MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Dr. Dana Ardi

Dr. Dana Ardi is a friend, former colleague, and an expert in the fields of talent management, organizational design, assessment, leadership, coaching, and recruiting. Dana has taught me a ton about these areas and was a partner at Flatiron Partners where we made a big investment in the talent side of the business. I asked Dana to "bat cleanup" on this series on People and she's done that in fine form with snippets from her coming book on Betas, the new archetype of organizational leader.


“When someone asks you, A penny for your thoughts, and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?” It’s a really great question, as well as being one of my favorite among many George Carlin quotes. And it came to mind when Fred asked me to contribute a guest blog post.
Having just put the finishing touches on a book about organizations that’ll be out next year, I’m happy to toss that second penny into the ring.
I consider myself a corporate anthropologist. I’ve spent most of my life studying the cultures of organizations, how they evolve and intersect with what’s happening right this second, and how the people in them influence and shape their communities. My consulting mission isn’t to transform established, successful companies – they’re doing fantastically well the way they are. It’s to assist them and other entrepreneurial ventures with the positioning to succeed with today’s workers, in today’s new business environment, and to help them evolve.
In the Information Age, workers in today’s organizations are accustomed to being sold, not told. Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, “Marriage is a long conversation,” but so today is business – which is why companies have to change or else risk going under.
It’s pretty clear to me that the Information Age requires a new approach to organizing groups of people, as well as to successfully function within those same organizations. This approach I call Beta, to distinguish it from the old Alpha paradigm, and it trickles down to corporate culture, recruitment, and most of all, leadership.
What do all the most successful leaders, companies and workers have in common? In a nugget, it’s the trait we call self-awareness. In Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck, a recent business title published by Harvard Business Review Press, co-author Anthony Tjan argues that all successful business leaders are skilled at just that. Of the four core qualities that he has observed make up most successful entrepreneurs and business-building, they know when to dial up…or dial town. They know when to emphasize passion, lower the pitch on assertion and bypass analytical smarts in favor of creative thinking or relational skills. In short, they’re as fluid and adaptable as the businesses they run.
What if you want to be there, but you’re not there yet? Here are a few things to to bear in mind about today’s and tomorrow’s winning-est organizations.
The Most Successful workplaces of the Future…
    •    Do away with archaic command-and-control models. Winning workplaces are horizontal, not hierarchical.Everyone who works there feels they’re part of something, and moreover, that it’s the next big thing. They want to be on the cutting-edge of all the people, places and things that technology is going to propel next.
    •    Instead of knives-out competition, these workplaces put a premium on collaboration and teamwork, and on building a successful community with shared values.
    •    Oh, and I’m not saying workplaces should become democracies – that would never work – simply thatpeople are empowered and encouraged to express themselves.
    •    Winning contemporary workplaces stress innovation. They believe that employees need to be given an opportunity to make a difference – to give input into key decisions and to communicate their findings and learnings to one another.
Corporate Culture matters more than you think
    •    The best teams are hired with collaboration in mind. People who remain in the culture are those who are dedicated to the ideal that that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.  
    •    In the most winning corporate cultures, everyone has something to contribute. Leadership is fluid and bend-able. Integrity and character matter a lot. Everyone knows about the culture. Everyone feels the culture. Everyone subscribes to the culture. Everyone recognizes both its passion and its nuance.

    •    In winning corporate cultures, roles, identities and responsibilities mutate weekly, daily, sometimes even hourly. There’s a focus on social, global and environmental responsibility. No, these initiatives aren’t just good ideas, they really matter.
Today’s Most Successful Organizations…
    •    …look less like an advancing army and more like a symphony orchestra. They are divided up into sections rather than functions. Each section has a leader and every player is a member of a team that works in synchrony. The orchestra conductor may direct what the orchestra does, but he knows he’s not completely in charge. His sole mission: To impel the other orchestra members to play to the very best of their ability, while integrating those efforts into a concerted group effort.
    •    In life as in business, most people are not generals, they’re lieutenants. Nor do they necessarily want to be generals – they want to be impact players. Frankly, most of us are happy to have the opportunity to accomplish what we’re good at, and what we enjoy, so long as we receive adequate recognition and reward.
    •    The most successful contemporary cultures convey the message that it’s okay to be yourself, and to do your best. You don’t always have to move up; you can also move across. More important is that you are happy, fulfilled, contributing to the community and feeling productive and rewarded.
The Leaders of Today have to be self-aware –  and top-down mandates no longer work
    •    There will always be the need for decisive leadership, particularly in crisis times (and there’s a touch of the autocrat and control freak inside every successful entrepreneur). But today’s world is all about collaboration –and launching and maintaining that “long conversation” that Stevenson talked about.
    •    The leaders of tomorrow need to practice ego management. They should be aware of their own biases, and focus as much on the present as on the future. They need to manage the egos of employees by rewarding collaborative behavior and teamwork.
    •    Leaders should strive to become what Michael Maccoby dubbed “Productive Narcissists,” tempering high self-esteem and confidence with empathy and compassion. Mindfulness, of self and others, by boards,executives and employees, may very well be the single most important trait of a successful company. Companies have to define the culture; the culture can’t define them. So pre-define it!
    •    Finally, companies need to understand that every individual in the organization is a contributor; and the closer everyone in the organization comes to achieving his or her singular potential, the more successful the business will be. Successful cultures encourage their employees to keep refreshing their toolkits, keep flexible, keep their stakes in the stream.

Rethink Recruiting

    •    Diversity is key – and by diversity I mean of thought, style, approach and background. You’re building a team, not filling a position. Cherry-picking candidates from name-brand universities will do nothing to further an organization and may even work against it.
    •    Don't buy resume or credentials. Buy competence, track record, character and culture fit.
    •    Avoid hiring only superstars. It’s about company teams, not just the individual. Sure, it’s totally tempting to create an All-Star team, but in case you hadn’t noticed, those people don’t pass the ball, they just shoot it.
    •    Hire competencies but remember: hire with your heart. Make sure new workers fit into the preexisting culture, while also importing their expertise. Become their sponsor – onboarding is essential. Spend time listening. Give them what they need to succeed.
    •    Sometimes you need to hire aliens – folks outside of the culture who bring new ideas and best practices from other places. These people become culture-influencer and agents of change.
    •    New hires are more than just the college or university they attended. In short, don’t hire credentials, hire people.
    •    Character matters. Most people don’t succeed in teams not because they are unqualified or incompetent, but simply because they are not a good cultural fit.
    •    Act now. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make is they don’t act quickly enough. Put aside perfectionism, don’t wait for the perfect person – he or she may not exist. Hire track record and potential.
    •    If, looking back, you realize someone is not a good cultural fit, or is not getting it done, don’t wait to make the change. Sometimes it is just as simple as readjusting their position or redefining their role. If they really don’t get it done, then it’s time to make the tough call.

Be on the lookout for signs of a lack of emotional commitment from employees:
    •    People complain about the hours they’re putting in;
    •    Turnover is high, particularly among young top achievers;
    •    Recruitment is difficult; there’s little innovation or creative thinking; and
    •    There’s more politicking that there is actual dialogue.
Take note of those employees who have an emotional commitment to the organization:
    •    People give extra effort voluntarily;
    •    They become your best ambassadors
    •    Employees make personal and professional sacrifices to stay rather than leave;
    •    People feel free to think outside the box; and
    •    Meetings often result in lively debates and team action.

The employees of tomorrow plays to their strengths

    •    Rather than aspiring to omnipotence, and acting as though they’re the masters of all they survey, Betas focus on what I call “motivated skills,” e.g., the things they know they do exceptionally well. And instead of exploiting their peers’ weaknesses in order to attain and hold onto power, they encourage their fellow team-members to play to their own strengths so that the entire team and organization can succeed.

Self-Awareness is all (but don’t think for a moment it means you’re soft)

    •    What is self-awareness but bringing an intellectual and emotional understanding of your strengths and their weaknesses, your goals and their motivations to a given situation?
    •    Ensure that you hire self-aware people. Give them the proper tools, techniques and feedback, as well as the proper levers of success and sponsorship. Onboard people with the belief that they’ll be successful. Then make sure it happens.
    •    That said, organizations cannot be whole-heartedly responsible for their employees’ development; employees have to play their roles, too. Beta leaders are skilled at assembling employees, encouraging them to think new thoughts in different ways and challenging them to do new things.

 If there’s a single takeaway from years of consulting, recruiting and observing both old and new organizations it’s this: People really truly matter. They are your strategy. They need to be encouraged and coached to pursue what they do best; to keep doing what they enjoy, and to participate in the success of your company.
To survive and thrive today and into the future, business leaders need to grow and develop their own self-awareness. Self-awareness means that you are willing and able to collaborate with employees, directors, customers and yes, even your competitors. It means that you understand that every individual in your organization is a contributor with varying degrees of potential – and that the closer everyone comes to attaining a high level of self-awareness, the closer the organization comes to achieving its potential. It means that your self-awareness feeds into your employees’ own self-awareness, which in turn ignites the overall success of the venture.
Now that Fred has made me the cleanup hitter, I’ll leave with this parting shot: Hire smart and hire the very best people you can. Don’t just onboard someone to fill a slot. Instead, build a community. Keep asking yourself not just what you want and need, but what’s best for the organization to grow and evolve.  And remember what George Carlin said: “If you haven’t gotten where you’re going, you’re probably not there yet.”

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Morgan

    This is the best post I have ever read on the issue of talent, culture and management style in the emerging business enterprise. It just became mandatory reading for everybody at Simulmedia I can’t wait for the book. Thank you Dana! Happy Birthday Fred!

    1. fredwilson

      Dana will love hearing that from you Dave

  2. JimHirshfield

    Wow…that’s a LOT more than a penny, or two. Thanks for the big read, or should I say “playbook”. Full of gold nuggets. Worthy of a second read.

    1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      these were my exact thoughts!!! this is definitely worth a re-read several times since it is loaded with great content

  3. William Mougayar

    Great advice and thanks for re-surfacing the issue of Self-awareness which is one of those least written about skills. But self-awareness shouldn’t apply just to management. It can help anyone.It takes some amount of experience to make self-awareness a second nature, but it pays dividends in influencing people around you.

    1. fredwilson

      Yup. I attribute much of my gains in my third 17 years to focusing on self awareness

      1. JamesHRH

        This is the best point in Dana’s post.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Speaking of “third 17 years” — Happy Birthday!!!

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks Donna

      3. ShanaC

        happy birthday and get off the site :p

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks. Off site but on email

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Well said, William. Very true.Is largely why I decided to finally kill-off for once and for all my web presence and ID as ‘egoboss’ – the intent and irony of it seemed lost on most – so, now I am just ‘me’ – feels good ;-)The ego has a lot to answer for…

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup…I got the killed ego email 🙂

    3. JimHirshfield

      So so hard to be self-aware without being self-conscious (in the way that the later term is used to describe someone that modifies their behavior to suit societal norms or to blend in; ill at ease).

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I think that self-awareness can actually be an antidote to self-consciousness. The former is more objective, the latter more subjective. The former more responsive, the latter more reactionary. It’s the difference between taking oneself seriously and taking oneself too seriously.

        1. JimHirshfield


    4. JLM

      .Self awareness and confidence are things I associate with becoming “calm” about life.I sense that there is a moment in life at which you begin to understand yourself — you are not going to play in the NBA and you cannot throw a football 65 yards on the fly. And, in my case, you did marry the Prom Queen.But there are great number of other things you can do. You have to find them.During my instrument training, I screwed up an approach so bad that we just went home and called it a day. My instructor was a salty old Navy Captain with a million traps and when he flew the plane I often checked to see if it was still moving because he could weld that pipper to the needle.He looked at me and said — “what do you think?”I said — “put me to sleep?”He said — “not a bad thought.”The next day, I nailed it. It just came to me and I was steady as a rock.He looked at me and said — “it was always in there but you didn’t let it come out.”It was a superb lesson in the fact that everything in life is not linear. The fact that both of us knew how terrible I had been the first day and that I could, in fact, recover the second day made me understand that failure is not fatal and success is not permanent.I got a damn good lesson. The fact that that instructor neither sugar coated it nor berated me, let me find me.God, I love life. I love learning. I love the smart discussions here at AVC. You guys are good. Is this a great country or what?.

      1. William Mougayar

        Well said. There’s never a dull moment reading a long comment from you JLM. This reminded of the four stages of Competence: Unconscious incompetence –> Conscious incompetence –> Conscious competence –> Unconscious competence.

        1. JLM

          .Never heard that before. Makes perfect sense.Well played!.

  4. baba12

    Many Happy returns of the day Mr. Fred ( Wilson)..

    1. Cam MacRae

      Yep. Happy Birthday Fred! Hope it’s a good one.

  5. awaldstein

    Something clicked while reading this post.Not specifically about talent acquisition. But about transparency and self awareness as cultural stratas platformed by the social web that has changed recruiting (great post), product development, channels and yes…market understanding and targeting.Self awareness as dna for people of this era and the structures that group us is a change agent of rippling potential across everything we do.

    1. Dave McLaughlin

      This line from the post struck me about today’s great leaders:”In short, they’re as fluid and adaptable as the businesses they run.”Then you contribute this great phrase: “self awareness as dna for people of this era” …For a while I’d been thinking about how we achieve the nimbleness that leaders need in this era. And this post and your comment helped connect that for me. Self-awareness creates nimbleness.Thanks!

      1. awaldstein

        Glad it helped.The thing I always remind myself of is that flexibility of the model has nothing at all to do with the need for clarity of purpose. Without the latter you have little and are just throwing pies against the wall to see what sticks. That’s not flexibility that’s just a mess.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Flexibility is about being able to access a range of options. I am beginning to think that the best flexibility comes from depth of understanding (and perhaps experience) — I will now add alertness and awareness.

          1. awaldstein

            Been thinking…It takes teams and culture to win over time. It takes great leadership to make both happen.Leadership is always what I come back to as the key. If you don’t have it at the top, you won’t have a winning culture that supports it.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Yes, Arnold. I believe this wholeheartedly. And I want to do something about it.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Ha! I tried to upvote this and realized I already had — the first time I read it. Great comment.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I keep thinking about your question of what has changed in recruiting over the past decade. The reason that I have not responded (beyond being absorbed in a number of demands at present that cut down on “thinking time”) is that I think the question goes beyond changes in recruiting and points to a larger dynamic that I am trying to pinpoint. I intuit that you are hitting on something important here. It’s a fun puzzle.

      1. Wavelengths

        Like a fundamental shift in thinking about how companies should operate? Away from the old authoritarian model?

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I think that is part of it.And the purpose of hiring. And what jobs mean to people. And so on…

      2. awaldstein

        The challenge and the cliff that easy phrases chase people off is that we are not describing group think. Not describing collective decision making necessarily.Teams and culture are key. Decision often get made indiividually by the leader.

    3. ShanaC

      One of the things education lacks today- teaching self awareness.That is a skill I only learned outside of school – how do we train self awareness into people?

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Great point, Shana. Eastern practices like meditation, yoga and practicing the Tao are outstanding for developing self-awareness, I think. It would be great to see those integrated into, say, phys ed class.I also think, like many things in life, it’s a little bit of a trick you have to play on yourself; one of the best ways to develop self-awareness is to focus on really seeing and hearing other people, really taking them in and appreciating them.

        1. Wavelengths

          I will tell this story at the risk of seeming beyond the fringe.I have studied some about our different brain-wave states — beta, where we are busy being analytical, alpha, where we are daydreaming or perhaps ready to go to sleep, theta where we might have an intuition, an impulse that we can’t explain rationally but that might prove out later to be true, as in the discovery of the structure of DNA, which showed up in a dream.I think my story is about letting go of that beta state — fully awake, judging, busy, hurrying to the next appointment, the usual Western style of doing business — and allowing other thoughts to float up from the lower, slower brainwaves. Those of you who are doing meditation and yoga and tai chi know what I’m talking about.I had a dog of a breed known for being exceptionally intelligent and able to herd sheep and cattle, keeping track of up to 300 animals at a time. She’d been my “pet” for a long time, always close, choosing to hang out under my desk from the time she was a puppy. This one night I was tired after a full day of “Western” thinking, and ready for bed. Tired enough that I was dropping into consciousness at those slower brainwaves. And all of a sudden I saw a picture in my head of an empty water bowl. Not something I would ordinarily conjure. My dog was looking at me, intently, her herd dog eyebrows giving focus to the intensity of her stare. Sure enough, in the master bathroom sat the empty water bowl.To tie this back in, I think I had relaxed to the point where I could receive information that was available to me along wavelengths that we don’t usually associate with conscious thought. I was “listening” in a completely different way. To take it a different level, how do we think those herd dogs can “tell” the sheep or cattle where to go if not through images? Might that be the way that they, and also we, communicate in many ways?And back to the DNA story, the revelation came in a picture of a spiral. As it is said, “one picture is worth 10,000 words.”Somewhere in our process of becoming fully self-aware, I believe we also need to give credibility to the other types of thought processes other than the usual busy-busy.Golf, yoga, sushi and sake, toes in sand, a glass of a fine wine … and welcome that other state of mind that has its own intelligence.

          1. JLM

            .Very, very well played. Great story.I agree with you completely. I make time to dream and sometimes the dreams come true. Most of the time..

          2. Wavelengths

            TY. Coincidentally, both of us have perfect daughters. (Our secret) I hope you had a great evening and that she has peaceful seas as she sails off to her next destination.

          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Are you a fellow “Through the Wormhole” fan? 🙂

          4. Wavelengths

            I’ve been away from TV, so I’ve missed it. I see now I’ll have to catch up. You might like to follow this link back to see my reply to Donna, just above your comment. 🙂

          5. Donna Brewington White

            When something is lost and needs to be found it is this “other state of mind” that helps me to find it…it’s uncanny. My husband calls it the gift of finding but really it is a type of “paying attention” with another part of my mind. Interesting that I chose a profession that involves finding.So does this story have anything to do with your Disqus handle?

          6. Wavelengths

            This is from the Wikipedia article on Dr. Hans Berger, inventor of the EEG and the first to record brainwaves, which he called “alpha waves.”‘After attending Casimirianum, where he gained his abitur in 1892, Berger enrolled as a mathematics student at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena with a view to becoming an astronomer. After one semester, he abandoned his studies and enlisted for a year of service in the cavalry. During a training exercise, his horse suddenly reared and he landed in the path of a horse-drawn cannon. The driver of the artillery battery halted the horses in time, leaving the young Berger shaken but with no serious injuries.[2] His sister, at home many kilometres away, had a feeling he was in danger and insisted their father telegram him. The incident made such an impression on Berger that, years later in 1940, he wrote: “It was a case of spontaneous telepathy in which at a time of mortal danger, and as I contemplated certain death, I transmitted my thoughts, while my sister, who was particularly close to me, acted as the receiver.”[3]’When Berger next discovered what we now call beta waves, he first called them “alpha blockers” because that busy-brain analytical thought pattern damped down the alpha waves. Theta, a lower, slower frequency, is thought to be the range of telepathy, and frequently communication that “comes in” while a person is open to thinking in that frequency comes in the form of discrete pictures. Like, water dish, perhaps? or DNA spiral?I believe intuition operates through the slower waves, perhaps emerging from delta, moving up into theta, being processed in alpha and becoming available to the “beta brain.” Delta is the lowest frequency, where some people think racial memory or cosmic consciousness emanates. My guess is that you are able to access information along a number of frequencies, and you have learned to not let your nay-saying beta mind deny the credibility of information you gather in other spectra.Awhile ago, when I was looking for “rational” explanations for seemingly mystical or irrational events, I spent some time reading Anna Wise. Her observations over multiple decades of studying brainwaves and behavior are quite interesting.I didn’t have time to write a short answer, so I’m writing a long one. Obviously I can bore people for hours with this stuff. Personally, I relish everything I gather from all the wavelengths.

          7. Donna Brewington White

            This is all very interesting. Thank you.

          8. ShanaC

            I don’t believe in god, but to me, this makes sense. I don’t know why, but it does

          9. Wavelengths

            Yes, yes, and yes. Did you read my post below? In reply to Donna?The more I have studied, the more I have come back to some similar concepts (truths?) across everyone’s effort to explain god. Sufi? Kabala? New-age whatever? Snake handling? Chanting? The doctrine that says simple bread and wine can turn into god’s blood and flesh? — each actually points us back to some place of letting go of the busy brain. Rationality serves us well, but it can get in the way of the more complex truths.And at some level, the more I learn, the more I go back to my basic chemistry courses, my study of the “wavelengths” of atomic and molecular structure.The theologians say, “As above, so below.” I also say, “As below, so above.” I believe we are surrounded by the lessons of synergy, community, growth, development of our supreme potential — in very simple lessons. This spring I planted seeds. A summer of plus-100 degree temps and neighbor boys who kept running through the flower beds, well, it was a major exercise in faith. I got a few blossoms for my acre-feet of water that I sprinkled on those damn flowers, but now the neighbor boys from several buildings away are signing on to protect my flower beds. I’m planting perennials. I expect a return year after year. I now have local investors who are protecting and encouraging my efforts. I don’t think I can do an IPO on my flowers, but perhaps they will continue to come up, year after year, after I leave this place.The flowers are pure biology. The attitude of the neighboring kids seemed to “scare” my flowers from blossoming after the kids started shortcutting through the flower beds. I met one of the moms and we connected around being single moms and how to control boy kids who don’t want to hear “NO!” The neighbor cops (small town) contributed by giving a stern lecture on respecting other people and keeping the peace. Tonight the boys gathered around while a younger sister helped me plant new seeds.And now the boys tell me about baseball camp and the medal one of them won at a rodeo.Is god here? Or is it just our intersecting wavelengths and the way we choose to respond?I’m honored to be considered a citizen of Fredville. And thank you for all your insightful comments.

        2. awaldstein

          True…but to me the greatest tool for self awareness is to write.There is no exercise or zone where you are more connected to the distance between what you think and the process of expressing it.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Yes, I must agree!

        3. ShanaC

          Seeing other people is also a difficult skill. It takes a lot of training to notice other people – more than what we’re doing in schools now.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            You’re quite right. You should do a start-up around that 🙂

          2. ShanaC

            I’m working on other things (one thing getting close and closer to doneness), and I am so overextended as it is.Though if you want a startup idea – automating customs forms for shipping – which apparently are still done in part by hand.

  6. jason wright

    Can this work in all societies?

    1. William Mougayar

      That would be a nice harmony to have in this messy world. Spot on. Politics and religion can take common sense out of people.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Absolutely. Self awareness and secularism is key if we are to go forwards as a species.

    2. ShanaC

      I hear the song “Imagine” in my head with this comment…

  7. Richard

    Just realized all the great lessons I learned from playing baseball. 

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Cognitive thinking, spatial awareness, etc? All lending to increased self awareness in life/business?This thread is reminding me a lot of some of the stuff by Tom Peters and Funky Business. Cool.

  8. Dave McLaughlin

    I’ve been thinking for a while about the phrase “earned leadership” – an idea in sync w/ this post, I think. That the old command and control is gone. If you want to harness the power of networks, well, I think by definition that means you want to lead people who don’t work for you. So you can’t just tell them what to do. You have to earn the right to lead them. And that happens every day. Or not.And if you run a business built on terrific talent, then it’s kinda the same thing, because those folks can make a move any time they like. Any time they feel you haven’t earned the right to lead them.Thanks for a great post. Great way to start the week!

  9. Cam MacRae

    I had to research what it meant to “bat cleanup”. Now that I know, I reckon it’s safe to say this post did the trick — plus it’s just teeming with little golden nuggets.Something that fascinates me is that credentialism was mentioned at least twice.In my part of the world nobody cares what school you went to. Well, if you got to Oxford on a Rhodes you’ll get a few raised eyebrows, but otherwise “bachelors degree” is a checkbox.It blew me away the first time I saw a bumper sticker touting one’s alma mater. More so because it was on back of my future wife’s car!

  10. John Best

    “you’re building a team, not filling a position.” Love it.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I screamed inside when I read those words!

    2. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      that is a great one. There are so many terrific quotes in this article

  11. The Phat Startup

    such a great post, should become mandatory reading or listening for early stage companies. Full of great gems!

  12. kirklove

    Dana, incredible post and summary. Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing. Should be mandatory reading for any organization. Wow.

  13. gorbachev

    This post so perfectly describes why I wasn’t enjoying my last job, and why I’m thoroughly enjoying my current job. There are several bullet points that my former employer got wrong, and my current one is getting right.Good stuff!

  14. Kyle Bryant

    Great article. The message is spot on. Focus on collaboration and team building when in hiring mode, egos need not be checked at the door, but must be balanced with empathy and emotional maturity. I’d love to hear more from Dr. Ardi.

  15. Gregory Magarshak

    This is an awesome guest post! Definitely more than two cents. I’m having to assume more and more of a CEO role and I eat this kind of stuff up.I would also say that the tools used in the organization, the infrastructure that everyone is familiar with, plays a vital role in the dynamics of how everything grows around it.

  16. PhilipSugar

    What a great post. I think self awareness is the highest form of self confidence. I like Fred credit much of my success as a result of being self aware.People can see right through when you are a me-me. (one of my favorite phrases) I think people used to tolerate narcissism but in the knowledge workplace they don’t have to.

  17. panterosa,

    What I love about this post are the details of how to’s. What nags at me is that we somehow need to keep hearing it.Self awareness is facing who you are in the mirror, and that can be your company/brand looking in the mirror too, and assessing the gap between who you know you can be, and deeply want to be, and who you are. Manifesting the desires of ‘becoming’ into your ‘being’ is the daily renewal of progress towards evolved living, stretching ‘the now’ into purposeful action and continual growth.

  18. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I knew this post would be great right after I read the following line near the beginning “Marriage is a long conversation,” but so today is business – which is why companies have to change or else risk going under. “It definitely delivered in content!!

  19. Moses Nakamura

    If your superstars aren’t passing the ball, they aren’t superstars. What makes someone a superstar is that they are so good at:A. Their jobB. Making other people better at their jobthat they become force multipliers.

    1. JamesHRH

      Moses – I love the force myltiplier phrase.Nice.

      1. Max Yoder


  20. Pete Griffiths

    Excellent.”Productive narcissists” – Iike it.I have no idea what the culture of Goldman is like now but in the old days they were very clear they didn’t want to hire narcissistic stars. The term they used to guide hire was ‘SWANs” – SmartWork hardAmbitiousNiceHiring along these lines was most definitely a statement of culture. And the ‘Nice’ was important.I still think in terms of SWANs.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Still trying to unwrap the “productive narcissists.” Much of the damage I’ve seen in companies has been done by narcissists at the top. Even still, what Dana is saying rings true.

      1. PhilipSugar

        Yes, that was the only part of the post that lost me. I had to look up the word just to make sure I wasn’t clear on something, and no I wasn’t. I can deal with literally anybody else. I don’t care about prima donnas, a-holes, tyrants, etc. People that only care about themselves without morals….they will do anything that they see fit, which makes them very hard to predict. You can predict the other behaviors and work with them. Not ideal but at least predictable.

    2. ShanaC

      I think the N has been dropped from a lot of organizations – I see killers more than Nice, even though the tit for tat strategy doesn’t pay off nearly as well in the long term.

      1. JLM

        .One of the most important things to remember about life is that everyone has to be the person they are when they put their heads down on their pillow.The person who has done something evil and reprehensible is doomed to be that person.The person who has done some good works is blessed to be that person.In that instant, you know who you are.Be the person you really want to be. It is the ultimate liberation..

  21. Donna Brewington White

    I love this post so much that I want to eat it.In my experience as a recruiter I can say without hesitation that the best hires I have seen are by companies and organizations with a high degree or self-awareness and the worst hires have been by those with the lowest. Recruiting done well is an opportunity to fine-tune self-awareness.I can try to help with the self-awareness part and when I have the opportunity to really do it right, this is an important part of the process. But you can’t force people to embrace self-awareness. And self-awareness truly does have to start at the top of the organization no matter how large or small. I learned long ago — the hard way — that I can’t fix crazy cultures by helping them to hire great people.Everything you said about recruiting resonates very deeply. Well, actually, everything you said, period.Perhaps one of the many, many reasons that I love startups is that each one represents a new opportunity to get it right, to bring fresh thinking into how we do business and build companies. The challenge is to keep it organic without resorting to formulaic and rigid thinking which is always a temptation when dealing with something as seemingly mysterious as recruiting and hiring.I can’t wait for the book.

    1. Wavelengths

      “self-awareness truly does have to start at the top of the organization …”I was among the first 10 hired in a company run by a flaming egomaniac. We had talent all over the place, but he ran everything with an iron fist. His involvement with product definition caused those of us in the trenches to come up with the term “user hostile” — a product that seemed designed for maximum frustration. Those of us who really wanted the company to succeed, who believe in the ultimate value of the core product, were scurrying around, having whispered conversations about how we could fix things, plug the holes in the dike, and so on. Obviously we couldn’t fix something that was broken at the top, but we sure tried. And, no, the company didn’t last more than three years.I am ecstatic to see this wonderful view of how companies should operate to be most successful. And I love that this group is so eager to claim these values. Look at how much influence can reach out into companies and society just from today’s column and conversation.Right on, sistahs! (Donna and Dana) And hurrah for everyone else who is adding a thumbs up.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Nom nom nom

    3. ShanaC

      how do you develop self-awareness?

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Humility and self-awareness are inextricably linked. Much of the self-awareness I have gained has come through feedback and through relationships. But it takes courage, honesty, reflection and self-acceptance. I think that if you desperately want self-awareness, even criticism will be seen as a gift.I’m not claiming to be an expert and this is a two minutes between phone appointments response. Barely, barely skimming the surface. Maybe someone else will weigh in.I think this would be an excellent blog post by Mr. Wilson given what he said elsewhere in this thread: “Yup. I attribute much of my gains in my third 17 years to focusing on self awareness.” Then we can all chime in with our insightful comments.What say you @fredwilson:disqus ?

        1. panterosa,

          @donnawhite:disqus “…….if you desperately want self-awareness, even criticism will be seen as a gift.”Criticism usually brings more info than praise, and with it more insight. The people who have launched shards and barbs at my work helped me get closer to that work, and nearer to my voice, and see how their vision of ‘lack’ or their dislike could actually be a point of interest, a feather in my cap.I welcome that kind of experience. Keep your enemies close – they let you know who you are, and that’s a gift.

  22. Matt A. Myers

    “Self-Awareness is all”It makes me think foremost of yoga, and my yoga practice. It could be due to recency, whereby I just came from yoga – though I usually associate self-awareness with any activity that challenges oneself, which yoga can do or it can be used as maintenance to bring you back to balance / calm / peace of mind / grounding.I describe yoga as a framework for self-exploration. This of course leads to increased self-awareness, physically and emotionally. It will release past blocks or put pressure on them to show themselves and then can / should be explored. This will lead to discovering lessons or pieces of information you weren’t ready for and allow you a chance to learn from them. This of course leads to managing yourself better, making better decisions, increased productivity and happiness – for you and everyone around you. Managing yourself better and increase self-awareness will of course lead to everything Dana stated above.Everyone should do yoga in one form or another, and well, that’s a mission of mine getting everyone doing it. I’ll be happy when I can do my big reveal. It’s coming “soon” in relative terms..

  23. Robert Thuston

    Smart perspective. Fan of Drucker? Love the take on not just hiring blindly from Ivy league schools, as well as the RLS quote.

  24. Robert Thuston

    Also, heard something the other day that might strike you as interesting. These 4 experts on social relations were talking about a theory on social dynamics, and came up with a scale and descriptions for each (development stages):–If you are a 6 in the development process, you are suplacative and ur motto is “please like me” and that is what drives your behavior. As a leader you accept this person.–A 7 tries to get value by putting you down, their motto is “you suck”. As a leader, you brush off their insults and give them value by pointing out their strengths.–An 8 tries to one up you, and their motto is “I’m better than you”. As a leader you aslo point out their strengths.–As a 9, you have enough internal value to dish out value to others. You see yourself as awesome and you see everyone else as awesome too. Your motto is “you’re awesome”. The ideal leader–A 10 is unreachable, its your actualized self (JC, per say)It came across better in the dialogue, but this was it in a nutshell

  25. ShanaC

    “Instead, build a community”Building a community is very difficult as you scale up (I see it here sometimes, and this place the various people are very close to each other). What do you think keeps a community going once you hit a size in your company where it is hard to have everyone know everyone else?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Smaller linked communities?

      1. Wavelengths

        Overlapping sets of communities? So that marketing, engineering, etc., don’t become isolated, but rather that people have reasons to associate and collaborate across specialties? Subgroups with representatives from the usual company divisions?I don’t think I’m expressing this well, but I can see the concept.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Off topic – I will send you the Bingo links — was waiting for permission. Either follow me on Twitter @donnawhite, contact me on LinkedIn (I have free InMail) or email me dwhite at bwasearch.

          1. Wavelengths


  26. James C. Kim

    Great article but why call these new leaders betas which seems like a pejorative term. Perhaps, the New Alphas?

  27. CJ

    The voice bunny audio was clutch for this post. Would love to hear more from her.

  28. JLM

    .OK, so this generation did not invent sex. Got that out of the way.This generation really does not know anything about “command and control”. It is a notion that very few folks of the average age of the AVC readers really understands.C & C was never as pronounced as folks think it was. Just like the 1960s were not the sexual revolution your Mom’s & Dad’s told you. Those Catholic girls — lovely Irish girls and frisky Italian girls — I went to school with never got the memo. Alas.I agree with everything that Dana says in this article. Everything.But, like sex, it was not invented solely by this generation.Most of it has been around for generations.I served in elite military units in my 20s. I was an officer educated at the best military schools and graduated from the toughest possible training. Training that I frankly did not know if I was tough enough to take. I was but I was as surprised as anyone else.In elite units — the ultimate C & C outfits — the officers never, ever raised their voices and the sergeants never usurped the competent officers’ authority.The officers commanded and the non-coms ran things. You gave orders that were based on results and let the non-coms figure out how to get it done.Before you gave those orders, you asked who had ever done this before and solicited their advice. Good non-coms would say: “Lt, I’ve seen this done like this before and it worked.”The good sergeants looked after their young, green officers and the smart officers took good care of their sergeants and men. I never went to bed if a soldier of mine had a problem. I missed a lot of sleep.You promoted the doers and you retrained the less than stellar. You were grateful for success and you ensured that those who performed got medals and promotions and schools and a pat on the back.But you never, ever raised your voice.The wisdom of life, management and leadership has been passed along at the edge of the campfire. Since that Hun, Atilla.After all a culture is simply the reinforcement of successful methodologies and they are best passed along by example and word of mouth.I will also step out on the limb and say there are a lot more folks who want to be lead than anyone wants to admit. Perhaps moreso today than ever before.At the national level, we are looking for folks who can confidently say — step aside, friend, I’ve done this before and I can do it again.You cannot solve tough problems by going out for sushi and sake. Sometimes you just have to dig in and follow the direction of folks who have a few mounted heads on their wall..

    1. fredwilson

      Damn. I really enjoy sushi and sake 😉

      1. JLM

        .Actually, I am headed out for some sushi and sake this very evening as part of the goodbye sequence for My Perfect Daughter..

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith


      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Food and drink alliteration is always the best 🙂

    2. sdefor01

      I wish I could upvote this more than once.

    3. Robert Thuston

      cracking me up… “just like the 1960s were not the sexual revolution your Mom’s & Dad’s told you” well played

  29. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I think that anyone who can quote George Carlin twice in a post on business deserves my full attention.Thanks for this great post. It’s a keeper – one of those I’ll hang onto for reference over and over.

    1. Wavelengths

      Laminated posters?

  30. DTB

    Great stuff

  31. Emeri Gent [Em]

    Always love hearing the theme of “self-awareness”, but need to sharpen my own saw being that I found this post a month after the author wrote it. Thoroughly good stuff though.[Em]

  32. ShanaC

    But you can’t pull off 1 if people don’t trust you to begin with.