Intelligent.ly Insights: Greg Raiz

Intelligent.ly Insights

Greg RaizThis week’s insights are brought to you by Greg Raiz, CEO of Raizlabs, an app company that’s been leading leading in mobile software development since before the launch of the iTunes App Store in 2008.

You may not have met Greg, but we bet you’ve met some of the essential apps he and his team have created, apps like HubSpot, Bloomingdale’s, Rue La La, and RunKeeper, to name a few. Greg approaches app development like he does his team: methodically. Raizlabs is known for their exceptional product management, creative design services, and impeccable execution. But that’s not the only thing that’s driving Raizlabs’ unprecedented growth—it’s their commitment to their people. Building the right team, capitalizing on each person’s skills, and promoting innovation from within…it’s all about the people.

As your team grows, how do you ensure that you all remain aligned around a central vision?

We’ve spent a fair bit of time this year thinking about the culture of the company and how we can align the entire company around a vision and mission. Everyone wants to make a difference and feel that their work is important. We started by creating a high-level vision that we could rally around. It was important that the vision would stand the test of time and allow the organization some flexibility. Our vision statement of “shaping the world through great software” has led us to explore the values that our company felt were necessary for us to execute that vision. These values now guide most of the decisions we make from hiring, to the projects that we take, to the regular feedback we give to one another. Keeping the vision and values central to our process serves as a natural reminder for us. 

What’s one strategy or tactic that you consistently use to support the growth of your team.

Trust, but verify. I think it’s great to give your team a lot of trust and autonomy to grow, experiment and occasionally fail. The key is putting in your own checks to make sure they aren’t failing too much. Keeping track and closing the loop gives you the opportunity to give the person a pat on the back if they did a good job or a nudge in the right direction without micro-managing.

In your opinion, what is the primary role of a manager?

My primary role as a manager is setting up situations where people can be successful. This cuts across a number of things including hiring, company culture, tools and procedures. If I’m doing my job then the team can execute and do great work and it feels effortless. A mentor of mine explained it best; your team is a train, they are rolling along. It’s your job to make sure they have plenty of track and no hazards in the way.

How do you ensure that you stay in lock step communication with your team?

This has been an increasing challenge as the team has grown. It’s easy to stay in lock step with five people but hard to stay in lock step with 50. We have a company Town Hall meeting each week so everyone can get up to speed on the entire business with minimal overhead. Beyond this, I try to have regular conversations with both leads and individual contributors. This helps keep me stay grounded with what’s really going on at the company.

How do you continue to evolve as a leader?

As a leader, your job is constantly changing. One day you’re thinking about hiring, the next you’re dealing with technology questions. The key for me to evolve as a leader is to constantly question if the things I’ve done before continue to make sense as the company grows and changes. The way our company did projects stopped making sense at a certain size and scale. We had to unlearn certain habits and learn new ones. Growth as a leader is being open to change and adapting how I do things as the organization grows.

Greg Raiz founded Raizlabs in 2001, after getting his start at Microsoft. Since then, he’s been working toward his vision of building incredible software, and has helped over 100 companies improve the way they connect with their markets. Raizlabs was named one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in 2014.

Want to learn leadership skills from more startup vets? Enroll in Intelligent.ly Exchange!

 

 

Leaders love feedback

SpeakerSpotlight

Cory von WallensteinIntelligent.ly Exchange’s fifth cohort kicked off with a bang when our partner, Cory von Wallenstein arrived as our first guest speaker last week. Cory was an instrumental leader at Dyn for six years, and recently launched a new startup, Adored, a customer loyalty app that’s revolutionizing the mobile rewards experience. Cory’s aptitude for embracing failure as a learning experience has helped him to become a model leader. The sixty minutes we had with him flew by, so here’s his advice in a nutshell:

Enjoy failing, enjoy learning: Cory’s humility in spite of his success stems from his failures. Instead of shying away from his mistakes, Cory has embraced them, leveraging what he’s learned to become a stronger and more impactful leader. You may be wondering why this guy is so gung-ho about failure. The answer’s simple—feedback. After every conversation with his team, Cory requests feedback so he can become the best version of himself, both personally and professionally. Rather than playing the blame game, he points the finger inward and asks himself how he can do better by his organization and his team.

CVW Fireside ChatI’m too busy” is the ultimate fallacy: According to this HBR article, the majority of managers “squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities.” Leading is all about the people, Cory says, so it is a leader’s job to engage the team—no matter how busy they are. This means being crystal clear about what the priorities are, understanding what motivates each team member and how they define success, and not allowing procrastination or distraction to get in the way. Aligning their team with high-priority goals and helping each person understand how their role connects to the shared vision is the most important role effective managers share. Cory urges leaders to make time to discuss with each person their version of success and concrete steps they can take to achieve their goals.

And his actionable advice that everyone can do tomorrow to be a more effective leader?: “Have an impromptu 1:1 conversation with a team member about what drives them and how they define success. Open the door to more dialogue.”

Why You Need a Personal
Board of Directors

Sydney Atkins MasonWhy we all need a Personal Board of Directors and how to develop one.

Strong leaders know better than anyone that no one achieves anything alone. A support system is instrumental to achieving team goals, propelling individual career growth, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining sanity.

At a recent Exchange fireside chat, Sydney Atkins Mason, Investment Advisor at Goldman Sachs, shared why her “Personal Board of Directors” has been the most priceless weapon in her professional arsenal. It can be tricky to assemble the right network when you’re not sure what to look for, but Sydney credits her wealth of success to her relationships with three major people – her mentor, sponsor, and coach:

Mentor: Your mentor is the John Keating to your Dead Poets Society, the Socrates to your Plato, the Hagrid to your Harry. A mentor will never dole out the same piece of advice to two different people because to your mentor, you are a beautiful and unique snowflake, with triumphs and challenges that distinguish you from other snowflakes. A mentor helps you to evolve over time. This relationship is frequently a two-way street; the mentor is a catalyst for mentee growth, and mentors get the “warm fuzzies” from helping someone out.

Sponsor: Unlike a mentor relationship, a sponsor relationship is linear; your sponsor will catapult your success–if you play your cards right. Your sponsor can help you move forward in your career by publicly vouching for you, endorsing your skills and strengths, or even open doors you didn’t know existed. This person does this purely because they believe in you and, often, there is no way to repay them. This should be someone you deeply respect and admire, who can become your ally as you evolve in your career. Your success is your sponsor’s success, but be sure you pay it forward and become a sponsor to someone else. Don’t get greedy. You don’t want to be that guy.

Coach: A coach is your sounding board for any seemingly “stupid (functional) question” you have. Need help using the company database? Ask your coach. Having trouble understanding some jargon? Ask your coach. With your coach, all your questions are valid concerns. Your coach is who you rely on for your most immediate and basic job-related concerns.

Look around at who you know today and whether there are people in your midst who might naturally fill these roles for you. Have an open conversation, letting them know why you appreciate their advice and what your ask is, but most importantly, invest the time in developing those relationships. Now go!

Intelligent.ly Insights: Ben Carcio

Intelligent.ly Insights

Ben Carcio

This week’s insights are brought to you by Ben Carcio, CEO of Promoboxx, a company that connects brand manufacturers with independent retailers to help retailers become better marketers. Since 2010, Ben and his team have expanded Promoboxx’s capabilities to help industry-leading Fortune 500 companies like, Chevrolet, Pepsi, and Timberland.  Ben lead by example to create alignment among his team, sharing his own experiences to support the continued development of each individual in the company.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you as a new manager?

Never mess with someone’s paycheck. Its sounds silly, but as leaders we sometimes forget that we’re providing our employees with a livelihood. When things are stable nobody thinks about it, but when there’s any hint of instability all other leadership tactics fly right out the window. For example, when I was running a 25 person painting company in college, I was a day late on making payroll and 6 of my best guys quit to join another “more stable” company. This lesson sticks with me every day.

As your team grows, how do you ensure that you remain aligned around a central vision?

Communicate the vision. Communicate the vision again. Then communicate the vision some more.

In your opinion, what’s a manager’s primary role?Promoboxx Team

Below average managers assign subtasks and authorize vacation time.  Amazing managers are leaders, and leaders empower their employees to do more by setting a clear vision, providing the right resources, and building a great support team around them.

What’s the biggest leadership challenge you’ve had to overcome? How did you do it?

Lack of experience. One of the best ways to lead is through the sharing of personal experience with employees. But with Promoboxx I’m hitting some new challenges that I’ve never experienced before. So, I’ve found the best way to overcome this is to borrow from the experience of others. You can do this by reading the hundreds of amazing leadership blogs out there, or even better, by reaching out to real live mentors for some 1:1 help over a coffee or beer.

Ben Carcio is a startup veteran with over 12 years of online brand marketing experience. He founded Promoboxx in 2010 and has been working hard ever since to provide retailers, like GE, Chevrolet, Pepsi, and Nestle, with the digital marketing tools they need to transform their brand. Ben has been known to share his insights with the startup community at the annual Boston Tech Co-Party, on the Promoboxx Blog, through Intelligent.ly, and beyond.

Want to learn leadership skills from more startup vets? Enroll in Intelligent.ly Exchange!

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann

8 Expert Leadership Resolutions to Steal for 2015

While Beyonce may be the rare exception, no one is perfect – we all have a bit of space in our lives for growth. Rather than focus on ambitious goals and heavy planning to fuel your New Year’s resolution, this year, we encourage you to start simple. Think about one thing you can do to improve as a leader- whether it be delegating projects, focusing on key tasks, or prioritizing work-life balance- and set aside time each week to reflect on the progress you’re making. And don’t beat yourself up – give yourself room to make mistakes and modify your approach. With that in mind, we asked exceptional Boston leaders to share their 2015 resolutions. Take a cue from the pros!

Kristen YerardiDavid BrownDebbie CavalierDan AllredBen Carcio Jennifer LumMike TroianoSarah Hodges

Interested in more  tips for achieving your 2015 leadership resolution? Check out Intelligent.ly Speaker Spotlights to learn from the best!