Monday, December 2, 2013
How do you rank against the guy next to you—better, worse, the same? And do you think the process of your managers discussing you relative to your peers is a good thing, or a bad one?
The practice of forced ranking—or the euphemistically named "vitality curve"—was developed by Jack Welch and GE in the 1980's as a way to identify non-performers and so improve the financial results of the company. It was quickly picked up by companies in Silicon Valley with more aggressive cultures, like Intel, and used as a way to force employees onto a bell curve. It was recently dropped by Microsoft, while being picked up by Yahoo.
The ranking process is not a scientific one—it's a process of judgement. My experience has been managers sitting in a conference room, putting names up on a white board, arguing through the lifeboat test: if you had to throw one employee out of the life boat, which one would you throw? Sometimes the process is simply a forced ranking, putting employees in a linear list; other times it's a process to force employees into groupings like A, B and C, or top 20%, middle 60% and bottom 20%.
Sometimes it is a scientific process. In sales, results are ultimately measurable, and I know one tech CEO who used to fire the bottom 10% of his sales team each quarter, irrespective of whether they made quota or not. His purpose was to drive a dog-eat-dog competitive culture within his sales team.
The end result is the same. You end up with the collective judgement of a group of managers on a group of employees and, if you've run the process well, you know who your top and bottom performers are.
It's always illuminating. If nothing else, to find out what other managers think—but I think it's a clumsy, archaic process to manage the performance of your weakest players.
Poor performance needs to be managed continuously, not once a quarter or once a year. When you have someone who is not performing, you need to act quickly. Never forget, if someone's not pulling their weight you can bet everyone around them knows it, and they are pulling down (at a minimum) the morale and (more likely) the performance of everyone on the team with them. So as the manager, you owe it to everyone to intervene and either put some training and coaching in place quickly to bring up the employee's performance, or get them out.
But the top performers are the most valuable people in your organization and the ranking process can make you pay attention to their satisfaction and compensation, as a team, on a rigorous schedule. The pareto principle holds true for your engineer's performance as much as it does for the likely distribution of your customers—80% of your results are probably coming from the contributions of your top 20%. This does not mean that the middle 60% is not important—quite the contrary—but it does mean you need to pay daily attention to the happiness and professional health of your top 20%.
This is where forced ranking can be truly illuminating. When you get your managers from across the organization, responsible for different job types, into a room and get them talking about their top talent, everyone can then pay attention to their careers. You can make sure your top talent has appropriate top compensation (especially stock options and/or RSUs) and that their career interests are being watched over and nurtured by every member of your management team.
Forced ranking is a useful tool, but a tool to be used occasionally and not as a religion. It's not about making your employees compete (and so driving financial performance up). It's not about identifying your bottom performers (you need to be doing that continuously). It's about making sure your leaders know who the top talent in your organization is so you can grow them, and grow their leadership and impact on your company.
Photo: Seth Coal Deviant Art
Monday, November 25, 2013
A year ago at Dreamforce 2012 I was delighted to see women dressing as women - and posted on the trend. And this year in 2013 we had both Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer on stage with Marc Benioff looking like women! Fashionable, professional but very feminine.
Why do I care? Well here is my employee badge from Synopsys in 1990. Thirty years old, very, very much in the minority, and I decided to poke fun at the system and the dress code (I always was a bit of a rebel). A baby face in a suit and tie -- I figured I'd have fun with the dominance of men and dress like one so they just might not notice I was a woman.
So yes, I appreciate that we can dress like women in the office now!
Friday, November 8, 2013
There's a word in the English language that, when you hear it, is likely to either make you feel guilty, or make you turn off. Do you say it? What do you do when you hear it? What's your reaction when someone says "you should" to you?
It's a turnoff, isn't it? And yet it's pervasive in the way many people speak in business.
There's the person who thinks they're a coach and you can benefit from their wisdom. Instead of listening and carefully reflecting ideas for you to figure out, they listen to what you're worried about and then launch into "Well, what you should have done is..." (I hate this response, it's just not helpful to me).
Then there's the guy who thinks he's smarter than everyone else. Born with a sense of superiority, he loves to tell you what you should have said or done. Especially if you criticize him. It's a quick way to deflect from the substance of what you are saying to how you are saying it.
Then there's the woman who says it to herself all the time. Told by the world every day that she's not good enough, she thinks, "I should have done..." - and loses her personal power in her own mind every time she thinks it.
The problem with the word is that it carries a sense of obligation and guilt with it. The word originally comes from the past tense of "shall", from the days when shall carried the obligation of "I owe/he owes, will have to, ought to, must." We don't use shall that way anymore, but should still means "ought to" to many of us.
So it feels like a judgmental word. It's difficult to take "you should" and turn it into a positive feeling when your first reaction is guilt or shame.
So listen for it. When you hear someone say it around you to someone else, try to help them re-frame their feedback. When you hear someone say it to you, try to check your reaction and listen to the substance, not the delivery. And when you say it to yourself, go find a mirror, look in it, and try saying "stop shoulding on yourself" several times. You'll hear what you're really doing to yourself.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Sometimes sales culture glorifies the lone sales rep: the road warrior who goes out and hunts, slays the order and throws it, still bleeding, on your desk, seeking your praise like a big game hunter standing over his kill's rapidly cooling dead body.
Is this how your best guys—your top performers—sell? Or do they view sales as a sport that's won as a team?
Now, I'm the girl who hates sports on TV, who reads a book during Super Bowl parties (except during the ads of course) and has never been to a live football, soccer or basketball game. So I'm simply not a sports fan. But I love watching a sales organization plan, play and win a deal as a well-trained team, each with his or her own role to play.
Hunting and winning the giant enterprise deal first of all takes a team lead: the sales rep on the ground who owns the account. She's expected to know every aspect of the deal, to lead and choreograph every play, coach every other player on their role, put them in the right room with the right person and plan through what to say when. This rep is accountable for every detail 24/7—they get the glory, but they live or die by the deal.
Then there's sales management. Carrot and stick, reviewing every play, coaching every move. Willing to show up whenever, wherever to keep the deal moving. Able to manage the CEO and the CFO through the ups and downs of the deal.
There's the sales engineer—the showman who captures the customer's imagination up front and answers all the thorny questions. He's responsible for establishing the value and the match between your capability and the customer's business need. And he works closely with the customer success lead who stands in front of the customer towards the end of the sales cycle and commits to being on point to ensure the success of the implementation with them.
Sometimes R&D leadership gets involved, especially if you're doing any integration with a product team or IT, and sometimes your own IT gets involved responding to questions about SaaS delivery, security, response times...
In the end, everyone has a role to play, and they all depend on each other to play those roles well.
When I look at my own sales team I can see the high school and college sports training coming into play. We have several high school quarterbacks, a minor league AA baseball player, several college-level soccer players, a mountain biker who competes on a team, a Junior Olympic badminton player and several college swimmers. Even our runners like to form into teams for our summer triathlons.
Clearly, sports experience is not a requirement for the job, but training in how to work well in a team is - because, in the end, sales is a team sport. And the end result of great teamwork is killer results!
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Chips touch every aspect of our lives. You use chips in your car, in
your phone, in your TV, in your fridge, when you play a video game, when
you text, Skype or blog, in the bar code reader at the grocery
checkout, when you take a photo, as your luggage is routed through an
airport -- any time you use electronics today you are using chips.
Now I am not talking about potato chips, I'm talking about semiconductors -- integrated circuits. Those small, intricate pieces of silicon, doped with chemicals in factories in the U.S. and Taiwan, that use logic and memory to take action for you. To shoot the zombie, or control the brakes on your car. To route your phone call to your mother, or tell the government what you just said on Facebook.
The semiconductor industry is a $300B industry, dominated by global giants like Intel, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, and it's an industry where the complexity of its products doubles every two years. It costs billions of dollars to build the factories where the chips are built and millions of dollars to make the first one of a new design, all so that the chip in your phone or your car can be cleverer than a mainframe computer was a few years ago, but only cost a few cents.
None of this would be possible without the computer scientists and physicists who work in the industry that makes these complex designs possible. That industry is Electronic Design Automation -- EDA -- and it is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
When the first integrated circuit was designed at TI by Kilby in 1959 design was done by hand. But once the idea was out, a new industry emerged creating sophisticated software programs running on computers to help humans create more and more complex designs.
Today integrated circuits are less than 1 square inch in size but are three-dimensional and have many, many miles of metal interconnect on them, where every line of metal carries a signal like a wire in your house, but is thinner than a fraction of a human hair. They can perform millions of operations per second and store the Encyclopedia Britannica in your fingertip. And a human mind could not fathom the complexity of these chips without software programs to control the design and simulation of the chip before it's built.
The EDA industry is the group of companies, and brilliant people, who make the amazing computer brains in the devices we take for granted every day possible. They build software to model how to turn analog signals -- like your voice -- into digital bits. They build simulators that use physics and maths to model Maxwell's equations and predict how electricity is going to move through different materials, at different speeds. They simulate the memory cells that store data, they predict how complex logic will work with the different inputs you give it. The chips being built now have features so small that you can't use light to expose them any more (the process is a lot like the old photographic process) so they use math to adjust how the light will behave and compensate. It's rocket science built into software.
But despite being such a profound building block of our modern electronics, EDA is a relatively small industry. With revenue of $7B, the industry is dominated by two California Bay Area companies: Synopsys and Cadence, who work alongside many small, highly innovative specialist companies to solve the hard design problems (and yes, the small companies get bought up by the big companies over time). The industry is small because the number of companies than can actually afford to design chips is low even though we all use more electronics every year. But it's a healthy industry where the leading companies are growing and generate strong operating margins and where new startups emerge every year.
And it employs the brightest engineers. Graduates with EECS degrees (electrical engineering and computer science) from colleges like Berkeley and Stanford and MIT walk the halls. The executives are all engineers too because the pace of change of the chip technology is so fast you need to be able to talk with your customers about what they need in the language of technology.
Men or women, they're mostly a nerdy bunch. But tonight, at a banquet to raise money for the Computer History Museum, they'll be dressed up and celebrating their love of one of the most fascinating technical areas you can choose to work in. And next time your phone, or your camera, or your TV makes you gasp in wonder think about the software nerds in California who design the tools, that design the chips, that make your device magical.
Monday, October 14, 2013
I love to ask the question "do you have children?" in a job interview. What!? you think to yourself - didn't she go to training on what questions not to ask??? Well there's a method to my madness...
If you've been through interview training then you know there are a set of questions you are told not to ask like are you married? do you have children? are you thinking of having children? how old are you? etc.
You may have been told that it is illegal to ask these questions in a job interview because you might discriminate against a candidate as a result of their answer: their sexual preference, whether they have little kids, whether they might get pregnant, do they like American football etc.
But it's not true. Asking the question is not illegal. What is illegal is to discriminate based on the answer. A subtle but powerful difference. Your lawyers trained you to keep you and the company out of trouble, not to teach you how to recruit the best and brightest.
It's actually important to know some of the private life of your candidates because life interferes with people's ability to do their job in many more ways than you've been trained not to ask about, or the law protects, and how your company reacts when it does says a lot about whether the candidate should want to work with you or not.
When your parent gets cancer and slowly dies that presents a huge challenge to staying fully productive. When you have a bad accident and smash a bone into so many pieces that you have to work from home for months, that can certainly make it hard to focus. When you're trying to adopt a child from the foster care system and you need to spend days in court fighting for your (soon to be) child's rights, that means you're working odd hours and in odd places to stay on top of you job. All experiences we've shared at FirstRain, and we've got more!
When I meet a candidate I want to know if s/he has children, or has elderly parents, or has an intense hobby, because I want to tell him or her about our culture and how much we support and adapt around our people's needs as life happens to them.
Life just happens. Babies, sick parents, health issues. And the sign of a strong company culture is one that is adaptable and flexible to help the employee stay engaged and work through whatever challenge comes up, or take time off if that's what's needed. It's important to remember that you cannot make assumptions about how your employee is going to react to the challenge, or what course of action they are going to want to take, but instead to put a team-based system in place so everyone can do their best.
It is true that some older men do still discriminate based on whether women in the workforce have young children, or are likely to have young children, so the lawyers are not all wrong. I recently sat in a discussion (not in FirstRain!) where a pregnant, very senior employee's likelihood to come back to work after her pregnancy was questioned. But those older generation views are dying out as the old guard retires or their daughters successfully work and raise children at the same time.
We're not naive at FirstRain. Being flexible as life challenges our people doesn't mean an employee can be distracted from their job indefinitely (we are a for-profit, growing company after all and we probably work harder than most because of high growth rate) but it does mean, from time to time, we have to cover for each other.
So back to interviewing. I want to know if candidates are married, or have little kids, or are thinking of getting pregnant, or adopting. I want to know if they have dogs, or horses, or like to travel. I want to know because we are in a competitive hiring environment, and I want the best people in my company possible. So I want an opportunity to tell them about our culture, and what a great place FirstRain is to work when you have major events in your life, and how supportive we are of raising a family here, and that these are reasons to be a part of your decision to chose FirstRain over any other job you may have today or be considering.
Monday, October 7, 2013
Posted in the Huffington Post today
Is the fact that Twitter has filed for its IPO with no women on the board, and only one (new) woman in management a question of supply or demand? Is it the "arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia," as Vivek Wadhwa believes, or "difficult" due to a lack of qualified candidates as Twitter insiders have implied, or just competing priorities while managing a rapidly growing company?
This is a critical debate, one that has been growing since Lean In was released and a debate that is good for technology companies. We now know that having diverse product design teams creates better products. We also now know that having women on boards makes companies more competitive. So why would a company build its management team and board entirely from men?
Some would argue it's a priority issue and the debate Vivek and Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, sparked on Twitter gets us thinking about the priorities. When you're building a company, especially one as visible and ground-breaking as Twitter, it can be hard to do anything that takes extra effort. It's all you can do to keep up with the demands of the voracious needs of your company and a second-level issue, like diversity, probably does not feel urgent. It takes time and effort to build a diverse team because to do so you have to demand that your recruiters do the extra work to provide you with diverse, qualified candidates.
The trustees at the Anita Borg Institute from Women in Technology, where I have served on the board for the last ten years, know this firsthand. ABI is funded by companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Amazon, HP... the board is made up of both men and women, executives who believe growing women in technology is important and the way to change the numbers is to make diversity a priority. To focus at both the college level and in the workforce -- to focus on solutions that keep women in technical roles, that reduce the isolation many women feel in tech, and that teach the skills necessary to get ahead in a male dominated world.
Some would argue it's a supply issue - that there are just not very many women in tech to chose from so finding qualified ones is hard. It's true, there are not as many of us as there should be, but there are enough that boards can find one, or two, women to help them diversify their ranks. It's a question of good governance in the end. Catalyst research has shown women on boards increases the rate of return to shareholders over time which is one of the reasons the EU is moving to quotas of female directors, and why the UK has a percentage target of female directors for the FTSE by 2015. But in the fast pace of private Silicon Valley companies few VCs would tell you having women on their boards matters because it's all about rate of growth, and when you're moving fast you hire who you know, or people who've done it before, which is most likely men like you. My experience over the last twenty years is that the bias in neither conscious, nor intentional.
So yes, women on boards is not usually a priority to young tech companies, but Silicon Valley is not " virtually closed to women," as the NYT claimed on Sunday. There are plenty of us here running companies, building products and building companies that we believe will change the world. For the first time we have women at the top of several high profile technology companies -- all at once! We have the glamorous Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook; we have the intensely focused Meg Whitman at HP and Ginny Rometty at IBM; we have high-growth, smaller company leaders like Amy Pressman at Medallia and Christy Wyatt at Good Technology and we would all tell you that while we're not done, the environment is so much better for women now than it has ever been.
But in the end, the debate itself if the best thing that's happening. Sheryl's making people talk about how to encourage women in the workplace with Lean In, ABI is challenging leaders to measure the quality of their company by what kind of company it is for technical women to work in (Intel was the most recent winner), and Twitter's IPO gives us another chance to look at the statistics, take a deep breath, and once again set out to change them. As Dick Costolo's final tweet last night said, "The issues are much bigger than checking any 1 box." It's time to address them.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I doubt myself every single day. As a CEO it's the dark secret none of us are supposed to talk about, but it's real, and so it was marvelous for me to listen to Maria Klawe yesterday say that she wakes up feeling like a failure every day.
Now Maria is one of the most successful people in academia. She's president of Harvey Mudd College, educating the next generation of brilliant computer scientists, mathematicians and physicists, she sits on the board of Microsoft and she's a much admired water color painter... and a wife and mother too. Definitely an over achiever who is universally admired.
And yet, every day she feels like a failure. She told this to 4,800 women at the Grace Hopper Conference yesterday, but then said the way she deals with it is that she consciously listens to the other voice playing in her head which says "I want to lead the world!!!"
Sheryl Sandberg, on stage with Maria, used the analogy of running a marathon. For the men in the race, voices are telling them "you're great!", "you can do it!" and "keep going!" but for the women in the race the voices are "are you sure you can do it?"and "what about your children?" Imagine trying to run a real marathon with everyone around you questioning whether you can, or worse whether you actually should?
My experience for the first 25 years of my career was just that. Everyone around me, family, friends and co-workers questioned what I was doing (except my husband - he never questioned but went along for the ride). I was ambitious, determined to make a point, and determined to win the race I had chosen which was being a high tech CEO. As I had children people came out of the woodwork to question my decision, and as a (younger) blond woman I was also consistently underestimated which attacked my confidence (maybe they were right and I was about to be found out!)
For almost every day in those 25 years I would feel like a failure, waiting to be caught out. I'm a classic example of the imposter syndrome: where you feel like an imposter or fraud, waiting to be caught out. It's not uncommon in smart, talented people and it's especially common in women.
I would beat myself up in my head - you're not smart enough, you're too aggressive, your children need you, you need to lose weight... an endless dialog that got louder the more tired I got. And the voice would stay inside my head because no one else wants to hear about your self doubt. It's old news to your family, boring to your friends (they've heard it before) and must not show to your co-workers or employees.
So what to do?
It took a few colliding changes for me to finally conquer it. I passed forty - and felt more confident over forty than I ever had under. I had a nasty health scare which made me take each day above the dirt much more seriously. And I realized that I was not alone, my peers feel the same way, and it's OK - you just have to push through.
When you're looking in the mirror feeling like a failure try this:
Step 1 - acknowledge that it's happening and it's not real. Learning about the imposter syndrome really helped me understand the dynamics.
Step 2 - create and listen to the other voice in your head. Maria was spot on. There is another voice, it knows you can do great things, but you have to listen to it, consciously.
Step 3 - be open about your own self criticism when coaching others. Sharing the fact that I have self doubt made it more clinical for me. It's normal, but it's not useful.
Step 4 - get exercise and sleep. Feels great and you can lead the world with a good swim and a good night's sleep.
Feeling like you are failing is normal. It's part of what drives us - the need to prove to ourselves and everyone else just how much we can lead and change the world. So embrace it as a funny part of you that you just have to slap down every day - and you will!
Saturday, September 21, 2013
It's Saturday about 11:15 and every time I don't know what our next 3 hours are going to be like.
My mother-in-law has Alzheimers. Not the advanced kind. She knows who we are, remembers our names, and remembers a lot from fifty years ago but she doesn't know what day it is and what she wants to eat for lunch -- and we don't know who she is going to be each day.
Today I went to pick her up for our Saturday lunch date. She was in bed and she didn't want to get up. She hadn't eaten breakfast and needed to eat (not eating makes doing anything else tough) and I knew if I listened to her and left, as she was telling me to, she'd lie in bed and cry, because I'd left. So I got her up, cleaned her up, dressed her, cheered her along in the car as it poured down on us, and took her to meet my husband Bret at one of her favorite restaurants... but today she decided not to talk to us at lunch. No idea why, but she wasn't going to talk.
Last Saturday started out the same, but once I got her to the restaurant she picked up, was cheerful, and, had you joined us, you would not have known she's been struggling with her mind. But because she was well she remembered the week before...
That week, two weeks ago, Margit and I went out to lunch with my father who came along to help me. He likes all my attention, but understands when I am with her that I need to be focused on her to make sure she's OK. To hold her hand, to help her when she decides to wash her steak in her water, or put ice onto her pasta, or confuse her plate with her food. And that week we ran into my company's lead investor at the restaurant. He also commands my attention, and expects me to be brilliant and together and a CEO, which is hard to be when your attention is already torn two ways. But I did give him 5 minutes of my attention and then paid for it.
As I took her home my mother-in-law decided to punish me. She told me I wanted her dead, and I wanted to hang her from a tree until she was dead, and maybe I should just hang her from a tree because clearly I didn't care about her and just wanted to dump her back in "that place". She was angry that I was going back to my father (who was leaving for England the next day) and decided to lash out - until I got her back to Sunrise and hugged her and told her Bret would be there on Tuesday, and I'd be back next week and then she told me she did appreciate that we were taking care of her.
It's a roller coaster. A never ending cycle of good days, bad days, cruel days, sleepy days, demanding days and on every day we're with her I watch Bret watch her with tension in his face and sadness because even if you've never had much of a relationship with your parent, watching them struggle with their mind and be deeply unhappy is so very painful. But he's decided he's going to take care of her - she's one of the lucky ones.
Here we are in the center of technology, with miraculous advances every day, and yet we can't stop our minds deteriorating. I know we're not alone. Every family that experiences Alzheimer's experiences the roller coaster. It's awful. Surely if we can invent the smart phone, and google glass, and an electric car that can go 300 miles, surely we can find a way to prevent Alzheimer's? Seems to me all those ad dollars could go to better use than selling sugar water.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
This weeks spectacular display of bad taste by TechCrunch Disrupt has lit up the Twittersphere with more analysis of how hostile tech is for women. In case you missed it, TechCrunch Disrupt opened with not one, but two awful presentations (awful unless you are a teenage boy). An app designed so you can capture people staring at other people's breasts, TitStare, and a demonstration of on stage masturbation (male masturbation of course), with an iPhone app counting the number of times you can shake your iPhone in 10 seconds. We have such a long history of bro-dom in tech, and such a lot of material, that the Atlantic has written a poem to it.
What I find so bizarre about this week's particular brand of puerile presentation is that it is still going on. Are these guys living in a time warp? Do they actually work in Silicon Valley or not? Twenty years ago I would have expected it, but not today!
In the real Silicon Valley today most people are so busy building products, users and revenue they don't have time to make fun of women, or their breasts. If it doesn't make me money, leave it out. Enterprise software is back in fashion, the Cloud and Mobility are turning the world on it's ear - who has time for sexism any more?
In the real-world of Silicon Valley now we have strong sexual discrimination laws. Woe betide you if you work for a real company and you harass a female employee or create a hostile environment. And if you work for a real company pay attention - you can get fired in the blink of an eye if you put the company at risk by hitting on the women you work with, or worse yet who work for you.
In the real-world of tech we have more and more women in power - Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer and Ginni Rometty and Christy Wyatt and Mary Meeker and Theresia Gouw and Arianna Huffington and many more, including me... and I sure hope the tech frat boys are smart enough to keep their breast interests outside of our offices.
In the real-world of tech we have women changing the way we think about sex. Cindy Gallop is changing the world through sex and challenging the way we even think about sex in today's society. As she posted in Facebook "You're absolutely right TitStare doesn't get a thumbs up from me". But in contrast the boys of Hacker News defended TitStare with "I don't see the problem. Pornography is perfectly legal and big business." At least they equated it to porn, which it is, but pretty boring and tasteless porn.
Two contrasting views of how tech power views women have been emerging for the last 10 years and there are two Silicon Valleys - two worldviews within the tech industry. First, there is the tech world 95% of us live in. Intense work on powerful technology, long hours, explosive markets, serious investors, growing revenue and creating long lasting products and customer engagement. Some gender bias in graduating degrees (yes I write often that we need more women in STEM), little gender bias in the workplace, no misogyny in the office.
And then there is the tech world that attracts press and discourse because it drives traffic -- the world of the tech boy culture so perfectly captured by TitStare. But it's rare. It's now almost as unimaginable as a politician sending a text photo of his penis to a woman via social media -- but wait, that was real too! Some people's (lack of) intelligence boggles my mind.
But if you do run into the second tech world, the misogynistic one, and it makes you angry, remember: don't get mad, get even. Smile and take over. Whether you are female or male, don't tolerate the behavior and it will, eventually, die.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
It's an old saying "people buy from people" but with our dependance on digital communication sometimes salespeople forget and rely too much on email and texting. It feels safer, you can plan and think out what you are going to say and you won't surprise the person you need to communicate with. But it's just not effective, even in a world where we are all fast iPhone typists - as the WSJ wrote last week: Bosses Say "Pick up the Phone".
The reality is, despite our growing dependency on text and email, you can't sell that way - well not enterprise level solutions anyway. Big deals, thousands of users, game changing applications - they are sold through human relationships and at many levels of relationship.
For example, you can't develop a champion in email. Champions help you get the deal done and they help you get it done on your timeline. They help you because they believe in your solution, and just as importantly they help you because they like you. They learn to like you based on your voice and some personal exchange as well as professional from and/or in person interaction, not text. Even better an in person meeting -- they are your champion because you connect at a human level and so they'll go to bat for you.
You can't develop a coach by texting and Tweeting. Coaches tell you the lay of the land, who has what political agenda, what the buying process is going to be and who's going to approve it. Coaches tell you things you probably should not know, and that they would never put in writing, but they'll tell you in person over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine because they think what you're doing is good for their company and they want to see you win. People don't take risk for people they've never spoken with or met.
You don't get referred up and across a Fortune 100 in email. In a big company up-and-coming players know the power of face time. If they are going to take you to a CxO or GM they are going to do it in person, and that means they need to know you're presentable and going to make them look good. That means they've spent enough time with you to trust you. Can you imagine being referred to the CIO of a sister division of a giant global company by someone you've never talked with? Trust isn't built digitally.
So if you want to be a killer enterprise sales rep pick up the phone, or better yet get in the car or on a plane, because there is simply no substitute for meeting in person, although you probably don't have to get as close as Donkey.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
When you drink at work, or with your coworkers, does it help or hinder you? Matthew Yglesias makes The case for getting drunk at work in Slate: the advantage - being more creative; the disadvantage being thought less intelligent. It got me thinking about when it's good, and when it's bad, to drink with your colleagues.
In many situations social drinking with work is the norm, for example Lunchtime: My first job was in England in the land of a-pub-on-every-corner and a "couple of pints" every day along with lunch. Being the only girl in the department, and not a beer drinker, I could get away with "I'll just have a lemonade" every day, but the real reason I wasn't drinking was because if I did I'd fall asleep at my desk in the afternoon. I've simply never been able to drink in the day without a nap to follow. Of course, this need for a siesta following wine works very well on vacation in Italy... but not otherwise. My opinion - don't drink before 5pm if you are working.
Or at the Sales Meeting: Every great sales team I've ever worked with likes to let off steam, and with that usually comes the "let's do shots" moment of the evening. Rowdy sales girls and guys can be very entertaining. Laughter, challenge, ego on the line and, for the folks who walk the high wire every day, drinking together can be a powerful bonding experience. But it has to be managed -- Zero tolerance for the sexual overtures and hazing that can accompany too much liquor.
And now In and around the office: As companies compete for talent, alcohol is coming back to the office. Especially in the digital world in San Francisco and Manhattan - the office bar is alive and well. Kegs at the end of the week, or the end of the quarter, wine tastings, artisanal beers in the fridge - all common now in tech firms. At FirstRain we hold wine tastings and my creative BD leader has formed a partnership with Chassis the beer serving robot. He's a classy guy so she took him to a training event we hosted at Salesforce.com -- needless to say he was a big hit!
But no matter how much fun you're having drinking with your co-workers, no matter how relaxed and creative it makes you, experience teaches you to keep an eye on two risks. The first is drinking carries a double standard for women. As Peggy Drexler reports "thanks to a hard-to-shake double standard akin to the old “slut versus
stud,” there tends to be a different standard for how much women and men
can drink and still be respectable in the morning". Of course this makes me mad but until it's not reality I never forget it.
The second is the intellect bias -- which a Wharton study calls "The Imbibing Idiot Bias". While drinking with colleagues can help you open up and feel closer to each other it's never going to make you smarter. One of my closest friends has chosen sobriety for the rest of his life and he's definitely the smartest one on the room come many a midnight. Worth remembering when out with the crowd.
I'm very far from uptight when it comes to drinking, as my team knows. But never forget that we're all "always on" now, even in a bar at 10pm, if we are with people from work. And now that everyone has a camera on them all the time, you're always on unless in the safety of your own home with only your closest friends around you!
Friday, August 9, 2013
Every day we make decisions that impact our future. Every day we decide on pricing, product, sales strategy, hiring and because it's an imperfect world we never have enough information.
When you're building a company you have to get very comfortable with making decisions on partial information. There is never enough time to assemble all the facts, and if you wait for them you'll fail anyway because the opportunity will pass you by.
Think about product design. When you're creating a new market and growing fast you can't take the time to survey the market, ask users what they want and then carefully design your product in response! Quite the contrary - you need to have a vision, a theory of what users want, build it and watch how they react. Do A/B testing to see which approach is better. Make changes very quickly as you figure it out. Listen to customers problems but don't let them prescribe the solution.
Consider choosing a job. You never know enough, or everything, about a job until you're in it. You can try to find out, but if you are too pedantic and careful about collecting information chances are you'll turn off the very manager and company you want to work for, or you'll miss the window for the job. Your job will probably dominate the majority of your waking hours - you need to fall in love and that's not an analytical process. It's a gut process.
And how about sales strategy! Sales campaigns are always under time pressure. A sale delayed is a sale lost (as one of my sales mentors used to tell me). So you can take an afternoon with the team at the white board thrashing through all the intelligence you have from your coaches but in the end you have to decide on a strategy with partial information and then be ready to course correct if you have to. When millions of dollars are on the line that takes balls.
But being able to make good decisions, where the majority are right, from incomplete information will change your future. As Pythagoras said "Choices are the hinges of destiny". When you are courageous and make the decision with imperfect information you mold your destiny. So take a deep breath, embrace your imperfect information, and decide!
Friday, August 2, 2013
Over the years I've found that real teams form when you have an intense experience together, or repeated intense experiences that force you to be authentic and completely present - and so your true self - because you are reacting to the intensity. This happens on deals, it happens on tough product releases, but it's the most fun when it happens outside the office. In a competition for example...
Yesterday 16 Rainmakers competed in the Cupertino Splash and Dash with me. This is a 1 mile lake swim followed by a 3 mile hill run up on the Stevens Creek Park. Most doing the race were triathletes looking for mid week training but we've done it in relay teams for several years now.
We fielded 8 relay teams yesterday. 8 swimmers and 8 runners. Turns out a couple of the swimmers had never swum in a lake before. One of them thought it was going to be in a pool. So this was a big challenge, standing on the mud flat at the edge, realizing they actually had to swim two half-mile laps of the lake. I found myself giving a pep talk on what it would feel like, how to pace yourself, how to see the buoys despite the sun, all in the 60 seconds before the gun. They were a very courageous set of new swimmers.
Our cheer group collected at the finish line to whoop and holler each runner in (one of the rules is if you want to eat bar-be-que at my house you don't have to compete but you do have to cheer). All our runners had done it before and so they were stellar and we had everyone in by 7:30pm - at which point we rolled down the hill to my garden to cook, eat and drink. Not quite as intense, but still fun, especially with the pile of young kids in my pool swimming with the dog.
I'm so proud of FirstRain - it take a lot to race if you don't do it all the time and the intensity and joy once we had finished was spectacular.
Friday, July 19, 2013
With so much riding on closing the sale, making quota and generating revenue, sales reps are some of the most stressed out members of the
workforce. Yet some stress may actually improve your performance. Recent
research found short bursts of intense stress can improve your
cognitive functions and make you more productive, even boosting your
overall health. While many studies advise workers to reduce their stress
for better health, just a bit can help you to improve sales productivity
and stay focused. But be careful to note what type of stress you're
experiencing and make sure you don't overload yourself -- the key is to
recognize deadlines are good, but burnout is bad.
Stress Improves Your Brain Power According to New Scientist, a technology and health resource, recent research identified short periods of stress can increase a person's cognitive functions, resulting in brain power improvements. Researcher Kirstin Aschbacher of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues sought out to examine if small intervals of intense stress produces the same adverse effects as chronic mental strain. However, the researchers found the opposite to be true, with the short bursts of stress improving an individual's concentration and making them better able to handle future mental strain.
Aschbacher described smaller periods of psychological stress as a way to make your mental muscles stronger. "It's like weightlifting, where we build muscles over time," Aschbacher said.
In fact, the research highlighted short quantities of stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol, which can improve immunity in small doses. But you mustn't overdo it because too much stress can result in excess cortisol, which suppresses your immunity.
As a sales rep you want to be able to use stress to your advantage, as health expert Lisa Evans recently advised in Entrepreneur. You don't have to be stressed all the time, but knowing if you are the kind of rep who works better under a deadline or you need to plan ahead to be productive can improve your mental functions and your overall performance.
By embracing stress, hormones like cortisol and adrenaline enter the blood stream for a short amount of time, increasing your memory and cognitive function. With the flood of hormones in your system, you may be able to think faster and become sharper. This can be beneficial right before you enter that client meeting, make the sales pitch or negotiate the deal.
Most sales reps know that feeling of intensity right before the call, and the let down afterwards so pay attention to how your body feels. When you use stress to improve your short-term performance it's also important to take some time to recuperate afterward to recharge your body and de-stress.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Invited to answer a few simple questions about success and leadership I found myself having to think hard. To really think about how to get such a complex concept across simply - and be truly authentic.
My answers are here (and if you know me personally some of these will make you nod knowingly):
1. How do you define success?
Achieving happiness while making a positive difference to the people around you.
2. What is the key to success?
To know what you want to make happen (in work or out of it) and then go after it. Don’t stop for anything or anyone.
3. Did you always know you would be successful?
I knew I had the chance to be successful but I didn’t know if I could pull it off. I still worry about it every day. I’ll probably worry about it until the day I die.
4. When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Fear. Fear of disappointing my father. Fear of what people will think about me if I fail.
5. What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To be truly interested in the well being of other people. Life’s not easy for anyone and a little caring and kindness goes a long way.
6. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Wandering around art galleries, gardens and ancient ruins in Europe.
7. What makes a great leader?
The ability to inspire people to be greater as a group than they can be alone. It’s a combination of ideas, brains, beliefs and charisma – and good old fashioned guts.
8. What advice would you give to college students about entering the workforce?
Seek a path that you are totally passionate about. If you love what you do you’ll be good at it. And, if you want a great job, take a good look at Tech. It’s the future.
Thanks for the opportunity Jason.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
I believe in having an open door. I believe in making it easy for employees to talk to me. And yet, there are some things I just don't need to know.
Salary.com posted an advice piece on the 10 Things You Should Never Tell Your Boss. They start with "keep personal things personal" and of course "discrimination in the workplace is illegal" so as long as you don't get too personal - and you work for a good company that does not discriminate - anything should be OK right?
Well, you'd be amazed at the things people tell me that I really don't need to know. I'm hard to offend, and I only judge people on their performance not their personal habits, but some people over share. Believe it or not, each of these examples is based on a real conversations.
Here are 10 things I don't need to know about you:
1. The gory details of your shoulder surgery. I'm sorry you had surgery. I hope you're better. No I don't need to know at a level of detail that makes my skin crawl.
2. Your politics. My mother told me there are three subjects never to discuss in polite company: politics, religion and sex. I don't mind knowing your political leanings, but I really don't need to debate it with you endlessly, please.
3. Your skill dealing drugs. Even if you were very successful selling coke out of the back of your car in college... or in the 90s... or in South America it's TMI for me. We're selling solutions to problems. Cocaine is never the solution.
4. How often you have a hangover. Come on - you really think that is something your CEO should know? Which days you felt bad at work because you'd over done it the night before?
5. The amount of time you spend on your second job. I do actually understand that sometimes people have outside responsibilities but it's not a good idea to spend too much time telling me about it. Remember FirstRain comes first!
6. That you don't believe in my company. This is an intelligence test. I'm open to you not agreeing with me on strategy and tactics but don't tell me you don't believe in what we're doing. If you don't believe please leave. Now.
7. The blow by blow of your divorce. This is a hard one. I've had employees get divorced and tell me nothing (and then it's hard for me to be supportive), but then I've also had employees tell me the blow by blow he-said-she-said which, I confess, is boring. So, here's a guideline: if we're out at dinner and telling life stories yes, I'll listen, otherwise, keep the details of how "she's crazy" to yourself.
8. Your porn habits. See point #2. Nuff said.
9. How your boyfriend cheated on you. How you came home and found him in your bed with another woman and so you can't concentrate today and you're not sure you can handle the customer meeting you're taking me to. The drama of your love life doesn't belong in the workplace. If you need a personal day, take the day.
10. (Ladies) How nervous you are, or how scared you are. A man would never tell me that. Why do you need to tell me?
We spend a lot of time at work and form deep friendships so sharing your life is natural. And in a social setting like out to dinner after an intense day with customers yes you are going to share, as am I. But think first and don't drink if it makes you over share!
Thursday, July 11, 2013
If you had a chance to relive one day of your life every day forever - do you know which it would be? Do you know what you would be doing? Would you be working? with friends? camping? sailing? eating and drinking?
The ancient Etruscans believed that when you are buried you can put yourself in surroundings where you can relive a day forever. And just East of Tarquinia, a couple of hours drive north of Rome, you can go and see their tombs and their vision of the best of days. Just below the surface of a series of hot dusty hills, there are about 6,000 tombs. They make up the ancient Etruscan necropolis (from 700BC to 100BC) and about 150 of these tombs have been excavated and are gloriously painted with artist's visions of the best of days.
About 20 are now open. For each tomb you climb down a steep set of stairs, climbing down into the cool from the scorching midday heat. At the bottom you push a button to get light and then press your nose to the glass pane sealing the painted walls in, and imagine that day. Imagine the day the owner described to the Greek artist of how he'd like to spend his eternity. What day did he pick for he, and usually his spouse, to repeat forever?
So what day would you want to repeat over and over?
Would you want to be at a feast, eating and drinking with your friends and entertained by music and dancing?
Would you want to be out in nature with birds and dolphins, forever in the sunshine and water?
Or would you be in the office, working hard, making the world a better place? This is unlikely - as the WSJ reported yesterday - most people would rather not be at work, even if the work is meaningful.
After seeing the tombs last week we did a quick survey of our little group around the bar table - recovering from the heat with crisp Italian beer. The answers to how each person would decorate their tomb were revealing. One would be hiking in the Sierras, one would be kiteboarding on the San Francisco Bay (yes no prizes for guessing that one's my husband), one would be with friends on a wine tour, one would be with her children.
And me... I'd be in my garden entertaining my friends and family at the outside dinner table. I'm in agreement with the 2,500 year old couple from the Tomb of the Lionesses - there is no better way to spend a day than outside at a banquet with friends.
And you - what would you chose?
Sunday, July 7, 2013
I dream of driving with the brakes failing on my car all the time.
As CEO, sometimes you just have to put your foot on the gas and go, knowing you may have no brakes and if you take a wrong turn you may not have time to correct and recover. It's part of growing fast. But how do you know when is the time to put your foot on the gas?
First, you have to have enough proof of the value of your product - proof that some people, and enough of them, will use it. In the enterprise world this means one of two cases:
1. You have lots of SMB (small and medium business) customers signing on fast and you can track the adoption rate. You want to be sure these are real companies with the ability to buy over time, and not just startups who want to use a trial or freemium product for free because, unless you're lucky like Yammer and you get purchased early, your value will depend on your growth AND your renewal rate, so you need to be sure your SMB business is repeatable. Or
2. You have major household name companies buying in volume. When you can see companies with $10B+ in revenue (the usual suspects like HP, IBM, GE, J&J) buying your product, and then buying more, you can track their usage, how much they'll pay you and whether they renew.
Both cases tell you that your product has value to end users. So it's time to ramp your revenue.
Next, you need to be sure you have a business model where you can make money, sustainably. For every rocket ship ride like Facebook and Twitter (who still have not actually worked out their business model), the startup landscape is littered with failed companies who never worked out how to make money and, eventually, tapped out their investors and could not find more. Cool product but no ability to scale the business.
Your path to revenue obviously depends on the type of product. In the enterprise case you need to be clear, again, whether you are going after SMB or large enterprise. The sales channels are completely different and it's very tough to do both (or very expensive as the Marketo P&L shows - so to do both you need very strong access to capital).
You need to track your cost per sale - can you sell your product for enough money, to enough people, that you can pay sales people and make enough margin? And then, can you support the customer and still make a profit on each sale eventually? This can be hard in the early days of a SaaS model where you are paid annually (and many business do not make a profit until year two) and can be easier in a licensed revenue model (where you charge about 5 year's worth up front and then maintenance) so it's important to model cash carefully, and know which model is right for your market.
Now you've convinced yourself that your product has real value to lots of users, and that you can make money selling it, now what?
Finally, you need to have the team to do the ramp. Scaling fast means knowing how to hire and train quickly. It means having a strong culture so you can keep shared goals in mind as you make rapid decisions. And that means leadership. So before you pull the trigger and say go, make sure you have enough of the right leaders in the room with you for critical mass. You can't lead alone.
Most VCs will tell you to scale too early. They have a standard model and often don't have the on-the-ground experience to advise you on when is the time to be cautious vs. when is the time to take risk. I've heard the same hackneyed phrases from so many different VC mouths based on what worked for the 1% of companies that have been wildly successful - and many VCs would rather you succeed or fail fast rather than be patient with you because that is a more efficient use of their time. As Fred Wilson describes on his blog - the failed companies take the majority of the VC's time so IF you are going to fail they want you to fail fast and hit the wall, not turn into a zombie company.
Instead seek out other successful CEOs for advice - they have a much better nose for the timing. They'll ask you questions, challenge your assumptions and help you figure out whether your business is ready for scale.
Once you think you're ready your job is to lead. To bring your team with you, help your cynics get on board, encourage your more cautious employees and make sure every one is aiming for the same target. This means focus and repetition, but if you have the product, the business model and the team then you're ready.
Some people dream of being naked in public. I've never had that dream. But in my dreams I'm driving round a corner and the brakes fail; I'm pulling up to a traffic junction and the brakes fail as I careen through the oncoming cars; I'm going down hill and the brakes fail. Each time I pound my foot on the floorboard but the car doesn't slow down. I wake up in a sweat, my heart pounding, and smile. Yup, it's that time again.
Friday, June 21, 2013
We turned our back garden into party-central last night and threw a book party for NY Times writer Pamela Ryckman, author of the Stiletto Network. Now, I've never been to a book party before in my life, so I was improvising, but I figured how hard can a book party be? Throw a party (which I confess I excel at), put out some books, and introduce the author. Voila! ~75 women ~10 men, drinking, talking, eating, embracing and connecting.
It was perfect. I know, women should be demure and not self promotional but what the heck, not me. It was perfect.
We set the books up on the breakfast table - all ready to be bought!
The table overflowed with smelly cheeses. Gayle and her team from
I introduce Pamela
Pamela talks about what she learned about the powerful women's networks that are all over the country, including Alaska. I can see Barbara Holzapfel, board member at the Anita Borg Institute (and an exec at SAP in her day job), plus execs from Medallia, Salesforce and FirstRain all smiling as they listen.
We pose for the Tweeters and Bloggers in the group
My garden loves the crowd, and the crowd loves my garden.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I confess I have never seen the Sopranos. Hard to believe I know. But when I heard today that James Gandolfini had died I didn't immediately think of Tony Soprano. I thought instead of an amazing night with his character Michael in the play God of Carnage in New York.
God of Carnage ran on Broadway from March 2009 to June 2010. Starring James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden it told the story of two sets of parents meeting after their two sons have had a fight in middle school. Starting with a civil, tempered discussion of how to help these two boys sort our their differences it deteriorates into a scene of ego, fights, drinking, vomiting and naked anger and aggression between the four characters.
It's a tough play. My friends and I walked from the theatre to the restaurant and straight to the bar, seeking comfort in a stiff drink. We felt raw. The play had successfully lured us into thinking we were seeing a comedy and then turned on us, as viciously as the characters, and punched us in the gut. You could not leave that play without realizing how thin the veneer is between manners and carnage.
James Gandolfini was superb. Completely believable. Subtle and brutal at the same time. Riveting to watch. He was simply a terrific actor and I am sorry we have all lost him so young.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Published on the Huffington Post earlier today
A year ago I wrote
about the economy's gradual turn out of a recession, and the pressure
that the recovery put on sales teams to understand not just their
customers -- but their customers' customers. Fortunately, the economic
recovery has continued and many sales teams within our economy's biggest
companies still find themselves in a position of being understaffed,
under competitive pressure and struggling to make the kind of
methodology transformation in their customer interactions necessary to
achieve their urgent sales productivity goals.
The reason for this is because the kind of customer focus that comes from understanding your customer's customer is only part of the equation. Companies also have to ensure that their sales teams are equipped with the skills to put this knowledge into action and this need is being answered by a new boom-time in sales methodology consulting from creatively named systems such as the Corporate Executive Board's 'The Challenger Sale', The TAS Group's 'Target Account Selling', Miller Heiman's "Strategic Selling", etc.
What these and similar frameworks have in common is the expectation that salespeople will perform to a higher standard of insight and analysis. Specifically, these modern approaches all require that salespeople will educate themselves and get to know their customers extremely well.
Pre-recession, the assumption was that salespeople could do well enough by building relationships, recognizing opportunities as they presented themselves and pushing hard to close deals through enthusiasm and perseverance.
But what all these sales methodologies teach us is that a salesperson's responsibility extends to understanding her customers' business well enough to be able to challenge that customer's assumptions about his own (internal) operations and (external) markets. As a CEB study found, in today's hypercompetitive market it turns out that the salesperson that usually wins is not the one with the best customer relationship, but the one who can teach the customer something that he didn't already know about his market, opportunities or risks. The winning sales rep needs to know enough about the customer's customer to i) suggest a prescription for action, ii) describe the risks of inaction, and iii) so reflect the urgency of acting sooner rather than later.
While today's salesperson doesn't actually need to drive the customer's ship, she needs to be ready to provide some pretty enlightened navigation. This requires an in-depth knowledge of not one, not two, but three steps of the value chain: her own portfolio of products and services, her customer's solution, and her customer's customers' businesses and growth opportunities.
The insight gap is challenging many sales teams today but strong enterprise sales leaders are investing in the knowledge and systems for their sales teams to bridge the gap.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Having crossed the country every week for many weeks now I'm reminded of the KPIs of the road warrior...
You can sleep anywhere and everywhere. On a plane, sitting on the floor by the airline gate, sitting upright in a hotel lobby.
You know which seats don't recline on each flight - without having to check the UA web site.
You know the wine menu at the United Club by heart. And then the bartender at the Chicago United Club greets you by name (yikes).
You've see OZ the Great and Powerful, without sound on a small screen above your head, 6 times in 2 weeks.
You can pack for a week in the smallest size of case Tumi makes.
You can run a conference call, on GoToMeeting, from a restaurant, with your cellphone and iPad and order food, eat and make a material financial decision - all in 30 minutes.
You can make even the reddest eyes look good with Visine.
Real food is a rarity - and a treat when you get it. Oatmeal is the breakfast staple because you know you can eat it fast.
Diet Coke. Say again. Diet Coke.
Your own bed is the sweetest, softest place you've ever been in when you finally fall into it!
But what are YOUR KPIs? Add a comment on how you know you're a Road Warrior!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Like most Silicon Valley technology companies, we hire interns at FirstRain. Sometimes they are active graduate students looking for work experience and interesting problems to solve while finishing their doctorate, sometimes they are in the final few months of a bachelors and want to try on a job to see if they enjoy it, and sometimes they are full time students working for the Summer. In all cases having them in our company is a huge win for us. So far every one has been an energy source, working hard and doing good work while allowing us to foster potential future employees (we like to hire our interns if they're good).
But it's important that being an intern is good for the intern, not just for FirstRain. I've got young friends who interned for free (at other companies, not FirstRain!) - long hours where they felt taken advantage of and that doesn't seem fair. So here's my (somewhat tongue in cheek) list of the top Dos and Don'ts for employing interns...
Do - hire the very smart ones and load them up with work. It's a win-win. You get a lot of great work done at reasonable cost, they get to experience that incredible satisfaction of conquering a mountain of work. Yes conquering the mountain is fun in the end, trust me.
Don't - take them out drinking and flirt with them. A challenge for some of you I know, but a friend of mine did that and even though he thought it was harmless she complained and his career with his company went sideways for 2 years.
Do - give them a plan for the time they are interning with you. What you expect them to learn, why, what you hope they'll be able to do with it afterwards. This is motivating and gives the work a purpose.
Don't - sit them all together and just expect them to work it out. One of the things you want them to learn is how to be productive and professional in an office. That means teaming them up with one of your professionals who'll be there to mentor them.
Do - make the work you have them doing interesting and relevant to their ambitions. A brilliant PhD student in big data analytics - give her your hardest problem and watch her impress you; a creative and smart new graduate in marketing and design - show him your visual brand and all the things you don't like about it and support him as he tells you all the ways he'll bury your ideas with his own.
Don't - expect them to read your mind. If you're not getting what you want go and talk to them. Could be they are intimidated by you (always hard for me to imagine but I guess the title VP or CEO can be a barrier) and you need to help them get what they need to complete the task you've set them.
Do - stretch them. Let them try things they've never tried before. For example Facebook is running a summer intern program this year for non computer science students, teaching them how to code. They're expanding their potential labor pool and introducing a bunch of structured thinkers to a whole new career. A great idea.
Don't - treat them differently. They are with you because they want experience. Give them experience. Include them in company all hands, let them shadow you in meetings, treat them like employees so they know what it's like.
Do - feed them. We call it the FirstRain 15. Hey, interns should be able to eat too much great food every day and gain weight too.
Don't - let them hug you at work when they're happy. It sets the wrong impression. Even if one of the interns is your kid. Seriously.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
It's 107 days since my mother died and I think of her continuously. But the pain is easing to a dull ache in my chest and I can look at pictures of her and smile, and I have to believe it will get easier from here. I find myself thinking of the strangest memories, mostly good, some bad where I feel guilty for being self-absorbed, but most of all I keep remembering her courage.
I spoke about her courage in the eulogy I gave in the church for her memorial service. My sister Sue and I stayed humorous and positive in our eulogies so I couldn't speak much about her unfathomable courage in the face of cancer as it ravaged her. Every time I want to complain about an ache, or a pain, or an inconvenience now I try to stop myself and think of her last few months which she braved never saying one word of complaint. Talk about a role model.
For my friends who see this who knew her - here's my eulogy to her. The bravest person I have ever known, throughout her whole life.
"Mummy was the quintessential lady. Polite, charming, perfect manners, able to make engaging conversation with anyone and put them at ease. A well-trained diplomat’s daughter and the English gentlewoman many of you described in your lovely letters – we want to thank you for those.
But she was not only a lady. Underneath she was a pioneer, she had a great sense of humor, she grasped life with both hands and she was extraordinarily brave.
When Mummy went up to Oxford she was only the second woman to ever read engineering at the University. She was good at maths and when she graduated she took a job as an engineer with Marconi where of course she met Daddy. We have a picture of her, terribly young and pretty, in a smart 1950s summer dress, in the days before safety glasses – running a lathe.
She went off to America with my father where they both had engineering jobs, but when my sister was born she stopped work and, with my father working hard and traveling a lot, she raised us both thousands of miles from family and with no help -- a true daughter of the Raj. But when my parents went back to England she went back to work part time and then, when we were old enough to leave alone in our holidays she went back to work full force in London – as a technical consultant with Logica, traveling for her job and leading teams. She could have stayed home and taken care of Daddy – sometimes I think he wished she did – but she had a brain and wanted to use it. She was a quiet pioneer, never one to blow her own horn, but a pioneer nonetheless and her determination to work, and raise us to be career girls, made a deep impression on us both.
Mummy had a lovely sense of humor – the twinkling, mischievous kind and a beautiful smile to go with it. When my parents came back from California in 1965 Daddy had a good job with a company car, but the purchase of a second car for Mummy had to be economical. They bought a Morris Minor which my mother lovingly called Galloping Gurty. Why you may ask? Well this was an exciting car to drive in as a kid. You could see the road through a hole in the floor, the gear box was broken so the gear stick was held in place by a rubber band and the car would lurch marvelously. She made it fun for us – and it was even more romantic when a fly took up residence in the car and she named him Romeo because he must be in love with her. As a 6 year there was nothing odd at all about a fly being in love with my mother because everyone else was in love with her too.
She used her sense of humor to make a deep impression on her two American grandchildren … and their table manners. Exasperated with her 8 year old grandson’s manners one day she asked him what he would do if the Queen came to dinner (because being Mummy she had of course had dinner with the Queen). Sebastian replied that he would have perfect table manners but he wanted something in return and a deal was struck. The Queen (Granny) came to dinner one evening and the children pulled off immaculate table manners. And so, a week later, Granny fulfilled her side of the bargain and came to a Medieval dinner, sharing haunches of roast meats and bread with nothing but a sharp knife and her hands. She made her point but with a smile.
And, without question my mother was the bravest person I have ever known. Sue has already described for you our parent’s love of travel. But until recently they had missed a spot. When Mummy first got cancer she told me she wanted to see Pompeii before she died. So a year ago the three of us, Daddy, Mummy and me went to Italy for an idyllic week where I was reminded of her incredible, quiet bravery. We had not realized the physical challenge that 18 inch high Roman basalt pavements would present. It turns out you can’t see Pompeii and Herculaneum without navigating an obstacle course. But she was quite determined and with my father on one side, and our handsome Italian guide on the other, murmuring “piano, piano”, she spent the whole day going up and down steps -- loving it and never complaining, even though I could see ever single step was hard and tiring and scary for her.
Many of you talked in your letters about her bravery facing cancer. The treatments, and the progression of her disease in the last 4 months, caused her significant pain and illness. And yet she never, ever complained. Stoic does not even begin to describe how she dealt with being ill.
Pioneering, humorous and brave.
But most of all she really lived. She lived life to the full and never more so than in her lifelong love affair with our father Frank. Mummy fell in love with a man from a different background, with no money, who was handsome and kind and who her parents definitely did not approve of. He helped her see that she could live a different life, away from her mother and stifling expectations -- and she married him in 1957 and never looked back.
They went to America and had a terrific time as young parents in California, living a dream life for 8 years. They made happy homes with absolutely lovely gardens. They raised two girls, they accepted and became good friends with two foreign son-in-laws, and then helped us raise four outspoken, strong willed, smart grandchildren together who they adored. They worked to make ends meet at the beginning, and enjoyed their retirement together right to the end. We used to joke that even though we were all working we had to move our schedules around to see them once they retired because they were so busy!
Throughout their marriage we were never in any doubt of Mummy’s love for and loyalty to Daddy, even when he was driving us kids crazy. She loved him completely for 55 years, he adored her, and they were very good friends.
Were Mummy here she would tell us all she had a marvelous life, with very few regrets, and that we need to have a stiff upper lip and remember that. She had a tone of voice for the three of us, Daddy, Sue and me, which she didn’t use very often that we knew meant business and so Mummy, we’re going to do as you would tell us to now and celebrate your marvelous life."