Dave Carvajal

How To Hire When Your Company Is Embroiled In Controversy

How To Hire When Your Company Is Embroiled In Controversy

Although Gawker Media and Theranos operate in two very different industries, the online publisher and the health-tech startup have a couple of things in common. Both are embroiled in controversy, and both are trying to recruit new employees.

The background, in brief: Theranos is under both criminal and civil investigation, and federal regulators are deciding whether or not to revoke its California lab’s license and ban CEO Elizabeth Holmes from working in the industry for two years. Last week, the company made headlines for voiding two years of test results, prompting many industry experts to question whether the once-lauded unicorn had finally fallen.

Gawker’s posting online of wrestler Hulk Hogan’s sex tape led to a pricey privacy lawsuit. A judge ruled against Gawker and ordered the company to pay $140 million in damages. Behind the scenes, Silicon Valley billionaires Peter Thiel (backing Hogan) and Pierre Omidyar (in Gawker’s corner) are spending millionsduking it out to defend or deny freedom of speech (depending on whom you ask).

As of this writing, both companies are in hiring mode in spite of the scandals. Theranos is advertising open positions in every area of its organization, from corporate (72 jobs including both executive assistant and personal assistant to the CEO) to scientific (48 positions) and others. Gawker’s array encompasses a more modest 14 jobs, 10 of which are in editorial.

But when your company is in the news because of its struggles, how do you convince new hires that it’s a place to build their careers? We asked the experts.

Be honest about where you actually are, the problems that exist, and the media attention amplification.


Both Gawker and Theranos tout the strength of their place in their respective industries on their career pages. For its part, Theranos also uses phrases like, “Do work that will change the world,” and, “This is how you make history” to entice potential applicants. Gawker frontloads its page with its benefits (paid medical, 401(k)) and perks (weekly catered meals, awesome events, and fun people).

Neither makes mention of the recent crises on their websites. But for the recruiters and hiring managers working with potential candidates, Dave Carvajal, a veteran recruiter, CEO, and founder of Dave Partners, advises, “Embrace the struggle.” The way Carvajal sees it, times of trouble are a great opportunity for leaders to step up and shine. Should they prevail, he says, “Few things are more exciting than stories of the human will to struggle, aspire, work hard, and triumph against great odds.”

Carvajal believes that a company’s leaders should craft and amplify a narrative that addresses the problems. Then, he says, “Let the entire organization sing from the same hymnal and encourage the team to sing loudly.”

He recommends telling recruits the truth. “Be honest about where you actually are, the problems that exist, and the media attention amplification,” he says. Recruiting is about human relationships, Carvajal explains, pointing out that hiring managers shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable. “Emotions can be powerful allies in lifting our common humanity,” says Carvajal. “They build trust.”

Via: Fastcompany.com

TIME.COM #ASKTHEEXPERT: How to Make the Most of Two Competing Job Offers

TIME.COM #ASKTHEEXPERT: How to Make the Most of Two Competing Job Offers

Q: I’ve been actively looking for a new job, and now I have what could be considered a good problem: I’ve gotten offers from two different companies. How do I make the most out of this? The company I’d rather work for is offering a lower salary than my second choice. What’s the best way to get the job I’d rather take to meet or beat that offer?

A: That is a good problem to have! Since you haven’t been hired by either company yet, though, you’re right to be cautious—a misstep could torpedo your chances with one or both employers.

As you’ve already discovered, choosing between jobs can mean weighing two potentially very different salaries. “Multiple offers can also help you negotiate your total compensation package, which can span your base salary, benefits, perks, vacation time, [and] any bonuses you might receive,” said Jessica Jaffe, community expert at jobs site Glassdoor.com.

Not surprisingly, Jaffe encourages job-seekers to use Glassdoor’s platform to compare salaries and read reviews of each company. (Other experts also name-checked Glassdoor as a good resource for people weighing multiple job offers.) Doing your research will give you a better feel for what’s typical in the market: Is the one company offering more than the norm, or is the other coming up a little short?

“Read at least eight to 10 different reviews to really get a feel for the culture, management, and department you might be working for, as well as learn what it might be like to do your job,” Jaffe says.

If your A-list job isn’t offering as much as you’d like, or as much as the competition is willing to pay, you can use that as leverage—but there are certain ways of going about it that are better than others. For starters, candidates should “do the best they can to deal directly with the hiring manager, the person who’s actually managing the budget for their compensation,” advises Dave Carvajal, CEO of tech industry recruitment firm Dave Partners. Keep it friendly, he says, but let the hiring manager know that there’s another offer on the table. “Make it clear that this is the preferred opportunity, but that they’re open to the best opportunity.”

It’s OK—preferable, actually—to be specific about what the competition is offering when you ask a company to match it.

If you hit the wall on a higher salary, try negotiating a signing bonus; companies are sometimes more receptive to a one-time cost than committing to an ongoing expense that’s higher than they planned. You could also ask for other accommodations such as a flexible work schedule, the ability to work remotely at least part of the week, or more vacation time, says Kelly Mattice, vice president at The Execu|Search Group.

Job title is another potential negotiating point, but be careful about asking for an elevated role. “You don’t want to give off the message that you’re focused on ego,” Carvajal says. Since you haven’t been officially hired yet, it’s important to continue emphasizing your commitment to being a team player first and foremost.

If you’re still on the fence about which job to choose, look beyond the pay package. Evaluate which job aligns better with your long-term career trajectory, which one offers growth opportunities such as coaching or continuing education, and which company culture is a better fit for you personally.

“There are better ways to understand the company’s ability to meet your long-term goals without directly asking about opportunities for advancement,” Mattice points out. For instance, ask how the company measures success, or whether and how it encourages mentorship. Ask the hiring manager to identify one of the company’s top producers or most valued employees and explain why their contributions rise to the top. If you get the chance to meet with your potential future colleagues, ask them how they structure their week. The answers will give you a real-life glimpse into the pace and priorities of the culture, which should make your decision much easier.

Via: Time.com

When Making a Hire Decision, Attitude is More Important Than IQ

When Making a Hire Decision, Attitude is More Important Than IQ

Attitude defined:


(n) A settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.

People’s predisposed thoughts and feelings are the foundational factor in determining the outcomes of every human interaction (behavior). IQ is also important, and more so at the end stage of interactions, as it allows people to analyze situations and make calculated decisions. Workplace behaviors such as collaboration, task completion, and communication are all critical for high performance and the achievement of strategic outcomes in an organization.

Operational excellence in high-growth companies is about negotiating intrinsic social contracts and hierarchies in the most efficient, clear-minded way in order to get stuff done. Just as happiness depends on outlook, not material things, organizational success depends on employee attitude—not IQ.

Researchers at Stanford University found that individuals who identify strongly with external attributes like IQ and “being smart” are less engaged with the learning process. They are more likely to fall into destructive behaviors that mask their true intelligence and undermine the development of their true potential, to the organization’s detriment.

The researchers found that starting from childhood, people often fall into two outlooks on intelligence: a “fixed  mindset” and a “growth mindset.” Those with fixed intelligence think that success is based upon fixed traits—they believe that they are either born smart or flawed, and their entire lives are defined by a set amount of intelligence and capability.

Often, people who are told they are “smart” hide behind the praise. They become fixated on maintaining their smart status at all costs, even if it means rejecting new challenges for fear of failure, or not wanting to seem dumb. In this limiting mindset, inner life becomes a monologue of comparison that filters out useful, realistic criticism.

On the other hand, those with a growth mindset know that excellent performance depends upon perseverance, hard work, and learning from failure. For those with a growth mindset, life is ripe with opportunities and there is no “failure”— only challenges to overcome on the path to mastery.

How do people become one way or the other? Noted author Carol Dweck, Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, discovered the “fixed” and “growth” mindsets while studying the behavior of schoolkids in the early 2000s.

She gave two groups of children an easy puzzle or test to solve. Both groups solved the puzzle, but the first group was told they succeeded because they were smart (a fixed trait). The second group was told they succeeded because they worked hard (a growth-oriented trait). Guess which group gave up when the test got tougher? The fixed group, who felt they would lose their “smart” status by failing at a more difficult puzzle. On the other hand, the growth group enjoyed the new challenge.

Dweck’s groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, reveals that emphasis on smarts or effort have profound effects on long-term adult potential. People who develop fixed mindsets prefer tasks they already do well and avoid situations in which they may make mistakes. This leads to aversion to learning and risk-taking—deadly in today’s quickly changing world. Even worse, it compromises morals: the fixed mindset group in Dweck’s research were more likely to lie about their test results to protect their reputation.

In her book, Dweck writes that a fixed mindset is insecure: it is like “always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens.” That’s no way to live—or to live with this trait in an employee, even one who is perfect on paper.

Thankfully, individuals can change their mindsets. Dweck had tremendously positive results when she put fixed mindset students, who thought they had limited potential and suffered social and emotional trouble, on an 8-week study skills program that emphasized the brain as a trainable muscle. Many students who thought they could never succeed learned to face and even love solving challenges.

Dweck’s theory of education is now taught across multiple disciplines, including sports, in which confidence and rebounding from a break in concentration can mean a close win.

For company leaders, recognizing growth attitudes means celebrating employees for their enthusiasm about solving challenges and curiosity about working, not their alma mater. To hire these kinds of people, ask potential hires about their views on personal and professional growth, both great topics of conversation during interviews. Selecting new colleagues based on how they grew from failures in their past experience is golden wisdom on the topic of team-building.

For everyone else, entering a growth mindset means taking a deep inquiry into the nature of our beliefs about self.

Do you believe that your character, intelligence, and creative abilities are inborn attitudes? Or do you dream of bettering yourself through challenges, realizing that your potential is, while not limitless, unknowable? A shift in mental attitude can impact the way you go about your daily tasks, which ultimately leads to the efforts that shape your success.

Choosing the candidate that has a 20 point higher IQ is isolated to that one person. The benefit of choosing the person that has the better attitude magnifies the enthusiasm, flexibility, and adaptation of the entire team. We’re all looking to conquer the world with what we are doing. We need people who want to achieve success for themselves and who can help us do it as a team. A winning attitude is infectious and magnifies teamwork. And teamwork wins championships.

The Good & Great Recruiters

The Good & Great Recruiters

We’re all looking to conquer the world with what we are doing, and we need the right people to help us do it–people who want to achieve success for themselves and can help us do it as a company.

The difference between good and great in recruiting–like everything else in life–ends up being about passion, focus, and discipline. You always know it when you see it – and it always shows up in the results of that recruiter’s work. The best way to put it is that a good recruiter has a keen interest in recruiting and knows all the rules. A great recruiter knows how to go beyond the rules.

Great recruiters reach mastery level because more than just being interested, they are deeply committed to achieving great success for their clients. Talent is not enough. Applying years of hard work produces skill. And recruiting is a craft that is best learned from apprenticing with a skilled master.

A good recruiter has solid first-order thinking, and a significant amount of subject matter expertise in any number of areas that make executives successful. This means that they are keen evaluators of technical chops and delivering candidates that are a strong technical fit for any given role.

This is not enough. Technical chops are no guarantee of whether a candidate can work with the team, fit into the company culture, and stay motivated and engaged in the long term.

This is what great recruiters understand and master. A great recruiter will add value by understanding a company’s cultural DNA, and delivering candidates who will fit and integrate into the team perfectly. Great recruiters know how to identify an executive’s blind spots, and can anticipate how the new hire will complement the CEO’s personal traits and leadership abilities.

Good recruiters also know how to walk away. When necessary, they will advise their client against making a hire, even if it’s a pressing role. Closing that search would undoubtedly mean an immediate benefit to the recruiter in the short term, but great recruiters know that their reputation depends on delivering the best possible hire and have two other candidates on the ready. They can’t afford to let their client close on a candidate if they know it’s not the right match.

I always tell people that recruiting, on its most basic level, is about understanding human relationships. Good recruiters understand roles. Great recruiters understand people; they have conceptual models of how to differentiate top talent. They have a proven methodology for achieving outstanding results. For this reason, the periodic check-in with your friendly, neighborhood recruiter is a great way to get feedback and market assess the competitiveness of your own executive team.

It’s tough to go from good to great in this field. It can often seem that great recruiters are born, rather than made. I also recognize that there are a lot of green recruiters just beginning their careers out there, with the seeds of greatness in them, looking for how they can make it to the next level. Learning to evaluate a person’s ability to fit in a team requires a keen sense of understanding about culture fit, leadership agility, social intelligence, and pragmatism, all for the purpose of being able to lead the organization towards its strategic objectives. Here’s my advice for those people:

  1. Be a student of leadership. Apprentice yourself to a truly great recruiter, and study the work of business leaders and cutting-edge, best-quality thought on executive leadership at every opportunity. Read the books on leadership from the great thinkers on this subject. Your life’s work is to help top executives find the people they need to win. You should understand those people, their challenges, and their priorities inside and out, in order to excel in your own role.
  2. Build something. Spend time, as an internal executive operator, actually building and growing a company. My time at high-growth companies like TheLadders and HotJobs helped me to develop an understanding of the needs and challenges of large high-growth businesses, and taught me how to hire and develop leadership from within. This has aided me immeasurably in helping other companies find the talent they need; my clients can trust me and communicate with me effectively, because I have walked a few miles in my clients’ shoes.
  3. Get your hands dirty. Spend a significant amount of time, energy and considered thought in studying the fine distinctions of character and leadership in practice. Learn to make judgment calls on character – and watch your results, by tracking the success or failure of those you have personally tapped for leadership roles. When you are able to verify your judgment of character by a track record of identifying successful future executives, you will know you have progressed to the highest level of recruiting prowess.

In 20 years of doing this work, I have never found anyone who is crazier about recruiting than I am. Mastering the art and science of recruiting allows me to now spend my time with the top CEO’s, the top venture investors and the top 1% of A+ executive talent focused on making the world a better place. The level of understanding of new technologies, latest methodologies and the synthesis of new ideas is intellectually fulfilling. Changing the lives of real people who happen to be visionary CEO’s and their executive teams is heart-warming. Helping companies that are doing good in the world satisfies the soul. Great recruiters everywhere share this passion. We know that by finding the world’s great leaders and putting them in the right roles, we’re changing the world.

How To Make A Great Chief Inspiration Officer

How To Make A Great Chief Inspiration Officer

I made the varsity swim team when I was in 7th grade. I was a scrawny kid that hit puberty late, so making the varsity swim team was less indicative of a personal achievement than it was the state of our high school swim team. And Coach Swenson was determined to turn things around.

At our very first swim meet, just a few weeks after training began, I witnessed a fully developed high school senior have what could best be described as a temper tantrum. It turned into him proclaiming that he would quit the team if Coach Swenson made him swim the dreaded 500 – the longest race in high school swimming, 20 laps. The memory of what Coach Swenson did next would stay with me throughout my life.

Looking around for quite possibly the strongest contrast with the fully developed senior, Coach Swenson asked me to come over and join him in his huddle with the Team Captains — some of the strongest seniors on the team. He gave me a pep talk, along with precise instructions on what I would need to do. With unquestionable resolve, he commanded that I achieve something that I didn’t previously believe was even a remote possibility for myself.

“Carvajal, I need you to swim the 500. We are spread thin and I’ve got no one else on the team for this slot. You just need to finish the race, even in last place. The team needs the 2 points. With your 2 points, we could win the entire swim meet. I know you can do it, Carvajal, I believe in you. The team believes in you. Will you do it?”

Before I could hit the “s” in yes, the huddle erupted in a celebratory burst. The sheer terror of what I had committed to was palpable. Yet, because he believed in me, I did finish that race.

As a leader, you have many responsibilities. One of the most under-valued is that of Chief Inspiration Officer. The best way to get anyone to do anything is to make him or her want to do it. A team that is positive, motivated and engaged can move mountains! You must be the motivating force that keeps that team excited, inspired, and moving together toward success.

Of course, in order to inspire your team, you need the right team. First, you must make sure that you have built a strong group, with the right players in each position. All of your team members should be intrinsically motivated by the system of values that is inherent in the company’s cultural DNA, established by the founders and CEO. They should also know that they have signed up for high performance, and that “good enough” isn’t good enough: They need to be great.

As the leader, your role is to always set the vision for a better world created by the development and delivery of your product. People are unbeatable when they believe they are working for the greater good: Communicate this vision for your team, and they can power through any obstacles.

Secondly, form a strong relationship with each player on your team. Help them to set an individual vision of a greater self, a self that will be built by learning and performing at a high level within your organization. Make sure each member of your team knows that you support their professional development and their quest to become someone greater than they are today through hard work and success.

It’s also important to celebrate the great achievements that do happen. Celebrate wins for the team, and individual wins, constantly. People will perform at a higher level when they are motivated by the promise of a celebration right around the corner.

One key tool for this work is the 5-to-1 ratio for positive and critical feedback. People are bombarded with negative information throughout the day. It becomes overwhelming, and can lead them to become demotivated and disengaged. So, offer your employees all the critique they need to improve – but remember to balance each piece of critique with 5 pieces of positive feedback.

So, instead of simply telling your employee John that he’s blown his last three deadlines and it’s become a problem, you might try this: “John, you’re fantastic and I love the way you work with the clients and team. I would like you to focus more on hitting your deadlines. The work you produce is awesome, just need to make sure it’s timely and we’re hitting the commitments we set out to and we’re holding ourselves accountable and to a high standard.”

That positive feedback also helps develop trust. Any business is a sophisticated network of complex conversations – the quality of those conversations determines the success of the business. By offering positive feedback and celebration of wins, you develop the relationships necessary for direct, honest, and open communication that makes your conversations effective.

Your work as Chief Inspiration Officer is more than hand-holding or “being nice.” By taking the responsibility to motivate your team, you are taking charge of their development. Your work will get your team moving together, in the right direction. That creates alignment and increases your velocity and operational excellence, making it possible for your business to soar to new heights.

Back to Coach Swenson. I did, in fact, finish the race — approximately 5 minutes after the second to last contestant. And as I pulled my fully spent body out of the pool, each limb feeling like a limp strand of spaghetti, the entire natatorium stood up to give me a standing ovation. We won the meet by three points.

In the years that followed, Coach Swenson would allow me to choose the race events that I wanted to participate in. Eventually, I developed a decent butterfly stroke and won a place on the starting lineup. He would retell the story of my 500 race whenever someone complained about race assignments.

Most importantly, Coach Swenson helped me create a greater vision of myself than even I thought was possible. His belief in me, as incredulous as I was about myself, allowed me to reach new heights.

Humility Is The High Road To Start-Up Glory

Humility Is The High Road To Start-Up Glory

Humility is underrated. As a virtue it requires taking a modest view of one’s own importance. This doesn’t sound much like a leadership quality. It is however, widely accepted as the one leadership quality common among the greatest leaders of all mankind.

True humility is not the same as poor self-image or self-defeating behavior, those could be considered false humility. Insecure timidity, low self-esteem, or anxious self-concern are also examples of false humility. In fact, those qualities can make one incapable of focusing on others or the greater good. True humility enables leaders to focus on those around them, and contribute to their welfare at an even higher level.

Humility is the way to honor the bigger vision that we are working towards: the progress of all humanity. It allows us to realize that there are much bigger forces at play in the market, apart from our individual concerns, and allows us to listen with the intent to understand.

True humility requires confident self-knowledge. It requires a deep understanding of the big picture. It requires a service orientation towards the greater good without seeking personal gain.

Humility preserves the soul in tranquility and makes us patient under trials. People move fast at high growth companies and decisions need to be made. With the open-mindedness nature of humility, we engender trust. We learn, adapt, do better. We can accept that there will be friction, stay calm, and treat each other with the dignity and respect we all deserve.

Keith Cunningham, my leadership mentor, advises that risk in business is inversely proportional to the perception of its existence. All leaders are one bad decision away from total calamity. The greater the perception that there is no risk, the more likely and vulnerable a business is to risk. Close-minded certainty, foolish bravado and pride were the cause of cataclysmic catastrophes at Enron, Barings Bank and Lehman Brothers.

In The Founder’s Dilemmas, Noam Wasserman distinguishes between the drives to be “Rich versus King” or the “profit” motive and the “control” motive. He says that by opening up our decision-making processes to others, we lose control. More importantly, we also build stronger businesses and experience greater rewards.

In my experience, the “profit” motive is about faith and creating abundance; the “control” motive is fear-based and about containment and constriction. Giving up existential “control” and moving strongly towards the greater vision for a better world – practicing active humility – is a quality of the best leaders. All growth and leadership require an openness to learning. The greatest leaders are voracious learners.

Humility works best in a team. When working toward a greater vision, the whole team needs to have alignment and move in that direction. It must start from the top. Hire people who practice active humility.

On leadership and on humility, one would be hard pressed to find a finer example than my friend Thilo Semmelbauer of Shutterstock. Thilo took WeightWatchers.com from zero to over $100M, and then ran all global operations for Weight Watchers (over $1.5B revenue) before I recruited him to TheLadders. I only worked with Thilo for a few months before leaving to hang up my own shingle at Dave Partners and Thilo left a few months after that to run the business at Shutterstock. In the past few years, Thilo has helped grow the Shutterstock business from $60 million to an IPO to more than $300 million in revenues. He is a leader in the true sense of the word and beloved by all.

Thilo’s success demonstrates the power of true humility: He is an active listener, totally dedicated to his team and his company, and truly open to learning from the people he works with. This has helped him to build one of the greatest success stories in New York City Tech.

His humility constantly reminds me of the leadership benefits of this under-appreciated virtue, and helps me to keep my own humility intact, for the good of my company and the world we all share.

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The Two Most Common Skills of The Top 1% of A+ Executive Talent

The Two Most Common Skills of The Top 1% of A+ Executive Talent

At least 50% of the success that anyone could hope to achieve, in any field where humans are involved, will be determined by their ability to relate and communicate effectively with other people.

Why Communication Matters

Every organization where humans are involved is a sophisticated network of complex conversations. The quality of discourse determines the health of the organization.

The language, social norms and culture of an organization play an important part in creating an environment that makes communication more or less productive. Further the CEO often sets the organizational climate, communication style, and the social contracts that executives make with each other while moving the organization towards the company’s strategic objectives. The impact of all these is felt significantly more strongly at smaller, early stage startups.

Nevertheless, self-determining professionals who are dedicated to performing at the highest levels of responsibility and leadership will benefit from the active development of their own communication skills. These skills, not taught at even the top MBA programs, have more to do with how we relate to each other as individuals.

Here are the two most common skills of the top 1% of A+ executive talent:

1: Active Listening

Active listening means listening fully, with the intent to understand first, rather than to be understood.

Most of us are not skilled listeners. The research says that we only remember 50% of what we hear, and sometimes less. If we miss the nuanced variables of tone, inflection, volume, and body language, or fail to read the emotional data through communication, the effects on performance, which often rely on team insights, could be quite poor.

To become an active listener, you must consciously cultivate focus and being present. Experts suggest that you make eye contact, and frequently demonstrate that you are paying attention, by nodding, smiling, and otherwise evidencing a clear reaction to what you hear. Empathic listening improves understanding and builds trust. Hone and fine-tune your comprehension by repeating what you hear: Responses beginning with “I’m hearing that ______” and “I understand that you’re saying _____” give people a chance to correct and enhance your understanding.

One warning: If you catch yourself thinking about what to say next, while someone is still talking, you are not practicing active listening!

2: Performance Feedback

Being a top-performing communicator means being able to give and receive feedback.

Too many companies rely on outmoded “performance review” systems, in which feedback is only given and received at set intervals. This makes feedback something to dread, rather than an essential part of motivating top performance. (My disdain for typewriters, corporate performance reviews and fax machines – vestiges from another era – will be something I explore in another post.)

And while nothing is better than direct, open and honest feedback done on a one-to-one basis in person, with the invention of email, “agile performance feedback” is now possible. Giving and receiving feedback should be part of every day. That means regularly checking in – pitching and catching, giving and receiving feedback where and when it is necessary, with an eye toward rewarding specific behaviors and setting goals together. This is a far superior model.

What is most important about active listening and the giving & receiving of performance feedback is the effect on trust, team building and both individual and collective team performance. Letting your team know what you need and why you appreciate their work builds a sense of real partnership and helps you to stay on the same page as you build and execute the tactics in the direction of your strategic outcomes. Being clear about accountability and ownership – both yours and that of your teammates – is crucial.

Feedback is not punishment. It is not something to fear. Feedback is how you form your blueprint for excellence.

We all succeed with the help of other people. Learning to actively listen and communicate feedback with the smart, capable people with whom we surround ourselves is essential to becoming a high performing leader that people look up to.


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The Key to High Performance Leadership

The Key to High Performance Leadership

High performance is the strongest desire of every CEO. High performance requires high-performance leadership. High-performance leadership is built on a foundation of excellence and a framework of harmony.

Too often executive leaders at startup tech companies try to build a foundation of harmony in order to achieve operational excellence. This is a mistake. They fill their office space with ping pong tables, video game machines, snack rooms, kegerators and creature comforts as a means to appear competitive with Google-style employment perks and to lure top recruits. They attempt to compete on a basis of social harmony and having an awesome “culture” without actually having spent any deep thinking time on culture and the practices that drive outstanding business performance. They’ve mistakenly prioritized social harmony over disciplined, measured operational excellence.

No-one is saying that harmony isn’t important — only that it’s impossible without operational excellence as its foundation. Both excellence and harmony are important for high performance. Excellence is of first importance; it is what you must lay down as a foundation first because there can be no harmony without excellence. If performance and results are where you want them, then, sure, I am all in favor of ping pong tables, laser tag and sleeping pods.

My advice to CEOs and executive leaders: Build a performance-based culture of excellence around performance drivers, KPI’s, measurable outcomes. Build a meritocracy where people get as much responsibility as they can handle on the basis of true merit: ownership, accountability, execution and results. This is the foundation of operational excellence.

Harmony is about creating the environment for direct, honest and open dialogue about the things that matter — trust, commitment, results. It’s about having adult conversations about performance metrics and holding each other accountable. Harmony is not the same as avoiding conflict rather it’s about engaging in meaningful productive outcomes and solutions-driven discourse. This is high-productivity harmony.

Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team provides a great model for building this kind of harmony around excellence. He pinpoints several dysfunctions that prevent a team from achieving excellence, including lack of trust, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results, and, perhaps most importantly, fear of conflict — which is to say, when employees avoid conflict and create artificial harmony by going along with others’ decisions indiscriminately — the results they achieve will be lacking and the team as a whole suffers.

When your employees are driven by excellence in their standards, by excellence in their craft, by excellence in the rigorous disciplines required for disintermediation of an entire industry then, and only then, can you have harmony from the top down and from the bottom up in professional life. Moreover, you will have a culture of excellence where employees can trust and rely on each other. They don’t have to worry whether their teammates will come through. They don’t clash over poorly executed projects. Rather, a focus on excellence magnifies the definiteness of purpose and accelerates productive collaboration on a team. This creates the kind of environment that magnifies everyone’s fire in the belly and a team spirit that the most capable of champions want to be a part of.

(Operational) Excellence + (Productive) Harmony = High Performance Leadership

In the Harvard Business review, Matthew Lieberman points to James Zenger’s research indicating that “results focus” and “social skills” are actually two different parts of the brain — and that these two parts of the brain never work at the same time.

“These two networks function like a neural seesaw,” Lieberman writes. “In countless neuroimaging studies, the more one of these networks got more active, the more the other one got quieter. Although there are some exceptions, in general, engaging in one of the kinds of thinking makes it harder to engage in the other kind.”

Yet leaders who were exclusively results-focused or exclusively social-focused both received poor approval ratings from their subordinates. Those who combined both skills were rated as great leaders a staggering 72% of the time. Great leaders are those who can effectively seesaw between the two parts of their brain that contribute to excellence and winning as a team.

Ultimately, it is a commitment to both excellence and harmony, with excellence in priority, that creates high performance. Playing full out, measuring, learning and adapting creates the kind of high performance execution that everyone wants to be a part of — because culture is everything. This fulfills not only the strongest desire of their CEO, but also the Board, investors, customers, and stakeholders. Most importantly, it fulfills the strongest professional desire of their own. This kind of high-performance leadership creates an indomitable culture that wins championships and creates the lasting impact of legends.

This post was originally published on the Dave Partners blog.

Thank you for reading! Who do you know that plays like a champion? Please share this with them and hit recommend. Here are 2 more skills of the top leaders.

3 Steps To Becoming A Start-Up Entrepreneur

3 Steps To Becoming A Start-Up Entrepreneur

You saw the movie. Mark Zuckerberg scribbles a couple of things on his window, codes for a few hours, meets Justin Timberlake and then he starts counting his billions. That’s not the way it’s going to work for you. You’re not Mark Zuckerberg. And you shouldn’t try to be.

But you can be a successful startup founder and builder. I’ve been there and done that and had a couple of exits. More importantly, I’ve seen it dozens of times as an advisor and recruiter. It’s not rocket science.

The world already has a Mark Zuckerberg. The world doesn’t need you to try and be someone else. You are the only person in the world who’s capable of being yourself. The world needs you to be awesome at being you.

Too many young people want to head straight for the glory, fame and riches of being a successful entrepreneur. They’ve equated being an entrepreneur with sure success. But in fact, most start-ups fail. Success is more than just ambition. If you want to do this right, you must choose the right career path.

Here’s my blueprint…

  • Optimize for learning
  • Develop insights
  • Learn financial discipline
  • Choose the people with whom you surround yourself wisely
  • Work harder than everybody

Optimize for Learning

Early in your career, what’s most important is to learn. Learn how to do something. Learn how to make tradeoffs. Learn how to prioritize. Learn what is important. Learn a craft. Learn how to play on a team. Learn how to lead a team. And learn all of this by working with the best founders and entrepreneurs you can find. A truly great boss is an invaluable asset; you can learn how to be a leader by being effectively led.

Startups are a great platform for learning because of their disproportionate growth. Disproportionate growth leads to disproportionate learning. Disproportionate learning leads to everything that’s good in life. The ability to learn in 3 years what might otherwise take 10 years — this is what startups are about.

Think of your early jobs at start-ups as a post-graduate education.

Learning and growth happen in phases. Develop technical mastery (and self-mastery). Learn to manage a team and/or function. Learn how to lead leaders by working with great leaders. Take on as much responsibility as you can handle in those roles. Learn to lead a meritocracy.

Develop Insights

Technological advances in the past decade have lowered the cost of computing so much that they’ve created an abundance of opportunity to start an app and immediately have a global audience as an entrepreneur. The opportunity seems tempting. But not every opportunity is made for you to take. Choose your opportunities wisely. Choose to maximize your learning early in your career rather than going straight for the entrepreneurial Promised Land.

Again: If you found a start-up without any prior work experience, the odds are high that the company will fail. Well, you might say, failure is a great teacher. You know what is a better teacher? An actual teacher! Think of yourself as Luke Skywalker: He became a hero, but only because he had other heroes willing to teach him the ropes. You need an Obi-Wan or a Yoda, a master from whom you can learn how to do stuff, before you can take on the universe by yourself.

Develop insights. Insight comes from applying experience to knowledge. Knowledge comes from analyzing information. Information comes from organizing data. Learn to organize, analyze and develop insights. Insights are the basis of all business decisions and the important work that advances effort towards outcomes. All progress is made by working on the “important” versus the “urgent”. Learn to develop your own wisdom, your own insights. And, execute the important work with thought leadership and insights. Create a vision for a better world.

Learn Financial Discipline

Once you have your vision in place, it’s easy to assume you’re ready. But you must also learn the day-to-day habits and behaviors that go into successfully running your business. Managing burn rate is one of the most important of these skills.

Keep your operating costs low, and remember that expenses rise to meet income. You may be frustrated because your early jobs don’t pay as much as you want — but as an entrepreneur, you will need to know how to manage costs and prioritize tradeoffs for an organization. Hone these skills by learning to efficiently manage your personal finances and budget.

Resourcefulness can be your greatest resource. Learn how to fully exercise your muscles of resourcefulness. Become a capable manager of resources. Knowing how to create value with scarce resources is the magic of entrepreneurship.

Beginning Your Entrepreneurial Career

Success is not just a matter of ambition. It’s a process: Roll up your sleeves. Do something. Do anything. Do everything. Throw yourself at projects that interest you and learn. Find the inefficiencies and learn how to do things better. Learn how to create value. Gain insights. These insights will give you the ability to lead. Learn to discriminate between good people who are skilled and people who are skilled but not nice. Develop and learn to exercise the full capacity of your horsepower.

THEN, go out and be an entrepreneur!

By all means, disrupt an entire industry! Drive creative destruction. Make your Momma proud. Buy her a house!

But, rather than launching a startup right now just because you can, follow a better plan: Learn, master, found a startup, then work hard and create a great product. Then, when you are successful, give back. Give other young people the ability to learn through your leadership, your mentorship, your guidance.

The best professionals — those that are the top 1% of A+ executive talent — don’t care about the social status of working for this company versus that company. They’re not worried about building a resume or designing a career. They are busy maximizing their learning. They are busy solving problems, implementing solutions, developing the insights on creating maximum value and making the distinctions that accelerate performance. They are leading.

You cannot be king of the world if you are a slave to the grind. If you find the work you are doing to be a grind — get out! Do everyone a favor and figure out what you are most passionate about. Decide & commit upon your true dreams and goals. Rise up and make it happen!

Every millennial saw the Facebook movie. Every millennial spends time on Facebook. Every millennial already has parents and/or grandparents on Facebook. The world doesn’t need another Facebook. The world needs you to be the best that you can be.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this, hit recommend, share and read high performance leadership.

Note: Thanks to Andrew Koch for reviewing and providing comments on an earlier draft.

This post was originally published on the Dave Partners blog.