Friday, June 14, 2013
Published on the Huffington Post earlier today
A year ago I wrote
about the economy's gradual turn out of a recession, and the pressure
that the recovery put on sales teams to understand not just their
customers -- but their customers' customers. Fortunately, the economic
recovery has continued and many sales teams within our economy's biggest
companies still find themselves in a position of being understaffed,
under competitive pressure and struggling to make the kind of
methodology transformation in their customer interactions necessary to
achieve their urgent sales productivity goals.
The reason for this is because the kind of customer focus that comes from understanding your customer's customer is only part of the equation. Companies also have to ensure that their sales teams are equipped with the skills to put this knowledge into action and this need is being answered by a new boom-time in sales methodology consulting from creatively named systems such as the Corporate Executive Board's 'The Challenger Sale', The TAS Group's 'Target Account Selling', Miller Heiman's "Strategic Selling", etc.
What these and similar frameworks have in common is the expectation that salespeople will perform to a higher standard of insight and analysis. Specifically, these modern approaches all require that salespeople will educate themselves and get to know their customers extremely well.
Pre-recession, the assumption was that salespeople could do well enough by building relationships, recognizing opportunities as they presented themselves and pushing hard to close deals through enthusiasm and perseverance.
But what all these sales methodologies teach us is that a salesperson's responsibility extends to understanding her customers' business well enough to be able to challenge that customer's assumptions about his own (internal) operations and (external) markets. As a CEB study found, in today's hypercompetitive market it turns out that the salesperson that usually wins is not the one with the best customer relationship, but the one who can teach the customer something that he didn't already know about his market, opportunities or risks. The winning sales rep needs to know enough about the customer's customer to i) suggest a prescription for action, ii) describe the risks of inaction, and iii) so reflect the urgency of acting sooner rather than later.
While today's salesperson doesn't actually need to drive the customer's ship, she needs to be ready to provide some pretty enlightened navigation. This requires an in-depth knowledge of not one, not two, but three steps of the value chain: her own portfolio of products and services, her customer's solution, and her customer's customers' businesses and growth opportunities.
The insight gap is challenging many sales teams today but strong enterprise sales leaders are investing in the knowledge and systems for their sales teams to bridge the gap.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Having crossed the country every week for many weeks now I'm reminded of the KPIs of the road warrior...
You can sleep anywhere and everywhere. On a plane, sitting on the floor by the airline gate, sitting upright in a hotel lobby.
You know which seats don't recline on each flight - without having to check the UA web site.
You know the wine menu at the United Club by heart. And then the bartender at the Chicago United Club greets you by name (yikes).
You've see OZ the Great and Powerful, without sound on a small screen above your head, 6 times in 2 weeks.
You can pack for a week in the smallest size of case Tumi makes.
You can run a conference call, on GoToMeeting, from a restaurant, with your cellphone and iPad and order food, eat and make a material financial decision - all in 30 minutes.
You can make even the reddest eyes look good with Visine.
Real food is a rarity - and a treat when you get it. Oatmeal is the breakfast staple because you know you can eat it fast.
Diet Coke. Say again. Diet Coke.
Your own bed is the sweetest, softest place you've ever been in when you finally fall into it!
But what are YOUR KPIs? Add a comment on how you know you're a Road Warrior!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Like most Silicon Valley technology companies, we hire interns at FirstRain. Sometimes they are active graduate students looking for work experience and interesting problems to solve while finishing their doctorate, sometimes they are in the final few months of a bachelors and want to try on a job to see if they enjoy it, and sometimes they are full time students working for the Summer. In all cases having them in our company is a huge win for us. So far every one has been an energy source, working hard and doing good work while allowing us to foster potential future employees (we like to hire our interns if they're good).
But it's important that being an intern is good for the intern, not just for FirstRain. I've got young friends who interned for free (at other companies, not FirstRain!) - long hours where they felt taken advantage of and that doesn't seem fair. So here's my (somewhat tongue in cheek) list of the top Dos and Don'ts for employing interns...
Do - hire the very smart ones and load them up with work. It's a win-win. You get a lot of great work done at reasonable cost, they get to experience that incredible satisfaction of conquering a mountain of work. Yes conquering the mountain is fun in the end, trust me.
Don't - take them out drinking and flirt with them. A challenge for some of you I know, but a friend of mine did that and even though he thought it was harmless she complained and his career with his company went sideways for 2 years.
Do - give them a plan for the time they are interning with you. What you expect them to learn, why, what you hope they'll be able to do with it afterwards. This is motivating and gives the work a purpose.
Don't - sit them all together and just expect them to work it out. One of the things you want them to learn is how to be productive and professional in an office. That means teaming them up with one of your professionals who'll be there to mentor them.
Do - make the work you have them doing interesting and relevant to their ambitions. A brilliant PhD student in big data analytics - give her your hardest problem and watch her impress you; a creative and smart new graduate in marketing and design - show him your visual brand and all the things you don't like about it and support him as he tells you all the ways he'll bury your ideas with his own.
Don't - expect them to read your mind. If you're not getting what you want go and talk to them. Could be they are intimidated by you (always hard for me to imagine but I guess the title VP or CEO can be a barrier) and you need to help them get what they need to complete the task you've set them.
Do - stretch them. Let them try things they've never tried before. For example Facebook is running a summer intern program this year for non computer science students, teaching them how to code. They're expanding their potential labor pool and introducing a bunch of structured thinkers to a whole new career. A great idea.
Don't - treat them differently. They are with you because they want experience. Give them experience. Include them in company all hands, let them shadow you in meetings, treat them like employees so they know what it's like.
Do - feed them. We call it the FirstRain 15. Hey, interns should be able to eat too much great food every day and gain weight too.
Don't - let them hug you at work when they're happy. It sets the wrong impression. Even if one of the interns is your kid. Seriously.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
It's 107 days since my mother died and I think of her continuously. But the pain is easing to a dull ache in my chest and I can look at pictures of her and smile, and I have to believe it will get easier from here. I find myself thinking of the strangest memories, mostly good, some bad where I feel guilty for being self-absorbed, but most of all I keep remembering her courage.
I spoke about her courage in the eulogy I gave in the church for her memorial service. My sister Sue and I stayed humorous and positive in our eulogies so I couldn't speak much about her unfathomable courage in the face of cancer as it ravaged her. Every time I want to complain about an ache, or a pain, or an inconvenience now I try to stop myself and think of her last few months which she braved never saying one word of complaint. Talk about a role model.
For my friends who see this who knew her - here's my eulogy to her. The bravest person I have ever known, throughout her whole life.
"Mummy was the quintessential lady. Polite, charming, perfect manners, able to make engaging conversation with anyone and put them at ease. A well-trained diplomat’s daughter and the English gentlewoman many of you described in your lovely letters – we want to thank you for those.
But she was not only a lady. Underneath she was a pioneer, she had a great sense of humor, she grasped life with both hands and she was extraordinarily brave.
When Mummy went up to Oxford she was only the second woman to ever read engineering at the University. She was good at maths and when she graduated she took a job as an engineer with Marconi where of course she met Daddy. We have a picture of her, terribly young and pretty, in a smart 1950s summer dress, in the days before safety glasses – running a lathe.
She went off to America with my father where they both had engineering jobs, but when my sister was born she stopped work and, with my father working hard and traveling a lot, she raised us both thousands of miles from family and with no help -- a true daughter of the Raj. But when my parents went back to England she went back to work part time and then, when we were old enough to leave alone in our holidays she went back to work full force in London – as a technical consultant with Logica, traveling for her job and leading teams. She could have stayed home and taken care of Daddy – sometimes I think he wished she did – but she had a brain and wanted to use it. She was a quiet pioneer, never one to blow her own horn, but a pioneer nonetheless and her determination to work, and raise us to be career girls, made a deep impression on us both.
Mummy had a lovely sense of humor – the twinkling, mischievous kind and a beautiful smile to go with it. When my parents came back from California in 1965 Daddy had a good job with a company car, but the purchase of a second car for Mummy had to be economical. They bought a Morris Minor which my mother lovingly called Galloping Gurty. Why you may ask? Well this was an exciting car to drive in as a kid. You could see the road through a hole in the floor, the gear box was broken so the gear stick was held in place by a rubber band and the car would lurch marvelously. She made it fun for us – and it was even more romantic when a fly took up residence in the car and she named him Romeo because he must be in love with her. As a 6 year there was nothing odd at all about a fly being in love with my mother because everyone else was in love with her too.
She used her sense of humor to make a deep impression on her two American grandchildren … and their table manners. Exasperated with her 8 year old grandson’s manners one day she asked him what he would do if the Queen came to dinner (because being Mummy she had of course had dinner with the Queen). Sebastian replied that he would have perfect table manners but he wanted something in return and a deal was struck. The Queen (Granny) came to dinner one evening and the children pulled off immaculate table manners. And so, a week later, Granny fulfilled her side of the bargain and came to a Medieval dinner, sharing haunches of roast meats and bread with nothing but a sharp knife and her hands. She made her point but with a smile.
And, without question my mother was the bravest person I have ever known. Sue has already described for you our parent’s love of travel. But until recently they had missed a spot. When Mummy first got cancer she told me she wanted to see Pompeii before she died. So a year ago the three of us, Daddy, Mummy and me went to Italy for an idyllic week where I was reminded of her incredible, quiet bravery. We had not realized the physical challenge that 18 inch high Roman basalt pavements would present. It turns out you can’t see Pompeii and Herculaneum without navigating an obstacle course. But she was quite determined and with my father on one side, and our handsome Italian guide on the other, murmuring “piano, piano”, she spent the whole day going up and down steps -- loving it and never complaining, even though I could see ever single step was hard and tiring and scary for her.
Many of you talked in your letters about her bravery facing cancer. The treatments, and the progression of her disease in the last 4 months, caused her significant pain and illness. And yet she never, ever complained. Stoic does not even begin to describe how she dealt with being ill.
Pioneering, humorous and brave.
But most of all she really lived. She lived life to the full and never more so than in her lifelong love affair with our father Frank. Mummy fell in love with a man from a different background, with no money, who was handsome and kind and who her parents definitely did not approve of. He helped her see that she could live a different life, away from her mother and stifling expectations -- and she married him in 1957 and never looked back.
They went to America and had a terrific time as young parents in California, living a dream life for 8 years. They made happy homes with absolutely lovely gardens. They raised two girls, they accepted and became good friends with two foreign son-in-laws, and then helped us raise four outspoken, strong willed, smart grandchildren together who they adored. They worked to make ends meet at the beginning, and enjoyed their retirement together right to the end. We used to joke that even though we were all working we had to move our schedules around to see them once they retired because they were so busy!
Throughout their marriage we were never in any doubt of Mummy’s love for and loyalty to Daddy, even when he was driving us kids crazy. She loved him completely for 55 years, he adored her, and they were very good friends.
Were Mummy here she would tell us all she had a marvelous life, with very few regrets, and that we need to have a stiff upper lip and remember that. She had a tone of voice for the three of us, Daddy, Sue and me, which she didn’t use very often that we knew meant business and so Mummy, we’re going to do as you would tell us to now and celebrate your marvelous life."
Friday, April 26, 2013
One of the most enjoyable things about working at FirstRain is that we spend time every day with Fortune 500
sales and marketing leaders discussing about their challenges,
their objectives and how they’re trying to move the revenue needle for
their companies. And one thing we’ve heard consistently when talking to
these folks is the urgent need they have to increase the productivity of their teams.
As we exit the Great Recession, many companies are facing pitched
competitive battles while having significantly reduced teams—which puts
the onus on a company’s sales and marketing operations or enablement
teams to help every rep be as productive as possible!
This drive to provide increasingly powerful solutions to the sales team to raise their revenue productivity is what’s behind our latest release, just announced today (see it here on WSJ.com): an expanded set of analytics actions for Salesforce.com. With this new release, FirstRain users who are accessing FirstRain integrated into their Salesforce.com CRM instance can now:
- Advance their sales cycles more quickly by instantly assigning critical FirstRain intelligence into an actionable salesforce.com Task for themselves or their team.
- Easily inject useful context and intelligence into any account view by enriching emerging account developments using account Notes.
- Improve collaboration by instantly sharing impactful developments with their team and colleagues via Chatter or email.
The means we're making it easy for sales people to instantly convert useful
customer analytics into the activities that increase their team collaboration,
improve their alignment with their customer and so grow their revenue - and their commission.
We put out a press release which quotes me as saying “To be
competitive in today’s market, enterprise sales teams need to not only
deeply understand the customer, their customer’s customer and their
customer’s market, but they must also be able to instantly act on that
...and our early release customers are already loving it!
CMSWire’s great article on the release today puts it well, “FirstRain, whose name invokes nourishing precipitation after a dry spell, is looking to refresh productivity in Salesforce …”.
We couldn’t have put it better.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The following is my spoof, based on an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine (see below) sent to me by a friend who knows this stuff both makes me laugh and makes me crazy .
This is written for management of engineers in the workforce during the digital revolution of 2013.
Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Engineer Employees:
There’s no longer any question whether technology companies should hire software engineers for jobs formerly held by systems analysts and hard core computer scientists. The explosion of the internet and mobile devices and the resulting engineer shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient engineers available and how to use them to best advantage.
Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Silicon Valley:
1. Pick single engineers. They usually have more time that their unmarried brothers, they’re less likely to want to go home at the end of the day, they enjoy the work or they wouldn’t be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to code efficiently.
2. When you do have to use older engineers, try to get ones who have worked outside of engineering at some point in their lives. Older engineers who have never contacted customers have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy about features. It’s always well to impress on older engineers the importance of user friendliness and quality.
3. General experience indicates that “husky” engineers – those who are just a little on the heavy side and who enjoy junk food – are more productive than their hard bodied brothers who may want to spend time in the gym.
4. Retain a physician to give each engineer a special physical examination – one covering concentration and substance issues. This step not only protects your company against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any substance issues which would make him mentally or physically unfit for the job.
5. Stress at the outset the importance of time, the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on product schedules. Until the point is gotten across, productivity is likely to be slowed up.
6. Give the engineer-employee a definite day long schedule of duties so they’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous companies say that engineers make excellent workers when they have their projects cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work for themselves.
7. Whenever possible, let the engineer change from one project to another at some time during the day. Engineers are likely to be less morose and generally happier with change.
8. Give every engineer an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for the nerd psychology. An engineer has more confidence and is more efficient if he can keep up on pop culture, play a video game and get a diet coke several times a day.
9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Engineers are often sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way a sales person can. Never ridicule an engineer – it breaks his spirit and cuts his efficiency.
10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around engineers. Even though an engineer’s friends may swear vociferously when playing first shooter games, he’ll grow to dislike a place of business where he hears too much of this.
11. Get enough size variety in chairs, desks and screens so each engineer can have a proper fit to their work style and body type. This point can’t be stressed too much in keeping engineers happy.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
Whatever your politics, Margaret Thatcher was one of the greatest leaders in modern English history. I cry today, remembering England in 1979 and how bravely and radically she transformed the country with her powerful leadership and vision for the possible future of the UK.
In the Winter of Discontent which struck the UK in 1978-79 we had continuous strikes of angry union workers and a weak, ineffective government -- coupled, I remember, with unusual cold and very deep snow. The country, which had run a global empire and stood up to Hitler, was on it's knees in political turmoil with a defeated population, high taxes, bad food and no way out.
Margaret Thatcher was the powerful force that turned the country around. Her leadership was unstoppable. She had a clear, determined vision for what the UK could be again, and no one and nothing was going to get in her way. By restructuring taxes and privatizing the nationalized industries she forced the country to compete on the world markets. Yes, there was severe unemployment as a result, but short of a deep socialist (short-sighted) agenda that unemployment was coming, one way or another, and she had the courage to get ahead of it.
Watching Mrs Thatcher on stage a few years after she left power confirmed what I had come to believe watching her in the media. She was on stage with Gorbachev and George Bush Snr (Reagan had already succumbed to Alzheimer's by then) talking about how they worked together to reform Soviet politics -- which resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall. She had a huge brain, charm, and an iron will. Her clarity, intellect and wit were unmatched, even by her peers who were themselves global leaders, and I was inspired.
I have admired her determined, uncompromising leadership since 1979. For 30 years now when I am asked who has inspired me I have said Margaret Thatcher. It's as true today as it ever was.
It's not the first time I've cried for her. I cried for her - posted here - when I saw the film Iron Lady about her rise to power, fall from power and fall into dementia.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
I've always thought it dangerous to self diagnose, but today I'm reassessing!
This weekend I was in New York and have been sick as a dog. I fell foul of the FirstRain Flu (good alliteration eh!) which was been going through my California office like a hot knife through butter. A week after my nasty cold symptoms turned into a deep cough, and four days (and one late night cross country flight) after that my cough was getting deeper every day. I was doing a great Marlene Dietrich impersonation... and since I have some critical meetings and plan to cross the country twice more in the next week I decided it would be smart to go to the doctor (OK, I confess, my sister told me to).
So I used Yelp to find a walk in clinic called CityMD where the sales pitch is that no appointment is needed and you won't have to wait. To be fair everyone was reasonably competent, but the experience was unnerving.
This was the first time I have been to a new doctor where I did not have to write down my existing medications on the initial form. So when the doctor told me I have bronchitis (as I suspected) and I need an antibiotic I made sure he knew I take a drug called Pradaxa, and that he should look for interactions before prescribing (yes, I am sure he thought I was obnoxious).
Initially his very pretty, very young medical assistant starting looking on Google as he leaned over her, very close. For about 5 minutes she was searching and then she gave up and suggested he do the searching. For the next 10 minutes I watched him use Google, dropping into sites like eHealthMe, trying different combinations of Pradaxa and various antibiotics (while his young assistant whipped out her phone and started texting, she was clearly bored).
Towards the end he said "how do you spell penicillin? p-e-n-i-c-i...", then he found it studied it and decided to prescribe it. His reason - "it's the oldest and it seems to have the least interactions". Not very confidence inspiring.
This CityMD doctor is not the first to use Google. Now that I am home and checking out the interactions myself before I take the meds I find that 46% of doctors frequently use searching to understand symptoms and treatments. Somehow I imagined they'd have professional services to refer to, or they'd be in continuous education, but now I know! Next time, I don't need a doctor —I know when I have bronchitis after all —and I can use Google as well as the next man.
But the experience also reminded me of how much I appreciate my doctor back home who studies continuously and holds an astonishing amount of information about drugs in her head.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
There is a tectonic shift happening and we're living the future right now here in technologyland. Women are gaining and holding power at a rate we have never seen before and finally they are openly talking about it.
Sheryl Sandberg's well-marketed new book Lean In, is stirring up the timely discussion about what it takes for women to get ahead. Sheryl says you need to "lean in," believe in yourself, and not hold yourself to impossible standards of doing everything; and she's rightly pointing out that men and our workplaces have to change to make it possible for women to broadly have equal opportunity for leadership.
Sheryl's saying what those of us who lead technology companies here already live: you have to have confidence, embrace your opportunities and be ready to not get hurt by the "likability gap" that women in power face. Her situation is particularly fortunate in that she joined not one, but two, very high growth opportunities (Google and then Facebook) and so she's now rich and is taking criticism for telling those less wealthy than her what to do, but hats-off to her that she's speaking out and putting the issue of gender in leadership onto the national agenda.
But she's one of many now in Silicon Valley, and not all the stories are as sunny. Women are also taking on some of the hardest turnaround challenges in technology today:
• Marissa Meyer stepped up to be CEO of Yahoo! -- a challenge so difficult that even a strong product executive with her technical chops may not be able to pull it off. When she stopped employees working from home she was strongly criticized by men and women alike (ironically, often on the grounds of gender equality), and yet she is making the tough business decisions needed to change the Yahoo! culture from one of entitlement to one of growth. If a male CEO had made the same decision it either would have not made the press, or it would have been lauded as a "brave" and "bold" move to turnaround Yahoo!
• Meg Whitman has taken on the thankless task of righting HP after a disastrous revolving door of CEOs -- not a challenge for the faint of heart -- but early indications are she's going to win and accelerate revenue growth in 2014.
Whether you consider Safra Catz, President of Oracle, Diane Bryant, CIO of Intel, or Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco, women are winning and holding leadership positions and showing us the future today. And it's hard not to include Ginni Rometty, the CEO of the technology powerhouse IBM, even though she is not based in Silicon Valley. The fact that these executives are women is a distant second to their ability.
So why is it different here in Silicon Valley for women? There are two fundamental reasons.
1. Generational. Many of our new, fast growth technology companies are run by men, and women, of a younger generation than in other industries. Consider the leadership of Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com, LinkedIn -- they are all under 50 and many are under 40. Even Tim Cook of Apple is only 52. Their generation have grown up with women working in their families and so they don't bring the same prejudice the over 60 generation bring. As a female technology CEO I've found the number of times I get asked "what about your kids?" goes down dramatically every year as the peers I work with drop below 60.
2. Technology is a meritocracy. It's all about how good your product idea, your code, your algorithm is, not your race, gender or whether or not you are gay. And it is especially true in the new generation of tech companies. The competition for talent in the San Francisco Bay Area is ferocious and the competition for market share never lets up, so we simply can't afford to not hire the best engineers, regardless of gender. We just need more of them.
When Pamela Ryckman was researching her new book Stiletto Network (releasing May 2013) she found that the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem of Silicon Valley has benefited women disproportionately. Instead of rigid organizational structures, Silicon Valley thrives on change: companies come and go, teams form and disband, and so talent gets spotted and adopted regardless of gender.
Companies, and whole industries, are going through disruptive change now as the impact of software increases the power of the individual. The payment industry is being rocked by disruptive changes like Square and Google wallet. Manufacturing is being rocked by 3D printing, making it possible for you and me to manufacture products from our imagination without having to build a factory.
The demands made by the pace of change and fierce competition in our industries do not leave room for gender bias at the top any more. And that's why more and more women are emerging as leaders and holding power here in Silicon Valley.
P.S. This does not mean women, however, are gaining equality across technology as a whole. We still hold a distant minority of board positions (9.1 percent of board seats in Silicon Valley are held by women) and we still have a dire need for more girls to go in to, and stay in, computer science and technology (less than 18 percent of our CS graduates are girls). The work of non profits like the Anita Borg Institute to coach and encourage female geeks is still essential for the technology industry as a whole.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
As we saw last year, there’s been a massive wave of Fortune 500 companies adopting touch-based tablets and devices. One result of that has been the proliferation of a whole range of B2B iPad and smartphone apps from companies like us and salesforce.com to enable those mobile, touch-powered professionals with the intelligence and data they need to understand and engage their customers, as well as open up new opportunities.
However, there’s a second big enterprise trend that’s picking up momentum as well: that of large companies who are developing internal enterprise apps for touch-based tablets and devices, for use by their own enterprise sales and marketing teams.
And because it’s a need that more and more of our customers are requesting every day, we’re very excited to announce this morning the launch of FirstRain for Touch, a new, powerful and yet easy way to drop highly relevant customer intelligence for your sales and marketing teams into your enterprise iPad app—and the first enterprise customer intelligence solution built for the Salesforce Touch Platform.
Last fall, at their annual Dreamforce ‘12 conference, along with their high profile launch of Salesforce Touch, salesforce.com also announced the launch of the similarly named (but very different) “Salesforce Touch Platform.” And unlike Salesforce Touch—which is a downloadable app for iPad, iPhone and Android created for their users to easily access salesforce.com data and capabilities on their devices—the Salesforce Touch Platform is a Software Developer’s Kit that developers within a large enterprise can use to create their own, internal touch-device apps for their sales and marketing teams.
Our new FirstRain for Touch solution is an elegant and personalized set of components that have been optimized for use on touch-based devices, and can be easily dropped into enterprise apps created by companies, just like those developed using the Salesforce Touch Platform SDK. And the demand has been notable. For example, we have at least 3 large, current customers (all in the Fortune 500) who are each planning or have already created and deployed their own iPad apps for use by their own enterprise sales and marketing teams.
But perhaps one of the nicest aspects of this launch has been the opportunity to work with the great folks at salesforce.com. We have lots of clients in common and solutions that have always been highly symbiotic, and so this area is just one more place where we find common opportunity to help each other succeed. Our thanks to Clarence So, their Executive Vice President of Mobile Strategy, for his kind comments about our release: “It is exciting to see the rapid innovation that partners such as FirstRain are delivering on our trusted mobile platform, FirstRain for Touch will provide customers with the right intelligence to help them connect with their customers in entirely new ways and accelerate business success.”
If you’re interested in more information about FirstRain for Touch, let us know!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I was disappointed by the drivel written in the WSJ on Friday The Tyranny of the Queen Bee. It is just not reality, and reinforcing a negative stereotype at the same time. The WSJ should know better.
The thesis is that because there are so few women in power they hang on to the power as Queen Bees and bully other women... "Four decades later, the syndrome still thrives, given new life by the mass ascent of women to management positions. This generation of queen bees is no less determined to secure their hard-won places as alpha females. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. It is a trend thick with irony: The very women who have complained for decades about unequal treatment now perpetuate many of the same problems by turning on their own."
The referenced research is thin at best, and frankly the behavior described in the article is just not my experience at all. There are so few women at the top in tech that I have found they support each other. Pretty overtly. Not that a woman will promote another woman because of gender, but they will spend time, coach, encourage, and generally put a hand out and say "join me when you're ready".
Our reasons are selfish. There are just not enough talented people trained in STEM in our workforce and we need more of them. Helping women get in and stay in technology and tech management is essential for us to be able to grow. We don't have a scarcity of opportunity - we have a scarcity of trained talent!
Dr Drexler your opinion that "female bosses are expected to be "softer" and "gentler" simply because they are women" is also just not reality in Silicon Valley. I've been a Silicon Valley tech executive for more than 25 years now and no one who's ever worked for me would call me soft. Compassionate when needed, but a hard ass. And I am not unusual - for women in power here I am more the norm.
I'm really looking forward to Pamela Ryckman's new book Stiletto Network, coming out in May (you can pre-order it here). Pamela did extensive research over the last year on how executive women help each other. Publishers Weekly just gave it a rave review saying:
"In an upbeat tone and energetic style, we learn how these successful women are coming together in intimate groups, where they embrace fashion, capital structures, and deals. Emboldening, encouraging, and entertaining, this book is essential reading for any woman who wishes to further her career while remaining true to herself."
Now of course I'm briefly mentioned in it, so in a narcissistic way I think the premis of the book is right (although I have not read it so who knows - maybe I am a Queen Bee - but I doubt it!).
It's really important now that we talk about the reality of women in power, especially here in tech, and not keep reinforcing the negative stereotypes. Women are a huge, latent force being unleashed. At Dreamforce last year Salesforce.com hosted a Girly Geeks panel which I was on. It was crowded out, more than 1,000 women came and Salesforce had to cut off their own employees to make sure enough of their customers and partners could come. The energy, drive and passion in the room was pallpable.
There is a tidal wave coming of women in power and women helping women. It's happening!
Monday, February 25, 2013
Behavioral interviewing is a hot topic of discussion at FirstRain today. Putting our candidates for sales and pre-sales positions through simulations and getting them to tell stories to describe their experience.... but so we don't take ourselves too seriously it's worth remembering the hilarious Armstrong and Miller sketch The Origin of Job Interviews:
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I love being asked to talk to groups of women or girls. Especially high school girls who are a future untapped resource for technology and so if I can move just a few of them to consider tech I'm happy.
Last week I had the opportunity to do just this at Wycombe Abbey in England. Wycombe is my alma mater and one of the top girls schools in England. Really smart kids (and definitely privileged, but that is not their fault). It was surreal for me to go back for the first time in 34 years as I had left swearing never to go back (yes, I was a terrible rebel in high school) but walking around the school and talking with staff, old friends and kids I was transported back and it was not all bad.
I took the opportunity to challenge the girls with three ideas that dramatically influence them today and will shape what future they craft for themselves. A few gasps, some embaressed laughs (yes, I said porn and pornification a few times) but overall I think they were intrigued by...
1. Software is everywhere - being able to write and understand software is as important now as being able to read and write. High school students spend on average 10 hours a day working with software, they just don't know it.
2. You are being watched - every action you take is being stored and analyzed and this creates a fascinating area called Big Data. Understand it, tap into it and have fun with the technology. Build you own app.
3. Don't believe what you see - women are objectified, hyper-sexualized and diminished by our media (advertising, TV and movies). Don't buy into the stereotypes. Educate yourselves so you see it, and see through it, and then get involved in changing it - become a part of #NotBuyingIt. Yes this is where I showed some shocking images and said some shocking words, but my 16 year old niece told me afterwards it was "cool".
Monday, February 11, 2013
I often end up in the same conversation with ambitious entrepreneurs. They want to run their own business... they have an idea, or are frustrated with their current position, they are building a plan to get to being CEO of their own company and they want advice.
Thursday evening I was in just such a conversation with a talented pending entrepreneur - and it's a coaching moment. Before you get too wedded to the idea it's important to think through how long you plan to be CEO for. 2 years, 5 years, 10 years... or as long as it takes.
The reality is that unless you are fired by your board, or your company's life ends (by being acquired or failing), this is the last job you'll ever have. You don't get to just quit when you don't like it any more - too many employees and investors and customers depend on you. It's not hard to think about staying with your company "forever" when it's an exciting new startup that you believe in. But it's important to think through how you'll feel if it's not i.e. if it's not meeting your expectations.
It seems a romantic idea to run a company but I have seen a few CEOs really struggle in the long haul with their spouse's lack of support, worry about their long term income prospects, their need to pay for kids college fees and the long term effects on their health when the company they dreamed of doesn't happen.
It's very important before you sign up to lead a company, whether it's yours, an existing founder's or a spin out to be sure you have the ability to stick with it as long as you are needed. Don't do it unless you can see yourself sticking it out no matter the outcome. But if you can visualize yourself in the saddle for more than 10 years then go for it!
p.s. Clearly this isn't the case if you are the CEO of a public company. In that case the turnover rate is high in the first 2 years, and on average it's now 8.4 years, but in the public company case there are established processes for succession planning so it's easier to move on if you want to.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Watching back to back Downton Abbey episodes it is hard to escape the focus on manners and tradition in the English way of life. Form matters. What you wear, how you behave to a lady or to one another, defines you in the eyes of the people around you.
But working in a silicon valley technology company does this matter? Do English manners have a place?
I believe they not only have a place, but they particularly have a place in business. The small behaviors that indicate respect make a huge difference in how the people around you feel, and the behaviors cut both ways between the genders.
Consider, for example, being late. When you are late for a meeting you are telling the people waiting for you that you think your time is more important than theirs. Of course, sometimes you get held up, but a person who is repeatedly late (as Marissa Meyer is purported to be) is abusing power and disrespecting the people around them. In time, you yourself lose the respect of your team if you can't, or won't manage your time. In contrast, when you are on time you respect the other person's time, as the team at Andreessen Horowitz strives to do.
Many of the behaviors we consider as good manners have a cultural bias in how men should treat women. Holding a door open, standing up when a woman enters the room or paying for a meal but, in today's business world, these behaviors are as appropriate for a woman as for a man. One of the marvelous side effects of women's growing equality in the office is that while it would be risky to treat your female office mates with patronizing chivalry, treating everyone politely allows women to display chivalry towards men.
When a customer walks into a conference room you should stand up, of course. Welcome them into the room. Offer to fetch a cup of coffee or glass of water. When you are walking through a door it's polite to hold the door open for the next person, whether they are a man or a woman. If you go out for a meal the most senior person should pay, or the vendor should pay, or if you are with business peers offer to pay. Anything else is just crass.
And one of the areas that I (as essentially English) wish more people would pay attention to is manners at the table. When you wait for the other people at the table to start eating you respect that you are sharing a meal with them. When you carefully watch their pace to make sure you finish your plate just after them you ensure that no one else feels embarrassed to be finishing last. Common courtesy.
Saying thank you, sending a small thank you note (or email) when someone has spent time with you, or done a favor for you, goes a really long way in establishing relationship.
In the end, it does not matter what role you are in, or whether you are male or female, treating the people around you with respect - through your manners - makes a positive impression, and will earn you respect. Behaving badly, disrespecting others with your behavior may not change whether you are the boss or not, it may not change whether someone buys from you or not, but it does change what people privately think about you, and over time, whether they want to work with you or not.
William of Wykeham used Manners Makyth Man as the motto for the colleges he founded 650 years ago. And the value of manners is as true today as it was then, especially in business.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
My reading at our lovely mother's cremation today:
1 Corinthians 13
"If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
Gifts in her memory to Ovarian Cancer Action here.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Yes sex sells, but only if the type of sex you are using to promote your product attracts your target buyer. Otherwise it's just a turn off.
Which is why having booth babes at CES today is such a dumb marketing decision.
Some fun facts about women today: they make 80-85% of the consumer purchase decisions and control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the US and as Bounce Ideas says:
"There are 2 sexes in the human race. And one of them does most of the buying.... As a marketer, you’ll have a huge advantage if you know how to speak her language, earn her business, and, ultimately, her referrals."
So why-oh-why would you think young women in limited clothing draping themselves around your booth is going to position your products well for your primary buyer? Or make it comfortable for the many female journalists to cover your products?
BBs are not a new phenomenon, the Atlantic tracks them back to the inaugural show in 1967 in A Brief History of CES Booth Babes. Thankfully the B2B trade shows I frequent have a lot less skin in view than B2C shows like CES - and yet the buyers are more likely to be men in the B2B world so you'd think a bit of cleavage might be acceptable. But probably good taste and fears of sexual harressment make saner heads prevail for B2B shows.
There was a backlash discussion against booth babes at CES 2012 and the BBC stirred up the discussion with their Booth Babes controversy video last year. Never ones to miss a chance to keep a story alive the Beeb put together the update "Booth babe debate returns" this year - and again documented the tasteless phenomenon. It's good to keep the discussion current.
Sadly, sexually objectifying women in CES advertising gets worse than booth babes.
Why would you think tying your product to oral sex the way Voco Nation did last week with the tag line "because oral is better" is going to help you with 80% of your potential buyers? Miss Representation and Jolie O'Dell did a great job of getting the word out about how bad this ad was - with the end result that Voco Nation had to take down their facebook page, delete all the many negative comments, and then put it back not accepting comments. Way to go crisis management guys. But they could not stop the thrashing @VocoNation received on Twitter as consumers voiced that they were #NotBuyingIt.
It's time. There is absolutely no need to objectify women to sell millions of dollars worth of consumer products. It's just dumb now. Women make the majority of the buying decisions today. They'll out earn men by 2028. The advertising industry needs to get into the present and stop living in the 1960s.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Do you respect the leaders who always look busy, or the ones who are calm and collected? Do you want to follow someone who's harried, or someone who's accessible to you?
And yet the cult of being busy, and the sense of self importance that comes with that, undermines many aspiring leaders.
Being busy is not a virtue (except maybe in bees). It means you can't manage your time, don't have a competent admin or are trying to do too much (which impacts your ability to lead). Or it means you've hired the wrong people. And since a leader must never be a victim she must always take responsibility for being so busy.
The challenge is the more intense your job the more demands there are on your time, so it's important to set up a system where you are still accessible. This means not over scheduling each day. Whether you or your admin book your calendar, don't ever book every time slot. Leave blocks open so you can walk the halls and respond to people who want to talk with you. And get creative about how you can be available on the phone -- in the car, on the treadmill (although hard to do in the pool!)
When you telegraph that you are over booked you telegraph that you're not in command of your time. Don't ever tell someone you're "triple-booked" - even if you feel like you are. Never make someone feel bad for interrupting you - figure out gracefully how to give them your time at some point in the next 24 hours.
What's underneath all of this is that great leaders telegraph to their employees that they are important to them. Provided you're not dealing with someone who abuses access, your people are more important. They are doing the real work, your job is to facilitate their ability to do their job. The days of the executive who sits in a remote office behind a big desk with three admins in front of them are gone. The days of the social-media-using, accessible leader are here.
Image: Busy Bee on DeviantArt by tyrantwache
The scene is the Los Altos Bar and Grill. A known pickup joint but one that has a good wine list, great food and live music so those not looking for the scene enjoy it anyway.
The actors – two female executives sitting at a bar enjoying a glass of wine together. And two men enjoying dinner together at the same bar. The men first try and strike up a conversation along the bar.
Some lame question like “Do you like Hawaii?”
One of the women engages for a few groundstrokes and then returns to her companion, who is simply not interested.
The men finish their dinner, but undeterred then stand next to the two women and strike up a conversation. The women can tell they are not going to go away. They pull up stools and are aggressively close in a crowded bar. The quieter woman checks her email. The more gregarious woman responds to the first volley with “So what do you do?” (the first thing anyone wants to know in this over-achieving society).
And as the story unfolds Ms email, who really does not want to be chatted up in a bar after a long day at work, watches how not to impress a woman…
“I run a hedge fund”
“Really, what type of hedge fund”
“We use technology and social media to invest”
“Really, what social media”
“Do you read the Twitter feed directly or go through a third party like GNIP”
(with some hesitation) “uh, GNIP”… the ball drops at the net.
… a short rally then about what the women do… and then the drop shot...
“So your hedge fund – how much money do you have under management?”
“Well I haven’t actually closed it yet, but I’m close to closing $11M”.
Golden rule #1. Don’t overstate your position too early.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Silicon Valley is littered with small (and large) companies that want to create a revolution. It might be a revolution in commerce - like Square trying to "Architect a revolution,
thoughtfully", or being the enablers of a revolution like social media was for the Arab Spring, or creating a revolution in music delivery the way Apple did with the iPod.
But what is it that unites a team of people to try to create a revolution in the world of technology?
Napoleon believed that "There are only two forces that unite men — fear and interest" (from Napoleon: In His Own Words 1916) because "all great revolutions originate in fear, for the play of interests does not lead to accomplishment."
I think he was right, but in reverse order.
In the world of the technology startups the dominant, unifying force is interest. Most people I have ever worked with were a part of the company because of shared interest. They have a common end in mind (to use one of Covey's 7 habits).
At Simplex (bought by Cadence in 2002) our interest was in the electrical modeling that semiconductor companies needed to make faster, more reliable chip designs - and so sell more chips at lower cost. Everyone in the team was interested in how to get the technology to work (a non-trivial series of math and computer science challenges), and work in the hands of customers at ever decreasing, truly less-than-the-width-of-a-hair, geometry sizes. Chip modeling was a "big data" problem before we talked about big data. Geeky, but very interesting.
The best technology leaders - usually the CEO or founders - unite their employees with a vision for what's possible. They have a uniting concept that everyone gets interested in - like salesforce.com with their "no software" platform to move CRM to the cloud, or Amazon with a vision that we'd all be buying books, and then everything else too, on line. Both visions were compelling, interesting to work on, and right.
So "the play of interest" does lead to accomplishment when you are building a technology company. I think it's the only thing. You can't unite people around money (well not for long anyway) and you can't unite them with fear in a market when they can walk down the street and find another interesting job. You have to do it with interest.
The great general was right that fear plays a role too but it's only at the tactical level, in the moment, or in the sleepless times of the night. Fear of losing a deal, fear of failure, fear of missing a deadline you've committed to another team or a customer, fear of being wrong in the path you took to solve a problem. Everyone in a startup feels it. If they say they don't they're lying. Everyone experiences The Struggle. But you can't unite people with fear because, in the end, this is a game. It's not life and death, it's not the control of empires or the defense of your homeland. It's a business, with a dream, but a business.
Napoleon had to unite his men to fight through the mud and risk their own lives to (almost) bring continental Europe under his command - he used both fear and interest. You need to unite them to work grueling hours and take huge personal risk to try out new ideas - and in technology that means uniting your team with interesting work and a meaningful goal.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
The smell of oak smoke from the fireplace.
Flaming Christmas pudding. Crackers. Port.
Church bells. Carols. The church clock chiming all night every half hour outside my window at Church View.
Being told I don't know how to clean a kitchen floor.
Happily fetching Mummy's forgotten Kindle from upstairs. Every morning.
Making endless pots of tea. Making soup for the freezer.
Trying not to talk about cancer.
Rain. More rain.
Feminist Ryan Gosling.
The Queen's speech. Dr Who special.
The incredible kindness of my father. Practicing patience with my father.
Stilton and smoked mackerel pate and pickled onions. Comfort food.
Cousins. Missing my boys. Enjoying my sister, my daughter and her BFF.
Dog barking at a toy train around the tree. Happy, tired, full dog.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Warren Buffet once said “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”Clearly integrity is the first requirement when hiring. But right behind it, and just as critical, is intelligence, but intelligence comes with it's own baggage.
Obviously intelligence is essential when hiring into a fast growing company. Intelligence enables quick problem solving and brilliant, innovative ideas. Intelligence allows people to work autonomously when they need to cut through to the solution and many smart people can work faster and still get to a great result. Smarter employees take less time to train, less time to positively impact your business.
But smart people can also have a hard time learning. Chris Argyris' article in the HBR, written in 1991, "Teaching Smart People How to Learn" outlines the basic dilemma and ways to think about solving it. (It's a must-read in my opinion) The dilemma is that the smartest people in the organization, who are assumed to be the best at learning, may actually not be very good at it.
"Put simply, because many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure. So whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the “blame” on anyone and everyone but themselves. In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most"
Brittle behavior, defensiveness and blaming kill a team's ability to solve complex problems together. When you are changing quickly and learning a market (which is a continuous process when growing fast) it's important that everyone on the team can learn from the facts that are emerging, and when things don't turn out exactly as planned (which they never do) don't blame, just get on with finding the next solution.
And the key to not blaming is to be able to be introspective and look inside first - What are my assumptions and beliefs that are holding me back from learning from this situation (and so contribute to learning as a team)? Very smart people who do this naturally learn fast in complex business situations. Very smart people who are arrogant about their intellect typically don't. Struggling early (in school, in your first job); and/or experiencing failure is humbling. It makes you go inside, and with practice people develop the ability to check their internal assumptions first, before blaming someone else.
It's tricky, but you can figure this out in a candidate interview. Chris Argyris's article points out that: "One of the paradoxes of human behavior, however, is that the master program people actually use is rarely the one they think they use. Ask people in an interview or questionnaire to articulate the rules they use to govern their actions, and they will give you what I call their “espoused” theory of action. But observe these same people’s behavior, and you will quickly see that this espoused theory has very little to do with how they actually behave."
The way you can determine a smart person's real behavior, not their theory of who they are, and whether their default reaction is defensiveness or blame is to spend time with them on their failures. Can they describe to you a time they failed? What did it feel like, what lead up to it, what would they do differently, what areas of growth are they still working on improving that hurt them then as well as now? When I look back on the bad hires I've made (and I've made plenty), for many of them I can think back to the interview and I missed the introspection step.
I'm still always surprised when I ask the question "so tell me about a time you failed and what you did that contributed to the failure", shortly followed by "and what is the area you still need to improve, where you keep screwing up and you're working to fix it" that very smart people cannot, or will not, answer in a meaningful way. Or give all the reasons why it wasn't their fault. Conversely, it's powerful when a candidate can tell me what they are working on (in personal development) and how they are looking for a team of complementary skills, or an environment where they can grow and learn.
Note, this is not about EQ. Being charming in an interview and being the person I'd like to hang out with in a bar is not the same thing as being good at learning with a team.
So the first step is to test if the candidate is smart, and smart enough for the job you have. Technical tests, or emulations of real life situations (eg. for sales) are necessary to find the high IQ candidates. But it is also important to make sure you are hiring someone who can learn as your business changes and learn from circumstance without becoming defensive.
To quote my father (not always a good idea on a blog, but sometimes worth the risk) "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
There is enough evidence of the value of diversity on corporate boards now to do something truly visible about it. We deal with Say-on-Pay every year now at the public board level, so why not Report-on-Diversity?
Say-on-Pay is a result of the Dodd-Frank Act. It says that the shareholders get to vote on whether they approve executive pay or not. It's non-binding - ie. "advisory" but boards take it very seriously. They have to. Executive pay is a contentious issue, highly paid consulting firms like ISS and Glass-Lewis opine on whether the shareholders should vote for or against the executive pay packages, and the compensation committee members (like me) work hard to try to both be competitive with the CEO's pay and take the input of the shareholders into account in the design of the pay packages.
It's an imperfect process, and the consultants are very mixed in the quality of their analysis, but it throws attention and light onto the right issue: over time is executive compensation lining up with company performance?
So why Diversity? Because we now know that having a diverse board improves company performance. Consider:
- ION's research that companies gain a competitive edge with more women on the board
- Catalyst's extensive research that having women on boards improves financial performance
- University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee research that boards with a woman on them are 40% less likely to have a financial restatement
but the numbers of women on boards are not changing. As Ilene H. Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst and a member of the WCD Global Nominating Commission, said: "Despite heightened conversation globally around women's representation on corporate boards, the 2012 Catalyst Census once again showed no change for the seventh consecutive year – and the challenge is not lack of qualified women."
The reality is white men still dominate the board room.
Fran Maier of TRUSTe calls the low number of women on boards "despicable" and attributes the issue to low turnover of boards, lack of term limits, and most of all due to male board members recruiting people like them. She and Catalyst are right, it's just not a lack of qualified candidates.
And yet today only 16% of US public company board seats are held by women, 29% of companies have no women on the board, and while 91% of the Fortune 500 have one women director, only 60% of the Technology 200 have one director -- technology is significantly lagging!
I think the answer lies in transparency. I don't think it lies in quotas as the EU is pursuing. Their notion that 40% of directors should be women by 2020 or the company faces sanctions will create a negative backlash and will not lead to the best candidates being hired. Quotas are in place in several European countries, and they certainly
make change happen fast, but I believe it diminishes the impact a woman
can have on a company if she's known to be there because they need a
human without a Y chromosome to fulfill a quota.
But we can tackle this issue, and make change happen, if companies have to report on their diversity and the process to improve their diversity to the shareholders. The British, who like the Germans are at the bottom in the rankings of women on boards and in management, have introduced voluntary measures where companies report on their diversity and their targets.
The statistics will change if companies are required to report on the diversity statistics of their upper management and board, and present them in the MD&A. It would improve if they were required to report on the change over time and describe their diversity programs to bring more women on the board and into senior management. Even more revealing would be to require them to disclose how many diverse candidates they interviewed in the CEO and Director recruiting process. I've been in the room - it's shockingly low (and I have to be very careful about when and whether I point that out since I am still always the only woman in the room - as I was years ago when this photo was taken).
Most boards want to do a good job. Most want their companies to do well and to provide good governance and oversight. Faced with the growing body of research that diversity improves financial performance, most would engage and try to improve things. Some are tone-deaf to the issue (which never fails to surprise me, even now) but educating boards and causing them to publicly report on the their diversity, their programs and their improvement over time would make change happen, and improve financial performance at the same time.
And my board at FirstRain? 50% women of course.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/11/5046274/global-nominating-commission-launches.html#storylink=c
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
There is a certain humor, and wisdom, in the Vatican announcing yesterday that His Holiness the Pope will be tweeting under the handle @Pontifex.
More than 2000 years ago the Roman Empire perfected the art of absorbing local deities and cults as they conquered new countries. Let the people keep their Gods and rituals and they are easier to control.
As the Christian Church emerged from the shadows into power in the 4th century it did the same thing. Keep the local festivals and rename them -- just think on the pagan customs we celebrate on my favorite holiday Christmas Day/midWinter Festival. And reuse the titles of authority.
In ancient Rome the priests of the (pagan) Roman religion were called Pontifex. The high priest was called Pontifex Maximus and then, with Augustus, the Caesars took on the title. They were heads of state and the religion. So by the time the Emperor became Christian, and the Bishop of Rome was the top priest of the new religion, he absorbed the ancient title: Pontifex Maximus. High priest.
Today we have new cults to be absorbed, Twitter being the cult de jour, a subset of the cult called Social Media. How best to absorb a people who live in the land of Social Media. Absorb our practices - Tweeting - absorb our culture - 140 characters in the moment - and use an ancient name that will resonate in the hidden recesses of our cultural memory. And gather more than half a million followers in 48 hours.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Sleep. What a concept. As an entrepreneur it's more rare than cash, and harder to come by.
As Mark Suster wrote in his recent blog post about Entrepreneurshit "It’s 4.50am. Sunday morning. And I couldn’t sleep. I have much on my mind since I just returned from a week on the road. 5 days. 3 cities."
Most nights I lie awake for 2-3 hours in the night. The gerbils running on the treadmills in my mind never stop. Problems. Opportunities. Equations. Spreadsheets. People. Endlessly running.
Until recently I worried about the sleep too. One more thing to add to the list - now let me worry about not getting enough sleep and what's that going to do to me. My health, my ability to be smart and articulate in the big customer summit tomorrow. Aaargh!
But I recently learned that waking in the night is actually one less thing I have to worry about in those waking moments - it's quite normal and may even be our natural sleep pattern.
In the days when we went to bed and got up with the sun, it turns out we would sleep in two sleeps - the first for four hours... then a period awake... and the second sleep for four hours. There's a great description of the research in the BBC News report The myth of the eight-hour sleep. So maybe it all makes sense now. I am supposed to lie awake solving the problems of the day - but I need to get up and make a "hott drinke" as I do my email:
"And at the wakening of your first sleepe You shall have a hott drinke made, And at the wakening of your next sleepe Your sorrowes will have a slake." Early English ballad, Old Robin of Portingale
And on days like today, when I have had a couple of short nights, and I know YY has had less than 5 hours of sleep after a red eye flight in to NY to join me (for a series of really cool meetings this week) I tell myself we can sleep when we're dead - coffee and adrenalin will pull us through.
And I believe it, until I go away for 3-4 days to a tropical island and end up sleeping 10+ hours a night, every night (something I do a couple of times a year) and then I know all those days when I thought I didn't need to sleep I was kidding myself.
Ah, the necessary self delusion of the entrepreneur.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Seems like an old fashioned concept doesn't it?
Loyalty. A word from the old feudal world being "of good quality, faithful and honorable" and "carrying out legal obligations" - with deeper origins in the Latin legalem, or law.
Loyalty was expected in the past. You would be loyal to the company that employed you, and the company would be loyal back and employ you for your whole career. A 1950's dream that no longer exists in our current global competitive environment, as pensions get wiped out and companies downsize in the blink of an eye. It's a word than can carry negative overtones today - being loyal sometimes being synonymous with being blindly loyal, something many people would be uncomfortable claiming as one of their key characteristics.
And yet it is a concept that is very powerful when creating and growing a company, and something I look for when hiring key employees - can they be loyal, is it in their nature?
When people are loyal to each other - up, down and across an organization - they can move quickly, make mistakes and recover. They can make difficult decisions, knowing that they won't get stabbed in the back if they are wrong. They can take risk, knowing that their boss, or their peer, or their employee, will support them and help them recover if the risk was too great.
As a CEO, building a loyal culture can make a big difference in how much risk you can take with the business, how fast you can drive growth and change. In the extreme case the figure of the cult CEO, like Marc Benioff at Salesforce.com, can inspire loyalty in employees and help them feel empowered to take more risk, run faster, push the edge of what's possible because they are loyal to a risk-taking leader. And obviously nothing creates loyalty like success.
I'm old fashioned. I think loyalty within a company matters. When people are loyal to the company, the goals and dreams of the company, and each other, they can make magic happen. Like trust, loyalty is efficient. It makes a working system where everyone can focus on the task at hand, not watching their back or their own personal interests. But to build a loyal culture you have to take care of each individual's growth interests as well as the company's.
As a leader you can build loyalty when you:
- create an experience that is fun, intense and a growth experience for every individual
- are fair - even-handed and open in how you deal with people, pay and promotion
- have your team's back, especially in times of adversity
- stomp out politics - put the company first at all times
- be direct - if you don't agree say so, if you think an idea is dumb say so and respectfully explain yourself, if you think an idea is great say so
- act quickly - if someone is not cutting it tell them so, tell them why, and move them on - and if you have to let them go for performance reasons, help them through it so they land in a better job for them - that creates long term loyalty in both the employees who are staying and those who are leaving
- don't be afraid to exercise authority if you need to - people understand in the end that your job as a leader is to drive forward and make decisions, even if they are unpopular
- be decisive
- be courageous
- be accessible and human
and the most important
- be loyal to your team - loyalty begets loyalty