Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Reading the comment thread from yesterday reminded me of something fundamental and true. It is easy to critique but hard to do.

A big part of my job is to sit on boards and when you do that, your primary role is to evaluate the performance of senior management, particularly the CEO.

As someone who has never had an operating job, and never been a CEO, it is easy to sit there and say “she didn’t do this, he should have done that, she didn’t articulate that very well” and I have found myself doing that from time to time. But I try to remind myself that running a company is a hard job and the people who do it well are few and far between.

That doesn’t mean we should be soft on the management team. I believe it is our job to be constructively critical, but also supportive and positive. Everyone can and should work on getting better at their job. When you stop doing that, it surely is time to hang up the cleats and retire. But calling for a CEO’s head is not something I do lightly. You can’t really backtrack from that position once you take it. So I try like hell not to go there unless it is absolutely required and there is no ambiguity about it in my mind.

I was talking to an entrepreneur yesterday and somehow the topic of Netflix came up. I told the entrepreneur that I had enormous respect for Reed Hastings. He said he did as well and bought Netflix when it IPO’d back in the 90s. He told me he would listen into the quarterly earnings calls for the first ten years he owned the stock. And Wall Street was so negative on Reed, his strategy, and the company’s performance. But Reed hung in there, had conviction about the business and where it was going. Twenty years later, Netflix has built one hell of a business and proved most, if not all, of the skeptics on Wall Street wrong.

When Wall Street calls for a CEO’s replacement, they might be right but they might be wrong. A good board will not be pressured by Wall Street. A good board will be attentive to the business, will hear the critiques and try to understand them, will make sure they know what the culture and dynamic is inside the company, and will understand the business model, the financial levers, and the financial performance. A good board will evaluate all of that, provide clear and unambiguous feedback to the CEO so he or she knows exactly where they stand, and will support the board and the management team privately and publicly until they decide it is time to make a change.

I will end with this. Being the CEO of a highly public company (whether it is traded privately or publicly) is particularly hard. You are constantly getting criticized and talked about in the press/blogs/communities. I respect the people who take these jobs. And I root for them to succeed. It’s about the hardest job you can have.


Comments (Archived):

  1. steve nson

    Great insight Fred and point taken. With regard to the feedback tied to Twitter yesterday, it wasn’t so much about asking for Dick Costolo to leave but more about asking him to do a better job of communicating his vision for the 1.5 billion people who he counts as his users. Being a CEO myself (albeit not on his level), I understand that it is tough to make those decisions but it is the life we chose.

    1. fredwilson

      Indeed. And I give you enormous credit for choosing that life.That was a small clip from a longer conversation. Its possible he did articulate his broader vision during the chat. It was not in that clip. The acquisitions of Vine, MoPub, Crashlytics, and Periscope have been brilliant. There is a strategy there. It may not be well articulated and well understood. But it is there

      1. steve nson

        Thanks Fred. The Vine acquisition is definitely a good move.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Periscope will be big for Twitter. I like that one a lot.

      2. Salt Shaker

        “It may not be well articulated and well understood. But it is there.”I’m a TWTR fanboy. It’s one of my largest holdings and I’m likely gonna acquire more shares in the near future. I also like their acquisitions. The company may have brilliant strategic vision, but they’ve done a not so great job w/ MARCOM and managing expectations/perceptions with WS and even among their own user base.

        1. awaldstein

          This has been true since day one, to the public and to their partners as well.Surprising as this is really fixable.

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Is articulating the strategy a difficult thing? (Not meant to be a sarcastic question.)

  2. awaldstein

    Morning Fred.I listened hard yesterday to the comments.People calling for educating the street who had never obviously been in charge of IR for a public company. People dissecting marketing programs for Twitter who have no access to the mass of internal data and inside stuff that is obviously going on.I think we are nothing more than our opinions honestly.The ones that garner the most respect are those based on experience and humility. The ones that are most sure are invariably all bluster.The more I start and manage and advise companies, the more I realize its all nuance. We stumble forward sometimes with grace and often trip over ourselves.It’s rare that shades of grey become black or white except at exit.Heading for my bike ride. I’m late!

  3. William Mougayar

    A few reactions. (Not aimed at Twitter, but in general)”A good Board …”- that’s a big assumption. Many Boards are weak, and will let the CEO continue hiding behind their “support.” That happens all the time. By the time, it is acknowledged that both the CEO & Board are weak, the disaster has already happened.Being on the Board of a private startup that’s still growing is different than being on the Board of a public company. If the CEO doesn’t deliver in a private company, the buck stops at the Board but the CEO gets a pass til the next Board meeting, but in a public Co., the buck stops with what the market thinks.This brings me to the 3rd point, which is related to #2, and with experience sitting very close to a CEO & CFO of a very large public company for 3 years, and worked for another public one for 14 years. You need to manage the street’s expectations. Yes, you can if you have good visibility into you business. And I know some will say you can’t. But I will say You can. If you don’t have good visibility into the next 90 days of your business, you need to fix that. (Actually 70 days is sufficient, because you typically announce your results up to 3 weeks into the next quarter). That’s all you need to do, dummed down. Now, if you see x numbers within 70 days and you miss them, then your team isn’t executing. And if you can’t see that as a CEO, there’s an issue there. And of course, you give yourself a buffer, so you can under-promise and over-deliver.

    1. awaldstein

      Dunno about this. It is simply not that simple.I’ve reported into two public boards, innumerable private ones.Please go spend a week a quarter on the road doing the rounds to investors, short players, the funders of your offering.Managing the street is like getting #samthecat to go take out the recycling. It only happens as an Instagram post.You want to manage the street? Market the company correctly.That’s my experience.

      1. William Mougayar

        As I said, my thoughts are backed by direct experience with 2 extremely well managed Fortune public companies.If you are well managed (including marketing the company correctly), then you can manage the street’s expectations because you have visibility.If you don’t have good visibility into your business, you shouldn’t be a public company, because the street isn’t so forgiving, and they will see every crack you have.

        1. awaldstein

          When you are on a roll, the market loves you.When you are not, they don’t.In almost all cases this is the truth.

          1. William Mougayar

            It really boils down to managing expectations. It’s about what you promise, and what you deliver. In good times, and bad times.

          2. awaldstein

            Sure–it’s more true though to say that they love you when you win, not when you don’t.And honestly the truth about ‘managing expectation’–a term that sits at the top of my dislike list along with ‘learning from failure’–is as dependent on having a world class CFO on board. That’s where the data comes from.

    2. Andre

      Your points are valid. However, quarterly metrics may not reflect long term strategy and in some cases they may have conflicting interests.I believe that this is especially true when a company is in a new category and has a unique product.Twitter gets lumped into social media with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, but all of these products and companies are distinctly different and suffer from comparison bias.I believe that Twitter is still trying to evolve into the product and the company that it will be. It takes time, patience, and an incredible amount of courage to stick to a long term strategy in the headwinds of quarterly reports.

      1. William Mougayar

        I wanted to avoid using Twitter to pick on, and I will do that. I’m not an analyst covering Twitter, so I don’t have the inner data,But there is nothing wrong with managing both quarterly and long term objectives. That can all be reflected in what you communicate to the market. Some companies learn how to manage these expectations to the T. Others let the market manage them.

        1. JLM

          .Under SEC Reg FD, nobody is supposed to have more data than anybody else. That is the law. The days of having a “favorite analyst” who gets to rummage through the company’s garbage is supposed to be over.Pragmatically, it is. Analyst meetings are now just group gropes and companies have to and, generally, do play by the rules.There is more than enough data being released by companies today coupled with great analysis of quarterly and annual financial analysis by reliable web sites for a person of modest financial acumen to read the tea leaves.What is also true is that there is an all time high in misleading conclusions being offered from that data by people who have an interest in the outcomes.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Twain Twain

            There is data and then there is data.For a public company like Twitter there are SEC filings. However, there’s also human relationships and internal management data which isn’t published by anyone, including Twitter.

          2. JLM

            .If that information is “used” by anyone to decide whether to buy or sell a stock, then they have committed a crime if the information rises to the level of “material non-public information”.Recent prosecutions have resulted in people going to prison for just that crime.Anyone inside a company who fails to protect confidential, proprietary, trade secret information, or worse, reveals it to someone who they know is going to act upon it — may be going to the same place.This is not a game.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. Twain Twain

            I don’t mean data of the proprietary, trade secrets etc type.I mean that only the CEO and management team knows how the relationship dynamics inside any company works which affects whether the company does / doesn’t hit the product and revenue milestones. Human data rather than reporting data.Being CEO of a company at Twitter’s level is never a game. The relationship dynamics are even more complex.

          4. William Mougayar

            True, and the company can decide what inner operational data to release, or not release. The less exotic data, and the more vanilla, the better….unless you need exotic to defend yourself.

          5. JLM

            .The company can manage the routine release of data through required SEC filings (10Q, 10K, 8K) and earnings conference calls.Conference calls often allow for questions and skillful questioners can make a company release even more information.Shareholders (not analysts) are entitled to know the inner workings of their companies but this creates another problem: the release of “material non-public information” which can create a whole new set of problems.Some companies, when queried about something that might be categorized as material non-public information, will make a pre-emptive strike and release the info in order not to run afoul of Reg FD.Good companies will want to reveal the “real stuff” to their shareholders. Not so much to analysts.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          6. William Mougayar

            well, you only typically release results, not how you get to them. how you get your results (or lack of) is proprietary info. you can explain things at length without revealing insights you hold, and still not break the law.

          7. JLM

            .A company can release whatever it wants as long as it complies with SEC Reg FD and releases the information to everyone, at the same time.The only forbidden act is to compartmentalize information by releasing it to selected parties. Even this can be done — for limited purposes — as long as the party is not in a position to trade the company’s stock on the basis of this material non-public information.This second case likely will require a formal NDA or confidentiality agreement.It is all about fairness.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          8. William Mougayar


          9. ErikSchwartz

            “Supposed to” being the operative phrase.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Good point about comparisons based on lumping companies together that are only similar in the broadest sense (and sometimes not even then despite being in the same category or industry).We have these new unprecedented product categories. Once you get beyond the differences between “the product” is a company just a company or are new ways of thinking about companies needed?Twitter. I imagine that it is very very hard to lead a company that is leading the way. And even harder to decide who should lead it.”…the headwinds of quarterly reports” — love that analogy.

    3. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      Long term destination is all that matters.short term reality is about the best path to the long term. Yes you can trip on the pebble under your feet. But your balance is better if you have your eyes on the horizon

    4. pointsnfigures

      I might quibble with the buck stops with what the market thinks. The public stock price contains in it all information that the public knows. There may be a lot of things going on behind the scenes that the public doesn’t know-and isn’t incorporated into the stock price. Additionally, depending on the business, some things affect your stock price that are out of your control-thinking of farm/mining/commodity stocks where a shock in an external price can change the outlook for your company.

      1. LE

        There may be a lot of things going on behind the scenes that the public doesn’t know-and isn’t incorporated into the stock price.”May be” is putting it lightly. How in the world would anyone in the public have any idea of the multitude of factors and inputs that can have an impact on the company? It’s a total absolute gambling crap shoot. And anything that appears that you can see on the surface is, as they say, “already built into the price”. It’s gambling, plain and simple.The only way to make money at investing or trading in anything is either luck or you have an edge that the other guy lacks.For example I just sold a bunch of “stuff” to a guy in China that was 22 years old and had very little experience in what he was buying. But he did have money and he wanted to be in on “the game”. He had never seen a bubble apparently and didn’t have the long term perspective that other buyers had. Those other buyers also bought things but only at the start of the bubble. They got out early and totally rejected quickly later deals. The younger buyer kept on buying! And buying! He finally wrote one day and said “wow I lost some money on many of the things that I bought”. I wrote back to him and got him to buy some more. Now of course he could end up better off because of the gambles that he took that the other older “wiser” buyers didn’t. [1] Or maybe not. Total crap shoot.[1] Because experience and knowledge can often cause you to be to cautious and not take risks that others will take because of their inexperience. Have seen that happen quite a number of times.

      2. William Mougayar

        One way to triangulate what’s really happening is to talk to a company’s customers and get their viewpoint about how they are being served or what results they are getting. These are the moments of truth that are very telling.

  4. Daniel Clough

    The thing is, when things are going awesome, you’re mostly patted on the back and given hi fives.The moment you run into tough times, people put the spot light on you and inevitably critique. Which to be fair, needs to and should happen to some degree. It actually helps as an operator (even if it feels crappy at times).Every business will run into tough times. And a good CEO stays calm, focuses on the people part, makes sure there is no doubt to the strategy and holds peoples feet to the fire on execution. They know this stuff is hard and takes time.And it will kinda be what it will be.If the strategy was weak, it wasn’t communicated clearly enough, people weren’t good enough or execution was shoddy, then you have to start looking closer at the CEO as the buck stops there.But, as you say, the thing to remember is this stuff is hard. It’s easy to look in from the outside and notice small things not done right. Even the best people don’t get stuff right consistently and you have to take a step back an evaluate the big picture.I think Dick C has a very tough job on his hand. Taking something so big, with such big expectation and trying to create big shifts in metrics is very, very hard. And it can take years.From what I can see, he is doing the things right you would expect to see from a CEO and he should be continued to be judged on those things and whether he is moving things slowly in the right direction for results in the long term.

    1. Daniel Clough

      One last thing, I think it’s also good to show compassion when dealing with people.It’s an obvious thing to say, but I think at times it’s easy to just think about metrics, money, strategy etc.How about the fact that the CEO is a human. Like a real person who is trying to juggle everything in life, just like the rest of us.Showing compassion and actually taking the time to think about them like this will probably help in not making rash decisions, calling for peoples heads etc.

  5. andyswan

    Totally agree.One of the best indicators of CEO potential that I have found is the willingness (bordering on desire) to be unpopular.

    1. Daniel Clough

      I love that and totally agree.You almost need to be able to switch off from the crap people are throwing at you.Being able to compartmentalise that and focus on the job at hand is essential.

    2. Otis Funkmeyer

      it was such a weird flip when i went from being totally afraid of being rejected to beginning to crave it. COME AT ME BRO.

      1. andyswan

        The are of IDGAF

      2. andyswan


    3. Joe Cardillo

      Reminds me of something that I learned from years of proj. mgmt and have also seen great CEOs do — there’s that moment where people across any sort of discipline (design, engineering, marketing and so on) are ready to jettison momentum because of a personal conflict, frustration, hung up on being right when it’s not mission critical etc, and the good leaders always throw down the gauntlet….”We want to be good, and to grow? Right?” and then holds everyone’s feet to that fire (because who says no to that=)

  6. Bala

    Leadership is hard whatever the position the person is in. Very few Board Members and Investors really appreciate the personal toll this takes on CEOs and Management. Deep respect for you to empathize with the Founders, CEOs and your management team. I believe that the most exciting breakthroughs of the future will not occur because of technology but because of our understanding of what it means to be human. Thank you for your understanding and leadership. Under all those masks, we are all human, even CEOs of publicly traded companies. Wall Street is the most dehumanizing aspect of our culture, it is important but not the most important.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I don’t think Wall Street is dehumanizing-and I maybe reading more into your comment than you meant-if so my error. Think that Wall Street is about numbers, but also about a lot of other things outside of numbers.

      1. Bala

        Well, Wall Street is about being hyper rational about running a business for those of us who are in the trenches of working with founders and building products and value. Wall Street is too far away from that.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Agree, Wall Street certainly doesn’t understand early stage companies. But, once you get past a Series D round these days, you aren’t an early stage company anymore! ; )

          1. Bala

            Well, I hope I don’t have to build companies that way. Given all the private capital that is available, I am not sure I want to play in Wall Street anymore. Maybe Wall Street wants to believe it is the only way to access capital but not anymore.

          2. Pointsandfigures

            It’s one way to exit and get return

  7. Nidhi Mevada

    Yes, Starting company from scratch and being CEO of public company (particularly for innovative companies) is really really tough job. Same apply to inexperienced fresh founder, they have to learn a bit of everything, as uncertainty level is very high.They can survive by only two things, real time problem solving ability and courage to fight with any situation.In last one year, I realized clarity of vision and milestones, helps a lot. Whether it work out or not but at least we can measure performance on some basis.After one year, we are looking for “The Father” (CEO) who will help us to execute vision properly and let me focus on next disrupt ” Digital Personality”. If you have suggestions please comment.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Suggestions for a CEO for your company?

      1. Nidhi Mevada

        Yes, since one and half year we have been doing research on ” Business relations and Digital personality”. In whole this journey we realized key problems like Business card management, information management. Our first step to execute our vision is the Wockito which is the smart phonebook, it help users to share more information than business card in less than 5 seconds, we have launched private beta version in India.But there is a lot more RND on product side, where I want to focus. As a founder I have to lead key operations, so now we are focusing on user acquisition and trying to automate sales but then after I want to focus on product development, at that time we will need strong person who can accelerate business and handle the team.

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Why not “The Mother?” 😛

      1. Nidhi Mevada

        That would be also great 🙂 I am huge fan of Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg.

  8. JimHirshfield

    There wouldn’t be much to ESPN without Monday Morning Quarterbacking. And there wouldn’t be much to AVC without it either. Your analysis is often on the numbers no matter what jersey you’re wearing. Call’em like ya see’em, coach.

  9. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Judgement. Accept it Is a thing. Clouds are too.But exercised as a verb it will not be clouded.All judgement has a silver lining.

  10. Twain Twain

    “It is easy to critique but hard to do.” = +1,000,000,000,000,000I was board observer on 20+ tech investments on behalf of UBS in my 20s. Some of those investments I initiated, others I inherited. There were times when I reported back, wrote write down recommendations and notes not to invest further because the strategy of the management team / the way the market was moving didn’t accord with whatever internal investment policy was.That’s the way it works with startups and Wall Street and I’ve now been on both sides of the table…twice.Wall Street investors, typically, have 0 operational experience in startups. Very few have ever coded or built a product from scratch. They’ve arrived at their roles via a humanities degree (e.g. Economics), business school, an equity analyst position or the like.My team was rare because 2 out of the 4 of us were from technical backgrounds. My colleagues were Harvard MBA, Columbia MBA, Cambridge PhD in Robotics and myself who had actual operational product experience in startups as well as product experience in consumer chemical industry.Everyone and their llama thinks they can do “Strategy”, especially equity analysts and stock pickers.Theoretical strategy from “back-seat drivers” is very very different from implementation because there are all sorts of internal considerations and materials that ONLY THE CEO & the key strategy team has access to.I discovered this when I worked in CEO-Chairman’s Office and know this as a founder-CEO.

  11. pointsnfigures

    Wall Street rarely understands strategy. It’s a teenage culture-instant gratification. The CEO has the most effect on the performance of a company. Here is a lecture explaining a study Prof. Steve Kaplan did on CEO pay.…I don’t like the attack by the media on CEO pay. They don’t understand what it takes to run a company. Additionally, once companies get past 100 employees, CEO’s don’t spend a lot of time with the product-they spend a lot of time managing people. That’s a different skill and why initial founders of companies often aren’t the finishers of the race.When I was on CMEs Board, we were going through one of the largest transitions ever in the history of financial services. Our first CEO left the company, and we went de facto without one as we planned the transition. Then we hired a new one. In those days the board members actually ran the exchange. We got paid the princely sum of $35k plus free parking.The role of the board is to support and help the CEO. I often times think that if a CEO is fired, some of the board ought to probably go with them.

    1. LE

      I don’t like the attack by the media on CEO pay. They don’t understand what it takes to run a company.Exactly. Writers and pundits. People looking in never realize the behind the scenes time and attention that certain work or jobs require. Total dedication where the job has to come first (as it should). My wife has a tough job for sure (not something that I would want or could do) but when she isn’t working she isn’t working. Ditto for my brother in law. When he goes on vacation he is on vacation. For both of them each day is a discreet event that begins and ends and never carries from day to day and they can start fresh each day.As far as “to much” it’s a free market system. Nothing to complain about and it makes no difference at all what anyone makes at the top relative to a person on the line who is in an entirely different league in life with different goals and objectives.

  12. JLM

    .Having been a CEO of public and private companies for 33 years, let me provide a view from the pit.It’s really not that big a deal. We asked for this job. We want this job. Sometimes, we’re even good at this job. But, in the end, we will be disappearing and the company, if it is sustainable, will be moving on without us.In the interim, when the wind is howling and the sea is rolling, we get to sail the ship. Sometimes, I have owned the ship or controlled it and other times I have been paid handsomely to hold the tiller.But, I got to sail the ship. Nobody else but me. I loved it. I would have done it for free. Because I loved it.In the end, we CEOs are paid in another currency. When we go to the pay window, we know who got us there and when we end up on the rocks, we know who got us there also.If that doesn’t inspire you, then go become an actuary. Nice safe, comfortable job.But if you want to change the world’s horizon, if you want to test yourself, then strap in and grab the yoke and push the throttle forward but don’t expect to get coddled along the way.There is a reason why some people become Rangers, Special Forces, Seals, paratroopers and others don’t — it’s what’s in your heart and your head and your balls. And, what you are willing to personally risk to test yourself.People don’t like to admit it to themselves but very few people have the makeup to be CEOs or Rangers. Very damn few. Worse, even fewer are even good at it.If a CEO is looking for affirmation from a board or the shareholders or the stock price, I have one piece of advice: Get a Labrador. (Watch out, even a Lab will sometimes short your stock.)In much of the discussion at, we are talking about young and typically inexperienced CEOs — not all the time, but likely most of the time — who are on their first gig and are still in their novitiate as measured by their flight time and log books.As a result of this, there is an almost paternalistic relationship with a Board composed primarily of investors who are serving their own financial interests. They have skin in the game and are protecting their skin.An experienced CEO and a “good” Board become a well functioning team who understands their relative roles. The Board sets policy, reviews and approves critical plans, takes the periodic report on progress v plan and protects the interests of SHAREHOLDERS.Only after all of this stuff is done do they evaluate the CEO. Likely, their previous objective work makes the evaluation easy.I find that most Boards give themselves a pass on CEO evaluation. CEOs should demand an annual evaluation. CEOs should have a written Employment Agreement and this should be demanded by a competent Board.Most problems are caused by unrealistic and unset expectations which can be alleviated by a sound Employment Agreement.Nowhere did I suggest that the Board burps and changes the CEO’s diapers. It’s nice if they all get along but it is business not a country club.The CEO plots the Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values and builds (initially) the Culture of the company. Smart CEOs refine their plans by working with their Board (particularly the former CEOs on the board) and then they go execute them.CEOs who fail to do this work deserve what they may get.Smart boards demand these plans and keep score not on the CEO but on the attainment of the approved plans. This is where I see the most failures. Boards evaluate the CEO on a personal basis rather than the attainment of real progress.I personally don’t care how nice a CEO is (work with me on this, this is a metaphor, of course, I care how nice the CEO is) but I do care how well he plans, executes, reports and scores.As a CEO, more than a few times I have come to a board meeting and reported a bad plan, a terrible execution and a complete failure. It has to happen. But, they never “caught” me, I told them. But, I had told them a long time ago I wasn’t perfect.A quick note about Boards and members. Mostly, they always have more than a few problems and only 20% of them would ever be on a Board absent their financial investment.This is a issue that can be well served by a little light and truth.Like the Wizard of Lancaster says, “They like you when you’re winning.” Even when they have no freakin’ idea why.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. awaldstein

      Two thumbs up!Call me crazy but I like having a board.In fact, doing a mid sized round for a project that could easily be a note and leaning hard towards pricing it cause one–i think some oversight is healthy and two–i like owners with skin in the game not just note owners who are actually simply giving you a loan.

      1. Joe Cardillo

        Really agree. This whole thing is new to me, but if I’m absorbing it correctly, seems like having a board you respect and communicate well with is way better than going it alone, even if you do disagree sometimes.

        1. awaldstein

          i like having partners.Of course there is both best of and worst of cases but if you can manage it, i simply don’t like dept.Why–cause that means you need to start raising for the next note the next day as it kinda must happen

          1. Joe Cardillo

            Yeah that last part is the thing I am still grappling with…feels like something you just have to go through, plus lucky for me that’s more the co-founder / CEO’s job.

    2. Richard

      Many of us have no idea about the training or life of an army ranger. I see an army ranger’s as brave, disciplined, and a team player, while a CEO may share this skill set, they may not.

      1. JLM

        .Rangers are prepared to fight behind enemy lines for protracted periods of time. They are tough and self sufficient. They arrive at the fight by air (paratroopers, helicopter insertion), sea or land.The training itself includes urban, mountain, swamp and (in my day) desert warfare in patrol actions primarily.It is all about patrolling. Mission specific raiding to find, fix and kill the enemy. In Iraq and A’stan this often took the form of hunting down HVTs (high value targets).In my day, all the Regulars (officers) had to got to Airborne and Ranger Schools even if they were not going to be assigned to Airborne units. There were really no Ranger regiments in my day but individual Infantry divisions often organized a Ranger company using their own assets in much the same way they organized LRRP units.Ranger qualified officers were sent to every unit to inject patrolling expertise. Guess who got the call every time there was a big raid? The Ranger qualified Lieutenants and Captains.In time, units with Ranger qualified officers would conduct realistic training that would let this expertise grow by osmosis within that unit.Infantry units and combat engineer units (the combat engineers are just rifle companies with explosives, fortifications, river crossing and construction expertise) especially benefited from injecting this expertise.In my time in the Army, it was fairly uncommon to have a Ranger qualified officer in a combat engineer unit — remember there were huge numbers of reserve officers and very, very few Regulars. Only the Regulars HAD to go to Ranger School. The combat engineer officers were almost always civil engineers.Rangers are like CEOs in that they have to lead small individual teams to accomplish difficult one off missions. Ranger qualified officers are also trainers as they conduct patrol training for their entire company regularly.In my day, if you failed to get jump wings and a Ranger tab, you could kiss your career good bye. Even so, less than 50% make it through the training. I knew an officer who went four times before he made it. Ended up wearing stars.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          Hmm, so a ranger may have the skills of a CEO, but a CEO is not likely to have the skills of a ranger! Someone needs to do a Genomic Study of this group.

          1. JLM

            .When you write “Ranger”, you capitalize the “R” like you were talking about God. [This is a joke.]The key to becoming a Ranger is to not quit. The key to becoming a CEO is to not quit.The motto of the Rangers is: “Rangers lead the way” which can be taken a couple of different ways. It could be a statement of fact or an exhortation to action.There is a lot of confusion as many think it was first uttered at Normandy by a Tx A&M guy who was exhorting the Rangers to get off the beach and he was really saying: “Rangers, lead the way.”The 2nd Ranger Regiment (Tom Hanks and Saving Private Ryan) took Point du Hoc under very difficult conditions.Being a Ranger can’t hurt one’s chances as a CEO.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Richard

            how about putting together a Ranger bootcamp for those of us that need a little leadership refresher?

          3. JLM

            .Yours truly couldn’t even think of Ranger School today. It was the hardest thing I ever did.It is not hard to graduate if you don’t quit and you get in.In my day, I think you had to be able to do 50 pushups, 20 pullups and some number of sit ups. The pullups are the tough one particularly if you’ve just come from Airborne School where you arms are very fatigued from pulling on the risers.Once you there, the calisthenics are only in the city phase. Once you go to the mountains, no more PT. Maybe a little.You get no sleep is the big problem and you can’t possibly eat enough to survive. Everyone loses 20-25 lbs.Now, as to the leadership element, it’s Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, Business engine canvas, Dollar Weighted org chart, elevator/taxi/boardroom pitch and pitch deck.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. Dave Pinsen

            A former Army Ranger joined my Army Reserve unit. This was in the early ’90s, when we were wearing woodland camo BDUs and he shows up in the old OD green fatigues and black beret.He had jumped into Panama during the invasion in ’89. Anyhow, his day job, after his regular Army stint in the 75th Rangers, was running a dunk tank at carnivals with his mother. He’d sit in the dunk seat and insult the people throwing the balls.I knew another Ranger – a signals officer assigned to an ROTC unit at my college. A divorced alcoholic who had to be put to bed by the cadets he went drinking with.Ranger training is brutal, and their combat history is a proud one, but they put their pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us (though the one in my reserve unit mentioned he cut a hole in his during the swamp phase at ranger school). But they’re flawed men like the rest of us. Maybe more so.

    3. BillMcNeely

      I would think if you had a board member who successfully ran a company in another era but refused to acknowledge educate themselves on the new landscape would be more dangerous.Being a logistics platoon leader in Gulf War 1 in 1991 was different than being one in 2003. When you having to fight and deliver the goods.

      1. JLM

        .Anything change about having to issue a clear mission order? Or to take care of your men? Or have ammo and water?Former CEOs are likely to be from different industries but the fundamentals of Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture don’t change much.Being a CEO is a daily confrontation with change and the necessity to continually adapt.Shoot, move, communicate.The more things change, the more some things stay the same.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. Erin

      That was really poetic.

    5. LE

      It’s really not that big a deal. We asked for this job. We want this job.Exactly. I hate the “whinning” culture that we have. Especially in this day and age of ultimate do-overs and actual celebration of failure. A person in Costolo’s position has everything to gain and little but a history ego footnote to lose.

      1. Richard

        People confuse the difficulty of a task with the probability of a positive outcome. The probability of a CEO making the rights calls may be low, but that doesn’t make the job difficult.

      2. JLM

        .We have, literally, become a nation of whiners. For every challenge, we have a victim class, a whine and a demand for reparations.In the arena of race, it is very clear. No longer is the focus on the advancement of disadvantaged minorities, now it is victimhood.Hear much about Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program?No, because it doesn’t walk in step with the Rev Al Sharpton’s views of victimhood; and, he is, after all, the racial consultant to the President–amongst other things.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          and a demand for reparationsFound out from my mother the other day that German reparations for Holocaust suriviors have never been taxable. Dates back to the 50’s or perhaps even the late 40’s. And to this day they still pay money even to a widow. We are talking close to 65 years later!Interestingly, these particular reparations were never asked for. It was offered (I was told) by Germany. I could be wrong of course. (Other reparations were asked for, but that was later and instigated by a certain group of people..)You will like this one. The other day there was an article in the NY Times about young people and retirement and all the debt that they pay and what not. Standard fair for the NYT. So I happen to say to my wife that night “you know none of those articles ever discuss getting a weekend job to earn extra cash”. Plenty though to discuss how to play and how to have fun. Shit that you never did and I never did back when we were that age.Well just today an immigrant comes up to measure some soundproof windows for my office. And it turns out that this is his weekend job. His day job is to teach chemistry at a University. I knew this of course because I had googled his unusual name when I was given it by the manufacturer. (I didn’t even have to ask him…)So he stops by a few hours ago and I say “oh how long have you been doing this for” and he says “7 years”. And I say “how did you get into it” and he says “in my native country I did construction” (now he is a Phd btw.). So he does this now to earn extra money on the side.Anyway he earned exactly $75 dollars by driving an hour to my office to measure and if I decide to go ahead he will make perhaps $1000 for a day’s work.So here is a guy who is doing and not whining. Ditto for the guys who show up to assemble exercise equipment. I always talk to people and ask questions and these guys all have full time jobs they work nights and weekends on the side to make extra money.Same with the Chinese people that I do business with. Not unusual to be emailing back and forth when it is 3 or 4am their time. Not unusual for me to be emailing when it is 1am my time. No complaining, no whining, part of the job.This Academic Jerry Hough of Duke got fried for what he said, in case you missed it:

          1. Otis Funkmeyer


    6. Richard

      “About the hardest job you can have”I’ve yet to meet a CEO who made this claim.

      1. JLM

        .What does that mean?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          Fred ended his post with the proposition that the job of a CEO is the hardest job you can have.I don’t recall ever hearing a CEO make this claimPeople forget that Twitter has 3.6 billion of cash that it raised in its IPO.Deciding how to deploy this storehouse of borrowed cash to grow its ad platform may be tricky, but tricky isn’t hard.

          1. JLM

            .Got it. Thank you.The worst mistakes I ever made in business was when I had a lot fo cash flow and a lot of cash on hand. The smartest thing I ever did was to distribute cash.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  13. Eddie Wharton

    The internet and Twitter, in particular, have made tech into a spectator sport

  14. Shaun Dakin

    Well said.

  15. pointsnfigures

    I do like the trend with CEO’s and what is being called “mindfulness”. It’s nothing new. Great CEO’s always have had empathy for their employees and listened to them. They have always created good culture.Sometimes when I meet a CEO, I get a very visceral sense in my gut that I would want to walk through walls with that person. Sometimes I don’t.What is really fun from my perspective is investing in a seed start up and watching the person build a company and grow into the role. A lot of fun.

  16. William Mougayar

    I like your re-definition of “public” company- as one that is highly in the public eye, whether it’s formally public or not.

  17. PhilipSugar

    You have to do many things as a CEO. You have to listen to multiple inputs and orchestrate the business. You make some really tough decisions by yourself.But I always say one thing: Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and they always stink.So when I hear people giving their opinions about CEO’s that is what to remember.

    1. LE

      Opinions are like assholesOne of the best similar sayings that I heard way way back was from a junk dealer. He said “I need that like I need a third asshole”. One of those phrases that always stuck with me.

      1. Otis Funkmeyer

        that’s so funny. based on my history of colorful friends and associates, i was like HOW DID LE KNOW A JUNK DEALER? then i realized you were not referring to opiates 🙂 happy sunday! ha!

  18. Alex Vasquez

    Fred, no matter what you say or defend, Dick Costolo will have to fired for Twitter to sustain, leave alone growth. I can see that happening from the chatter within the business circles in the valley, it is a matter of when, not if.

  19. Twain Twain

    The most noticeable difference between Twitter and other well-known techco’s is that its product and technical founders are no longer in operational, decision-making roles with the company.FB, Google, Amazon, Apple etc’s strengths stem a lot from their consistent product and technical leadership.

  20. Erin

    Have you tried using the Enneagram Fred? It helps with coaching. It’s like if mindfulness shows us how often we “check out” from reality, the Enneagram shows us our “checking out” patterns, so where our mind wanders, and at what stress point we “leave”. So it’s like a map of our consciousness that makes coaching less personal and more objective- like “where are you on this map. Let’s look at it together.” For example, I’m working with someone who hates confrontation and can validate 360 degrees worth of POV’s but not his own- his estimation of his POV is so low that the road inward towards accessing it is wobbly and cloudy and fraught with inner judgements that he’ll immediately switch tracks to whatever the group wants because it’s easier. in fact he doesn’t even know he has a POV because all his life he was never forced to come up with one. (My belief is that Obama is this type). So we’re looking at how that is affected by his core fear of being abandoned if he causes conflict, which an inherent byproduct of asserting yourself. That makes a lot shorter work of your meditation time. I mean, it’s still a lifetimes’ worth of inner work, but at least noticeable strides can be made on the emotional intelligence scale. It’s good stuff. A lot of companies – public and private- use it for their coaching.

  21. LE

    People are great cherry pickers of success stories and isolating times that their opinions were right about something while not talking about all of the times that they were wrong. Except when they are trying to appear balanced and humble.My Dad, when I was a kid, used to say to me “eh he tells you about all of the stocks that he buys that he makes money on, but not about the ones that he loses money on”.The press and bloggers are particularly good at isolating events to make a good interesting story. Only because the simple people reading those stories don’t know enough to see what is going on.Here is a classic case, of HP apparently turning down Wozniak’s PC design [1] (and of course this is Wozniak’s version..):…Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak highlighted the fact that he had offered his original design for the Apple I personal computer to his former employer, HP, 5 times, but was turned down each time.This is the type of stuff that I like the most. Not only do we not know if it actually happened but even assuming that it did we don’t know the 10,000 other ideas that HP also passed on that never came to fruition. [2][1] Guess what Woz? You wouldn’t be anywhere today and nobody would fucking care what you were saying if Jobs wasn’t the asshole that he was and the type of person to have screwed you out of something way back and taken advantage of you. [3][2] At one point you know some people thought that by this day and age we would all be flying around in airplanes.[3] http://www.businessinsider…. Oh my goodness, Jobs lied to him!!!!!!!While working at Atari, Jobs recruited Wozniak’s help to build a scaled down version of Pong. There was a big bonus involved in getting it done quickly and efficiently, and Jobs lied about how much money was involved, pocketing the majority of the money for himself.

    1. Otis Funkmeyer

      [1] Guess what Woz? You wouldn’t be anywhere today and nobody would fucking care what you were saying if Jobs wasn’t the asshole that he was and the type of person to have screwed you out of something way back and taken advantage of you. [3]well that’s putting things succinctly!

  22. William Wolf

    Netflix IPO was in 2002.

  23. LE

    And Wall Street was so negative on Reed, his strategy, and the company’s performance. But Reed hung in there, had conviction about the business and where it was going.If “the street” is wrong then in theory things would auto-correct and hit a balance. Not to mention that “the street” is a self fulfilling prophecy in many cases. And one of the reasons that I don’t buy stock. Common sense and logical interpretation can’t match what “the street”, that is what stock investors are thinking and doing en mass. “Wisdom” if you want to call it that of the crowds and all of that.Has anyone ever done a study of what is said (by “The Street” or even “a Jim Cramer”) and what ends up happening later in reality? Over time? Not just a year but many years. Because you know you can walk into the casino at any point in time or over a short period of time and win. But over time we all know what happens and we are not talking about the guarantee of death and taxes here.

  24. Dave

    Well said. It also takes a self-aware investor Board member to realize their value tends to significantly decrease as the company gets bigger, while the value of outside/independent Board members with experience at scale increases. Few VCs are self-aware though.

  25. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Didn’t dive into the comments yesterday because, yeah, I feel like the last thing I have an informed opinion on is what the CEO of Twitter should be doing or not doing.But, having watched quite a few interviews of Costolo at this point, compared to all those I’ve seen, he looked to me like he needed a hug in yesterday’s. It seems like being the CEO of Twitter could either eat a person up or fast forward them into enlightenment. I hope he has a standing appointment with Colonna 😉

    1. Simone

      I thought the same, that he is really tired physically and emotionally. I agree he needs a good hug as he is trying to run the most relevant open communication platform globally.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      History may be kinder to him than the present. He really is doing a heroic thing.I just did an American History tour with my son’s 8th grade class. Was reminded of how differently we see things in retrospect. It’s pretty humbling, actually.Colonna, yes!

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        So true.

  26. PrometheeFeu

    When you wrote: “she didn’t do this, he should have done that, she didn’t articulate that very well”I noticed you alternated the gender pronouns. Did you do that consciously or not? If yes, did you introduce the alternation after a first draft? I’m not criticising, I’m genuinely curious.

  27. PrometheeFeu

    And don’t forget the role that chance plays in the success of companies. If a company doesn’t do well, it’s probably because they got unlucky. They made some bet and the bet didn’t pay off. Blaming CEOs for failures and worshiping them for successes is very rarely a reasonable thing to do.

  28. Kerry Gallivan

    The challenges of being a CEO don’t just start when you raise your first round or complete an IPO, they begin when you hire employee #3 – assuming you have a co-founder. IMHO.

  29. Ana Milicevic

    Now wouldn’t this be an awesome Monday morning post! 😉

  30. carlos kirjner

    has Wall Street called for the replacement of Twitter’s CEO? I am not even sure I know what that means! Also, Twitter is valued at about $25 billion. That is not nothing. There are fair arguments that this number could be either too high or too low.

  31. Matt Krisiloff

    How did you get founders / CEOs to take your advice seriously since you didn’t have the ‘moral authority’ of having been an operator yourself? Especially early on in your career?

  32. awaldstein

    Ain’t that the truth.We all talk about learning and losing and growing.The market and our investors and our teams love us when we win. Tolerate and potentially respect us by how we lose.

  33. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Definition of tough times.the only time when what you learn really matters.

  34. pointsnfigures

    Short term winning sometimes obfuscates the underlying problems of the business. That’s why you never manage earnings.

  35. PhilipSugar

    So right. If you are winning you can be a total ass and people will kiss it. It is why it is important to win.

  36. LE

    it’s not even the hardest job in my company.Ok so “Mr. Empathy” let’s hear what “the hardest job in your company” is then? Are you going to tell me about the guy who works for you who has to wake up at 4am to drive the bread into NYC, fight traffic and do so in a rain storm? And by the way he also probably holds down a night job as well and has high blood pressure. What does “hard” even mean? What is “hard” and why does that even matter?I say “Mr. Empathy” because sometimes it’s important not to be so damn empathetic. Empathy isn’t good at the two extremes. Lack of empathy often allows you to push people in a way that empathy does not. Empathy can sometimes make it easy for people to take advantage of you or slack tough it would be for CostoloIf things are hard for Costolo it’s of his own making. I don’t know what his financial position is but he isn’t the CEO of twitter because he needs the money. He is doing it by his own free will, and for his ego, and because having a job like that gets you a ton of smoke blown up your ass by people who stand to gain something from you. Just like a politician in most, if not all, cases.

  37. Nidhi Mevada

    Success and failure are exists on the same road.

  38. LE

    If you are winning you can be a total ass and people will kiss it.Paterno and Sandusky as exhibit A to that point.

  39. LE

    I learned about all of that when I dated a divorced woman who would constantly tell me how much of a narcissist her ex husband was. No surprise, she was also narcissistic. Many of the examples on that page fit her like a glove.

  40. awaldstein

    So true.At the end of the day if you don’t have the capital to fuel growth or our pace a bad period, or your product is simply not what it should be, you loose regardless.Takes a team.

  41. Daksh

    “sometimes it’s important not to be so damn empathetic.”Empathy does not imply lack of tough decisions, it implies knowing the other side of view and taking it into consideration while taking a decision. Notice I did not say making a decision which is agreeable to all sides.Like this comment with which you would be empathetic with even though you might disagree.