leadership

Interview with CEO at eRelevance, Bob Fabbio

How do you feel about risk? If you are like most people, you are risk adverse. It’s not your fault, according to Nigel Nicholson (professor of organizational behavior at London Business School), “On average, people avoid risk except when threatened.” Nicholson continues, “The world of hunter-gatherers was complex and constantly presented new predicaments for humans. Which berries can be eaten without risk of death?”

Unfortunately, if you have dreams of becoming an innovator, then you will need to figure out how to get over your genetic predisposition of risk aversion. Bob Fabbio explains, “I don’t think you can be an innovator without taking risk.” 

Leaders don’t just take risks; they take calculated risks. They set the grand vision and move forward deliberately to make the vision a reality. Let’s read about how Fabbio’s leadership took him from selling tires to selling Tivoli Systems to IBM.

So, Bob, what’s your story?

I was raised by working-class Italian American parents in a small town in upstate New York. My parents, who have been married for 61 years, were both college-educated—rare at that time, especially for people of Italian American descent.

Through their example, I learned important values that have stayed with me: work hard, be honest, do the right thing, always find a way to succeed, and more. As a CEO and entrepreneur, these values still guide me, and I try to instill them into the cultures of the companies I lead.

Even as a kid, I was curious and resourceful. 

I always found a way to get what I wanted. At four years old, I sold used car and truck tires door to door for two cents each. I cut lawns and shoveled driveways at 10 to earn money for hockey skates, and I worked two jobs as a teenager to buy clothes, sports equipment, and a car.

I’ve spent my career conceiving big ideas, rejecting the status quo and developing better business solutions with category-creating companies like Tivoli Systems (acquired by IBM), DAZEL Corporation (acquired by Hewlett-Packard) and WhiteGlove Health. 

My hard-working parents and grandparents were role models, and combined with my natural drive, my childhood prepared and inspired me to become the entrepreneur I am today.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Good leaders surround themselves with smart people who they know will make the right decisions 80 percent of the time. The 20 percent of the time they don’t, it’s not likely going to be so off that it will kill the company. There is nothing worse than not making decisions, except for making them and not acting on them. A leader’s job is to quickly course-correct when necessary.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

I learned long ago that identifying the best people for a team is not a matter of checking skills off a list. A culture and values fit is what matters most. But that doesn’t mean just hiring people you know. Instead, find and hire the absolute best out there. This requires asking the hard behavioral questions during and after the interview. Check references. Make sure they will fit and thrive in your culture.

In the competitive market of product creation how do you manage your No’s?”

Don’t spend energy looking over your shoulder. Play offense. Be mindful of your competition, but do not let it dictate how you run your business. Focus on your business and what you need to do to succeed. Let others worry and react to you.

So you have two options — 1. Take the risk or 2. Don’t take the risk. 

By opting for the latter, I can guarantee that you will never be the innovator you have envisioned. Seneca wrote, “You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.”

It’s been my experience that those who are risk adverse spend an enormous amount of time waiting for the perfect moment to act on a decision. Unfortunately, by waiting you let critical moments slip by; if you allow too many of those moments disappear what you're left with is a pile of unrealized goals.


Original Post: Huffington Post

Interview with CEO of Capsule Pharmacy, Eric Kinariwala

You have a massive headache perhaps a migraine. You contact your doctor, and he prescribes medication. You stumble to your local pharmacy to pick up the prescription, but it’s out of stock. Unfortunately, the pharmacy is providing little to no support. Making matters worse you call the doctor, to see if there is an alternative, but you can’t get a cell phone signal so out of frustration you head back home.

Unfortunately, that is not just an opening paragraph it’s what happened to Eric Kinariwala. But instead of shrugging the experience off as status quo; Eric got angry, not road rage angry, but what Todd Henry explains as a compassionate anger. Henry describes, “What do you experience that fills you with compassionate anger and compels you to take action? What do you see and think someone should do something about that?

Kinariwala’s compassionate anger gave birth to Capsule Pharmacy; whose mission is to be a better, smarter, kinder pharmacy. Let’s read as Eric explains how his effective leadership is evolutionizing the pharmacy business.

So, Eric what’s your story?

I grew up in suburban Detroit and spent the early part of my career investing in retail, healthcare, and technology companies. I had the good fortune early on to learn and be mentored in the investment business from some of the very best people in the industry.

One morning in early 2015, I woke up with a throbbing headache and that led me to the pharmacy and an awful experience, where everything that could go wrong, went wrong. That experience was the spark that connected so many things and led me to start Capsule. It brought together thematically the big structural shifts in the retail and healthcare industries that I'd explored as an investor and it led me to reconnect with an old friend who became Capsule's Chief Pharmacist, Sonia Patel.

A close friend loves Sir Francis Drake's motto: Sic Parvis Magna, which translates to "Thus Great Things From Small Things Come." I think most people's lives–personally and professionally–follow that arc and I try to remember it daily.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Leaders should lead because they have somewhere worth taking people–whether that's physical (like a place) or figurative (careers, skills). Everything starts with trust and the first responsibility of a leader is to build high trust, emotionally connected relationships with her team.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

I'm naturally averse to hierarchical structures, but have come to appreciate that clear structure is a necessary, but imperfect solution to organizing a large group of people to move forward toward a common goal while rapidly growing. It's always more important to me that we get to the right answer as quickly as possible than figuring out who was responsible for arriving at that answer. 

We all cross the finish line together or not at all–there's nothing in between.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you site one example you are currently fostering?

We have a highly diverse team–both at on the individual level and in our role structures. We have software engineers sitting next to our pharmacists and our partnerships team regularly interacts with our operations team. We focus on fostering empathy for each other's work and workstyle–so that together we are enabling our collective best work. We regularly have people from different teams do the day-to-day work as if they were on another team. It builds real empathy across the team and enables us to continuously approach our work with a fresh perspective.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

The ability for people to scale and do more is a function of two things:

  1. The self-awareness to seek feedback to understand what's required from a skills and experience perspective to scale to the next stage and the gap that exists in current skills and experience between today and that next stage.
  2. The tenacity, desire, and resourcefulness to acquire the experiences and skills to close that gap.

We hire people who are honest with themselves about both where they are today in their careers, where they want to go, and how driven they are to move between the two places. 

All three ingredients are important for an individual to scale: a clear, honest view on current capabilities, a clear understanding of what success looks like at the next step, and a strong desire to close the space between those two things.

In the competitive market of product creation how do you manage your No’s?”

We try and stay focused on the ONE THING that is most important right now. It requires ruthless prioritization and a strong belief that we will eventually get to all of the things we want to do, but that sequentially executing on them one at a time is the best way to succeed. We have spent a lot of time crafting our strategy so that it will unfold on itself as the business progresses—where the sequencing is natural and logical and where accomplishing today’s focused objective very well, will make tomorrow's easier and more impactful.

Shortly, after the launch of Capsule Pharmacy a woman texted the team about 9:00 PM asking, “Is it safe for me to take this medication while I am pregnant? You’re the first person that I am telling I am pregnant. I have not even told my husband that I am pregnant yet.”

At Disrupt NY 2017, Eric explains, “That was a special moment.” He continues, “It was an amazing moment for the team because we really built the right thing.” As a leader, especially in a young company, it can be challenging to build the right thing. Why, because it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on multiple things.

It takes a competent leader to recognize when the company is diminishing its limited resources by focusing on too many objectives. Kinariwala mentioned in the last question (above), “We try and stay focused on the ONE THING that is most important right now.”

While there is no one strategy in building a successful company, but if there is a cornerstone, it would be to focus on one thing at a time. That is a level of maturity that comes when you have good leadership in place.


Originally Posted: The Huffington Post

Interview with Charles Teague, CEO of Lose It!

According to NBC News, there is an obesity epidemic in America. NBC reports, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that almost 40 percent of American adults and nearly 20 percent of adolescents are obese — the highest rates ever recorded for the U.S.”

If it was your purpose to help solve the problem of obesity, how would you begin to address the issue? To give some background according to Fortune, “The U.S. weight loss market totaled $64 billion in 2014.” This is an industry where a great deal of money can be made, but on the downside competition is fierce.

Charles Teague’s purpose was not to help solve the problem of obesity. Teague’s story is as ordinary as yours. According to VentureFizz, Teague graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Political Science, and he told the outlet, “I got out and said to myself, What do I do now? What am I going to do for a living?’”

On his quest to help answers those crucial questions Teague found himself working at companies such as Macromedia, Onfolio, General Catalyst, Microsoft and finally joining Lose It! as its CEO in 2008. Where his passion for mobile and intersected with a new found desire — solving the obesity problem. Under Teague’s leadership Lose It! has been able to help 30 million people improve their weight loss. Let’s read on and see how Teague’s leadership strategies have helped Lose It! provide practical solutions for obesity.

So, Charles what’s your story?

I started programming computers when I was 10 years old. First, using a Timex Sinclair 1000 that I bought with my paper route money, later a Commodore 64 and Apple 2. Despite my early exposure to computers and programming, it never occurred to me that this is something that I could or would pursue as a career.

In fact, 12 years later, I graduated from a small Midwestern Liberal Arts college with a degree in political science. My plan was to take a year off from school, then head east to pursue a Ph.D in Political Science or Philosophy. During that year off, I ended up connecting with a fellow alum who had started a company that made software for building a programmable internet.

That was the beginning of my work in technology. I started by answering telephones and providing technical support to customers, and worked my way up to lead development of core products. Some years later, I co-founded Lose It! with that same colleague and have been working to make the company a success ever since.

For my whole career, I’ve been absolutely driven by a desire to bring something new into the world, and to maximize the impact that it has. This is my best way to make the world a better place. I’ve been willing to do nearly any kind of work, work nearly any hours, and work on just about any product, so long as I felt like the impact of my effort would be meaningful and felt by people.

I came to Lose It! in part because I saw an incredible new technology platform in mobile technology pioneered by the iPhone. But the real motivator for my work on Lose It! is the impact that it has on our members. We all know the statistics about obesity and its effects on the world, whether it is premature deaths, sickness, or economic impact in the form of loss of productivity. The idea of making a dent in that is incredibly motivating.

The emails, social media posts, and testimonials we receive from customers help me see the actual people behind these numbers. Reading the stories of our users personalizes that impact even further: like the person diagnosed as pre-diabetic whose health is now improving, the person who now feels more in control of their diet, or the person who has changed the way they eat and exercise for good, passing those positive habits down to the family. It’s that impact, both large in scale yet highly personal, that gets me out of bed every day and has me fired up to get to work!

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

To me, leaders are entrusted to be shepherds of a collective goal. That collective goal might have existed before a leader joins a company, or they might find themselves heavily involved in defining what it is. In the case of a startup, the founders are typically instrumental in laying out this goal and often use it as a rallying cry to attract and retain talented colleagues.

But once a leader steps into a team, it’s their responsibility to keep the team on track to that goal. That means providing the motivation, material support, structure, and guidance for the group. Everything ranging from building the product to directing the effort of others to kicking some people out if they aren’t contributing towards the goal is instrumental in keeping the team on track to achieve the goal at hand.

I’ve found that even when things get tough, people respect and trust a leader who is genuinely driving toward that collective goal, particularly when it is clearly communicated. When you have a greater purpose and can explain all of your decisions to your team by that purpose, it glues the team together.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

At Lose It!, we're very intentionally focused on small teams.

We believe that individuals, using creativity and autonomy can have a huge impact and we're determined to enable this. We favor informal, organic, and flexible practices over rigorous and inflexible processes. We favor individual autonomy and motivation over commands from a hierarchy of leadership. We favor cross-functional skills over narrow or siloed skillsets.

Rather than seeing Lose It! as some sort of machine full of gears that all must mesh perfectly in order to function, I see Lose It! as a living, breathing organism. Lose It! is a beautiful variety of complicated bits and pieces all working together in a really fluid way. This organic approach doesn't always move in a straight line. It sometimes takes a winding path to its destination, but builds incredible resilience along the way.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you cite one example you are currently fostering?

The best example of how we incorporate nontraditional methods into our processes at Lose It! is our desk assignment. Every quarter the entire company moves desks chosen completely at random. This means everyone (including the CEO) has an equal shot at the awesome desk by the window, or the not-so-awesome spot near the back closet. This frequent, random reorganization of our office has helped us maintain our core values even as we’ve grown.

One of those values is the idea of ‘player coaches’; that while we are each playing different roles in the company, we are all needed to succeed. If we’re all players and coaches, we all have a spot in the locker room. We all roll up our sleeves and do what needs to be done.

This type of seating arrangement also improves organic, informal communication in the company. Because we are purposely small and organic, we rely on very strong individual communication among employees. This random distribution of desks encourages strong communication because employees are constantly getting the chance to work next to someone new. By sharing space with others, you get to know them better, you get to hear and see what they work on, and you develop relationships that foster trust.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

This is one of the key attributes we look for in potential employee candidates. Since we have such a non-hierarchical organization structure, we’re much more interested in getting the best people rather than people to do specific jobs. We tend to hire the ‘best player available’ instead of the ‘best at that position’.

To do this, our interview process is focused on elements of both talent and collaboration. We typically ask prospective employees to solve a problem independently. The actual problem differs for each part of the company, but each one gives us a sense of the candidate’s critical thinking and problem solving skills.

We also have group interviews where we work collectively through a problem to understand what it will be like to work with this person. We round out the consideration process by asking references about the candidate's skill set and growth in their last organization.

In the competitive market of product development how do you manage your “No’s?”

At the beginning of each year, we set 3-4 high level goals that we want to achieve as a company. As a team, we make a prioritized list of all of the work that we think will best actualize these goals. As other potential projects come up throughout the year, we use this shared framework to analyze the work that we decide to do; we say ‘no’ to anything that won’t advance one of those key goals. Keeping a commitment to these goals throughout the year helps keep the team aligned and motivated on a daily basis. We also actively try not to keep a list of ideas or projects to work on; we’ve found that good ideas will keep coming up over time.

According to Dr. John Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership," he continues, "but knowing how to lead is only half the battle.” What is the other half of the equation your wondering — execution.

You can read Charles Teague’s entire interview, take copious notes, red team the strategies but unless you are committed to making those ideas happen your team will never be effective. In all honesty, there are only two states that a leader can occupy — effective and ineffective. As a leader, your decision is which state you will occupy? That decision will have a massive impact on your success as a leader.

Today Lose It! boasts over 24 million members and Teague’s mission is to not only disrupt the weight loss market but to add features that the community will allow for massive value, some of those features include — track your food and exercise, track weight loss progress, meal planning, custom challenges and detailed insights. It’s clear that Teague’s singular purpose is to help solve the obesity epidemic, but it’s his leadership that has allowed Lose It! to be effective in helping its members lose over 60 million pounds.


Orginally Posted: The Huffington Post


Phoebe Hayman, the founder of Seedling, Talks About Leadership as a Support Role

When you think of leadership, is your instinct: critical support role or “passive leadership?” If you are uncertain, one leadership philosophy is transformational while the other is ineffective; which is your swim lane?

Unfortunately, chances are you fall into the passive leadership swim lane. I don’t say this to insult you, but many in the supervisor role are ill-prepared to be transformational leaders, football coach Vince Lombardi makes the point:

Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.

Oddly, when you are in a leadership role your primary job is to marshal your team to do the work; to meet those quarterly goals, to achieve those milestones, and to check off the tasks on your project plan. Unfortunately, the To Do List philosophy has little to do with being a transformational leader.

In the Handbook of Work Stress edited by Julian Barling, E. Kevin Kelloway, Michael R. Frone, the team explains:

Transformational leaders exhibit four characteristics in their interactions with employees; idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration.

While interviewing Phoebe Hayman, the founder of Seedling, I quickly recognized the transformational leader characteristics. And then Hyman educated me on what leadership means to her:

Personally I see leadership as a support role — a listener, a facilitator, a translator, a navigator.

I never looked at leadership as a support role but when you think about it; yes in part an effective leader must play a support role to her team.

So, Phoebe what’s your story?

I have a deep passion for problem solving and I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. As a child, I started to recognize I had these traits when I played with other kids or just imagined games on my own. We often think about play as entertainment but I’ve come to view play as how children process and practice skills and interactions without fear of failure or judgment. Play peaks our curiosity in the areas that interest us the most and allows us to discover our own strengths.

Play is where you discover ‘I’m good at making people laugh, ‘I’m a good team leader’, ‘I’m good at making experiments’ or ‘I’m good on the jungle bars’ or ‘I’m creative’ (or ‘I’m not creative’ as many adults tend to believe due to a childhood art project that didn’t look as good as others. However put a person on a stranded island by themselves and they get creative real fast – I haven’t met anyone yet that would just sit on the beach and starve.)

It’s a lifelong process for me. As a parent, I feel most connected to my kids when we play together. I love that kids bring pure play back into your life as an adult, one of the most unexpected joys of being a parent. This passion has led me here, where I’m fortunate enough to be able work with insanely talented people exploring our relationship with play everyday.

Key Takeaway. Experimenting with ideas is a powerful tool in understanding your strengths as well as the opportunity to build relationships with talented people.

Why should leaders lead, and when they do lead, what is their first responsibility?

Personally, I see leadership as a support role - a listener, a facilitator, a translator, a navigator. I know its common to think of the leader as the visionary, but if you’re a good listener, facilitator, translator and navigator then the leader shares ownership over the vision with the entire team.

Your time to lead is in developing a framework for the team to work within. In order to be successful in executing this shared vision, it’s the leader’s responsibility is to help people understand the role they play and how they can successfully measure their performance. Then you need to take a step back and get out of their way.

The most powerful learnings for me in my journey as a CEO have been about what my job is not – It is not my job to be a judge. My job is to give people the tools and visibility to assess themselves. People are fully capable of self-assessment and although I often give feedback, this is just an input which may or may not be relevant in the problem they are solving.

My job is not to problem solve. I have a natural love of problem solving so my natural instinct is to jump in and try to solve the problem. My true job is to make sure success is clearly defined and then hard as it is—step aside. One person has very limited experiences to draw from and we can only achieve success if everyone is problem solving together.

Key Takeaway. The job of a leader is to define success, then step back and then listen, facilitate, translate, a navigator.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

Hands down it’s how teams are formed.

The definition of hierarchy is often ambivalent and I find it fails to recognize strategists, decision makers, executors and owners. This then causes confusion, assumptions and politics. An effective team in our organization understands why they are working together (what is the collective goal of this group?), understands the role they each play, understands their collective skills and needs and most importantly – agree on how they will work together.

This is unique to each group and is best discussed up front, before any actions are taken. Too often people just start working without ever discussing how the goals are going to be achieved.

Key Takeaway. Focus on your team's formation, more specifically discuss how will goals be achieved.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you site one example you are currently fostering?

Always. If we want to be innovative in our products, we need to be innovative in our approach to how we work together.

As an end-to-end company, we often have projects pass off from one department to another - not dissimilar to an additive manufacturing model. We were struggling with departments having different priorities or communication styles and often projects could be stalled at a department level waiting for people or decisions. To try to solve these issues, we implemented a ‘working group’ model where a team of 4 is given one particular goal to achieve. The team was made up of people from multiple departments to create direct ‘flows’ through the company with no gates or battles over priorities (reflecting a direct manufacturing model as opposed to additive).

If you needed a designer, there was one in your group, if you needed a sales person, there was one in your group, if you needed a product person, there was one in your group – the only priority for all members was achieving this goal collectively. They were given the goal and a time limit (in our case 1 quarter), the rest was up to them. They would meet for their first 2 days where they would workshop the plan to achieve the goal. They decided who their stakeholders were, what roles people would play and what the milestones to achievement were.

The only requirement was that after 2 days, they had to present the plan to the stakeholders they chose and the stakeholders had to give the green light. If there were parts of the plan that were unresolved, the team was given a orange light and went back to resolve these areas. Once green light was given the stakeholders role was simply to hold the team accountable to their own plan – nothing else. They required no further approvals to implement their actions.

At the end they ran a postmortem that not only assessed their results but also assessed how they worked together as a team and how they represented the company values in their team interactions. This was such a valuable test of new ways to work together, the learning’s were instant and we saw a tremendous impact across the organization, even with those that were not in a working group themselves. I’m a big fan of small groups engaging in shared goals that encourage quality communication, give space for constructive feedback and celebrate skill diversity reinforcing that we’re stronger together than we could ever be individually.

Key Takeaway. To try to solve these issues, we implemented a ‘working group’ model where a team of 4 is given one particular goal to achieve.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

I really relate to the way Kim Scott talks about ‘Rockstars vs Superstars’ in her book Radical Candor where she encourages us to rethink ambition and talent. She gets the importance of understanding what the company needs from each role.

The ‘Rockstar’ has consistently excellent performance, is a force of stability but isn’t looking for ‘more’ in terms of growth. Whereas the ‘Superstar’ is constantly looking for growth with a steep trajectory and they need to be challenged constantly to maintain excellent performance.

Both are equally important but it’s critical you map people to roles correctly. Its always tough in an interview, or a new relationship, to get a true sense of the person’s real appetite for ambition. To get past the assumption that ‘everyone should want to be superstars’ (and people telling you what they think you want to hear), you need to get to know the person at a deeper level. Understand their goals but more importantly their true appetite for growth.

As the old adage goes, ‘its not about the talent, its about how you apply it’ and this different for all people at different stages of their lives. You should only put high growth people into roles that have the ability to scale or transition quickly and putting a super talented person, who’s just not in a high growth phase of their lives, into a role that demands high growth creates an astronomical amount of pain both for the person and the organization.

I see my role as understanding that appetite, matching people with the right role and then adjusting as dynamics change. Peak performance (regardless of low growth or high growth) requires a framework with flexibility and a continuous dialogue.

Key Takeaway. I see my role as understanding that appetite, matching people with the right role and then adjusting as dynamics change.

Becoming a transformational leader is difficult work. I recommend taking one of the Key Takeaways and incorporate the strategy into your day to day. Focus on that strategy for the next 30 days and analyze the results, daily.

In my experience, focusing on one leadership strategy and analyzing the results, helps you not on internalize the strategy but it allows you to make tiny adjustments so you can become a transformational leader.

Originally Posted on the Huffington Post.

Jeffrey Schumacher, CEO of Digital Ventures, Talks About Why Leaders Should Lead

In Brief

Jeffrey Schumacher, CEO of Digital Ventures (DV), talks about the third iteration of the company as well as why people are the core of the DV business. Schumacher also spends some time discussing why it’s essential to create the right environment to inspire the best talent to come work for Digital Ventures.


So, Jeff what’s your story?

Growing up in Minnesota, I spent a lot of time outdoors. But when I wasn’t off exploring, I was constantly tinkering with things, taking them apart, learning what made them tick, and usually putting them back together in the wrong way. This was not well received by my parents, but you can’t innovate unless you understand the system underneath.

As a father to my own children now, six-year-old twins—a boy and a girl— I’m constantly learning from them, observing how their minds work. They couldn’t be more different in terms of how they look at things and approach life, and I’m fascinated by the idea that you can put two people in the same environment and get completely different outputs. The natural desire to understand how things work, both people and systems, has always been a big driver for me.

These days, my job takes me to some pretty remote places. It’s not unusual for me to be in a different country every day of the week, and my wife and I try to take our kids with us as much as we can. As a result, they’ve traveled far more than I ever did at their age, but the curiosity is the same. I love seeing the world through their eyes, and try to preserve and foster this sense of awe for the world not only in my children, but also in myself and my team at Digital Ventures.

Why should leaders lead, and what is their first responsibility?

A leader needs to have passion and a clear vision for the change they want to effect, both in the world and in the lives of their teams. As a leader, my first responsibility is to the talent. People are the core of my business, and it’s very important to me to create the right environment to inspire the best talent to come work with me. Surrounding myself with a diverse tribe of innovators and visionaries makes me better at my job.

It’s important for me to manage down, not up. I need to be where the innovation is happening, that’s why I don’t have an office and my partners don’t have offices. I want to be in the soup.

It’s also important for me as a leader to create innovation that can be helpful to the broader society, and we’re doing this at DV through our work in technologies like the blockchain, for example.

What is more important to you, the traditional hierarchy (director, manager, the boss, etc.) or how teams are formed to get the work done?

I always go back to options—you want to create as many as you can. For the entrepreneurs out there, the decisions you make in your company should give you more options post the decision than you had prior, or it was probably a bad decision. My wife always says ‘what about marriage,’ but that’s the outlier.

Creating options requires innovation, and traditional hierarchy doesn’t lend itself to this process. Many corporations face the innovator’s dilemma, in which they are constrained by the focus on creating successful products and improving them over time—not on creating something novel and new.

We believe that corporations will own the next horizon of innovation and it’s my job to help them learn how to think and act like startups. For this to happen, they must start thinking about how to use their assets in a different way, uncover new markets, find product/market fit and match it to world-class entrepreneurs to create new hyper-growth companies.

Are you open to the nontraditional ways that teams can get work done? Can you cite one example you are currently fostering?

DV is currently in its third iteration. Back in our first iteration when DV had just begun, we were incubating three different ventures in rectangular conference rooms. We noticed our product managers writing on the windows, using a louver to separate the upper and lower part of the glass to segment their thinking. When we moved to our headquarters in Manhattan Beach, we used these insights to create a hexagon-shaped venture room to provide more writing space.

We began to think of these rooms as beehives; interconnected platforms allowing our teams to pollinate new businesses from the ground up. Our tight-knit multidisciplinary teams pilot new methods to innovation while creating a portfolio of ideas for our corporate partners, who are embedded in our ventures. They work together, they live together; each one operating like the founding members of a company, allowing us to get to an integrative vision much faster.

Almost all of the ventures we do today are non-traditional. They are made possible by this space we have created, which is one of the most advanced innovation and investment centers in the world, and core to our business model.

How do you make sure that when you are assessing talent, you are not only identifying the ability to do the job but the talent’s capacity to scale and do more?

We are 500 and growing at DV, and everybody always says ‘why do you have so many people,’ but it’s because all of them are entrepreneurs. We acquire a lot of broken startups—entrepreneurs that tried and didn’t get funding, but we like the team, we like the IP, and we bring them on and find another venture to put them into.

Not all of our talent comes from broken, startups. We also recruit a good deal of seasoned entrepreneurs, operators and investors who have themselves been through several successful exits. These industry veterans have proven their abilities with many years of experience and deep-connection within the startup ecosystem. Over time, we’ve codified our methodologies and our talent that reflects these processes and our values.

What book would you recommend to a close friend?

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” by Dr. Seuss, is one of my children’s favorite books and a classic I always enjoy reading to them. I learn more from reading to my kids than just for myself and I think people should read to their children more often. We can learn valuable lessons from the way they think and learn—insights which often lend to innovation.

Of the more adult variety, I recently read Scale: “The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies,” by the visionary physicist Geoffrey West. I’m fascinated by the way he has applied his revolutionary work to the world of business. It’s a must read.

Originality Published: Huffington Post


Why Failure Is A Good Teacher


Failure is an important part of success. Why, because failure is normal and learning to see the loss as a source of opportunity is crucial.

Graham Stanton, president of Peloton Cycle explains, “If you aim high, failure to some extent is going to be unavoidable, and a total lack of failure only shows a lack of ambition. Failure is always an opportunity to learn from.”

Yes, I understand that you don’t want to fail. That failure, culturally, is seen as a sign of weakness but that popular belief is epically incorrect. I avoided any lack of success at all costs. Worse I would hide my losses and rarely did I take ownership.



My poor judgements cost me precious learning opportunities and I don’t want you to experience that type of loss. What I need is for you to fail with a mindset on growth, here are four steps to help you turn failure into an opportunity:

  1. Do a retrospective. Being able to perform an analysis on the how and why you failed is crucial.
  2. Accept failure as a given. Whenever you begin a project tell yourself “This might not work.” That statement will force you to view loss as a possibility for success.
  3. Take ownership. When you fail don’t blame someone else. If it’s your fault own up to it.
  4. Walk off the frustration. You make poor decisions when you are upset. This is the best time to take a break, walk off the frustration so you can tackle the issue with a clear head.

The next time you set a goal and do not achieve it run through these four steps. You must learn from your setbacks and make the necessary adjustments until you succeed.


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The Leadership Game Plan: How Does Peloton’s, Graham Stanton, Visualize Failure? Unavoidable.


The Leadership Game Plan: How Does Peloton’s, Graham Stanton, Visualizes Failure? Unavoidable.

Leading a company is an epic journey which is seasoned in failure, and the crucible of combat lounges on how a leader manages that failure. You will undoubtedly fail, but when that loss occurs how will you learn from the mistake?” I spent the better part of my entrepreneurial journey running away from failure and my level of success, or lack thereof, was limited.

As a leader, you must become comfortable with failing your way to success. How? Whenever you are starting a new business, product or service always begin the conversation with, “This might not work.” Seth Godin, the author of The Icarus Deception, believes that this little statement is the core of all important projects. Godin believes this statement forces you to push beyond your comfort zone.

Is this how Graham Stanton, co-founder, and president of Peloton Cycle, visualizes failure? I want you to take a few minutes to read through my interview with Stanton and pay particular attention to the 5th question. I am hoping that it resets your thinking, to look at failure as an opportunity and not the end.

As a leader how do you address the "fault lines" within the team?

Most of the time, everyone is earnestly working toward the same goals, and "fault lines" often come from simple misunderstandings or, occasionally, come from differing management or communication styles. At Peloton, we have plenty of both cases, and that was as true when we were four people in a cramped office as it is now that we're a rapidly growing 300-person company. Presumably, it will still be the case when we're 3,000 people.

The key to the Peloton team's success has been for us to have respect for all points of view and to build and maintain a culture that values diversity of opinion. Ultimately, the company values competence and collaboration, and occasional, vigorous debate is healthy and even encouraged.

How do you build a multicultural team to ensure the company is set up for success?

There are two main approaches that we use at Peloton. The first is that we have a dedicated recruiting team searches wide to make hires at all levels, rather than primarily relying on our own personal and professional networks. The second is by valuing competence over conformity. This has helped yield a diversity of backgrounds and also a diversity of thought. When we're trying to bring high energy fitness classes to consumers from all over the world, it's critical that we have a wide variety of perspectives to draw from within our own team.

Short-term thinking pays the bills but how do you better incorporate long-term thinking into your decision-making process?

This one has been a little easier for Peloton. We're about 2.5 years into generating revenue, but we know we're still barely at the beginning in terms of what Peloton can achieve. While there are 200,000 people whose lives are genuinely better for being Peloton riders, we believe that number should be 10 or 100 times higher. Everything we do is to make that happen.

So it's easy to spend a little extra money now if we know it will improve our chances of getting to where we know we can go.

The harder part is foregoing short term revenue in order not to jeopardize the long term. At times in the past, we have been tempted to use "cheesy" marketing tactics that have been proven to work in the fitness industry of days past. But instead of taking the easy path to quick sales, we put in the hard work to understand and pay respect to our customers. And we're glad we did, as it made us the company we are today.

How do you adjusting your thinking in ways that compensate for your blind spots?

The first step is becoming aware of blind spots, and on the Peloton team, we rely on each other to think differently and to point out blind spots in each other's thinking. This is the main reason why diversity of thought is an asset for the company. While we each have our individual blind spots, it's unlikely for anything to be missed by the team as a whole.

The adjustment comes from not getting too attached to any idea or assumption about the state of affairs. And that adjustment is also easier to make when its necessity is abundantly clear to others on the team.

Do you consider failure as normal, positive and a source of opportunity?

If you aim high, failure to some extent is going to be unavoidable, and a total lack of failure only shows a lack of ambition. Failure is always an opportunity to learn from.

However, there are many instances where failure really is not an option. When Peloton launched, we took pre-order deposits from hundreds of people before we built our first bike. For months, we were sitting on people's money, and we needed to finish the design of the bike, get manufacturing processes in place, and get the software to a point where it was functional and didn't crash all the time. If we had failed in any one of these, it's likely there wouldn't be a Peloton today.

How does the availability of re-usable infrastructure, like APIs or payment platforms, help your company?

Reusable software infrastructure has been critical for every stage of our development. We've used Amazon Web Services from the beginning, so we've never needed to manage our own servers. This was critical at the beginning when we didn't have an operations team, and it's critical now so that we can scale seamlessly with our rapid growth.

Other tools have also been invaluable. For instance, Stripe handles all of our payments. We found that, versus more traditional payment solution, Stripe was simple to implement and saved both our engineering and accounting team considerable time, effort, and expense.

Orignal Post on the Huffington Post.



Follow Your Value Not Your Passion

The advice to "follow your passion," or "follow what you are good at" is stupid advice. Why beause someone is assuming you know what you're passionate about or good at.

And most people have no clue; I didn't, and there are moments when I still question what I am passionate about or good at. Instead, I have found that you need to ask yourself a better question -- "What can I do that adds value?"

Let the problems of the world reframe your decision making. Then take an inventory of the skills you have and interrogate which ones you will solve those problems. And yes, you will need to acquire new skills to add value. But that is the easy part; there are endless educational options -- lynda.com, iTunes University, CreativeLive, etc.

When it comes to pursuing self-interests everyone is participating in the same race for the same trophies -- money, fame, power, and status. In part, because they are following their passion or what they are good at. But if you are trying to solve a problem then you are woking on leaving the world a little better than how you found it.

And that is something worth working towards.

The Global Cosmopolitan


When you are looking for new talent to hire, are you searching for an individual that can quickly move between cultures and countries? I ask the question because not only am I curious about your response, but the work is changing. We are now entering what the World Economic Forum is calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

"We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before."

Klaus Schwab
Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

For the sake of argument, I will conclude that your next hire should understand not only how to engage with culturally diverse teams, but they should understand diverse markets.

Yes, I know the problem remains what do you look for when hiring this new team member? Linda Brimm, Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, explains that you should hire the “global cosmopolitan.” This is an individual that is multilingual, highly educated, and who has worked outside of her native culture. So how do you begin the search? You can start locally, within your team and scan who has worked abroad.

In the end, you are responsible for designing the world that works for us and that will only occur when you start looking at the world through a long-term lens.

The Intrapreneur

The values of the entrepreneur are well documented:

  • A problem solver
  • Ambitious
  • Transparent
  • Empathetic
  • Adaptable
  • Accountable
  • Focused
  • Integrable

Companies understand that competition is not only coming from global rivals but the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will transform not only how you work but why you work. So if companies want to attract and keep a talented, you, there needs to be a corporate mind shift. 

I believe there needs to be a shift from short-term thinking to long-term thinking, which involves a serious conversation about investing in human capital. You are beginning to see some of that now with companies investing resources in building teams of intrapreneurs.

These are high-performing team members that share many of the values of an entrepreneur. That employee is vital to any company because they add value during any period of change.

The MVP of Persistence

Persistence is a quality that you hear allot about. If you are in business persistence is a must. Even in your personal life persistence is a good quality to display. But there is an imaginary line, which if crossed persistence becomes a liability.

Persistence was my liability again and again. I blame inexperience because before I shipped a product it needed to be perfect. But perfect never came. It will never come. Bear in mind that a product that is shipped should always be viewed as a work in progress, a minimum viable product (MVP).

Derek Sivers, founder and former president of CD Baby, explains, "Present each new idea or improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying, “Wow! Yes! I need this! I’d be happy to pay you to do this!” then you should probably do it. But if the response is anything less, don’t pursue it."

So build a product that keeps attacking the customer problem and, then, iterates to create a sophisticated solution. By focusing your efforts on building a MVP you collect the maximum amount of actionable data about customers with the least amount of effort.


Hunger And Effort

Tony Robbins, a life performance coach, explains that one of the most important elements to success is hunger. It is the fuel that feeds your dreams into reality; which binds the tribe and gives birth to the movement. So are you hungry?

I had a laundry list and still do, of dreams...

  • In becoming an NYC police officer.
  • In becoming a professional baseball player.
  • In becoming an astronaut.
  • In becoming a Navy Seal.

But none of those dreams came true. Now I was hungry in becoming a police officer or astronaut, but I lacked the next most important element to success -- effort. Marc Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, explains, “You should go where your effort takes you.”

One of the biggest lies in mentoring is when you are told to follow your dreams. I have found that when you follow your dreams without hunger and effort, those dreams rarely become a reality. Why...

  • Because you have a dream that you don’t believe in.
  • Because you don't believe, you have little potential to make that dream come true.
  • Because you have low potential, you take little action on that dream.
  • Because you take little action, you get poor results in making your dream come true.

So you have a failed dream. And another. And another. The continuous cycle of not achieving becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of ”You're not good enough.” So your internal dialogue disempowers you and convinces you that it's safer to be average:

  • It's safer to work 40 hours a week.
  • It's safer to never question authority.
  • It's safer never to stand out.
  • It's safer to never challenge the status quo.

And let me be honest, living safer is a life slathered in regret; because you never kissed that girl, or married that boy, or took that job or disagreed with your boss.

Instead of having a trophy room filled with wants you must raise your standard and create a list of musts. Start with what breaks your heart? Let that conversation marinate. Let it make you hungry. Let it stoke your effort in turning that dream into a reality.

As you are following your effort, don't allow your internal narrative to derail your endeavors. It's important to leverage your fear; you must be more afraid of what your life will look like if you don't take action. Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, explains "Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

When you are at the end of your days, sitting in your rocking chair, you want to look back on your life and know that you have lived a full life and that you will die on empty.

The Tribe

Are you building something that is bigger than you? That will outlast you? That will add value not just to the people that read your blog but to the billions of individuals on the planet, that don't?

The chances are that you will answer with a big fat ”No.”

I always, incorrectly, thought that building an online business was about me. That if I...

  • wrote great content.
  • shared great content.
  • and showed everyone how smart I am.

I would generate a six figure income like many of my online superheroes. Oh, boy was I painfully wrong.

I learned the hard way that if you think only about you. That if you produce mediocre content. That if you build common products. That if you create average services -- no one will come. Why, because you made it about you and the production of average stuff.

The secret, for the sake of argument, is to build something that is not only bigger than you, but that adds massive value to others. When you can solve someone else's problems, they will cross the street to follow you. They will tell their friends and before you know it you have attracted a tribe that is bonded by a shared interest.

As the tribe grows and turns into a movement, your responsibility is not to manage the tribe but to lead it. To build the story of who "we" are and paint the vision of what "we" are trying to accomplish.

And yes... the money will eventually follow.

Difficult Times

I forget how the quote goes, but I will try my best, “You are either in a problem, leaving a problem or heading into one.” It’s a quote that I heard from motivational speaker Les Brown and at the time, I did not give much thought to the meaning, until recently.

Your day is peppered with problems, some are small, others are bigger, and some are even monumental. No matter the size of the problem, they are a permanent resident in your life. I have found that small and even big problems can serve as preparation for the monumental problem that stands to derail your life. Like being told your mother has cancer and less than four years to live.

I was terrible at dealing with problems. I would avoid them in hopes that they would just go away. But that’s the issue with problems; they don’t just go away if anything they become more chronic with age. I have learned, that problems must be managed, it’s a process of a healthy lifestyle.

Accept the pain. Don’t run or ignore the problem. You must face the problem and embrace the issue with courage.
Take small steps. Problems have an insidious way of robbing you of energy and hope. So manage the problem in small doses and be patient with yourself.
Ask for help. Sometimes the problem is too much for you to manage so ask for help. Reach out to those who have a proven track record of supporting you when you need them.

Problems are a structural part of the DNA of your life. You can neither ignore the problem or wish it away; the only remedy is to manage the problem when it’s first presented to you. Otherwise, you will spend your life running from an ever growing hoard of challenges.

Your Most Valuable Asset

You hustle every day. You have clarity of purpose. You can expertly navigate the torturous waters of success. You fail consistently but evaluate each experience. The pressure to get where you want to be is a continuous force, so you soldier on.

But at the end of the day, you're not just tired, you're utterly drained of physical and mental resources. It’s no wonder that your success has been limited, and you border on depression on a moment to moment basis. When you are hustling to build something that is bigger than you, that will outlast you -- you need to be operating at peak efficiency.

That efficiency is only possible when you are taking exceptional care of your mind, body, spirit and finances. You don’t have to take massive action; you can take small steps, but they must be consistent and focused:

  • Give thanks -- Take the time to realize what’s important to you and journal it every day.
  • Move your body -- Our bodies are designed to move, not sitting for eight hours at a desk all day.
  • Get shut-eye -- Sleep is when your body repairs itself, and when short-term memory is moved to long-term.
  • Quench your thirst -- The human body is a machine with lots of moving parts and water is its most valuable fuel.
  • Taste the rainbow -- The more brightly-colored a vegetable is, the better it is for you.
  • In an emergency -- Having an emergency fund to cover those unforeseen emergencies is a comforting safety net.

For you to commit to a change, it must be done in small steps and over a period of time. I tend to schedule healthy actions and stick with them for about 30 days -- which is the time it takes to turn an action into a habit. In order, to put a ding in the universe, you first need to take care of your most valuable asset -- you.

Choosing Happiness

You are suffering because you are obsessing over what you have less of, have lost or will never have? Yes? Then your suffering is based on loss in some variation. If you want to stop suffering, then you must stop expecting and start appreciating.

I suffered on average. I was angry on average. I was resentful on average. I never thought about the reason why -- I just assumed that is how I am. But I came to realize that happiness is a choice. I wondered how do I re-condition myself to appreciate and be happy?

It’s a commitment to progress. Think of it like this:

  • If you measure your progress annually you will have some bad years.
  • If you measure your progress monthly you will have a few bad months.
  • If you measure your progress daily you will have a few bad days.

The more you measure, the quicker you can adapt to changes. So if you measure your progress multiple times a day or even moment to moment, you can adjust more appropriately when you’re state is changing.

I use these questions to measure my state throughout the day:

  1. What is my emotional state?
  2. Am I taking care of myself?
  3. Will this matter in 5 years?
  4. What is the best thing that happened to me today?
  5. What could I have done better?
  6. What is the most important thing I should be doing today?
  7. Who are the most influential people in my life and what am I doing for them?
  8. Who have I helped today?

Happiness is a choice. A higher personal standard which not only serves you but attracts others to connect with you.

Abstinence

Do you find yourself, abstaining from spending time with you? Are you scared of the obligation or the opportunities? Regardless of your rational, you are still responsible for your actions or inactions. I saw every choice in my life as a burden, as something that I have to do.

So instead of moving forward I stood in silence and gave others permission to set my agenda. My silence gave birth to unhappiness which bred despair and finally leveled off into desolation until I violently plowed into the threshold.

The point where the torment is so severe you are forced to make a decision -- pain or pleasure? The quality of your life is the quality of the consistent emotions you experience. And making that significant mental shift is necessary before you take any massive action.

Tony Robbins, the author of Money: Master The Game, explains this shift in the diagram:

The strategy is rather simple, here is how you typically take action:

  1. You believe...
  2. That you have little potential...
  3. So you take little action...
  4. And you get poor results...
  5. Which reinforces your belief that you have little potential...

As the process cycles through, it feeds on itself and even before you’ve started taking massive action you have convinced yourself that, “You're not good enough.”

But what if something could fill you with absolute certainty. A belief so powerful that you knew with certainty, “You are good enough.” What would that process look like:

  1. You are certain...
  2. That you have massive potential...
  3. So you take massive action...
  4. And you get better results...
  5. Which reinforces your belief that you have massive potential...

Now, as this process cycles through, it begins to condition your mind, “You're good enough.”

So what happened? How did you begin to believe, with certainty, that you will get better results? Simple, you thought it in your head, first.

The mind affects your performance so if you believe that you can never do “a” thing, then you are right. But, if you can see the result you are conditioning your mind into believing that you can accomplish it. And an interesting thing begins to evolve... you start spending more time with yourself, and growing the skills you need to achieve your vision.

There Is A Risk

Each time you look to do something that is out of your comfort zone your internal narrative tells you, “There is a risk.” So you stop, and rarely follow through.

I never followed through because the risk was always too high so I sat waiting for permission. Overcoming that internal narrative is not simple. It requires a certain level of purpose and a thorough understanding of your why.

What I have come to learn over the decades of giving into risk is that it sucks. If you give risk too much power, it robs you of your dreams. And when you allow risk to win, all you will have left at the end is regret.

The Distance

When you understand where you are and where you want to be — the gap can seem insurmountable.

To this very day, I am always surveying the massive distance that I still have left to travel, but I refuse to quit.

You can plan, set goals, and even surround yourself with people who are always operating at the edges of the box. But it up to you. Only you can continue the journey until you arrive where you want to be.

Clarity of purpose, is important but moving forward is critical; without heading in a given direction, reaching your destination is impossible, even if it’s a dead end.