What does it mean to be a manager? The most simplistic explanation is: making decisions. A manager makes decisions in a company. Being the CEO, I’m expected to be the topmost manager of SEO Hacker. However behind every decision there’s another, more abstract decision to be made – are you gonna be a boss or a leader?
The Three E’s of Leadership
I gave a talk not so long ago about the three E’s of leadership to students of CALABARZON. The talk was held at the UP Los Banos campus – a very far off place from where I live, especially due to the traffic. It’s my latest Powerpoint deck. As it happens, it also got featured on the homepage of Slideshare.net for a good amount of time. Here’s the Powerpoint deck:
If you noticed, towards the end, at slide 116, there’s a picture that depicts what a boss and a leader is like. A boss manages from behind while a leader does most of the work at the forefront.
I’ve been trying by God’s great grace, to be a leader. To do most of the work at the forefront – far beyond what any other single individual in my team is doing. I do all the sales and field work in my team. I go to clients, manage expectations, keep communication lines open and maintain a good relationship with them. I still blog once in a while in SEO Hacker. I’m still hands-on with hiring new people being the final interview process. I do all the internal accounting, financing, business development, and so on and so forth.
It’s a lot to take in considering I’m doing all that and more in my new startup, a WordPress Survey Tool named Qeryz. But it’s the way I believe a leader should go in starting up a company and forming an effective team. If I’m not doing most of the work, what reason do my teammates have to work? What would their inspiration be? Seeing their leader slack off because they are carrying the weight is not a pretty sight – and is, in fact a discouragement.
Being a leader means more than just doing all the work. It means training people. Investing in them. Trusting them – sometimes to the point of heartbreak.
Not a Pretty Sight
Just recently, I had a bike ride at SM Mall of Asia with one of my clients. He is the president of Toyota Quezon Avenue branch. A man that I deeply respect as I get to know him more. On the way home after the 2 hour non-stop bike ride, I told him about how happy I was training another person to help me out in sales. He stopped me right along the tracks and told me “Sean, you know, your people will disappoint you. You have to be very careful especially with people you put in sales.”
I looked at him and kind of asked him “Why?” with how I stared. He went on to tell me about a good friend of his and how this guy was betrayed by one of his closest employees. Someone he trusted a lot. Someone who was in sales and accounts management. Then he told me how the employee started up a company exactly like his friend’s and went on to take his friend’s clients one by one.
Today, they have an open case in court and they are suing each other. It’s not a pretty sight.
I listened intently but I shrugged it off. “My team’s not like that.”, I thought. And I really believed that with all my heart.
Sad to say he was right. Shortly after, I received one of the most disappointing emails I’ve received in a long time.
My sales person whom I was training for quite some time now, resigned. Now, while the resignation is nowhere near what my client’s friend went through, it’s still a disappointment since this person is the first sales person I have ever trained. And it’s really not easy to train in sales especially in SEO Hacker.
I’m open to training only homegrown teammates who have the knack of selling – and I take them with me to live presentations, even paying for their commute to the client and back.
Now, that person is quitting. And to top it all off, it’s without a 30-day notice. It’s an immediate resignation without sufficient explanation. An extremely vague, disappointing, and not to mention (let’s call a spade, a spade) disrespectful thing to do.
Two Abstract Choices
Yeah it hurts – especially after you’ve given and given and trained that person and that person just up and left without even going out on the field yet.
So now I’m faced with the two abstract decisions of any well-meaning CEO. Am I going to be a boss? Or am I going to be a leader?
A boss would rant to the team. Make some threats maybe. Would make changes in the system so this could be prevented. Would blacklist that person. Would do some things to make oneself feel better.
A leader would shut up, take it all in, and still choose to trust the team and trust the next person who will want to take on the sales mantle. A leader would ingest the disappointment and turn it around to something good – a lesson learned perhaps.
I’ve been faced with this decision before.
And you know what? Every single time, I would choose to be a leader.
I hope you would too.
Jim Collins’ books have shed a lot of light for me with regards to leadership and building a lasting great company. There were some chapters in there about leadership and how visionary leaders come and go and how charisma has little to do with building a lasting great company.
It just so happens that I consider my leadership style to be such – charismatic and visionary. Some of my mentors tell me the same. The first investors I presented to also thought the same thing. It even came to a point that they asked the question “So what if you get hit by a bus and you die… what happens to the company?”
In my mind, being a Charismatic, Visionary Leader was starting to become a negative. Perhaps this entry is to help remind me that it isn’t. I thought about it and reflected on what’s happening at SEO Hacker and here are some of my insights.
Let’s first clarify my idea of a Charismatic, Visionary Leader (CVL)
Someone who can influence people to follow him and carry on whatever mission he is embarking on as he explains the purpose and vision to them. He is someone who can win others to his cause and live up to his claims and work harder than any single individual in the team.
He is able to stick to the three E’s of leadership and has an obvious number of followers
So let’s move forward with how a Charismatic, visionary leader makes it easier to build a lasting great company.
Charismatic, Visionary Leadership, Paves the Way
Let’s face it – a person with charisma is easy to fall for in sales. Whether the person is selling snake-oil or he’s selling gold, you just can’t help but admire the charisma of a person who is ‘full of it’. And I’m saying this in all honesty and positivity. Charisma is a huge asset for a salesperson and what better way to win the hearts and minds of your followers than to be able to sell your vision to them each and every time?
A charismatic leader is able to pour out his vision to his followers in the most effective way. This drives and inspires them to do more, do better and become whatever the purpose of their profession calls them to be.
Charismatic, Visionary Leadership Shapes the company DNA
Whether we like it or not, a charismatic, visionary leader is someone who is able to most powerfully influence the company DNA. Because you are able to share and pour out your vision to others and win them to your cause, you are able to shape the personality of the company. The DNA. What makes everything tick.
I’ve seen it happen in companies again and again and again. Not the least of which in SEO Hacker.
Charismatic, Visionary Leadership is the Seed of the Team Culture
Everyone agrees that team culture is one of the most important things in a company. When you create an environment for the team to reveal who it really is and it begins to influence the way things work and captivate new hires – that is a powerful thing.
Being able to win others and pour out your vision effectively to the team influences them towards you and how you work, think, talk, deal with clients and solve problems. This is a contagious effect and it will spread out to the other individuals in the team – creating a team culture that is rooted in who you are as a CVL.
Note to myself: It is simply so much easier to build a team, and hence, build a company with a charismatic, visionary leader.
I’ve had encounters in managing the SEO Hacker team wherein someone would suddenly turn into ‘Hero Mode’. That person would just burn hours working through the night, foregoing sleep and rest and just force his way into doing what needs to be done.
You may be wondering, “Well that’s a good thing isn’t it?”
When someone turns on “Hero Mode” he’s burning more than just his physical strength, endurance, creativity and brain cells, he’s burning his will and his soul. Just like an airplane flying on empty will crash and burn, your people who try to wing it on Hero Mode will sooner than later crash and burn out.
Yeah it feels so damn good when you’re the hero. I know coz I’ve been there. It feels like you’re flying – like everyone’s cheering you on. Shouting “You can do it Sean! Save us! Save our team!”
It may feel that way but the reality of it all is that you’re running on less than 30% of your creativity, focus, willpower and discipline. In short, you’re being paid for 70% less than what you should be delivering.
And the worst thing about Hero Mode is it sticks.
You think that you’ve flown miles and miles and you deserve recognition and praise. You think your name and face should be plastered on the walls of the office when the truth is, you haven’t gone that far.
In fact, it would’ve been better for you to juice up with a good night’s sleep and use 100% of your creativity to create a solution that will make the effort you need to put in 900% more efficient! Chances are, when you’re running full steam, you need only 10% of your time to create a smart way to finish the task.
Apart from losing most of your professional assets, you become stubborn, irate and demoralized. Things that are going to affect the rest of the team.
So the next time you think of putting on that cape, mask and heading down the bat cave, remember that you’re not going to impress anyone.
In fact, it may just come back to bite you in the ass.
It’s something that I think is directly relevant to me since I’m trying to built a great, enduring company.
The first chapter is dedicated to the characteristics of what the book calls a level 5 leader.
Each good to great company has a level 5 leader leading the way as it pivots from good to great.
Level 5 leaders are self-effacing. They take the blame whenever something goes wrong.
They are also encouraging and selfless. The book even goes so far as to say they are humble. Whenever something is done right, they attribute it to their colleagues, the company culture, or to luck.
I’m learning to become a better manager simply by reading this and telling myself that I should improve to be like that.
Someone who does not look to the self when things go right but gives the praise and recognition to others.
Someone who takes the blame when things go wrong – and make sure that they don’t happen again.
Someone who is relentless in producing results and encouraging the best in others.
And these traits are on top of all a level 1-4 leader can do!
I’ve been learning a lot from this book. And right now I want to be a level 5 leader. I feel like I might be stuck somewhere between level 3 to level 4.
God help me.
I’ve always been fascinated with how Steve Jobs was able to pop out of the personal computer industry and come slowly shining back in.
I’ve been reading his super thick biography – and I’m loving every page.
He’s a weird, bratty, petulant guy with some sort of a random shine. His brilliance is a vastly enjoyable thing to behold and yet his attitude and integrity is one of the worst.
You could say he is quite a bipolar.
A smart, charismatic and filthy rich bipolar.
I’ve drawn encouragements from this book such as when they started Apple in his parent’s garage and how he had formed his ragtag team to create a $1.7 billion company in 4 short years.
His life is such an entertaining read. He’s very weird in his beliefs, management techniques, product visionarism, relationships, etc. And yet, he’s revolutionized the computer, music, communication, entertainment, and other industries in a span of a few years.
The book sheds a lot of light to the quote he is most renown for:
“Here’s To The Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who DO !”
Am I crazy enough to do what he did? When Apple launched Macintosh and have reached more than $2 billion dollars worth, he personally owned just a mere 11% of the company. And yet that’s still worth more than $100 million.
At age 25, he was worth $256 million as a person.
Sad thing was it all got into his head. And he had to learn how to set it aside – and that propelled him to his late greatness.
I’m still learning a lot from his biography – it’s much more enlightening than the movie (although it was the movie that encouraged me to read his book – aside from its simple book cover/design).
I encourage young start-ups and entrepreneurs to read it too. It’s a mix of encouragement, enlightenment, mind-boggling mystery, regret, reality, and more.
I’ve been reading Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing lately. In the book, I encountered the 4 quadrants yet again. I realize now that I’m in 2 of the quadrants at the same time – Business and Self-employed (or what Robert Kiyosaki calls the Smart quadrant).
Last night one of my previous employees dropped by and he gave me some advice about my team. He said that the team isn’t what it seems to be and most carry bruises that I inflicted. All seems good and well to me. But hey, everyone has his/her own blind side.
You see, being in the self-employed quadrant isn’t easy if you’re also running a business. You have to be the best person – the best asset – in the business. Without you, the business would not exist. It would cease to run. The burden is too heavy to carry. I never thought employee management was this tough. Perhaps the challenge of having the team grow into 16 strong in that quick a time isn’t a good thing. I have to have time that I could invest in them – which I don’t because I’m still the one carrying a lot of responsibilities moving the team forward in terms of growth.
I sent out an anonymous survey to the team. It’s just to know whether the advised ‘bruises’ does exist. Turns out that there are still cauterized wounds. I’m not really too happy with my ratings. But it’s to be expected since I’ve been away from my own team for far too long. Much like how a father has not been with his children for too long.
The worse thing about it is, someone spread some very bad lies to the kids. And it’ll be pretty darn tough for me to reverse that. It’s made the cauterized wounds to fester and rot. It’ll take a miracle and huge humility and effort on my part to bring everything up.
I guess it’s you and me again Lord. I need you to help me out with this. This isn’t something I can do alone. Festering, rotting cauterized wounds are the stuff that needs miraculous healing.
There are worldly ways to solve this problem. Take out the festered altogether and leave only the wounds that I could easily heal. Replace the rots with fresh new flesh. But that mustn’t be what God would want me to do.
I love my team. There’s an inner circle for me – much like Peter, James and John. But I guess this survey proves that I have to be present to each and everyone. I guess a day in two weeks wouldn’t hurt.
I need to get my act in order and adapt to this.
It has gone on far too long. The venom has gone in far too deep.
Oh Lord, be with me. May your favor rest with me as I try to go out and face this.
Here in the office, there’s lots of throwing of ideas back and forth – for topics and fun. There are lots of discussions and jokes floating around the air. One thing I discovered though, there’s no breath of innovation and shared learning going around.
Perhaps this should be one of my short term goals. To help my team get their feet off the ground and finally get a grip on mindsharing with their expertise with others on the team. Perhaps there’s a barrier of communication when it comes to professionally sharing something new.
Whatever it is, I know I’ve tried. There’s the growth board in Trello and the emails I regularly send out to help them learn. There’s our internal Facebook group to reach out to them even on the weekends. Heck, there’s even my own blog to learn from and discuss.
But it just doesn’t happen.Which makes me wonder how I can test out encouraging them about mindsharing their professional knowledge and expertise with their teammates.
Jokes and other stuff are fun. They’re good for team morale and trust at the workplace. But there’s nothing being done for professional growth.
Here’s the A and B of business:
A – innovation – moving things forward – making sure that the company changes and goes beyond what is the norm
B – maintenance – fixing, finishing, reporting, etc – making sure that we’re doing all the right things that we’ve been doing to get business
Our team is currently at B. It’s so hard to point the needle at A. What’s the secret recipe behind it?
I know that I’ve modeled it. Perhaps more than enough as I post ALL the things in our growth board. No one else is helping me out there.
Like anything, perhaps I should start this with prayer. God blessed me with this team. He must be the master and commander of our team chemistry and DNA.
Let’s rock the innovation atmosphere.