“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:
“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 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.
Content & Community Specialist