Leadership Vision, Meaning & Purpose, Attraction & Development with Chris Mahl
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Chris Mahl: I appreciate where we’re coming from in this video, my great career but it really is the function of the places I’ve been and the people I learned from, and the market opportunities those companies have had. But if I roll all the way back to a company no one knows about, there’s these two guys no one knows about, it’s my first job out of college. I went to work for a guy named Joe Tucci who happens to be CEO of EMC. I’m sure Joe might kind of remember my name now but at the time I used to really study him and learn from him.
Chris Mahl: There were two things that I could see day to day being on the eastern sales team of his which he ran then at Sperry, a company nobody knows. If you’re new to technology even in your computer courses about history, you may not know that company. But chat me I’ll tell you all about it.
Chris Mahl: But he taught me about relationships, customer relationships and how to really be meaningful and how to be very intelligent about those relationships. He was excellent at that and what was great about that was it wasn’t a lecture, it was a behaviour. You can see it and so as we worked in team meetings and he’d do a lot of reviews of deals you got those kind of senses and it became important. I really got that.
Chris Mahl: Shortly thereafter there’s another Joe, Joe Walton, who has now been running worldwide consulting at EMC for the last umpteen years and really is a key member of the folks that integrate EMC’s acquisitions. He taught me how to out organize anybody. Same things about relationships and intelligence but how to be very organized, not just in the internal meetings but with your clients, with your partners, with your prospects.
Chris Mahl: Not off the cuff only creative brainstorming brilliant, but how to bring a really structured, thought out process which was phenomenal. So how to out organize and out execute, they kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not organized then execution is no point.
Chris Mahl: What I have to say is when I think of Right Media you know there were two folks that I really got to watch and learn from there, younger than me which is fine. Michael Walrath the fellow who started it and Brian O’Kelly the fellow who built it hand in hand. Michael really understands the strategy of markets, at that time it was very clear he had a vision for what could be built and he was passionate about it. He also understood the mechanics of it and business model of it, and it was very easy when I first met him before I joined to realize this guy has got an amazing grasp of this market. Which the world of online advertising at that time shifted, but he had a vision for scaling it which was phenomenal.
Chris Mahl: Brian O’Kelly, unbelievable technologist. Frankly of all the companies I’ve been at one of the most gifted for sure. I’ve said that to him many times, I say that to everybody. He had sort of two monstrous skills, many, many more, one was the ability to really see which clients will give him the meaningful exercises to build something remarkable. So I’ve never seen a leader so, really when I say understand the times I’m not saying the business but process, technology, down to the details. The second was this applied innovation, how can he see and sense something.
Chris Mahl: He’s got a big vision, he’s got a real sense of the climate but I’m going to build it. At a speed that dumbfounded all of us. Innovation came out across Right Media around the clock so I could really see those two hand in hand. Then also today Dave Otten, Jeroen Wijering these two guys demonstrate what culture is about phenomenally. how do you build a culture of excellence, how do you care for people which is just an affirmation of something I’ve known but it’s phenomenal and a big part of why I’m at the company.
Chris Mahl: Big lesson learned is people matter the most- technology is brilliant, the idea is brilliant but it’s people that make it work in the market over time and enhance it. Around about 2002 I just finished about five and a half years of Informatica, at home here in New York but on the road a ton. I was helping my wife decorate an apartment, young child so it was really a time to focus on family. Sometimes these things can be crazy.
Chris Mahl: Somewhere around a month and a half into that brief sabbatical I get a brief email from somebody I had known in Oracle that he was building this great big company and he was looking for Oracle talented folks and that happened to be Marc Benioff and he was talking about the end of the first year of Salesforce and now it’s gone to the second year and he wants to build out the execution team. So I get that email.
Chris Mahl: Fast forward I ended up visiting Marc and joined to run the Eastern U.S. and Canada strategic sales and really build this next phase and development inside Sales Force at the time. So my experience in the next few years learning from Marc was phenomenal. The first thing that I got to see in Marc was vision, and how to articulate vision and bring the statement of vision down to customers and to partners, and to specific people in their lives.
Chris Mahl: I’ve never seen someone being able to take vision and personalize it to where they empower people. It was just an amazing gift he has, I think it’s the long history he has with technology, it’s also his persona. Vision was a huge part of what he taught.
Chris Mahl: Passion, and when I say passion my experience having been on the operating committee for a couple of years, the presence that he was. The company could go through reorganization overnight, the passion he had for the business down to the detail, left, right, up, down was remarkable and he lived it if you were within a near distance of him you knew what that meant. So this whole idea of passion.
Chris Mahl: Then excellence, I want to turn out whether it’s an experience for the brand, an experience with the customers, an excellent experience for the customer and that sort of drives home the biggest thing he talked about and was dedicated to and that remains to this day so, it’s the customer. To him if the customer isn’t experiencing success, the rest of it is just talk. So how do you take an organization at that time a few hundred people, now tens of thousands and continue to have that relentless focus on that customer. A huge, blazing message I got from him.
Chris Mahl: I think the first both for the organization, and the customer, and the individuals is meaning. Do I have a meaning here in terms of this company’s mission, the products it delivers. Does it have a meaning, it has a broad definition it can be pure charitable so create a company that has meaning on that level. Sales Force taught us that for sure.
Chris Mahl: But also is what we’re doing in the world something that I can connect with as an employee or a board member that impacts the world. There are smaller solutions that are sort of specific to business and so as a leader having a sense of meaning and purpose and that being viable, and visceral to the people around you and the people you lead. But also in part to employees, folks that join a company want to know here’s our vision and this has meaning. This has purpose whether it’s changing an industry, changing a technology like we are doing something bigger than just being at a desk all day and be connected to that. So I have to say meaning is first.
Chris Mahl: I have to say the second thing is attraction. We really could be an attractive leader i.e. people want to learn from you, people want to work with you. I mean we’ve seen all kinds of leaders you know autocrats, drivers, people that are sort of short-term focused. How is it that you create a culture of attraction, that people are really energized by it. Hear good things about it, people’s careers develop there, the company has impact.
Chris Mahl: The last thing that I would have to say that leaders have to be cognizant of is development. The ones that I’m most attracted to, to me the people that join me I’m interested in their career development. Regardless of where they are in the company, whats the pathing, how does their voice get heard regardless of where they sit. How do I create a meritocracy which means that while I might have several hundred people or 1,000, or 5,000 someone with a smart idea can get to me.
Chris Mahl: I’m creating an environment with that brilliance because it can be anywhere in the company, it isn’t stifled five layers down.