Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cocktails in the office anyone?

When you drink at work, or with your coworkers, does it help or hinder you? 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 -- 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

It takes guts to make imperfect decisions

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

Triathlon teambuilding

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.

Chanting "Go FirstRain" together!

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