclaimed architect. Crosswater, a recipient of a host of national golf awards, was designed by Bob Cupp. Meadows, one of Oregon's most unique golf courses, was designed by John Fought. Robert Trent Jones Jr. was the mastermind behind The Woodlands, regarded by many as Oregon's finest championship golf course. Caldera Links, another Bob Cupp design, is a family-friendly nine-hole course that makes the game of golf approachable for all skill levels. Graced with carefully preserved wetlands, forested meadows, and sparkling waters, Sunriver Resort offers 63 holes of the best golf in the West.
  6. Wanderlust Summer Tours: Another line up of fun, fun, fun combined with breathtaking views. Choose from Bend Brew Bus, Cascade Lakes canoeing or kayak tours, Deschutes River tours, Moonlight & Starlight canoe tours, Lava Tube Cave Tours, Volcano tours and Coffee Tours.
  7. Cog Wild Mountain Bike Tours: Half day, one day and up to 6 day tours. Enough said!
  8. Sunriver Resort Tennis
  9. Sunriver Resort Ropes Course: A half day challenge.
  10. Sunriver Stables: Trail rides, pony rides and horseback riding.
  11. Sunriver Resort Marina: floats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards.
  12. The Cove at Sunriver Resort: the brand-new pool complex for lodge guests. At The Cove you will find a giant zero-entry pool and hot tub, private cabanas, a waterslide, nature discovery area, lakeside trails and a spacious deck and lawn.
  13. Nature Center and Oregon Observatory: The Sunriver Nature Center & Oregon Observatory offer education and insight into the world that surrounds the Sunriver Area. Visitors can learn about native plants and animal species through educational programs and interpretive exhibits. 
  14. Fly Fishing
  15. Rock Climbing: guided rock climbing trips to Smith Rock State Park.
  16. Mt. Bachelor Disc Golf: Mt. Bachelor's Disc Golf course is a PDGA listed course. Ride the Pine Marten chair up to hole #1 and work your way down the mountain to the final hole #18. Elevation and the varied terrain add extra elements to your game!
  17. Sage Springs Club Spa @ Sunriver Resort: I’ve been here for Swedish massages, maternity massages and pedicure treatments. Never disappointing. Always relaxing. I also love the lavender steam room and the hot tub room that mimics the starry Central Oregon sky.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why Micromanage Is Not a Bad Word

I don’t typically like business books. Primarily because they talk about what worked but not what didn’t work. When you screw up, you learn. Ben Horowitz gives us the brutally honest truth. He unpacks lessons learned after screwing up in one of the best business books I’ve read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

My last blog, The Hard Thing, focused on my five favorite themes from the book. Hat tip to Ben, I wanted to bring to life my own personal screw ups and subsequent applications to those five themes.

The best of Ben in the eyes of Tia:
  1. There is no secret to being a successful CEO (or any other executive position). However, one skill is critical: focus and make the best move when there are no good moves. Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do.
    • Tia’s application: I have found the only way to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves is centered around three things:
      • Ask questions. How simple, yet for many, so difficult. At HP I learned MBWA (management by walking around), a skill set that defined the HP culture. The principle: get out of your cube/office and sit with individuals that don’t report to you, have a conversation and...
      • Listen. Don’t give direction. That is your management team’s job. Listen and ask more questions. What you learn will enable you to pull themes (strengths, opportunities and all out fires) for you to address with your leadership team.
      • Decide with command and control. This next step makes or breaks organizations. You are the leader. Make a decision. So many leaders are afraid to take command and control. If you accomplish steps one and two, command and control is not a threat. It is welcomed and develops a strong culture and loyal team.
  2. Take care of the People, the Products and the Profits – in that order. Things always go wrong and the only thing that keeps an employee at a company? She likes her job.
    • Tia’s application: There are six fundamental needs that people have in common, and all behavior is simply an attempt to meet those six needs. The secret to taking care of people is to know which need they prioritize and coach and develop to that need (which can, and will, change).
      • Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
      • Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
      • Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
      • Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
      • Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
      • Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

        I had two strong direct reports. One was motivated by title and pay (Significance), the other by span of control and influence (Growth). When I restructured the team roles & responsibilities, I had to address each of these in a different way while doing what was right for the company. Not always easy.
  3. Hire for the role you need now. Not the one for tomorrow.
    • Tia’s application: Under the pressure of building a team and delivering results quickly, I hastily hired a network friend. The issue was twofold. First, I never directly managed this person and overestimated the contribution to my past team’s success. Second, I ignored my instinct that was telling me it was not a good fit for the task at hand. I ignored both of these issues, hired the network friend and fired that person 6 months later. I learned a hard lesson comprised of three things:
      • Take time to hire the right person for the right job. That bad hire cost me almost a year of forward progression. I was lucky my CEO was humble enough to admit he had made the same mistake. Once. Thanked me for moving quickly. And said, ‘don’t do it again.’
      • Your team is watching. As a leader, your credibility rests on the new hires you bring into the organization. I lost credibility with my new team and peers. I only salvaged it because I admitted my mistake and quickly moved to moving the person out of the organization.
      • Trust your instinct. Your gut is 99% right.
  4. Training is the most important investment for employee retention and scaling a business successfully.
    • Tia’s application: How do you address productivity, performance management, product quality and employee retention? One word, onboarding plan. Never underestimate the power of this document that should take you ~4 hours to complete. Well worth the upfront investment and will deliver 100 times return when you have a fully operational new hire in 90 days or less. 
      When I came to CBR 3 years ago, CEO
      Geoff Crouse gave me a 5 page onboarding document. That document led me to be productive and operating at full capacity in less than 45 days. 
      Since that experience, I have expanded the onboarding tool to include the following eight critical sections:
      • Organizational Background: The hiring manager should be able to articulate, in detail, the state of the organization, personnel strengths & opportunities, the business strategy and execution priorities.
      • Priorities: This is a critical section that will directly apply to performance management. Simply put, if you don’t know what success looks like, you can’t deliver it. I use this section to detail the 3 to 5 critical execution priorities I will hold the new hire accountable for. 100% of the time these priorities have become how I measure performance of a new hire in weekly 1:1s, mid-year and annual reviews.
      • Goals & Objectives: This is defining what success looks for the priorities you just detailed. Measurable and time bound.
      • Onboarding Objectives: In the first 30/60/90 days, what are the objectives you want your new hire to focus on? This is your opportunity to ensure your new hire contributes and establishes credibility immediately. Everyone is watching. It’s on you to make sure the company sees why you selected this candidate.
      • Materials: Define and give access (I like google docs) to the most critical background documents you need this new hire to read and absorb. This is the best time to load people with reading materials. They are excited and have no baggage. This portion will be critical when you start your daily onboarding 1:1s (see bullet vii, 1 below). This material gives your new hire the ammunition to ask you good questions.
      • Overall Approach to Onboarding: This section sets the tone for the first 30 days. It’s the compass for the new hire and outlines expectations for the first 30 days. From my experience, this is a lot better than showing up for the first day of work with the dreaded “meet with HR and set up your computer/desk area.” Your job is to set the productivity and accountability tone from day one.
      • 1:1 Meeting Schedule:  An outline of critical topics to discuss with identified cross-functional leaders and peers plus direct reports. These meetings are scheduled by the new hire. Again, your job is to give this new hire an opportunity to build instant rapport and credibility. No better way to do this than to get them asking questions 1:1.
        • One of the most critical meetings to set up your new hire for success is 30 days of daily 1:1s with you, their direct manager. Yes, 20 days of daily 1:1s. The first 30/60/90 days is the most valuable time for any new hire (including you!). You have no baggage. You are full of new ideas. Desire and intent are high.
          If you follow this onboarding plan detail, your new hire will be drinking from a fire hose. Giving them the daily opportunity to ask questions and privately share observations will lead to quick productivity. In my experience, the first two weeks are spent primarily answering questions. The last two weeks are listening to your new hire structure a plan forward based on initial observations. Baggage free. This also give you an opportunity to identify issues with the new hire quickly so you can coach or move to separation quickly.
      • Recurring Meetings: An outline of weekly recurring meetings that you expect the new hire to attend and contribute. Including the objective is imperative. This gives your new hire instant accountability and line of site to where he/she will make contributions.
  5. Ask questions. Lots of them.
    • Tia’s application: If you’re not asking questions, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you aren’t addressing issues and opportunities in your organization. 
      Early in my career, I lost the discipline of regular 1:1s with my team. The outcome? I spent more time chasing down answers and putting out fires. I also did a disservice to my team as I wasn’t developing them professionally. 1:1s are the easiest tool to develop teams. Don’t underestimate the power of these weekly, sometimes daily (yes, daily 1:1s are achievable and valuable!) opportunities to ask questions, listen and guide your team.
In closing, I have a pet peeve/red flag when interviewing candidates for roles on my team. When I ask how you manage a team and the answer is, “I don’t like to micromanage.” My response? Why not?

Two synonyms of ‘micromanage’ is intervene (synonym: mediate/arbitrate) and control (synonym: regulator/governor). It’s your business. You better be intervening and controlling.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Hard Thing

I just finished one of the best business books I’ve read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. A brutally honest, laugh out loud, quick witted and easy read about what to do after you’ve screwed up.

Ben is a successful startup CEO as measured by the sale of his company, Opsware, to HP in July 2007. Yes, a Cinderella story. But what Ben brings to life is the battle scars and wounds that he earned when his company was worth less than a $1/share. He clawed his way to that $1.6B deal.

While I’ve never founded a company or been a CEO, Ben’s points in the book are for leaders with an entrepreneurial style. Leader’s that want to scale a business. Leader’s with a tough skin. Leader’s that stand firm when everyone else is running away.

My next blog series will focus on my five favorite tips and tricks from Ben’s book with my own spin. I’ll bring to life personal learnings and approaches that have worked for me.

The best of Ben in the eyes of Tia:
  1. There is no secret to being a successful CEO (or any other executive position). However, one skill is critical: focus and make the best move when there are no good moves. Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do.
  2. Take care of the People, the Products and the Profits – in that order. Things always go wrong and the only thing that keeps an employee at a company? She likes her job.
  3. Hire for the role you need now. Not the one for tomorrow.
  4. Training is the most important investment for employee retention and scaling a business successfully. It takes work. A lot of work. From CEO to line managers. Enforcement is as simple as withholding requisitions and teaching the management expectations course yourself (tops down). That investment will pay off in dividends in four critical ROI areas:
    •  Productivity – a simple equation of training efforts in hours (time in) compared to the number of employees trained x hours worked x 1% improvement. Hint: it’s a big number.
    • Performance Management – No training? No basis for performance management.
    • Product Quality – No rigor in training leads to inconsistencies in product. A lot more expensive than upfront training.
    •  Employee Retention – Solid training of employees mitigates and addresses head-on the top two reasons why people leave companies:
      • They hated their manager: appalled by lack of guidance, career development and feedback
      • They weren’t learning anything. Employees need to develop new skills.
  5. Ask questions. Lots of them. Some of my favorites:
    • What are we not doing that we should be doing? Because sometimes those are exactly the things to be focused on…
    •  If we could improve in any way, how would we do it?
    •  What’s the number-one problem with our organization? Why?
    • What’s not fun about working here?
    •  Who is really kicking ass in the company? Who do you admire?
    •  If you were me, what changes would you make
    • What don’t you like about the product?
    • What’s the biggest opportunity that we’re missing out on?
    •  Are you happy working here?

 I look forward to expanding on each of these over the next 5 blog posts.