Photo: Federico Novaro

One of the oft-repeated stories my father used to tell me was the time he met Johnny Weissmuller. Weissmuller was the Michael Phelps or Mark Spitz of his generation, garnering five Olympic gold medals, 52 U.S. championships and breaking 67 world records in swimming. He never lost a race, and retired with an unbeaten amateur record. In 1950, he was selected by the Associated Press as the greatest swimmer in the first half of the 20th century.

Remarkably, swimming is not why Johnny is so well remembered and recognized in my father’s generation. You see, Johnny was Tarzan, at least in the movies. He wasn’t the first actor to don the leopard loincloth, but Johnny was the best—the iconic Tarzan, jungle yodel and all.

From 1932 to 1948, he starred in a series of semi-memorable movies including Tarzan the Ape Man, Tarzan and His Mate, Tarzan Finds a Son! and Tarzan and the Mermaids. In addition to swinging through the trees and being able to summon the animals, Tarzan was portrayed as remarkably tough and strong. He would wrestle alligators and emerge victorious fighting other men, often outnumbered 10 to one. He was certainly one of the first Hollywood action heroes.

As my father would tell it, he was introduced to Johnny at a party in Miami and after some small talk, my dad challenged him to arm-wrestle. By way of background, my dad wasn’t all that big or strong, but he had developed an unusual winning arm wrestling technique while in the Marine Corps. He would regularly win tournaments (and money) against men twice his size. It was kind of his “thing”, so to speak, so it didn’t seem that odd that he’d want to have a shot for the bragging rights of besting “Tarzan” in some feat of strength—one that he was naturally advantaged in, of course. Now the interesting part was Johnny’s answer. He’d supposedly replied: “I’ll tell you what, I’ll do anything you want to do as long as we are in 10 feet of water.”

Ironically, I believe Johnny’s quick answer had a bigger impact on my dad than if he’d actually taken him down. My father would constantly remind me: What thing are you (or your company) best in world at? What makes you special? If you are competing against someone else, how do you lure them into competing against your strengths where you are sure to win?

When I was at Hotmail, we constantly debated about going after Exchange and the corporate market. Luckily, our growth on the consumer side was so overwhelming that we couldn’t pursue it because we would have gotten killed! The corporate requirements of security and IT control knobs didn’t match our expertise in scale, speed, and a consumer user interface.

At IronPort, we knew our competitive advantage was scalability vs our primary competitor, Ciphertrust, so we went after all of their largest customers who were experiencing mail delays. We were ruthless in overnighting evaluation units to relieve their pain and prove our speed.

This is an important lesson for startups who often over-prioritize competitive checklist features or listen too intently with customer feature requests. The winning products almost always have something unique about them that’s hard to replicate. The more a company doubles down on the things that make them special, the easier it is to pull away from the pack. Whether that’s in a crowded tech sector, or 10 feet of water.

     “There are a bunch of aggressive, ivy-league educated, high IQ people working in Bentonville whose careers are going nowhere because they never learned how to connect with other people.” ­­­— Lee Scott, (now former) CEO of Walmart, circa 2008.

During my short tenure at Cisco, I attended a leadership offsite where Lee Scott was the featured speaker. I certainly knew of Walmart but had never heard of Lee Scott before this meeting. He humbly delivered a powerful hour-long speech on leadership ­­­— without notes or slides, as he paced the stage, hands in pockets. While I’ve heard a lot of leaders speak, I’ve never come away more impressed with how the delivery matched the content.

What struck me the most? That authenticity and humility lead to trust. Trust leads to approachability and open communications. And after listening to Lee for just an hour, he felt familiar and approachable.

Honest and fallible.

Lee definitely knew how to be authentic. For others, this may not come so easily.

At the core, coaching authenticity is complicated ­— some might say impossible. Telling someone to be authentic sounds pretty low calorie. Especially to a founder plowing through a list of product and operational goals. But it’s important. An approachable and authentic CEO is essential to fostering a high-performance, open communications culture.

About the clearest discussion I’ve seen on authenticity is a paragraph in Jack Welch’s book, “Winning”:

     “A person cannot make hard decisions, hold unpopular positions, or stand tall for what he believes unless he knows who he is and feels comfortable in his own skin. I am talking about self-confidence and conviction. These traits make a leader bold and decisive, which is absolutely critical in times where you must act quickly, often without complete information. Just as important, authenticity makes a leader likeable, for lack of a better word. Their realness comes across in the way they communicate and reach people on emotional level. Their words move them; their message touches something inside. When I was at GE, we would occasionally encounter a very successful executive who just could not be promoted to the next level. In the early days, we would struggle with our reasoning. The person demonstrated the right values and made the numbers, but usually his people did not connect with him. What was wrong? Finally, we figured out that these people always had a certain phoniness about them. They pretended to be something they were not ­­­— more in control, more upbeat, more savvy than they really were. They didn’t sweat. They didn’t cry. They squirmed in their own skin, playing a role of their own inventing. A leader in times of crisis can’t have an iota of fakeness in him. He has to know himself­­ ­— and like himself ­­­— so that he can be straight with the world, energize followers, and lead with the authority born of authenticity.”

He absolutely nails it.

The quote clearly illuminates the issue, though stops short of giving practical advice. I am often asked by founders and CEOs how to be more approachable or make a personal connection. And of course, while being authentic means something different to everyone — here are a few ways one could start:

Get self-aware. As I mentioned in a previous post (Treating the Dysfunctional CEO), all leaders need feedback. Having an understanding of how others perceive you — through a solid 360-review process — is the crucial first step towards being real. Learn and accept your foibles and faults. Poke fun and work on them out in the open. “I’ll try to keep this short, I know I can be long winded…” etc.

Talk about failures. Nothing helps make a leader more approachable than admitting your struggles, screw-ups and behind-the-scenes thinking on hard calls. If the leader makes this a priority, the whole company will be more open and methodical learning from failure. At IronPort, we used to go through exhaustive post-mortems: customer losses, engineering slips, and misplaced strategies.

Show up to socialize. Have a beer bust on Friday afternoons. Take a team to lunch. Drop in on a late-night networked video game war. (As a newbie, I was slaughtered pretty quickly). Especially if you are naturally an introvert, you must go out of your way to socialize with your team.

Embrace “professional intimacy.” I love this phrase. It describes a leader’s willingness to get personal and talk about life at home or their own career struggles. E.g. “My wife once threw my blackberry in the toilet… It’s essential to be able to balance home and work before it blows up.”

Nix multi-task listening. It’s one thing to ask someone what they are working on and another to really tune in, give them your full attention and ask follow up questions. I constantly see bad behavior with executives checking their watch or texts, or looking over a shoulder to see who else is in the room. That’s just phony crap.

Loosen up! This is really about speaking to others as though you really trust them with your thoughts vs. reverting to canned responses or the “company line.” Leaders that can explore the poles of an issue, in their own words and off the cuff with employees will gain real trust. This is especially true during all hands/company meetings.

Get good at speaking. As a CEO, if you are a nervous public speaker, you need to practice. Find a coach, do some videotaping and/or try Toastmasters. The goal is to have a marathoner’s heartbeat when speaking to a crowd so as to be natural and comfortable.

And finally: embrace different views.  Encourage employees to challenge your decisions and approach. Let everyone know that you are not perfect, you don’t always have the best answer, and sometimes they have better answers.  In some cases, you will get good ideas too. You are obviously the decision maker but embracing different views will improve openness. (Thanks to Yoram at Maxta for this suggestion!)

I leave you with two examples:

Alec Baldwin’s parody of a GE exec on “30 Rock” comes to mind. Yet for all that’s been said, good and bad, about GE…the company does actually have an enduring, high-performing culture for a reason.

And secondly, from what I understand, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, is the embodiment of an authentic leader. He would fly around and hold informal meetings with groups of employees that would yield all kinds of new innovations.

It’s leaders like Herb and the execs at GE, whom employees actually trust – that inspire ideas, pushback, and foster tremendous loyalty.

I often get asked about what’s the best path to becoming a successful entrepreneur: “Should I go try and start a company now? Or go to grad school? How about working at a large tech company for a few years?”

I spent five years at a large technology company, two years at business school and then two years in consulting before I went to a startup. Even with that experience, I still believe I was too green to jump right in and start a company. It’s not that those experiences weren’t valuable­­­—it’s just that the most valuable learnings for successfully running a startup come from actually working at a well-run startup. I’d go even further to assert that the startup should be based in Silicon Valley and backed by venture capital.

You could just start a company without any startup experience, sure, but you will have a significantly higher chance of success if you already know how to navigate a startup’s unique challenges, including: raising money, changing product direction, and cultivating a culture. These are hard things to learn on the job and you may have only one shot at the crucial “friends and family” round to get you started.

Why a Silicon Valley, VC-backed startup? If you just graduated college, you probably haven’t developed the experience or instincts to judge whether a startup has a great team, a differentiated product or is going after a large enough market. While certainly not perfect, the VCs have done a lot of this important vetting for you, and their decision to invest can be considered a boost of credibility and resources for the company. Also, within each technology region, there is a dense network of specialized talent, financiers, and service organizations (e.g. legal, PR, recruiting) that form a startup ecosystem. Silicon Valley is by far the largest ecosystem and therefore holds the most potential job opportunities and the strongest network.

What about grad school or establishing a foundation at a large company? It comes down to relevance. The responsibilities, roles, contacts, context, culture, communications, risks and instincts you need to develop to eventually run a successful startup are best found at a startup.

If you’re trying to prepare yourself for entrepreneurship— the same two to four years at a startup isn’t even comparable to the equivalent time spent in school or a large company. There’s probably five to ten times more learnings and relevance at the startup.

The next step involves finding the right startup to join. As it turns out, I moved out to Palo Alto from Boston in 1996 with virtually no connections or contacts and over $100,000 in school loans from business school. A few things I did are surprisingly still relevant today:

  • Prepare for a long haul. You’ll need to move out here without a job while most of your friends have jobs locked up well before graduation. If you don’t have enough savings, you may need to get a part-time job while you job hunt. If this step makes you nervous at all, you may want to reconsider the entrepreneurial job choice. 🙂
  • Research.  Start by downloading the last four venture capital surveys from the San Jose Mercury News website. These PDFs summarize the last year of companies that have been funded by VCs. Included are the company name, amount raised, VC involved and headquarters city. This is a great list to start with because all of these companies have recently raised capital and are therefore likely in hiring mode. Build a spreadsheet, start researching and then rank these companies by your level of interest. Go to the VC websites, check all the online publications (e.g. AllThingsD, TechCrunch, etc.), and look up the company name URLs. While you are on the VC websites, you should look through all of the companies on their “portfolio” tab to see if any should be added to your list.
  • Focus. There are many different types of startups and many different jobs within a startup. If you can code, there will be obvious roles within engineering, sales engineering or quality assurance. If coding isn’t for you, you’ll need to figure out the best entry-level role to position yourself. Perhaps in customer care, product management, finance, inside sales, or business development. It will also help to choose between the type of startup: enterprise or consumer. The more you begin to focus, the more credible you’ll become as you deep dive into the differences between the roles and the way the different companies go to market. You’ll want to be as knowledgeable as possible before you start networking.
  • Make a target list. After doing all this research, narrow it down to 20-30 target companies and make a market map or web of every possible link to the company—names of the investors, management team, PR firms—every potential connection (I’m thinking similar to an FBI board targeting a mafia family, but not quite that creepy). Your best chance of getting an interview is if you have a “warm” referral into the company (i.e. someone you’ve met who can refer you to someone inside the company whom they already know). That’s the goal. Continue to research the companies, the roles, the competitors, and the market so that you start sounding like you know what you’re talking about.
  • Start networking. I pulled out the Harvard Business School alumni directory, the University of Florida alumni directory, and the McKinsey alumni directory. I sent emails to guys 15 years older than me with “Hey Steve, I’m a fellow Florida grad, blah, blah, blah, can we have coffee?” I went to every meet-up that had the word “Stanford” in it. Before I knew it, one coffee led to another and after a while I started asking smarter questions and got stronger referrals.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of preparation and persistence throughout the process. It took me four hard months of preparation, research, focus, list-making and networking until August, 1996, when I received a warm referral into a little, 12-person startup named Hotmail. It ended up being the best job experience of my life and I was completely hooked.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing non-fiction titles on the Kindle and came across Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture”. I guess I’d been avoiding it for a while as it sounded like it could get pretty morose or preachy real quick. But then I read in the summary that he had a Ph.D. in computer science and taught virtual reality at Carnegie Mellon. These are serious nerd credentials, so I decided to give it a try. I downloaded it and didn’t put it down until I was finished.

In its totality, it carried a specific message to a very specific audience. Amongst all the stories, pictures of his family, doctor interactions and discussion of his dreams and his illness, Randy said very clearly to all computer science engineers: The key to innovation is that teams beat individuals.

Randy knew that learning to play in the sandbox with others—especially really smart people with different skill sets—drives innovation faster than someone trying to figure it out on their own, no matter how smart they are. But Randy also knew this wasn’t easy because many great engineers have serious deficiencies when it comes to working well with others. He knew because he was one of these people. He was a top engineer and had firsthand experience in both working through his interpersonal issues and working successfully in a team environment.

I’ve had the privilege of spending my entire career in technology surrounded by wicked smart engineers. I’ve always been drawn to their raw intelligence, Spock-like rationality, sincere honesty, dry humor and quirkiness. With the immense popularity of the sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory”, I suppose I’m not alone in my appreciation of them. That said, as a CEO, I’ve observed that many of the very best technical minds often have a hard time overcoming major Achilles’ heels associated with working in a team or leading others. Specifically, and stereotypically, they often:

  • Have little appreciation/respect for the other skill sets necessary for building a product or company
  • Can come off as arrogant jerks
  • Don’t take or give feedback particularly well
  • Have a hard time delegating

I was stunned to find every one of these observations called out specifically by Randy in his lecture. As a non-engineer, I’ve had mixed results in my attempts to reach and coach engineers through these issues so I was thrilled to see so many great points explained by Randy in his unique, nerd-to-nerd style. Although I encourage everyone (especially engineers) to see or read “The Last Lecture” (video here), the best tribute I can give to him is to include a few of Randy’s insightful excerpts below for people trying to overcome the aforementioned limitations:

Like countless American nerds born in 1960, I spent part of my childhood dreaming of being Captain James T. Kirk… I seriously believe that I became a better teacher and colleague by watching Kirk run the Enterprise. Kirk was not the smartest guy on the ship. Mr. Spock, his first officer, was the always-logical intellect on board. Dr. McCoy had all the medical knowledge available to mankind in the 2260s.  Scotty was the chief engineer, who had the technical know-how to keep the ship running… So what was Kirk’s skill set? Why did he get to run the Enterprise?

The answer: there is this skill set called “leadership”. I learned so much by watching this guy in action. He was the distilled essence of the dynamic manager, a guy who knew how to delegate, had the passion to inspire, and looked good in what he wore to work. He never professed to have skills greater than his subordinates. He acknowledged that they knew what they were doing in their domains. But he established the vision, the tone. He was in charge of morale.

Andy Van Dam, the school’s [Brown University] legendary computer science professor, made me his teaching assistant. One day Andy took me for a walk. He put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Randy, it’s a shame that people perceive you as being so arrogant, because it’s going to limit what you’re going to accomplish in life.” Looking back, his wording was so perfect. He was actually saying, “Randy, you’re being a jerk.” But he said it in a way that made me open to his criticisms, to listening to my hero telling me something I needed to hear. There is an old expression, “a Dutch uncle”, which refers to a person who gives you honest feedback. Few people bother doing that nowadays…

Delegate. As a professor, I learned early on that I could trust bright, nineteen-year-old students with the keys to my kingdom, and most of the time they were responsible and impressive.

I’ve tried hard to come up with mechanical ways to get people to listen to feedback. I was constantly helping my students develop their own feedback loops. It was not easy. Getting people to welcome feedback was the hardest thing I ever had to do as an educator. (It hasn’t been easy in my personal life, either). When I taught my class at Carnegie Mellon, we’d do peer feedback every two weeks…which gave specific suggestions for improvement, such as “Let other people finish their sentences when they’re talking.” I told one student, “Out of fifty students in the class, your peers ranked you dead last. You are number fifty. You have a serious issue. They say you’re not listening. You’re hard to get along with. It’s not going well.” The student was shocked. (They’re always shocked). He had had all of these rationalizations, and now here I was, giving him the hard data. And then I told him the truth about myself… “I’m a recovering jerk.”

Over the years, improving group dynamics became a bit of an obsession for me. I’d give out a one-page handout I’d written titled, “Tips for Working Successfully in a Group.” We’d go over it, line by line. Some students found my tips beneath them. They rolled their eyes. But the most self-aware students embraced my advice. Among my tips: Meet people properly, find things you have in common, try for the optimal meeting conditions, let everyone talk, check egos at the door, praise each other and phrase alternatives as questions.

There are many, many other great quotes in the book. In retrospect, the phenomenon that Randy describes is not limited to the field of engineering. It exists in any environment (but most apparent in team sports) where high performing individuals are pursuing a shared goal with teammates.

For instance, it took years of coaching (and losing) to get extraordinary professional basketball players Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan to exhibit the necessary teamwork to win their first championships. In “The Book of Basketball”, the author, Bill Simmons, describes Michael Jordan’s struggle:

For years and years, Jordan couldn’t rein himself in. He cared about winning, but only on his terms—he also wanted to win scoring titles, drop 50 whenever he pleased and treat his teammates like the biggest bully in the prison block—which led Phil Jackson to adopt the triangle offense in a last-ditch effort to prevent Jordan from hogging the ball…

I believe building a technology company is essentially a team sport. And every wildly successful company I know is built around a core group of ridiculously smart engineering rock stars (you can read my post on hiring them here). When they can be successfully coached into working as part of a team, magic happens.

Thank you, Randy Pausch, for communicating this critical message so clearly.

My father, Alfred “Bud” Weiss, owned a car dealership—“Bud’s Cadillacs” of Miami, Florida. When I’d drop by the office, he would usually pepper me with bits of business wisdom, but as a kid, I wasn’t very receptive. My father and I are pictured here:

My head was usually buried in a comic book, only half listening. However, there was one story that stuck with me and I have struggled to make sense out of it throughout my business career:

Son, you never, ever promote your best salesperson to be the sales manager. This is a classic mistake that other car dealers make. A bunch of my top producers came from their failed attempts as sales managers at other places. You commit two wrongs with these promotions: First, you take your top producer—someone raking in two to five times the average salesperson—off the sales floor. Second, you put them in a new job that they are totally unqualified to do successfully. This usually ends in disaster for everyone involved.

His advice seemed to make sense until later in my career when I was actually faced with the problem. Some of our best salespeople and engineers at IronPort wanted to move into management and if we didn’t give them the opportunity, then it was clear they would go elsewhere. Of course, there’s not much of a dilemma when the high performer is a natural leader and people-person. Promoting great people from within is preferable on so many dimensions: there’s context, history, relationships and it all leads to a much better chance of success than hiring from the outside. The difficult corner case is the high-performing individual contributor that you can tell will likely fail in a leadership position. I’m talking about the sharp-elbowed, passive aggressive salesperson with little self-awareness. Or the my-way-or-the-highway, smartest-guy-in-the-room, workaholic engineer with horrific personal hygiene. How do you deal with that?

If they were really that good and were hell-bent on being a manager, then I came to believe that you had to give them a shot. That said, in my own experience, only about 25% of these experiments succeed in leadership. However, if managed carefully, the majority of the failures can ultimately be coached back into individual contributor roles, which is still a win. The key to all of it is making sure that there’s a sponsoring executive that is willing to spend a boatload of time coaching the budding leader. Here are some specific suggestions:

  • It all starts out with hard, raw conversation about the shortcomings you’ve observed and how they need to be grinded off for them to be a successful manager. E.g. “You can’t keep answering all the questions; leading is getting others to contribute.”
  • The coach needs to meet weekly and do frequent check-ins with peers and subordinates in almost a constant 360 degree-feedback loop. Even if it isn’t working out, the constant coaching and feedback will ensure a soft landing back into their old role.
  • It helps to have some great leadership training. In my experience, most leadership training courses suck. You get two hours of useful information spread out over two weeks of mind-numbing presentations. We put together a rapid fire, two-day course and had our leadership team teach it. Interviewing, performance reviews, 1:1s, career planning, holding staff meetings, etc. We all got together and boiled down the best practices for all the important areas into short, punchy presentations/role plays. Every new manager went through it to give them some tools that were culturally consistent with what we were doing.
  • Develop a legit dual-career track. Bestowing a new title like Principal Engineer or Fellow along with a commensurate bump in salary and equity can help take the sting out of being removed from a leadership role.

I know this all sounds like a ton of work but some people are just that special and totally worth it. Some of our best managers came out on the other side of these experiments and we had at least a handful of failures that we were able to retain as employees. My father built his business with castoffs from these experiments gone wrong at competitors. Perhaps because they had already failed elsewhere, his top performers didn’t aspire to try management again. Only in this context can I make sense of his guidance, as my experience has been quite the opposite.

When I was a kid, I read tons of superhero comic books. I fantasized about superpowers, but the storylines about heroes with massive Achilles’ heels really held my attention the most. They saved the world but had screwed up personal lives, made lots of mistakes, and often acted like complete assholes. In retrospect, l related to their flaws. And, probably not coincidentally, my favorite characters exhibited core weaknesses I had experienced: Spider-Man (immaturity), Iron Man (overconfidence/hubris), and Wolverine (rage).  Ironically, it was often when the character’s weakness would comingle with the superpower that would spur them to succeed against impossible odds.

It was in this context that I was riveted reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. Given the number of different interviews and unfettered access granted to Isaacson, it felt like an incredibly authentic account of Jobs’ life. His greatest accomplishments, mistakes, superpowers, and flaws were laid out about as raw as I’ve ever read.  Steve’s superpowers were many: He was wickedly brilliant, could see around corners, and had unparalleled understanding of how people interact with technology, to name just a few.

Did Steve have an Achilles’ heel?  From the book, one could conclude that he was an extremely demanding boss.  Like a beacon, superstars from every function (e.g. engineering, design, marketing, etc.) were drawn to work for Steve. They described his aura as absolutely overwhelming. And Steve pushed these A+ players to extraordinary, impossible achievements.  Steve’s drive for speed and perfection often resulted in harsh, public criticism—usually directed at his very best people.  Steve would constantly look over their work and declare, “This is shit!” or “This really sucks!”  On my Kindle, I searched the words “shit” and “sucks” and counted 24 instances where he used one of those phrases referring to someone’s work/product.

I’ve had a number of entrepreneurs suggest that this persona isn’t unique to Steve Jobs but a common trait among some of the most successful founder/CEOs in the world. Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos have all been reported as similarly caustic at times. Is this something to be emulated?

As I was reading the book, something struck me like a hammer: Despite Steve Jobs’ choice of words, lack of empathy, and sometimes prickly demeanor, he spent a huge amount of time giving his most talented employees constant, hard, critical feedback.  Thinking about how most companies dole out feedback—if they do at all—it’s usually directed at the bottom quartile of performers versus the top. A typical manager at review time spends 80% of their time preparing detailed reviews on the bottom 25%. The top quartile gets lame, short reviews—the equivalent of “You’re doing great, keep up the good work!” So, a manager takes all that time and effort to get someone doing the work of half of a full-time employee (FTE) to do the work of .75 or 1 FTE. In contrast, Steve Jobs—with his feedback energy directed at the top—manages to motivate people already doing the work of 2 or 3 FTEs to do the work of 10, maybe 20 FTEs. Now that’s serious leverage! Could this be a superpower comingling with a weakness?

I’ve found that the A players are comparably lazy with regards to their potential. Without serious motivation, they will never reach it—or even try.  Despite his delivery, I believe Steve’s critical energy was directionally correct.

Here are a few other suggestions for motivating top talent:

  • Flip the feedback equation to 80% of your energy spent on the top quartile.  This is really hard in practice as the feedback is usually more nuanced. And the top performers are usually defensive. 😉
  • Infuse some damn passion.  The best people don’t just want money, they want to go on a crusade and make a difference.  An entrepreneur needs to constantly re-enroll the troops with a compelling, authentic story of how and why we will do the impossible.
  • Set stretch goals and push like hell to meet them.  It’s great if these goals have meaning as well—e.g. we need the software release out before a major industry conference.
  • Find a bogeyman competitor to hate.  (Preferably a company bigger than yours—Microsoft!)  At IronPort, we called out our competitors to the entire company and rallied the team to play catch-up.  We also gave bonuses to the sales teams for rip-outs of a competitor’s appliance and then mounted them like trophies on the wall…
  • Work your ass off by example.  A leader who is always present, ridiculously responsive and contributes real, hard work sets the right pace and tone.

A constant challenge for leaders is to find effective AND positive ways to motivate… The very best companies have inspirational founders who have found a way to coax the superpowers out of their top employees.  When the top quartile contributes at 5x to 10x, it makes a serious difference.