Taking To Dos and Moving Up The Y Axis

I chromecasted the kitchen laptop to our family room TV yesterday morning and watched the entire Sarah Lacy interview with Dick Costolo. Yes, I had posted it as the video of the week without watching it in its entirety. But I knew it would be good. And it was. All two plus hours of it.

Dick has this management framework that I've heard him talk about before. He and Sarah talked about it in the Pando talk. It goes something like this:

If you think about what you are trying to accomplish in a meeting with someone you are managing and you plot the following:

one the x axis – whether you clearly communicated the issue to the person

on the y axis – whether they walk out of the meeting happy or mad at you

Dick's point is you want to optimize for the x axis, clear and crisp communication, and not worry too much about the y axis.

In his talk with Sarah, they talked about meetings that "move up the y axis". Dick put it this way.

In delivering difficult news to the person, you start trying to make them feel better. The next thing you know "you are taking to dos and moving up the y axis and you are going to spend all afternoon on those to dos you took".

Dick's meta point here is your job as a manager is to give people direction not to make them feel good. And if you, in an effort to make them happier, take on a bunch of work that you shouldn't, you will be less effective too.

As Sarah put it, "don't move up the y axis". It's good management advice and I thought I would share it with everyone who did not watch the whole video on this MBA Monday.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    “if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, and you would achieve nothing!” – Maggie Thatcher.

    1. fredwilson

      she walked that walk πŸ™‚

    2. Aaron Klein

      One of my favorite Thatcher quotes.Honestly, this is probably my greatest challenge as a CEO. The greatest trick I’ve found for myself is to start that meeting off by saying something like this:”In this meeting, I’ve got some important course corrections to communicate to you. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “you’re fired” and 10 being “everything is great,” this is a ____.”Committing myself to the X axis from moment one makes it incredibly awkward to fall in the trap Dick describes.

      1. Vineeth Kariappa

        easier way to fire people; tell every1 your pay moves relative to your performance at the time u hire them. If u want a person out, reduce his pay. If he still stays, never let him go. If he goes, he went.

      2. PhilipSugar

        I don’t agree. I think two things: one it has to be two way, you need to want them to be heard.Second if you start a meeting off by saying the words: 1 to 10 “you’re fired” as the employee, I’d be thinking on a scale of 1 to 10 what are the chances I ditch your ass at the worst possible moment.And that is what I mean by being two way.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Also as before at AVC.com, wantthe employee to do some talking,e.g., formulating and expressing themessage, hopefully complete withpros and cons, and coming to essentially the same conclusion orat least being able to ‘reflect’ backwhat was said. Also, as in ‘Soul ofa New Machine’, want some employee’buy-in’ to the effort.

        2. Aaron Klein

          Hmmm. I’m not sure if what I meant is coming across over a Disqus comment.If I wasn’t firing the employee, the number in the scale is probably a 7 or 8. My goal is to communicate that this is important and they should pay attention, but they don’t need to freak out.In a prior career, I actually had one person tell me “you know what, thank you for not dancing around that and just leveling with me. It’s good to know where I stand and what I need to do to excel in this job.”

          1. PhilipSugar

            I totally agree with letting people know where they stand. I totally fire fast. If somebody is not doing what they need to do I tell them immediately and forcefully. I never bring up the threat of firing someone. I guess that is not what you meant but to me whenever you use the word you’ve brought out the threat.

          2. Aaron Klein

            Definitely agree β€” threats of firing never work. Totally demoralizing and worthless. Save yourself the time and fire them today instead.I’ve started to deliver feedback to people before and had them blurt out “am I being fired?”Hence why I came up with a way to say “this is NOT a firing but it is something you should pay attention to.”

      3. SubstrateUndertow

        Both excellent Thatcher quotes demonstrate that she was painfully aware of the clarity and directness-of-message issue.But from my reality-tunnel perspective she was dangerously weak and short sighted on the integrated actionable wisdom and direction front.Both Thatcher and Reagan really fostered the delinking of corporate responsibilities/allegiance to the citizenry of the nations in which they chose to incorporated themselves as institutional team players. Thatcher and Reagan set the stage for national jurisdictions to become simply flags of convenience in a game of transnational divide and conquer, dividing workers, dividing tax jurisdictions, dividing environmental reality constraints etc. . . . by undermining long standing beliefs in the principle of trade and industrial policy as legitimate tools for managing national economies.Thus began the distorting cross-threaded villainization of trade and industrial policy as merely synonymous with obsolesced vestigially encumbering mercantilism(now China’s specialty) as opposed to legitimate levers for maintaining fair, balanced, sustainably-distributive forms of trade, production, consumption and purchasing power homeostasis within economically functional reconciliation time windows.Standing under the protective rule-of-law umbrella provided by any particular political jurisdiction should comes with a corresponding reciprocal corporate responsibility to effectively contribute to the stability and economic well being of that political jurisdiction and its democratically enabling citizenry. Are they on the team or not !Blocking the emergence of any progressive national trade/industrial policy toolkits as illegitimate in exchange for shot sighted and short lived international corporate profits has precipitated our present global economic thermodynamic death spiral.(economic homeostatic collapse)Now here comes the same tired old corporate sociopaths with their secretly developed TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement in an attempt to permanently lock out all national political jurisdictions along with their democratic citizenry from any autonomous control over their own trade and industrial policy initiatives.P.S.This is not an attack on capitalism.I am all in on reformulated capitalism as our best economic form factor option simply because it is our only available organic-platform play.BUT!Sustainable, win-win, organic, neo-capitalist reformulations will obviously require distributively synchronized political/economic jurisdictional subsystems with the autonomy to execute their own locally adaptive regulator balancing functions thusly facilitating their effective contributively adaptive participation within the gestalt of the larger global economic homeostasis.Even MOTHER GOOSE got it !”Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”and”Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg”END OF OFF TOPIC RANT – Sorry but I blame LIAD πŸ™‚

      4. Matt A. Myers

        The purpose is to set expectations immediately and clarify emotional worry and fear – putting a person at ease?

        1. Aaron Klein

          Yep. πŸ™‚

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Even if that’s easing into dread I suppose.. πŸ™‚

      5. Cynthia Schames

        “In this meeting, I’ve got some important course corrections to communicate to you. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “you’re fired” and 10 being “everything is great,” this is a ____.”I really like that, @aaronklein:disqus Mind if I steal it?

        1. Aaron Klein


    3. SubstrateUndertow

      Great quote but you’ve got to bring a lot more to the party then just unadulterated clarity you have to bring integrated actionable wisdom and direction.I’m an interloper here. I’m not a developer, nor finance, nor management type but I watched the whole thing because it was fun, generically informative and most of all because Dick was so damn clever and amusing within his clarity of message. He is clearly a fountainhead of multi-dimentional perspectives and effortlessly toggles between directness and disarming charm-mitigated framing.Translation, he may be running straight down that X-axis but he has exceptional peripheral Y-axis optimization skills. He is a hard act to follow maybe it is all that comedy training.

      1. LIAD

        great point.+ [there are no interlopers here]

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          Don’t encourage me πŸ™‚

      2. Russell

        +1 on the “you’ve got to bring a lot more to the party”

    4. JLM

      .Did you ever notice how much better folks thought about things when Reagan and Thatcher were running the show?Adults.JLM.

    5. ShanaC

      The world is slightly more complicated. I always thought the Getting to Yes and BATNA was a better approach

      1. Aaron Klein

        BATNA is the definition of being unwilling to compromise on certain things. You have an alternative to giving in.

  2. pointsnfigures

    The delivery matters though. I reminded of Maj. John M. Schofield’s graduating address to the class of 1879 at West Point;”The discipline with makes soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary,such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner, and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode of other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due others, cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself, while he who feels and hence manifests disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”Short graduating address, big ideas and a lot to be learned by managers everywhere.

    1. fredwilson

      i totally agree. you do not have to be an asshole to not move up the y axis

      1. JamesHRH

        My first boss was amazingly painstaking in this Y axis process.I saw people get visibly uncomfortable as he parsed a request for very specific details. After working for him for 2 years, I furred out his MO: if he said he would do it, he did it.He was getting very specific details to insure that expectation met outcome.

    2. awaldstein

      I agree.That being said I’ve worked for some of the most brilliant, most difficult, most one-sided people imaginable. Inspired brilliance engenders tolerance.I don’t emulate their flaws but honestly, that’s not what I remember.

    3. JamesHRH

      Generally people respect being directed and being held accountable.If they resist, they lack confidence or are distracted emotionally, which is what I would use as the Z axis.

      1. awaldstein

        I read this and I think ‘hiring well’ is always the best solution.

        1. fredwilson

          there was an interesting conversation in the talk where Dick talked about a “big data” analysis they did at Twitter to see if they could improve their hiring process. he said to date it has not borne fruit but it sounds like they are continuing to try to figure out how to be better and smarter around hiring

          1. awaldstein

            I have more data than ever before, better networks, but I wonder whether how i hired for startups in the early 90s and today is that different.Good choices get informed by tech but good people choices is a core skill and a knack.Post idea–anyone doing anything really interesting in the recruiting world?

          2. pointsnfigures

            shiftgig.com, rivs.com, hireology.com are three companies in a bucketful that are trying to do cool things.

          3. LE

            anyone doing anything really interesting in the recruiting world?And over what time period have they been doing it?

          4. pointsnfigures

            a few years for a couple of them.

          5. ShanaC

            i know a number of people who are

          6. LE

            Certainly can be helpful (any intel is of value) but people are analog and they are packed with nuance which data can’t help with. It’s a tool but focusing on that could make you ignore other things of equal or greater importance.

    4. JLM

      .Elite military units and well run companies have standard operating processes which do not require anyone focusing on the x or y axis.Folks know what they are doing.If a young officer raised his voice in an elite military unit — where the senior noncoms have been at their trade for a decade or longer — they would look at him incredulously. He might catch some friendly fire.In a well run company, the CEO has instilled a similar management process and has surrounded herself with excellent folks who know their jobs and who can be relied upon to translate strategy and tactics (business plan) into SMART objectives.If the CEO has put the right people and process in place, the joint almost runs itself and dialogue focuses on whether they have gotten the strategy, tactics and objectives right. Not much more.When operating a couple of different multi-state, multi-unit operating businesses, I used to have a single video conference with all subsidiary managers on a Tuesday morning at which each person had 3 minutes to identify what they were working on, what problems they needed help with and what assistance they needed from me and the HQ to accomplish their objectives.I used to have their objectives at hand so I knew they were working on their agreed work plan.It worked — for me — like a charm.I could referee conflicts on the spot and not waste anyone’s time. For a long time this was the only meeting I would have all week.JLM.

      1. LE

        If a young officer raised his voice in an elite military unit — where the senior noncoms have been at their trade for a decade or longer — they would look at him incredulously. He might catch some friendly fire.A look that translates to “you’re a moron, right”? Nothing makes someone think twice about what comes out of their mouth or what they do than a facial or verbal reactioin that reduces them to almost tears.In a well run company, the CEO has instilled a similar management process and has surrounded herself with excellent folks who know their jobs and who can be relied upon to translate strategy and tactics (business plan) into SMART objectives.Also folks who aren’t offended when not being treated with kid gloves and/or have either low (or interestingly very high) self esteem to not be bothered when they are dressed down for saying stupid things. In all honesty.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        A keeper for my collection. I didn’tdream that an organization couldwork so well and certainly not bysuch a light touch from the CEO.Good to know.

    5. LE

      It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner, and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey.Curious what happens when you take this advice and use it in a non military situation. And on millennials.

      1. pointsnfigures

        If done correctly, and in context it works. But, employment is also about building a relationship with your employees. Set clear goals and realistic expectations; then when they aren’t met the employee knows which axis will be used.

  3. David Semeria

    I would say that your ability to focus on the x rather than y axis grows linearly with the success of your business.If you’re just starting out you’re scared shitless of your first employees / cofounders walking out. On the other hand, if you’re the belle of the ball you can take more risks with the y axis.

    1. awaldstein

      Yup–success makes everything easier, rosier, more paced.Funny how successful people are as a rule, more humble, more unrushed, nicer.Need and urgency are hard to manage as a personsal poise.

      1. panterosa,

        Arnold, I totally agree.The captain of the toy industry who has shepherded me along this past year is exemplary as a total mensch, generous personally and publicly, so worldly and well travelled and well read – an hour with him is a trip to another world.He set the bar for me on how to do all that with grace, charm and intelligence. Hopefully, I will follow his footprints in the snow on day…

      2. ShanaC

        Both can be managed though. Ballet for the poise, meditation for urgency

      3. Matt A. Myers

        “Easier, rosier, more paced” – mainly because it’s more predictable?

    2. leigh

      Which is why you have to set it up to succeed. Too many founders try to hold on to everything vs. figuring out what they need to give away to get the right Team. I think if you don’t focus on Y, you won’t get to a successful business. That being said, that is all caveated with the premise “don’t be a jerk” either as employee or boss. (I see below now that Fred described that as not being an asshole — that too πŸ˜‰

    3. Dave Pinsen

      Excellent point. From that excerpt of Brad Stone’s book about Amazon, it’s clear that Bezos is all x axis too, as you’d expect, given Amazon’s success.There’s a related point though, about culture, something Jim Collins has written about. Specifically, he noted that great companies are often “cult-like” places to work. People who succeed there drink the Koolaid and like the taste, and those who don’t, don’t last. I’d think that in a cult-like workplace, managers wouldn’t need to spend much time on the y axis, because Koolaid drinkers are generally happy.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Good point but just to nitpick I like the term workplace-culture over cult-like workplace which implies something more akin to unreproducible persona based organizational luck ?

        1. Dave Pinsen

          “Cult-like places to work” was Jim Collins’s phrase. I don’t think it he meant it to connote luck.

      2. JLM

        .I know you don’t mean the notion of “Koolaid drinkers” in a pejorative manner, but it is a very important consideration.I have had the great luxury of working with teams who were at times prepared to sacrifice their lives for the mission. A damn strong vintage of Koolaid indeed.Professionally, I have had the honor of founding and leading enterprises — not always but sometimes — in which the tasks at hand were so much bigger than our individual selves as to be truly breathtaking.The enterprises attracted the people. The people created the culture. The culture propelled the enterprises. It was something more powerful than the sum of the individual parts.Here’s the secret — we all knew it. Even though I was the founder/CEO I was still a pygmy when it came to what we accomplished collectively.The Koolaid is sometimes special sauce.JLM.

    4. PhilipSugar

      You have to be careful on this as well. I’ve met really successful people that were complete a-holes.I wondered is that the reason why they are successful or is that the result of becoming successful.I’ve determined that by in large it is a result.

      1. awaldstein

        I don’t think it is necessarily connected honestly.Even the craziest of those I’ve worked with and for, it was more about being single minded and driven and unaware more than anything else.To me that’s different.

  4. Brandon Burns

    a lot of people don’t want to receive direction. most of them want to walk out of the meeting feeling good. which means if you’re a manager optimizing for the x axis, and you’re stuck in such an environment, you’re going to fail.this is one of the many reasons i set out to be an entrepreneur. i don’t want my work to revolve around, as my sister would say, “suffering fools.”

    1. LE

      “as my sister would say, “suffering fools.””As I used to say to my sister, as a matter of fact, “people are either above or below the line”.

  5. Jack Sinclair

    Really like his framework. A little of “Who’s got the Monkey” from HBR we reference all the time where I work. But I know one of the biggest challenges of meetings is did the person/people truly take away the message you intended. Plus I am drawn to any framework with axes.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, i like charts too πŸ™‚

  6. jason wright

    sounds good and flat. the z axis is you’re fired.

    1. leigh

      And option C is when the person you’ve hired decides to leave vs. deal with issues πŸ™‚

  7. paramendra

    I watched it only a few hours back before going to sleep. And look howearly I woke up! The video did things to me. In fact I was surprisedto see this blog post. I came to this blog to do a search on SteveGreenwood because I remember your once talking about how he raisedmoney from you, No product, just an idea, but a very good one. Thatalso happens. And I needed to share the story with someone who alsohas an excellent idea, that I am helping out with. And, boom, here youare talking about the video. Although I have been aware of the PandoMonthly thing, I am not sure I have ever watched an entire episodeyet. I have been missing out. I really like that the format was not tocleanly cut at 30 or 60 minutes. No Charlie Rose here. I mean, it isnonsensical to cut people off when you are publishing on the web. Notthe first time TV has looked stupid. The conversation should have anatural end. Sometimes it is at 12 minutes, sometimes it is at 112minutes. Say, I have been thinking of paying you a visit. As in, dropby your office and announce, “I am here to see Fred Wilson.” I amwondering how that might play out.

  8. JimHirshfield

    Reminds me of the “compliment sandwich”, a strategy – actually, more of a joke – of complimenting someone, delivering bad news, and closing with a compliment…all to soften the bad news.The takeaway is too rosy, and the real message lost.

    1. Aaron Klein

      Yes, but…As long as I’m intending to keep someone on the team (and the meeting is quite different if I’m not), I always end by pointing out that I believe they’re capable of that new direction, and I know so because I’ve seen the excellence they’ve produced in the past.You’ve got to inspire people and help them realize what they’re capable of. It takes no more than 20 seconds at the end of that meeting but I can see the motivation for change afterward.

      1. awaldstein

        Logistics aside, communications is not really the complete end goal. Focused motivation and inspiration invariably is.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Perfectly said.

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Yes and in that vein the free-agentcy of autonomous self-interest that motivation and inspiration us probably lives on that X-axis ?

      2. William Mougayar


    2. Francois Royer Mireault

      Yep! It also reminded me of the shit sandwich and this post from Ben Horowitz. Link: http://bhorowitz.com/2012/1

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s called the feedback sandwich and it works if it’s well done.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Very kind of you to point that out William.Evidently, it has many names, which I hope you’ll recognize.Keep up the good work.#complimentsandwich#feedbacksandwich#shitsandwich

          1. William Mougayar

            Good come back πŸ™‚ We have too many sandwiches now. I’m full.Kidding aside, I like to call things by their original names, especially if the new names distort the intent or don’t add any value.The “sandwich” method is not for everything. And it’s not for delivering “bad news”. That’s where its critics mis-interpreted its intent. It’s for delivering Feedback on employee performance in the cases where the employee is doing an otherwise pretty good job. It’s not for dealing with issues, problems, bad news or urgent situations. Sometimes, you need to be direct and clear.(btw- this comment isn’t directed at you, but in general it’s about this topic)

          2. JimHirshfield

            Thanks for the Comment Quiche.

          3. William Mougayar

            Croque-Monsieur please.

          4. JimHirshfield

            I had to Google that. None of those ingredients work for my vegan lifestyle. πŸ˜‰

          5. William Mougayar

            LOL. Have a Croque-Madame, without the ham.

          6. William Mougayar

            without the ham?

          7. JimHirshfield

            Vegans do not eat cheese or eggs. So that would leave basically two pieces of bread, which technically is not a sandwich. πŸ˜‰

          8. William Mougayar

            Oy, pardon my ignorance.

      2. JimHirshfield

        Thanks for the share. I like that post.

      3. William Mougayar

        I can’t believe how this is getting a bad rap, just because its usage gets mis-interpreted. Anyone likes to know what they are doing right and doing wrong. It has nothing to do with being junior or senior, and who said it doesn’t have to be authentic? Yes, managing people is hard. You need to plan your communications sometimes, to make them effective.

        1. Francois Royer Mireault

          “Anyone likes to know what they are doing right and doing wrong.” +1 for sureThe message I get from the shit sandwich analogy is more: if there’s something wrong, don’t make it pretty for nothing. Especially if it feels “staged”.

          1. William Mougayar

            But humans aren’t robots. How you communicate is part of the clarity required to ensure full understanding. It needs to be genuine, not staged for the purpose of sugar coating. As a manager, you need to be authentic in your feedback. That’s all I’m saying.

    3. William Mougayar

      Jim, So good to hear from you!Reality is that it works well, if well done. It’s called the “feedback sandwich”, but you need to be genuine about it. It’s not a trick you play on your employees. The critical part is that the “meat” is in the middle of the sandwich and you spend substantially more time on that, than on the front and back of it. The message is in the center and that should stick with the employee.But thanks for bringing up this really important point on this topic!See? I just gave you a feedback sandwich, with the “meat” in the middle, and hopefully you feel good about it πŸ™‚

      1. JimHirshfield

        But as @FrankMireault:disqus points out by referencing the bhorowittz post, experienced managers will recognize the sandwich as it’s being built and will just ask you for the earnest feedback. #NoCarbSandwichPls

  9. gzino

    Excellent way to articulate that framework.Probably there (haven’t watched the video yet) but imo the key is the steps before the conversations:1. Hire the people that fit what you need and don’t compromise2. Put those folks in a position to succeed – high expectations but viable expectations3. Nail the “what you want to accomplish in the meeting” part – focus your “request”4. Keep eyes and ears open – objectively process the inputs – tweak 1-3 accordingly.When those elements are in place, very few conversations tend to move up the y-axis to begin with, and the good manager manages the ones that do.

  10. leigh

    I find many managers focus more on getting people to like them more than helping people get better at their jobs.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Managers should focus on success, and leading by example. If they are successful, their employees will love them. Empathy shouldn’t be sympathy.

  11. Roger Atlas

    Good advice for managing executives. Their responsibility is to manage & modulate their own emotions.Managing junior people this way this is lousy advice. Junior people are constantly learning and that can be an emotional process that deeply impacts the ego. This is especially true in startup environments.If your management styles wounds too many of your own soldiers by showing them a lack of care and concern, expect your army to desert.

  12. JLM

    .The first thing every CEO or manager should do is borrow or rent a sense of humor. Everyone has a tendency to take themselves a bit too seriously. Humor is a valuable lubricant in making things work.The second thing they should do is to be honest. Not “brutally” honest but just straightforward and honest. Be a dignified gentleperson. Be tactful and considerate. It costs nothing. It makes it a lot easier to run things because you’re not wasting time thinking — “what baloney explanation did I previously give this person?”Third, one should listen carefully and make damn sure that the other person has been milked dry when it comes to communication. Speak last whenever possible but always after you have asked: “OK, Jane, have you told me everything I need to know and everything you want me to consider?” Simple but effective tactic.This is also an effective tactic to diffuse the emotion from a discussion. People want to be heard.After you have gotten an assent that there is nothing else to be added to the discussion — carefully and completely indicate: “OK, Jane, this is what I heard you say. Did I get that right?”This is the kissing cousin of the “brief back”.End the conversation by saying — “OK, we had a damn good conversation and I appreciate your candor and honesty. This is what we have agreed to do. Are we in agreement?”This type of dialogue does not have to be threatening, unpleasant or awkward. It just has to be thoughtful and precise.I do not embrace the notion that there is really an x and a y axis. I think there is a “z” axis which goes right up the middle.JLM.

    1. fredwilson

      dick has a great sense of humor which is probably one of the many reasons why he’s a good manager

      1. John Revay

        Didn’t Dick C do stand up comedy at one point in his life#ComicRelief

        1. pointsnfigures

          Second City (Improv actually) in Chicago.

      2. LE

        I made an interesting discovery after getting remarried a few years ago. My wife has a really good sense of humor and has this ability to just laugh when she screws up (say after having a minor car accident).As a result I am immediately put at ease and things that I would normally (in past relationships) get really angry over don’t seem to bother me.At all.And sometimes I will just think about what she said or how she acted later and start to spontaneously crack up. Something that never happened before. I tend to be serious.This ties into my theory about these “perma smile” people, guys or gals who get away with all this shit because they just have a big smile and almost seem like a puppy dog on it’s belly. Who can get mad or defensive with that? (Think Bill Clinton for example vs. Nixon or Bloomberg.)That does so much for keeping people’s guard down as opposed to anger in the same situation which get’s people’s back up and all pissed off.

    2. panterosa,

      Humor = LubeLove it. Wait, did your generation invent sex @JLM:disqus?

    3. PhilipSugar

      This is a great comment. Right exactly on target. If you set this direction from the top, it will pervade your entire organization.This isn’t being “completely transparent” but it is being kind, honest, and interested.

  13. Kirsten Lambertsen

    After watching the interview, I tried to find a video of his management class. But, no luck. The closest I got was this:http://www.bloomberg.com/ne

  14. John Revay

    “I chromecasted the kitchen laptop to our family room TV yesterday morning”It is XMAS season – any feedback on Chromecast vs Apple TV?When we got our flat panel TV a few years ago w / it’s 4 HDMI inputs I thought that was a lot and would be plenty.Now I find them all being used up;Cablevision boxBluerayWiiU console4th slot – Apple TV, ChromeCast or roku, xbox – all pending

    1. Matt Zagaja

      I have not used AppleTV but have a chromecast. Chromecast is fantastic for YouTube and if you use Chrome browser. I love being able to queue up YouTube videos on mine. If you use Apple computers and iPhone you might find the extra cost of AppleTV worth it. It can play more things like Amazon.com videos, and also you can use the Airplay Mirroring feature with your MacBook and iOS gadgets.

    2. fredwilson

      i use bothchromecast is great for getting a web page up on the screenapple tv is better if you want to mirror the entire machine (and only works with macs and iphones and ipads)

    3. William Mougayar

      get a Roku πŸ™‚

  15. William Mougayar

    In the fast and furious world of social, email, and online, we start to take short, fragmented interactions as the norm, but they are not enough, and will leave gaps of uncertainty in motivation and understanding.The reality is there are different types of conversations a manager has to have with those they are leading, and they need to be quality conversations:1. Alignment Conversations2. Directive Conversations3. Coaching Conversations4. Supportive Conversations5. Delegating Conversations6. One on One ConversationsThe good leader combines all of the above depending on what’s needed at the right time.We don’t have to re-invent management, nor managing people. http://leadingwithtrust.com

  16. baba12

    What you measure on the two axis is what counts.My x axis and y axis in any given situation arex axis : What actions you Controly axis : OutcomesWhat I have discovered through time is that in any given situation whatever actions I control I can do the best I can and take full responsibility for it, the outcomes of those actions I don’t control and thus don’t worry about.Every person you interact with you give a invisible rope to each other, what you do with the rope is up to you, you can hold it, let go of it or hang yourself. These three actions are within your control, what the other person does with the rope are the same for them.Most of the time we let go of the rope, sometimes we get to hold the rope and generally the hope is we don’t hang ourselves.An example would you visit a store to buy something, find the product and it is priced $x, you go to pay for it ( you and checkout person give a rope to each other), checkout person scans the product and rings up as $x +10, your actions will define if you act rudely, decently or you find yourself wanting to stay connected with the checkout person. The person on the other side has the choices they wish to make as well, react negatively, be nice and or find something to connect with you.It is up to each of us to hold ourselves responsible for our actions and not worry about the outcomes. The other side may choose to react in a way that you don’t control and thus you can’t hold yourself accountable.

  17. Cookie Marenco

    Excellent interview. I’ve watched it twice. I loved the x y management discussion. It helped validate the tactics we use managing our crew.But the part of the interview I really liked was his discussion of wanting to be a stand up comic. And that for 10 years he tried until he realized how hard it was to pass the audition. It wasn’t until he completely gave up on his dream that he could have eventually become the CEO of Twitter. Amazing. I appreciated his passion for his art.We’re in Arts and Entertainment industry and it’s terribly difficult to make a living, but we love it passionately. There is no time for y axis management. You won’t see a top conductor mincing words about wrong notes during rehearsals. The extreme end of this is the Cirque du Soleil show where clarity and focus is a must between performers and technicians or people die in performance.The discipline and passion required to master a creative skill (where money is not the motivating factor) has lifelong effects. There is a lot of x axis training in arts and sports that is unfortunately going by the wayside in our schools.I applaud Dick for his honest answers.

  18. Kyle Shipley

    I think this line of thinking applies to most of life. X is the independent variable, over which you have some amount of control. Y is the dependent variable, which is usually an opaque function of X. Only in hindsight can you tell if you made the right decisions around Y. Always be aware of and measure Y, but you can only increase it indirectly.Instead of focusing on success (Y), focus on process (X).

  19. Ela Madej

    Great point. It’s one of the core principles of non-violent communication (http://en.wikipedia.org/wik… that I am a big believer in (in business, relationships, it’s also used in international mediations by orgs like the UN). There’s some more or less objective reality and our goal is to communicate it as clearly and precisely as we can. How someone reacts to information/feedback is their choice and it’s never worth trying to play God and control things that are beyond our control.

    1. ShanaC

      I Mostly agree – the issue is making sure intially that everyone is on the same page emotionally – feeling out that issue first often gets people together.

  20. Pete Griffiths

    Moderation in all things.

  21. Semil Shah

    This could be Dick’s version of a “shit sandwich.”

  22. James Fayal

    I definitely struggle with this. It’s really hard to tell someone how ugly their baby is, especially when the culture is not in place to accept that kind of feedback.

  23. PhilipSugar

    I will say one more important point. It has to be two way. The person being managed, needs to be able to clearly articulate their issues, and not have you walk away mad, because they did not blow sunshine up your rear.

    1. panterosa,

      “blow sunshine up your rear”Love it. I’m imagining the visual for that and LMFAO.

      1. PhilipSugar

        Its a common phrase I looked quickly for the meaning and couldn’t find it.

        1. LE

          The way I’ve heard it it is actually “blow smoke up your ass”. [1]Found this:http://dangerousminds.net/c…The “sunshine” seems to be tied to the movie “Top Gun”.That’s one of those expressions, when you hear it for the first time, immediately takes hold and becomes a keeper. I even remember the first person who said it to me.[1] Now think for a second why the word might be “smoke” and why it actually makes more sense than “sunshine” physiologically.

  24. Andrew

    When you increase your x, the y will follow. Maybe not in a 1/1 ratio or anything close to it, but certainly having an understanding will lead to greater comfort and happiness than not knowing what is going on around you.In terms of hiring, the system is flawed and I don’t see big data being the solution. People will still focus on degrees and grades when doing hiring. I have not seen a high correlation between academic performance and workplace performance. Many will disagree with me, and that is why hiring will continue as it has taken place in the past.

  25. sigmaalgebra

    Sure, can have such a meeting and have the personleaving knowing just what they are supposed to do.And that they are not happy at the end of themeeting can be an advantage. Then, by example,hints, etc. arrange that the employee knows that ifthey work their tail off on the work, then they willget back praise, acceptance, and approval. Thenthey will feel happy instead of unhappy.Can also hint, or establish by example, that aperson who does not do well at the work is a ‘bad’person, e.g., unethical, to be rejected by the groupand to have low self-esteem. Can do this withfemales and hint that they are being ‘bad’ in thesense of being a ‘slut’.And then there was a remark: “If a team is notdoing very well, then find the least well regardedperson on the team and fire them. It worksevery time!”Then when the employee has been successful with thelast task, give them something else to do. So,develop a pattern where give the employee somethingto do and have them unhappy, work their tail off, dothe work very well, and then get praise, acceptance,and approval and be happy again.So, this pattern can result in the employee beinglike a dog trained to jump for a treat. Slowly canget the dog to jump higher and higher.This manipulation can be astoundingly effectivestuff. Done well by parents and/or teachers, canget a child working so hard the results are fatal,that is, after Valedictorian, PBK, ‘Summa CumLaude’, Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D., etc.Alas, when the person is without the ‘trainer’ thathas them jump for a treat, they can lose all abilityto know what the heck to do. E.g., at about 19,violinist Yehudi Menuhin was no longer working to dojust what his teacher said, concluded that heactually didn’t know how to play violin, and had toteach himself violin again.This problem is well-known in academics where thestudents who did really well in K-12, college, andgraduate coursework, jumping higher and higher for atreat, can suddenly be totally lost in knowing whatto do to get another treat. E.g., buried in D.Knuth’s ‘The TeXBook’ is:”The traditional way is to put off all creativeaspects until the last part of graduate school. Forseventeen or more years, a student is taughtexamsmanship, then suddenly after passing enoughexams in graduate school he’s told to do somethingoriginal.”It is largely this situation that has meant that theresearch has been by far the hardest part of gettinga Ph.D., not because research itself need be sodifficult but because few people, trained by the”seventeen or more years” to jump higher and higherfor treats, are able to do good work without thedirection and fast feedback of a treat. That is,they don’t know well enough what good work is to beconfident in doing good work and, then, getting goodresults.One risk, of course, for both students andemployees, is that they might ask themselves,”Just why am I jumping higher and higher like atrained dog for a treat, working my tail off fornearly meaningless feedback?”So, some managers learn, after giving the vinegar,follow up with a little sugar so that the employeewon’t just give up.Then, e.g., a boy who early on was unable to pleasethe teachers (e.g., in a lot of K-6 with femaleteachers who greatly favored the girls with theirbetter penmanship, spelling, verbal, and clericalabilities, much better social abilities and skills,and ‘comportment’) might give up on trying to pleasethe teachers and, instead, work on what interestedhim to his own standards, which might be quite high,irregardless of what a teacher thought. Such a boycan have some advantages in doing the research for aPh.D., that is, if somehow social promotion can getthem out of the sixth grade! And there may be someadvantages for leadership and entrepreneurship.E.g., “It’s lonely at the top.”, so that the topguy, especially a startup founder, has to be able towork hard and smart with their own motivation andvision and without frequent treats from some dogtrainer.E.g., as in a James Bond movie, one reason to becold (not work hard to please others to be close tothem) is to stay alive (from being free to do good,original, powerful, valuable work), but it also canmean being alone.That’s much of how military training works: Takesome young people desperate to get security frommembership in a group and have them work really hardat the work and be really devoted to the group to,then, get praise, acceptance, and approval andmembership in the group. Frat hazing anyone?All of this is essentially just a routineapplication of E. Fromm 101 with (rough quote frommemory):”The fundamental problem in life is getting afeeling of security in the face of the anxiety fromour realization that alone we are vulnerable to thehostile forces of nature and society. Only foursolutions have been found, (1) love of spouse, (2)love of God, (3) membership in a group, and (4)orgiastic behavior (sex and/or drugs) temporarily tosuppress the anxiety.”.So can bend (1) to a ‘relationship’ with a managerwho provides feedback with praise, acceptance, andapproval to give the employee a feeling of securityfrom not being alone. Also, as maybe Ross Perot didwith some spectacular efforts to get medical carefor an employee’s family, the employee can feel thatthe manager is “someone to watch over me”.Also can use (3) to provide rare and covetedmembership in an ‘in-group’, e.g., maybe the CEO’slunch table.This desire to be in the ‘in-group’ can be powerfulstuff, with a big upside and at times a bigdownside. For this second, there is’Sexting, Shame and Suicide: A shocking tale ofsexual assault in the Digital Age’by Nina BurleighSEPTEMBER 17, 2013as athttp://www.rollingstone.com…So, we’re into a case of Norbert Wiener’s “human useof human beings”. Cruel? Ah, what a pejorativeterm!For more, could have a one week ‘off-site’ with lotsof singing of company songs, inspiring speeches,chanting in unison, with some herd behavior andgroup psychology, where everyone is eager to getsecurity from membership in the group, and praise,acceptance, and approval from especially earnestdevotion to the group, and feeling invincible fromthe strength of the group united behind the oneleader, the CEO, oops, FΓΌhrer, and might do this ina big stadium in Nuremberg. Can appear to work fora while.Alas, there might be some costs in the level ofcreativity from people who would fall for such atransparent manipulation.

  26. Salt Shaker

    There isn’t a universal plot. Smart managers recognize that the optimal intersection of X/Y varies by individual and modifies h/her approach accordingly. What works for one can be an unmitigated disaster for another. Some people respond very well to directness, while others require greasing. Locating the optimal intersection of X/Y is part art and part social science and a challenge to perfect.

    1. LE

      varies by individual and modifies h/her approach accordingly.Agree. And I’m not sure how helpful things like this are w/o the opportunity to practice which is another whole axis to incorporate. Further, words that come out of, say, JLM’s mouth or Costolo’s mouth are different than the same words that come out of Ron Howard’s brother’s mouth (the bald guy that usually gets a bit part in some of Ron’s movies). I use JLM simply because I think he has (from observing him the the video interview with Rohan) charisma which is really important part of the process.http://realleaders.tv/p/jef

  27. ShanaC

    There has been some reasearch done (ironically by google) that shows that having a vested interest in the emotional life of employees makes it easier to be a good boss who communicated clearly along the YI don’t see them ad independently – people hear things differently, assume different things in conversations.

  28. panterosa,

    I remember @jerrycolonna in a recent talk with Jason Calcanis talking about the learning opportunity involved in “bringing someone up to speed” on your expectations. I liked the way Jerry framed that. It had neither to do with like or dislike but of growth and progress.

  29. James Lu

    At Amazon, we have a similar concept Bezos constantly reminds us of. It’s “bias towards seeking truth rather than social coherence”. I think it’s along the same line of thinking.

  30. brgardner

    I admit I didn’t watch the video, but I can’t agree with this. Clear crisp communication is great, but when did the emotional axis become inferior? Please go back and read Stephen Coveys Seven Habits book.

  31. Matt A. Myers

    A new superstar in my life recently gave the similar advice. Mainly to communicate clearly what you need, and not altering it based on anticipating how it will be taken – at least you don’t need to anticipate as much in professional setting. It reminded me of what Dick mentioned of not managing to be liked.

  32. Mike

    I’m trying to go to the MBA Mondays Table of Contents and I’m getting a 502 Bad Gateway error. Is it something I’m doing wrong? Thanks

  33. Eddie Wharton

    I think the Y axis does not have a universal optimal point. Often you can be agnostic to the Y axis, but sometimes you need to aim for staying above a certain level on the Y axis at the end of the meeting.

  34. Leonard Bogdonoff

    The poster.

  35. Tom

    Randomly dropped in: your daughter’s blogs (linked at the top right) don’t work (one doesn’t exist, the other is 404)

    1. fredwilson

      yeah. we are working on a port to wordpress and a redesign so i’ve put off making any changes until we relaunch.thanks for pointing it out though.

  36. bernardlunn

    This applies to sales as well. I have seen too many sales people who want to be loved. The best view crisply delivering the bad news – eg it costs a lot – as a way of qualifying out the timewasters

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  39. awaldstein

    yup—i agree.And also, managing when you are 5 or 10 people and simply a group, and managing a team of 200 through a couple of GMs and VPs, different story.To me at least.

  40. sigmaalgebra

    > From my own mistakes and failures, I have learned that hiring and recruiting must be based on natural personality, natural emotional reaction, natural personal perception.Of course you do! Why? Already in the crib, girls are interested in people, and boys, things.The girls communicate with facial expressions,tone of voice, and perception of emotions. Theboys are trying to figure out how to hack the latchon the crib and write C++ code to automate thetoy firetruck on the floor. The boys don’t communicatelike girls do and often really just don’t understandcommunications from girls.What you want is a variety of communications fewboys know how to do. You girls all learned suchcommunications in the crib; boys learn it much later if at all.

  41. Matt A. Myers

    And boy it’s tough..

  42. sigmaalgebra

    It takes a while. And need to start withan understanding, “Of COURSE girlsare MUCH more emotional than boys.That’s the cause of all the problems.”.Bluntly girls are interested in emotions,feelings, their own and those of others.Girls prefer to leave the practical, emotionally cold things to boys; a smart, pretty girl can do well this way,and that way of doing well is reallyjust what Mother Nature wants.That is, there will always be someexceptionally rich men, and with their money they can afford to take care of an especially emotionalwoman and enjoy her emotions –where a poor guy working hot, heavy,and hazardous for $20 an hour wouldbe terrified of any emotional actionsfrom her. Well, Mother Nature isinterested essentially only in thewoman with the wealthy man. Sorryabout that.To communicate with girls and women,in all but some quite exceptional situations,just think about and track their emotions.Not all girls have to be so emotional, butif they have to dig into a lot of detailsabout rationality and things, then MotherNature assumes that she has alreadylost.Men keep thinking about rationality, reasons; girls go by does it just”feel right”. Why? Sure: No sensein using rationality or reasons onan infant; instead, just have to makesure the infant feels right. The girlsare just great at making sure everythingjust feels right, and that’s why they areso good in customer service, as nurses,K-6 teachers, sales clerks, and, right,mothers.None of this really means that the girlsactually can’t think about rational or practical things; it’s just that theyare uniquely talented on human emotions.Many boys can be shocked to learn thathuman emotions are real; one reason isthat boys are raised largely to ignoreemotions, and that can cause some severe problems.

  43. Matt A. Myers

    I have seen that smart, pretty girls, can also be lacking nuanced emotional intelligence because they’ve not needing to engage as much – the engagement comes from the other side; It depends in the environment they grew up in, sibling count, parent availability, etc..These of course are all generalities. Someone who’s not been able to emotionally connect will survive by being more practical, and vice-versa – someone less apt at the practical will have to survive via emotional connections.And yes, a lot of societal messaging out there still, and within the culture perpetuating them, of boys don’t cry – which can lead to anger.The kind of advice that most helps me recently is towards the emotional side of the spectrum, which then helps me be more practical in situations. Not sure I fully understand that yet.

  44. sigmaalgebra

    I was assuming that you had had a4 year old daughter who had you wrapped around her little finger andknew you could never say “No” to her,and knew just when and how to startto cry if she didn’t get just the newdress she wanted for her birthdayparty, but you figured out what sheknew well at 4 only years later! Agirl of 4 can do such things, you know!Then think they are less good at manipulating boys and men when they are 10, 14, 18, …, 30, 40, …?Think again! They are MotherNature’s own master manipulators!

  45. Cynthia Schames

    @sigmaalgebra:disqus @mattamyers:disqus are y’all just trolling now, with this whole thing?

  46. sigmaalgebra

    > It is a big mistake to attribute innate personality to gender, race, ethnicity, age, nurture, etc. That’s exactly how you pass over a superstar and hire mediocrity.Now, now, at enormous cost that I finally began to understand girlsand women, I’m not going to forgetit! Deborah Tannen is not shy abouttalking about the effects of gender!Similarly for Mother Nature!But you do have some points. E.g.,software is clean, indoor work, noheavy lifting. A huge fraction of womencan do such work if they want. Mostlymy experience was that for various reasons they didn’t want.Your birds of a feather flock togetherhas a point; I’ve seen it work at times.But your solution to recruiting seemsa bit extreme and dangerous, especiallythe parts about firing people and thenactually ending recruiting expecting thatthe desired candidates will just arrive tojoin the remaining flock. Actually formy recruiting, as below, if I get that far,your flocking has a chance of working.If my startup works — breaking news,apparently I got the virus symptomsand at least the main parts of thevirus problem solved rather quicklyand have made good progress, quickly,on some associated symptoms andpossible issues, have my core software,with the needed TCP/IP communicationswritten, carefully, and compiled cleanlyand am about to light the fuse and seeif the whole Web site software works;all the pieces have worked in varioussituations of isolation and scaffolding –then I’ll have to hire. I don’t really knowwhat the heck to do. I will be hiringmostly just for ‘information technology’but am reluctant to hire based on the usual list of ‘technologies’ a person hasused. Somehow I’d prefer that theyare good at reading material that isdifficult, from being poorly written ortechnically intricate and advanced,and good at writing clearly about it.E.g., my company is based on software,written by humans, and my view is thatthe most important writing of that software is for humans to read, notthe computers. That is, I care more aboutthe code comments than the rest of thecode. I may be the only computer guywho cares more about how a programmerwrites English than some programminglanguage. Why? Because without goodcomments, when the code is written onlythe programmer and God understand it,and six months later, only God. So,for code without comments, six monthslater I will have to read that code or paysomeone else to read it, or just junk it,start over, and this time DOCUMENTit. But I will also want solid evidence that they can do well with technical material. For the main programminglanguage, that is just Microsoft’sVisual Basic .NET, and my view is thatwith good instruction and especiallygood examples it is nearly dirt simpleto use. Then there is Transact SQL,and it is supposed to be really simple;simple uses of it mostly are simple,and so far my company needs onlysimple T-SQL. Another view is thatfor something quite difficult we needfor the first time, we hire a consultantand keep the lessons and make themavailable to everyone in the company.And I’d like to hear that a candidatehad done well organizing, say, acharity drive, a club Christmas party,a dinner for 50 people, etc. I’d likethem to have good evidence of beingable to work hard and do high qualitywork. I’d like them to be bright andcurious. And I want to be able totrust them. Nope: I don’t care ifthey know C++, Python, PHP, JavaScript, JQuery, AVL trees, mincost network flows, Haskell, ormost of the rest popular on HackerNews. If they really like C++, thenthey have poor judgment in programminglanguages! How about those applesfor recruiting guidelines? Think somebright women with a good record froma good college might qualify? If so,then can’t knock me on some issue ofgender!

  47. Matt A. Myers

    Well, I imagine if parents (or anyone?) give into those demands / manipulations, then they’ll learn they work – else their character may lead toward a different direction.

  48. Matt A. Myers

    I can’t speak for @sigmaalgebra:disqus obviously.. His statements were pretty broad, I took them with a grain of salt to understand what he was meaning (in a generalized way).However I don’t generally believe the sex of someone really needs to be mentioned, because it’s more to do with overall individual characteristics and environment, though sigma referenced examples for men and women, so I just went along and kept with the examples he used.Likewise, talking about attractiveness doesn’t on its own merit needing to be used for distinction, as once again everyone has the potential to have and display different characteristics and have a balance of different values that equate to attractiveness. I am most attracted to people who are healthy, and people who are unkind, etc. is a huge turn-off.In reality you can interchange men for women and women for men in what sigma says, at least that’s how I view and read it. I do think there is some truth in gender norms, due to culture, in that a higher percentage of boys may end up becoming more practical initially because of the attitude of messaging that men should be manly, and “boys don’t cry” – and not learn to talk about their emotions, and so then can’t connect and socialize and build bonds with others as easily, so don’t become as skilled in terms of emotions, so then that leaves time and energy going towards being practical. That is at least the experience I saw when I was a child and growing up.

  49. sigmaalgebra

    Sadly, no, I’m not. I wish it were just trollingor satire, but it’s not, not to me. Politically correct? Something Betty Friedan would agree with? Other ‘feminists’? Most women?Nope. Wrong? Sorry, ’bout that, I don’t think so.I used to go based on obvious qualities Icould see evaluated in a gender-neutralway. The price I paid for this mistake ofignoring gender was high beyond belief.An E. Fromm quote fits here: “Men andwomen deserve equal respect as personsbut are not the same.”.And in the nature/nurture question, I put the responsibility solidly on nature.E.g., look at what Disney long regardedas a pretty girl of Western European descent — cute, sweet, pretty, darling,adorable, precious, child-like face, little. Look at what are regarded as pretty girls in, say, Japan — right, muchthe same. Now, the common ancestorwas likely somewhere near India about10,000 years ago and closer to eitherthe Disney girl or the Japanese oneand, thus, very much like either, right,10,000 years ago. So, it was all justnurture? Not over 10,000 years withthe changes in nurture. So, what’s left? Right: Nature. Sorry ’bout that.I say again, already in the crib, girlsare interested in people and boys,things, and that’s well before the usual male/female cultural normsof K-12, etc. or before the parentsget around to buying the girl apretty party dress and the boya baseball bat and glove.Don’t believe me and, instead, readsome D. Tannen.In McD’s last week there was a motherwith three children, a girl about 4 months,a boy about 5, and a girl about 7. Thegirl, 7, just sat there, still, observing. Meanwhile the boy could not sit stilland was constantly moving in hischair, sitting backwards, everythingbut running around the room chasingsomething. The mother understood!Then watch the first ‘Jurassic Park’:Spielberg did just the same thing forthe two children, the boy getting outthe night vision goggles, runningahead to the Triceratops, etc. while the girl was obedient. And notice the scene of getting in thecars where the boy went on and onabout books he’d read about dinosaurs and in response the girl went to the dinosaur expert and said”She said I should sit with you because it would be good for you.” –Spielberg knew that movie audienceswould ‘get it’. Boys and girlsjust are NOT the same, not nearly.Put boys and girls in the same clotheswith the same toys and activities,and they STILL will just not be thesame. They ain’t the same. Sorry’bout that.