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!

 

 

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

Be like Mike!

Mike Troiano“All the pain in your life will be caused by distance from the truth,” said Mike Troiano, CMO and self-proclaimed “Communicator-in-Chief” at Actifio. Think that’s profound? Now think about how a company that’s only 5 years old is already worth $1.4 billion dollars. With Troiano and a group of seriously intentional leaders at the helm, it’s no surprise that the copy data management company is rapidly growing into one of Boston’s biggest success stories.

On Monday night, Mike joined Intelligent.ly’s Abbie Waite for a fireside chat about leadership with 200 members of startup community. Perhaps most impressive about Mike is how he commands a room, like that funny uncle who you deeply respect and are also a little afraid of disappointing. In spite of huge success, he maintains his humility and charisma- admirable characteristics of a seasoned leader.

During the evening, Mike relayed sound words of advice. As a new professional getting my career off the ground, I’m making them words to live by. The resounding theme was that people are perhaps the greatest (and sometimes most difficult) part of being in business, and as a leader you have to establish enduring trust and open lines of communication right from the start.

Mike broke effective leadership into three actionable buckets:

Be Human
“Understand people, what matters to them, who they love, and what they’re afraid of,” Mike advised. Starting with the human side of management helps leaders motivate their teams, foster healthy conflict, and drive results.

Mike entertained the crowd with an anecdote about the epic difference between Italian sauce and gravy; sauce takes 20 minutes to whip up, while gravy is an all day affair, that requires slaving over a stove, and putting blood, sweat, and tears into the final product, but is worth every ounce of effort. The effort Mike puts into his gravy is paralleled only by the thought he puts into building relationships with his team. Ultimately, good business is good people, and exceptional leaders understand what motivates and challenges each individual member of a team.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Mike Troiano
Mike asserted that managers need to ask themselves, “What are the three most important things right I can do to grow our business right now?” Focus solely on doing those (and only those) three things. Take for instance, when Mike joined the executive team at Actifio. His first move was to identify key stakeholders, focus on understanding their needs and challenges, and create lists of each team member’s goals. Within the first week, he realized where the communication gaps were, and set a clear vision for moving forward. He asked himself, “What am I good at?” and set an actionable strategy for using his skills to fill in the gaps and add value to the team.

As a leader, you’ll have boundless opportunities, but Mike urged us to proceed with caution to avoid falling victim to the overwhelming choices that come with growing a company and a team. Choose a few areas where you can add value to your team, and give them all you’ve got. Prioritize.

Keep it Simple
Mike drove this home over and over: it’s a manager’s responsibility to set clear expectations for each team member right from the start. Communication should be clear, direct, and honest. This is the best (and if we’re being honest, only) way to retain employees for the long haul.

When a team member lacks success, leaders need to take a good hard look at the mirror and think about why this person’s results are not measuring up to the expectation. And then you have to think about what you can do to support each individual on your team. Do you need to clarify your expectations? Provide your team member with a tool or resource to improve their performance? Is there tension within the team? Whatever it is, it’s up to the leader to provide clarity. It’s as simple as that.

Preach, Mike. Preach.

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann

The Secret to Bill Belichick’s Success

The New England Patriots have won all but two AFC East titles since 2001, and haven’t had a losing season since 2000. Think it’s all because of Bill Belichick sick coaching skills? Think again. Bill Belichick’s primary responsibility isn’t just coaching–it’s making sure the team is made up of the best players (and coaches) for every position at any given moment. Belichick’s primary responsibility is talent density.

Last week, Swami Kumaresan (Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners; Former SVP, Product and Engineering at Carbonite) stopped by Intelligent.ly Exchange as Swami Kumaresan Photoa guest speaker to share his thoughts on building exceptional teams. Swami was instrumental in Carbonite’s growth, helping lead the company to its 2011 IPO, but his proudest accomplishment is building strong teams. When asked to share how he’s cultivated the right talent mix, density always emerges as a recurring theme; you have to get the right people on the bus.

So, what is talent density? In short, managers and coaches (like Belichick) have to be fanatical about recruiting and cultivating stars for their teams if they want to win. This idea typically sparks concern in our Exchange sessions among managers; they react by pointing to their team members’ potential, or their stellar attitudes, urging that “the stars” aren’t the only people who can play to win. But people want to be surrounded by team members who are exceptional at what they do, who lift them up, who push them to do their best by leading with a positive example, who help them learn and grow by sharing their own insight and experience. If this reminds you of the Netflix Culture Deck – you’re getting the message!

Believe focusing on talent density is good advice? We had a full 60 minutes with Swami jam-packed with tips. Check in with us next week to get the scoop straight from Swami himself on why he believes in the importance of managers fostering trust on their teams, and discover the difference between “trust in agenda” and “trust in ability”.

Turning TWO and Launching Something NEW!

BIG NEWS: Intelligent.ly is Turning TWO!
…and to celebrate, we’re rolling out new programs just for you.

After hosting almost 200 skills classes for over 4,000 Bostonians and launching Intelligent.ly Exchange for high-potential mangers in scaling start-ups, we’ve seen and learned A LOT. You’ve told us what you love, what you need, and shared some of your biggest challenges and greatest successes. Thank you.

To continue best serving you, we’re thrilled to focus our attention on management development and special events that build Boston’s broader start-up community on a large scale. What more could you want everyday than a great manager and a cold beer?!

Let’s get Intelligent.ly.

Our Approach:

Intelligent.ly Exchange brings together top-performing new managers from high-growth companies to collaboratively grow their management skills. It’s limited to companies to enroll their teams, and is launching its third cohort in June. Learn More and Sign Your Managers Up for Success.

Our newest Management Development Workshops tackle key curriculum topics at an affordable price and are open to people whose companies may not be in a position to enroll them in Intelligent.ly Exchange but still believe investing in their professional development is essential. Learn More and Enroll to Become Exceptional.

Special Events: We believe a strong networks create strong leaders, and are proud to bridge connections with awesome events. We’re going to keep supporting (and hosting) the kind of events you love. Next up: Tech on Tap, RSVP Now.