What Are We Doing?

I’ve been told over the years that the number one reason employees leave a company for another job is that they don’t know where the company is headed and they don’t know what their role in that roadmap is.

Apparently a bad boss and below market comp and long working hours all come in lower than that one.

Which tells me that if people believe in you and your plan and have a role to play in it, they will put up with a lot of other stuff.

I am not advocating for a hostile workplace or below market comp.

What I am advocating for is the value of having a clear and intelligent plan, communicating it often and often, and, most importantly, mapping that plan to each team and each person in your organization.

This is pretty easy when you are five people. It gets harder when you are fifty people. And it’s really hard when you are 500 people.

The communication plan is very important particularly as the size of the company grows. And making it matter to everyone is quite challenging.

But it all starts with a plan. I know companies that are great at communicating but don’t really have a coherent plan. All the communicating in the world won’t help them.

So figure out where you are taking your company. Answer the basic question on everyone’s minds, “what are we doing?”, and you will be on a path to building a loyal, hardworking, and motivated team.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jess Bachman

    Right, you always need to have a north star to have as a guide… but sometimes… the sky is cloudy, or there is bad weather.. so folks a compass and map that are much closer at hand.

  2. Eli Colner

    Nailed it. It’s insane how just a short few weeks of sailing adrift can really sour the experience.

  3. JimHirshfield

    The communication factor is amplified when there are multiple offices. In the 4 most recent startups that I’ve worked at, I was either the only NYC employee or part of a small team in NYC for companies with HQs in Europe, Canada, San Fran, and Ireland.It isn’t just communication that’s important – communication is the platform – but what flows over the communication. IOW, don’t just inform, but include everyone as much as possible in decisions or give them insight into the thinking behind decisions.

    1. JamesHRH

      3 types of meetings: information, problem solving, blue sky idea generation.And my all time favourite meeting opener: ‘ Oh, Jim, this meeting isn’t with you, its about you.”

      1. JimHirshfield

        “It’s not me, it’s you”?

        1. JamesHRH


    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yes. In the new age of the virtual organization, we’re inventing new ways of keeping the channels of communication open and flowing. My theory about Slack’s huge success boils down to: animated gif’s and emoji’s. They really are *that* important in the new age.

      1. JimHirshfield

        You’re right. Text alone has no emotion and is easily misunderstood. Emoji and gifs help.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Nick Epley, Professor at Chicago Booth has a book on mind reading. We can’t extract body language and emotion out of the written word unless we really really know that person. Communication on a personal level is key in virtual world.

          1. JimHirshfield

            I’m sensing sarcasm in what you said. No, perhaps not.

    3. Vasudev Ram

      Great comment.>IOW, don’t just inform, but include everyone as much as possible in decisions or give them insight into the thinking behind decisions.I try to do that – at least some – in my consulting & training operations (not a startup).E.g. just earlier today I emailed a client on how to ideas on how to refactor code, with examples.

  4. pointsnfigures

    Troy Henikoff told me once that the most fun thing was starting a company and getting it to 100 employees. After that it was just managing people.There is actually academic theory on this. Hackman-Oldham theory of motivation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wi… I had Oldham as a professor and got in a massive argument with him over what motivates people more; pay or having more autonomy in their job. He is at Tulane now and might remember. This is sort of in the same vein of your post. It turns out, more autonomy develops better intrinsic motivation than pay.Another very good friend of mine is professor Mike Gibbs. He and Ed Lazear wrote a pretty detailed book on personnel http://www.amazon.com/Edwar… They cover some pretty powerful topics in it (The Risky Hire etc)I have been self employed since 1986. I had the argument with him in 1983. I called him up and apologized 10 years later because he was right. Money is a motivator, but it’s not as strong a motivator as other things. As soon as I hear an entrepreneur is into this for the money, I walk away. Money doesn’t last.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Dan Pink would agree with you. However, I think money means different things to different people. To some, money is meaningless.. to others it’s some sort of deep rooted motivation that speaks to their misguided sense of self worth. To the latter, it can be a strong motivator… but that’s still not a good thing.Basically, people have different motivators and general applied rules will have lots of gaps. A challenge with over 100 employees I’m sure.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Read the theory. Money isn’t as powerful a motivator as autonomy.

        1. Jess Bachman

          I know and agree with you. I haven’t read the theory but have read Drive which sounds like its saying the same thing. http://www.amazon.com/Drive

        2. Twain Twain

          Up-voting this a bazillion times.Hire talented people, provide broad strokes of “where we’re going with this” and trust them with autonomy to solve the “what to make to get there”.If anyone had tried to micro-manage / babysit / curtail my autonomy I wouldn’t have the knowhow I do today and I wouldn’t be able to contribute my 2 cents and do my “applied imagination” to anything.Autonomy wins every time!

      2. awaldstein

        Twice I”ve built teams of over 100 people reporting into me.You manage few as the teams grow under you. More and more your job is leadership and inspiration.

      3. Matt A. Myers

        To add.. Some the feeling of great responsibility and fulfilling it is a huge reward – of course this can parallel with a desire for power or at least mimic it.If people are honest and have the self-awareness to know their motivators then you can create a successful ecosystem.

      4. JLM

        .Entrepreneurs are compensated differently than normal people.They get money, ego enrichment, self-esteem nourishment, a sense of personal accomplishment, and to wrestle with their own self-made demons constantly.If those things do not attract you, then look for another line of work.Do make sure you make enough money to afford a psychiatrist and a CEO coach. Make the company pay for the CEO coach but you have to pay for your own shrink.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. LE

      As soon as I hear an entrepreneur is into this for the moneyFrom my perspective just because someone says they are in it for the money doesn’t always mean that they are in it for the money. They might, as a result of their current situation (or the way they are raised) see money as the thing they are trying to get when in fact it actually isn’t what they want. But a proxy. They want the excitement of getting the money and earning it and all that goes with it. Plus yes they want what they don’t have that they feel money can buy. I can say that if you have money it’s easier to get a pretty girl (if that is what you want) than if you don’t have money. Having a job that you love but with low pay might not get you the “pretty” girl. Where “pretty” means of course more than “attractive and good looking”.Fred doesn’t do what he does (at this point) for the money but perhaps there was a point in time when he was or even said that he was doing something “for the money”. After all a definite base reason that someone gets involved in business and being an entrepreneur (or a trader as you were at one point) is definitely and absolutely “to make money”. Not that there weren’t other things that you liked about trading (but maybe not, who knows).When I was out of college I remember a discussion where my Dad told me that what you did wasn’t important but if you made money doing it you would find the business fun (and I guess like a game). I have found that to be the case actually more than not. The money and quest for it makes things fun.Plus you have to separate what someone who is young and out of college thinks and says vs. what they will learn and change over time when they are exposed to other feelings and emotions.My point is that for me personally (and I don’t take issue with your thoughts or your style per my other point since that obviously works for you) I personally wouldn’t hold it against anyone for being “into this for the money” or “wanting to make a great deal of money”. (Especially if that person is in sales by the way..)

  5. awaldstein

    This post is really about leadership.Communicating vision and purpose, inspiring the team to solve problems and capitalize on opportunity is what leaders do.Less about being a boss as people forgive your foibles if you inspire. More about being the leader that make people embrace ideas and drive as their own.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      This is where my mind is more frequently at. We’re testing our first real non-founding, non-contract hire who would work up to full-time — a pretty big milestone though not feeling like celebrating yet.I’m realizing more and more a leading focus at the top is going to have to engaging people into exactly what Fred said – giving them responsibility, importance, and direction to what they’re working towards; inspiration.People, especially the community we’re trying to connect and connect with, believe in what we’re doing and they’re excited about it. Luckily my ideas are holistic, global, and inherently towards a good cause and an important why – so there is lots of room for people to find connection and relevancy.The finessing now is lining up the lifestyle, company values and rough idea of culture I see people being able to have who are involved, aligning it all with the economics of the situation.I’m going to need some great people on my team who understand and live this more than I do so I can learn and be inspired by them – and luckily the more we reach out to the community, the more those other important and missing anchor points seem to present themselves.

      1. awaldstein

        My sense is that you are going to be a great leader.Leading through inspiration and understanding the legal and behavioral details of management are not necessarily the same. In small cos you will need to do both.A coach or mentor with specific experience is something you might consider if you have not already.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I’m starting to get a sense of what an advisor or coach may look like to me – planning to dip a toe or two in relatively soon.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Highly recommend this. Took this step myself recently and it is amazing the difference it makes in how I see myself and my business.

      2. JamesHRH

        Everyone, EVERYONE, should feel that what they do matters and is part of the overall success of the group.

        1. JLM

          .You would have really enjoyed draftee riflemen/combat engineers in the early 1970s.Even they responded to effective leadership. I had a few who actually re-enlisted.I also had a few who were anarchists but very good at it.My favorite was a draftee tenured prof with a PhD in English who I made my company clerk. Once I got him to stop putting literary references in my correspondence, he was the best ever.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Matt, I’ve watched you press on for several years now, motivated by passion and inspired by the belief in what you are doing. You have a solid story to work with in recruiting. That goes a long way. I can’t wait to see the team that comes together around this vision.

      4. Joe Cardillo

        My secret advantage is: find someone you believe is right, and then help them get momentum from the very first instant they join the team. Having a plan is important, being empathetic is important, but showing people immediately and continuously that what they’re working on is effective and helping them get momentum is something that works across different learning / motivation styles. And I agree with Donna, I think you’ll make a great leader…you already do what James mentioned below, and that goes a long way. Also, congrats! And keep at it.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          That’s great as part of an onboarding strategy as well. And it is one thing to communicate broadly — but what you are describing is actual implementation that seeps deep into the culture so that it begins to replicate.

          1. Joe Cardillo

            That’s nicely said – probably more elegant than my version! Agreed of course, as Kirsten noted it’s the doing that reaffirms communication / vision and establishes integrity.

    2. JLM

      .Everything is about leadership. Leadership + a plan has always been what has attracted people to become zealous followers.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. Dan Moore

      I agree. I have only worked at one company that had a big hairy audacious goal (bhag) and did a visioning and core values workshop. I rolled my eyes during the process, but afterwards the values and goal were useful when comparing two or more courses of action.Scaling leadership is hard, but having a consistent message and goal can help.

      1. awaldstein

        Most commenters use the word startup to mean both a team of three and a team of 100.There are almost no similarities to the dynamics of leadership nor culture from a 1,10,30 and 50 person startup moving up the revenue steps.Very useful discussion but generalizations while necessary for communications are invariably incorrect.

      2. Nick Ambrose

        Yeah. I’ve noticed that with a bad boss, “Company values” only seem to come into play when something hasn’t gone right/you made a mistake, and then they are used as a stick

  6. leigh

    My conversation with almost everyone i interview for my company:If you want the most money in the industry probably this interview is already over.If you want to learn more in the next 12 months than you’ve learned in the last 12, welcome aboard.If we don’t live up to that promise, they will leave. It puts it on the line for both parties.And honestly, out of everything I’ve done to build a successful company, I am probably most proud of our low churn rate in an industry (marketing) that overpays jr.s with even a couple years experience in social/digital and where my staff get head hunted every day. If all other companies have to offer is compensation, i think the odds are ever in our favour. 🙂

    1. William Mougayar

      You do run a great ship Leigh. Do you do weekly or daily company talks with all together?

      1. leigh

        It’s funny you ask that. We haven’t because we’ve been small enough that I can kinda walk around every day and feel connected. But we are in fact going to start doing that the first Monday after the long weekend. Not my idea. A company i used to work for ICE (integrated communications and entertainment) did it and i always thought it was a brilliant way to help everyone understand the company direction and vision.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Impressive, Leigh, but not surprising since this fits with everything you’d shared over the years about your perspective on leadership and management.As a headhunter, I stopped recruiting based on compensation a long time ago. If that is the motivator then it’s the wrong fit. Besides, most of my clients are startups and can’t compete on compensation anyway.

      1. leigh

        That’s exactly it isn’t it. If you can’t afford compensation in an extremely competitive market then you have to offer something else. Millennials are actually great in this regard — money isn’t everything for them. I think it’s about making people feel valued more than anything else. If you aren’t invested in them as people, why should they be invested in you as a business owner?

    3. mikenolan99

      I had a great conversation with a tech CEO in Minneapolis – talking about attrition. He pointed out that while their churn rate might sound high, their “regrettable attrition” rate was right where they expect it to be. Love that term…

      1. JLM

        .If you made the hire, you own the outcome.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. leigh

        ok that may be my new favourite expression

  7. William Mougayar

    I’ll take a contrarian view on one thing you said there “And it’s really hard when you are 500 people.”Actually, it doesn’t and shouldn’t. Running larger organizations has been done, tested, documented, written-up and studied, over and over. There are tons of Management books.It continues to puzzle me when startup CEOs want to re-invent management as they grow, and don’t go back to basics, and read a couple of books on being a CEO, or a get mentor who is/was a real CEO.It’s the earlier stages 0-100 that are the hardest to manage, because it’s all growing fast and furiously. But that’s where entrepreneurship is. After, you got to continue to be nimble of course, but you need to manage like a pro to grow.

    1. awaldstein

      My experience is different William.The biggest companies I”ve worked for are either ones I’ve started or been part of the turnaround team.Nothing bigger that 3000 employees. No direct report teams larger than 200.My personal experience is that the more you are pushed to the top the simpler it is to loose touch with not only the people but also the customers and employers.There are rules of thumb and books galore.Then there is reality. This ain’t a procedure it’s group dynamics and it’s never formulaic.I’m sure you are right in many instances. Just not what I’ve experienced especially when it is something you grow yourself.

      1. William Mougayar

        But that’s where you need these management systems and know-how to be in place. You pick what works for you, and it becomes your operating model.Managing is managing. If you don’t manage, you get anarchy.

        1. awaldstein

          I like you am a believer in training myself and learning from the past and things that help.No question.What all management books miss–and I’ve read many of them–is that:A. People and team dynamics are both messy and emotional. Understand the how but understand that nothing works all the time.B. All of these books are written like they have the answer.How we manage teams, how careful we are with certain topics, the freedom that we manage towards in our leaders is not how it was done in the 90s.People have core similarities and aspirations over time. How community and group and teams function today is not the same as they did even a decade ago.The books need to be learned from then rewritten in my opinion,

          1. JamesHRH

            Great leaders lead from within.Books can inform that point of view, but when you are putting yourself on the line to deliver, your way has to be the way and you have to believe it.

          2. pointsnfigures

            “From within”-within the org, within themselves? Not sure what you are saying here.

          3. JamesHRH

            Themselves.You have to believe it first & it has to work.

          4. JLM

            .Misguided management books are only exceeded in quantity by the amount of truly bad advice that one can find — on everything.Nonetheless, it is possible (perhaps mandatory) to develop a methodology of your own personal leadership style.In the military, it was amazing how different leadership styles might be at the company level and yet the companies were all, essentially, doing the same thing.In peacetime, all you do is train, train, train. The best leaders were often not wildly authoritarian — a surprise to some — they are skillful trainers. Planners of training moreso than anything else.I had the great privilege of commanding two companies which were totally fucked up when I got them. It is a great experience. Much moreso than walking into a “good” company.The second time, I had learned so much, I walked in fired a few people, made the training schedule, conducted the training, and a few months later the company made the highest grade that year in its branch.I actually did next to nothing other than putting the right people in the right jobs, showing up for PT and running with the soldiers every morning, and conducting rigorous, realistic training.Every situation calls out for its own brand of leadership and there is more than one approach that will work.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. awaldstein

            but of course.I think that book are instructive but the idea that you can read a management book and be prepared to craft a strategy to be CEO, even the communications strategy for one to optimistic at best.If there is a bible of ceo management strategy that i missed, please someone share it.

          6. Anne Libby

            Turnaround experience helps you pack 10 pounds of management/leadership experience into a 5 pound sack.And it’s because of rapid exposure to many management “use cases” in a short period of time…

          7. LE

            B. All of these books are written like they have the answer.Exactly. One of my themes actually “the answer”. Great way to sell books. Books can’t be wishy washy and circumspect … generally. They have to take (like blog posts) strong positions. (Problem with politics as well simpletons want strong positions that people stick to and don’t change their mind on, even if the facts change or new info becomes available….blame that on…the media..)Anyway. I don’t read those books (have no need to) and tend to only read books about things that are more science than art. “Perl and Mysql”. Business is more art than science. Oh yeah don’t forget the luck part of it. (Just look at any large corporation or even small business.) I never have read a book on negotiation. And never intend to. It would mess with my head and what I have already figured out by doing over the years. And quite frankly was actually born with. I am sure I would be both confused and have a good laugh if I did. Someone here for example made a comment that you can’t infer intent from email unless you know the person. So anyone reading that in a book would take that as fact. However I do that practically each and every day and have money in the bank to prove that I have developed a skill and can read intent from emails. [2] My point is that books are not always helpful (and can hurt) in a subject that is art and not science. A subject that is science, sure bring on the books. Art though for someone who doesn’t know themselves can actually be more of a detriment than a benefit. [1][1] Notice that I am making a statement that would appear in a book. However this is an example of something that I have found, a theory, that has worked for me. Doesn’t mean it would work for you or my wife or William or JLM or Jeff Carter or anyone else. Which is part of the point that I am making. I can’t have you execute the art that I am good at anymore than one musician can write and perform music than another artist is good at. Some are just better at certain things than others because they can better manage the nuance. Same words out of Carly Fiorinas mouth and Trumps mouth have two different effects on the audience. That’s obvious, right? Or for a Seinfeld comedy routine.[2] Ditto some people (myself included obviously) can easily read intent from the voice (if by cell phone) or from facial gestures (if in person). But not everyone can do that (and not talking about only aspies either..)

          8. Anne Libby

            You can’t learn it from a book. (Even a non-misguided (h/t @JLM:disqus) book or blog post won’t get you far.You can learn *about it* from a book.You only learn it by doing it, and practicing.If you could learn in a classroom, or from a book, then most MBAs would be great managers (rather than great analysts, which is what you can learn from a book/in a classroom) and we’d be in organizational Nirvana here in the US.

        2. pointsnfigures


    2. Jess Bachman

      It puzzles you that CEOs of startups who’s sole purpose is to innovate and disrupt… are innovating and disrupting established management doctrine?

      1. William Mougayar

        Yes, you need to have some basics covered. if you don’t, the whole thing crumbles. A startup ceo’s job is not to re-invent management purposefully. If they are successful, let others report on how they did it and whether they did anything conventional or not.Back to the topic, communicating your plan is a basic management function. If a startup CEO read just 2 books on being a CEO, then they would know it, and Fred’s post would be that reminder, instead of something new.

      2. JLM

        .You can be the greatest painter in the history of the world and you are going to have the same tools — brushes, paint — as the most mediocre painter.Leadership is vision. This is where the magic lives.Management is resource allocation. This just makes it a pleasant journey.The innovation resides in the vision and is brought out by leadership. This is where disruption happens.The tools for effective management are just about the same whether you are building a house or an ark.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. JamesHRH

      The answers are easier. The execution is not.People focus on the money that leaders make. The good ones earn all of it because the care 1000x more, they commit 100x more and they are 10x more competent than the average employee.

    4. JLM

      .It is much easier to run a company with 1,000 employees than it is to run one with 50 employees. Not as much fun, maybe, but easier. I did it three times in 33 years of CEOing.In the 1,000 employee company, you have some structure, you have battle tested subordinates, you have a few super stars, you have an established culture, and you can place your personal emphasis where the smoke is coming from.In the 50 person startup, every employee is a critical employee. You are still struggling with structure, your best people are modestly fickle, and you are typically developing the product at the same time you are building the company.Nonetheless, the same approach works for both challenges.Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. William Mougayar

        I agree with you, more than you agreed with yourself.

        1. JLM

          .Catchy turn of a phrase, Wm. Sounds familiar.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Bravo, William.

      2. LE

        In the 50 person startup, every employee is a critical employee.100% true. Plenty to loose sleep over.

      3. Richard

        Large companies can also get away with a mission of producing a boring substandard product. Try persuading 20 people to join that parade.

      4. Matt A. Myers

        EDIT: I don’t like how I worded this and don’t have time to re-word it.. Argh

    5. Anne Libby


  8. Andrea Malfer Poma

    I thought that the number #1 reason for an employee to leave a company for another job was the company not having the slightest idea about where to go.Which might, in fact, result in not telling the employee what his role in the non-plan is.

  9. feargallkenny

    Good aricle on the market for the other side of that equation : employee feedback https://www.linkedin.com/pu

  10. JamesHRH

    If you do this right, it flows smoothly: why are we here? what do we (the organization) need to accomplish? what is my role? what are my responsibilities? etc.My wife could teach this to startups at this point, after having it done it 4 or 5 times with 500+ person groups.

  11. Kirsten Lambertsen

    From my experience, once a company gets beyond about 150 people, it becomes more about what you DO than what you say. The “why” gets communicated every day through the company culture and policies. Every policy, protocol, procedure needs to have its own way of embodying what the company is about, why it exists and where it’s going. How the company treats its team members reflects and communicates that company’s values, every day. Who gets hired and promoted communicates volumes.Otherwise, any verbal communication is likely to be taken as just lip service.

    1. Richard

      You nailed it. Employees are compensated with $ and Respect,

    2. Joe Cardillo

      Completely agree, what people actually do (or in some cases, don’t do) speaks volume. IMHO to Rich’s point, that’s becoming more important as Millennial set ages.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Interesting! Because they are skeptical? Because they need to believe in their work? Or…?

        1. Joe Cardillo

          I think a bit of skepticism and also b/c there is less hierarchically focused desire for development…what some people interpret as “me me me” and validation / narcissism, can at times be about getting better more continuous feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      This is soooo good.I like to think of communication as something that is accomplished as much by action as by words.

  12. JLM

    .The alignment that is created by a founder/CEO creating a coherent Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, and dollar weighted org chart is LIBERATING and EMPOWERING.It is the Bible of a startup.In dealing with startup CEOs, I can tell you apocryphal tales of CEOs with some of these basic planning tools missing, then drafted, then perfected — an offsite meeting with management and voila — a freakin’ explosion of alignment.More importantly? A reduction of tension and a clear sense of “where are we going?”Planning unleashes the force multiplying power of alignment. It always has.I can tell you where some of the problem is coming from today — VCs are not asking for this level of planning as part of the funding process and are writing checks when folks have an “idea” or a workable “hypothesis” but no real operating company.The entrepreneur gets the money and gets down to product development forgoing the opportunity to put the company on a sound planning foundation.The good news is that is amazingly easy to fix. You just have to do the freakin’ work. As a CEO for 33 years and a founder of multiple companies, when I learned these simple techniques, I never, ever, ever had personnel problems. I had people following me from company to company.The secret? There is no secret. It just takes a little Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture, business engine canvas, business process graphic, and a dollar weighted org chart.It is easy when you do the damn planning. This is prehistoric, pre-Peter Drucker, “your generation didn’t invent sex” simple stuff.I have ridden this pony to the pay window. It works.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Tom Labus

      Lot of this is left to chance for a lot a reasons but is a major omission.

  13. JLM

    .Here is a long ago post on a similar subject. Analogy alert.http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      I just scanned that. I love that shit. (Construction and quality part that is). I had an opportunity to work for a college instructor (not sure the exact title) when I graduated that was a home builder. He wanted someone to be able to learn and go on site “has to be able to swing a hammer”. I passed on it because of a family obligation (that quickly evaporated). Very sad to this day that I did. Seeing that foundation (didn’t have time to do anything but scan what you wrote) got me all excited. Especially and particularly the quality aspects and the pictures of the details. I love quality and when things are done right. I am on a campaign to expose everything shitty that I see (as my comments often show and I actually typically hold back). I hate hate hate when people cut corners and do a bad job. And then see that it often gets them ahead of the quality person. I would have made a great deal more money if I didn’t operate that way I know that for sure.The question that I have is this though. How do you get perfection when you are employing contractors and/or have employees doing something that you don’t know about yourself? [1][1] I have always found it super critical to understand what each and every employees jobs is in any business that I have ever run. Otherwise you have no way of knowing if you are being bullshitted or not.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Gorgeous foundation and subfloor. Gorgeous. And that wood: What is that, 2 x 12s? Where the heck to get those? Now get trusses glued up from pieces not much bigger than toothpicks. The strength — likely could park a car on it. And that floor — should be great for basketball.Two sad issues:(1) For evaluations by others, e.g., for mortgage or resale, I’m no expert but am guessing that mostly they will just consider the floor area in square feet and ignore the quiet, level, flat, strong floor, good insulation, good long term stability, etc.And triple 2 x beams: I’m guessing that one would hold the load, two would be better, so use three. Wow. Lot of wood!(2) Too commonly a man can proudly carry his bride into such a house, in 15 years have three kids and have the youngest in third grade, have the wife now bored since the youngest was in kindergarten, have her drinking coffee each morning at 10 AM with her four best girlfriends talking about girls’ night out and affairs, getting business cards of divorce lawyers, …, and getting a divorce, her car, the house, its furnishings, the kids, alimony, child support, half his business (that he has to sell to raise the cash to pay her her half), and where she fails to keep up maintenance on the house and rain comes in and badly warps the floor and that gorgeous subfloor.A strong floor like that needs and even stronger pre-nup or is just something strong, beautiful, and expensive to be destroyed by the irrational emotions of a ditzy, bored bimbo. Mostly they are not civil engineers you know!

  14. Jim Duster

    a former CEO of mine, Joel Trammell, has started a new company in Austin that does exactly this called http://www.khorus.com He was always a big believer in tying individual goals to corp goals, and has created an interesting system to do so. He is getting a good response!

  15. Erin

    The assumption underlying this premise is that they’re already making a living wage, right? I can’t imagine not being able to afford a house or a family and turning down a higher-paying job because I was doing meaningful work.

    1. JLM

      .Neither can that Maslow guy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Erin

        Lol. Right.

    2. Richard

      yep, Starbucks isn’t filled with amazing baristas because of its mission

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah, wondering/worrying about the basics zaps productivity. Some of my startup clients work to strike a balance to maintain a certain level of hunger but not hardship.

      1. Erin

        Can you explain what you mean by that?

    4. leigh

      oh i don’t know. I’ve done it a few times. Left very well paying jobs and taking less well paying ones. In fact, I’ve probably done that too many times. We aren’t talking about subsistence here – if you are talking about feeding your family that is one thing – but in digital and start up land, it’s about kids right out of school getting paid significant sums of money and deciding between a job that pays 70K or 80K with three years experience (or in one recent case, NO actually job working experience – the person is a food and travel influencer)

  16. sigmaalgebra

    Sounds good.But …, I’ve seen a lot of organizations where the leaders did not communicate this way, and it was easy to guess that they very much did not want to communicate such information or that way.More generally, commonly people don’t want to communicate clearly about their thinking or objectives. Indeed, such communications can be a form of intimacy that is commonly avoided. E.g., in a marriage, one spouse might want to be very clear what their goals are for the next five years, but the other spouse very much wants to avoid that discussion, and any such agreement, because they have their own agenda they want to keep secret.Indeed, some standard advice when dealing with others is “Always look for the hidden agenda”.Can guess that, if pressed, many leaders would respond: “Everyone here has their job description, and they should just do it.”.Some other leaders might respond: “I don’t tell them everything. I don’t just blurt things out. I’ll tell them what they need to know when they need to know it. Otherwise I want them guessing, struggling to please. And to keep them struggling harder and from feeling secure, I don’t let them see me smile. If I’m too clear on just what I want them to do, then they will quickly claim to have done just that and want a raise or promotion.”.Of course, commonly middle managers have some special objectives commonly in conflict with the goals and good of the rest of the organization, that is, those managers engage in what the field of organizational behavior calls goal subordination. In such a case, the manager may want to control, limit, constrain, circumscribe, slow, or narrowly focus the contributions of their subordinates, say, to keep down competition for the manager’s job. The guy the manager reports to may like such mushroom conditions (in the dark, fed BS), too.Also knowing the objectives can be a path to success in the organization, so that knowledge can be valuable and carefully husbanded, say, by a manager and their favorite, most trusted subordinates.One guy I knew was proud to say that each day he kept his index finger in the air to sense the direction the winds were blowing; clearly at his level in the organization, the real goals, etc. were not clearly stated or widely known.So, sure, given the propensity for all the byzantine, dysfunctional middle management goal subordination, tricky, nasty politics, catty gossip, various cliques of insiders and outsiders, etc., to cut back on all such nonsense it can be especially important that the CEO be really clear to all hands. Or, if the real goals are well known to everyone, then no one can try to get some special advantage from their secret knowledge of the goals.In an organization with a lot of goal subordination, a subordinate who does really well on the real goals can be regarded by their middle management supervisor as a threat and, thus, get slapped down hard or even run out of the organization. This is some of why commonly some people just keep their head down and stay quiet. But if the goals are really clear to everyone, then it is harder to slap down, and about have to reward, someone who does really well on the goals.E.g., with poor leadership, a whole organization can fall into a pattern of being “process-oriented, inwardly directed, and arrogant”, “fighting with others down the hall instead of with competitors outside”, etc. Yup, there can be such organizations. One reason is the CEO didn’t make the goals clear and, also, ensure that his subordinates did the same for their more specialized versions of the goals at each level down.So, what are some of the more important reasons leaders common don’t communicate goals, etc. clearly?

  17. Kent Karlsen

    Searching for “Agile Leadership” on Google there is 23,8 million searchresults (and 455 million on “leadership”). I can’t see one advertising on Google search for a Product that may help leaders to do great leadership. Why is that?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      How to find the dozen or so you, just you, maybe no one else, will like best out of the 23.5 million? Let me help you with that!You will have to wait a little longer — the math is done and so is the software — 18,000 programming language statements in 80,000 lines of text files.Why 80,000 text lines for only 18,000 statements? Well, each statement is from one to a few lines long, say, average two, and usually has a blank line ahead of it. So, we’re talking 54,000 lines. Then the rest of the 26,000 lines are comments.Lots of comments! E.g., each non-trivial statement is preceded by a comment with a file system tree name of the corresponding documentation of the non-trivial part, drawn from a collection of about 8,000 such tree names. We’re talking a lot of documentation! Sure, one keystroke in my favorite text editor displays the documentation — nice to have!Why’d I put in all that documentation? Guess who gets to make the code work and enhance it?

      1. Kent Karlsen

        It will demand the best leaders to tell what is good leadership, and there will be a cost linked to that knowledge being democratized for search or payed subscription. If leadership is about good strategy, it’s about taking away what kind of leadership is not working. If Agile Leadership is about big data search, the best practices for good leadership is hopefully shown on the first search result page.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          You wrote: It will demand … and followed that with a good description with a lot of details. Glad you see the details and their importance.Two points:(1) It would be essentially impossible to write a keyword/phrase query for a traditional Internet search engine that would accurately match just what you wanted.(2) Your exact details are likely exactly those of relatively few people, so few that, really, might as well treat your search as unique in all the world.So, to get you what you want out of 23.5 million or so results, need a means of search, an Internet search engine, that addresses (1) and (2). If Agile Leadership is about big data search, the best practices for good leadership is hopefully shown on the first search result page. That goal is not reasonable for a traditional search engine now or soon.But, still, can get the dozen or so results you will want, yes, literally on “the first search result page”.Just how to do that? Not obvious or trivial but possible and, now, quite routinely doable. The software? Again, production version 1.0 ready. A server farm? With current hardware, e.g., solid state disks, can do a lot in, say, one small spare bedroom, and I have one.Working at it.Thanks for your remarks.

  18. Jason Sosnovsky

    Great post. Sent my team an email immediately answering that question.

  19. tobias peggs

    We had to address this at Aviary after I joined as CEO. We’d lost focus on why the company existed and what motivated our team to come to work every day. We went through a pretty robust and inclusive exercise to figure that out. It was inspired by The Playbook framework in Lencioni’s The Advantage http://www.amazon.com/dp/04… (this was a transformational book for me. Any founder/exec struggling to articulate a clear vision would be well advised to read it). In short, your Playbook ends up being a one pager that address six main questions: 1) Why do we exist? (a mission statement); 2) How do we behave? (core values); 3) What do we do? (a plain English articulation of your business); 4) How we will succeed? (what strategic levers should we be pulling to win); 5) What’s most important right now? (focus for current Q, including OKRs/KPIs); 6) Who does what? (clarity on responsibilities). Obviously it is not a quick exercise to get this right – but the power of the output – provided you communicate effectively – is immense. Everyone in the company is literally on the same page (we had our one pager as a shared google doc that anyone could call up at any time). New ideas could be passed through the Playbook quickly to see if they made sense (speeding up decision making). Folks knew whether a line of code they committed, or a new design they dreamt up, or a new bd partnership they closed, helped the company (did it tug on a strategic lever? if yes: awesome! do more like that!). Hiring suddenly became much more focused (and fun). etc etc etc. Basically, we knew why we existed, and everyone knew how they could contribute. (Hopefully!) that was motivational for everyone. I would have loved to have seen the company run for a couple of years under this framework… to really get a sense of long term impact… but we got acquired by Adobe six months later. Nevertheless, I’d be happy to talk to anyone about this process and share the materials. I will 100% use this framework in my next co.

  20. Guy Lepage

    +1 for a “…clear and intelligent plan…” I was lucky to have experienced and have a very strong mentor in this area. I witnessed his literal absence for the majority of the time I was with the company while his senior staff kept on leading the troops into battle. These were highly talented individuals with brilliant track records. I was amazed, in awe and quite dumbfounded how he managed to organize his troops and keep them there working hard and loyal. I truly feel that it was because he would come into his quarterly and bi-annual meetings with such a clear and powerful plan that everyone stayed on board. I also feel that the plan doesn’t necessarily need to be a perfect one but something the team can get behind. There is something to be said for clear planning and direction.

  21. Donna Brewington White

    Which tells me that if people believe in you and your plan and have a role to play in it, they will put up with a lot of other stuff.As a recruiter, this probably thwarts my attempt to lure people away more than anything else. When this is the case, I actually feel good about backing away …and start trying to figure out how I can make that company my client.

  22. pointsnfigures

    http://www.success.com/arti… Here is an article on a startup I am invested in. They are focusing on building a great company culture.

  23. TeddyBeingTeddy

    We are just pack animals pre disposed to follow the alpha. The alpha might be a jerk, might not give me my pro-rata share of the dead rabbit, and might even be ___ing my girlfriend. But he keeps my pack safe and I’m just an animal trying to survive. We’re just a bunch of big dumb animals.

  24. Raj Kandathi

    Knowing how a role can contribute to roadmap will also help with recruiting the right candidate for the role. In fact, it helps the company and the potential employee make the right decision and determine weather they are a good match for each other.

  25. Joel Trammell

    Great post.Once a company passes a certain size, getting people to understand the plan and how they fit in gets very difficult. Handing the plan down through layers of management is like a game of telephone. The message gets garbled way too easily.That frustrates employees and of course it hurts the business. It’s up to the leadership to communicate the plan and priorities clearly. As CEO of previous companies, I built my own software platform for doing that, which has become Khorus (www.khorus.com).As I often say, a coach doesn’t just tell players to “Go win!” Business leaders can’t do it either. They have to help people break down the win into work that has a positive impact on the business.

  26. John Saddington

    Reblogged this, added my own 2 cents… love it. We all need to be talking about this type of stuff more!

  27. JaredMermey

    yessssssssss 🙂

  28. Iain Dixon

    A great phrase I picked up about communication is that ‘it is a loop; it’s not what is in your head at the beginning of the conversation that matters but what is in their head at the end.’In my experience many companies mistake communication for understanding. There’s plenty of research to show that employees think there is more than adequate communication in their organisations. The problem people have is translating high level, conceptual messages into concrete actions they can take day to day.A simple way to close the communication loop is to ask people to play back the key messages and ask them what they are going to do as a result. This helps you check for understanding and helps them link what they do to the bigger picture.What I’ve found is, over time, this approach fosters leadership and initiative as people think more deeply about why they’re doing what they’re doing and act more independently – but still in line with the bigger picture.

  29. Ronnie Rendel

    “What I am advocating for is the value of having a clear and intelligent plan, communicating it often and often, and, most importantly, mapping that plan to each team and each person in your organization.”If I was to define the goal of a business execution system it would be to make the above statement more attainable/easier.

  30. GrahamGnall

    Spot on. Everybody wants to build a product, raise funding. Rarely hear: “I want to build a company/organization.” That’s not sexy.

  31. Sam

    Advertising campaigns key success factor = reach x frequency.It’s a fantastic mindset for internal CEO communications as well. How widely are you reaching the employee base? How often are you communicating the vision of the company?Did you pivot? Well, you just changed your “market positioning.” Reset to zero and begin again.People often assume their audience is rational, can hear the message once or twice, and are good. Almost never the case. It’s always the right move to underestimate the amount of frequency required to get the message across. Did you ever hear of an employee survey where employees complained that management over-communicated?And the benefit of nailing it is that then you’ve now just embedded your vision perfectly throughout the organization, and they become leverage for you repeating the story and aligning the org (and extended org / key partners) behind the vision.It’s a great lever and is not a complicated concept. But it takes awareness and discipline to invest the time in reach and frequency. Great message.

    1. Joe Cardillo

      Reminds me of something I read on unbounce, overtly it’s about landing pages + paid ads, but there’s an undercurrent that addresses your point about consistency and clarity: http://unbounce.com/ppc/poo… (I especially dig the point about only putting one CTA per page. I imagine any time a director or CEO discusses vision or plan, it might be a good thing to practice.)

    2. leigh

      I think there is a book in there somewhere on leadership using media as a metaphor. Retargeting, personalization, engagement, advocacy etc 🙂

  32. Frank Fumarola

    It amazes me how otherwise successful companies don’t have a mission or vision, or some narrative around the plan. My previous company has lost heaps of people over the past 12 months because the founders had 1 clear goal: make more money. So employees who couldn’t get excited about making the CEO and CTO more profit just started dropping like flies, especially because the profit always came at the cost of some party… there was no value creation happening, just value siphoning.

  33. andrewjude

    Tbh, in my short career to date. A lot of my friends / colleagues / peers leave because of their manager. In almost all cases it isn’t really about economics.

  34. Samuel Mandell

    I remember when I was joining the tech workfoce in 2006, engineers were taking jobs at Google for much less pay than other companies, simply because it was Google. They had articulated a clear vision (organize the world’s information and make it accessible), and had given their employees the freedom to do just that.