Be the Bard of the Boardroom

Posted by Val Snowdon

Feb 19, 2014 12:32:33 PM

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”


Ah, The Bard!  Shakespeare has what we all want—lasting relevance. Sure he came around in a time when status updates were delivered by troubadours, and he didn’t have to worry about posting x# of blog posts every week, but he was prolific, and he told universal stories that people over the centuries continue to identify with.

“Right. Shakespeare’s great,” you might say. “But what can he teach me about leading successful teams?”

Well, as Ken Blanchard has shown us through his wonderfully accessible book, The One Minute Manager Builds High Performing Teams, Shakespeare can teach us to PERFORM.

Team members, like actors, play vital roles in making the group operate as a strong, cohesive unit (or as an endless quagmire where ideas go to die). The group needs to learn how to embrace the process (and each other) to become an ensemble, or risk egos, personal agendas, and conflict running your project into the ground. Obviously, no one wants the latter. So, in order to receive a standing ovation at the end of a project, each team member must embrace the PERFORMance:



Purpose & Values

The team has to agree to a shared purpose and value system prior to beginning work, and should check back in with both throughout the process. This is, of course, easier said than done. Gaining consensus can be an arduous process, but it is an invaluable step in moving your team forward. Luckily, there’s an app to help you with that…Try ForceRank


It’s cliché to say at this point, but a team is only as strong as its weakest member. Instead of asserting our own agendas (and risk alienating some of our teammates), try to foster an atmosphere of empowerment.

Some ideas to try out for your next team project:

• Get to know team members’ strengths and encourage them to take on aspects of the project at which they will excel.

• Have a fair number of introverts in your group? Shake up the meeting structure once in awhile and have people work in pairs with a share out session at the end.

• Leave the PowerPoint unopened and re-imagine the information you need to present. Often an activity or demo will engage people with the material rather than induce their epic mid-afternoon daydreaming sessions.

When people feel empowered, they want to contribute.

Relationships & Communication

Obviously, these two things are paramount to the success of any high performing team, but for some reason, they often are forgotten or pushed aside in a misguided attempt to increase productivity. Effective communication supports an empowered working environment and eases the process of defining a shared purpose. Not only that, but putting a little more effort into communicating well with team members can result in the added benefits of a friendly group forming positive relationships!


While we’re not telling you to go take an aerial yoga class, we do suggest that you allow yourself the freedom to stretch your brain a bit. Just like the limber bodies of a dancer, our minds are capable of incredible things when we work out their elasticity. Whether it is allowing a kinesthetic person to knit while at the meeting so they stay engaged, or truly entertaining a seemingly outlandish idea, flexibility can help you find the hidden gems within your team. (And on second thought, you really should go take an aerial yoga class).

Optimal Performance

Successful teams need a leader who can manage a group’s conflicts and expectations, thus leading the team to an optimal performance state. This is the sweet spot—where productivity is at its highest and people feel a sense of pride and ownership in the project.


Who on your team have you thanked today? People LOVE acknowledgement. The people over at TINYpulse recognize this, and have even added a “Cheers for Peers” function to their software. Check it out.

While we don’t need to dish out praise all willy-nilly (read any Baby Boomer indictment on Millennials to understand why), recognizing a good idea, hard work, or otherwise positive contribution to the team will go a long way in creating…


All of the above actions contribute to this final piece—keeping morale HIGH! It’s a simple concept really: happy, engaged people who enjoy working together will achieve great things. A team with low morale will not be effective, and if things are really bad, completely dissolve. No one wants that (or at least, no one SHOULD want that if the team chooses to PERFORM).

A successful team is a relevant team—a team that gets things done and is noticed within the company. So take a lesson from the Bard (and Ken Blanchard), and teach your team to PERFORM.

Topics: meetings, leadership

Interview on Decision Making and Leadership with Jess Petersen, VP Product at Hopper

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 3, 2013 2:45:00 AM

Twitter: @jess_mcisaac
Bio:  Currently VP Product at Hopper, trying mightily to build the world's coolest travel app. Prior to that, spent 6 life-changing years building Carbonite from a scrappy startup into a public company after 4 forgettable years in consulting. Computer Science undergrad at Dartmouth College. Crazy marathon runner. Yogini. Occasional road biker. Singer. Vegetarian foodie. Native Cape Coddah.


If you ranked the companies priorities in order and your reports ranked theirs, how closely do you think they would they match?

Probably not perfectly, but pretty darn close. We're a small team, so we synch up regularly via daily standups, weekly team meetings where we discuss our priorities and weekly demos where we show off and celebrate the progress of the week. People have lots of opportunities to ask questions and make suggestions. When everyone understands the weekly goals as well as the higher-level company goals, it's easier for employees at all levels to make good decisions day-to-day about where to spend their time.


How do you pick what project to do next? Do you use any formal methodology?

We don't use a formal methodology to prioritize projects; prioritization is an outcome of constantly monitoring our operational data and having frequent conversations with the CEO and CTO about what we're trying to learn or accomplish. Admittedly, this works pretty well in a startup our size but gets more difficult as the number of people involved increases.

What does the word "consensus" mean to you?

Done well, consensus means that everyone involved in a decision has the same understanding of the overarching goals and therefore reaches a similar conclusion about what needs to be done given the available evidence. Done poorly, consensus means getting people with very different agendas and spotty context to agree on the safest or least-offensive option -- which will almost certainly result in failure.

After you've laid out the vision, how do you know that the troops are behind you?

The nice thing about our culture at Hopper is that our decisions are governed by evidence, so there is transparency into how and why decisions are made. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions and voice concerns, and every suggestion is evaluated based on the validity of the argument for it, not by the rank of the person making it. We are constantly adjusting our trajectory based on data, which can be a little tumultuous, but everyone buys in to the fundamental idea that we will build the best product by objectively testing, measuring and iterating.

There are lots of behavioral types, which ones do you find the most challenging to work with?

Political types and arrogant people are the most difficult to work with. Getting the right stuff done means leaving your ego and your personal agenda at the door and committing yourself to finding the right solution -- whether or not it was your idea -- and really listening to qualitative and quantitative customer feedback -- whether or not you like what it's telling you. Political behavior diverts energy away from solving the right problems and arrogance blinds you to problems that are observable through objective analysis. 

Thanks Jess. I just saw a quote of the day on a whiteboard in my office "There is nothing that cannot be achieved as long as it doesn't matter who gets the credit." I think your aversion to political types is right on. Thanks again for taking the time to give us your thoughts.


Topics: leadership

Interview on Decision Making and Leadership with Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft

Posted by Jeff Dwyer

Dec 3, 2013 2:36:00 AM


 Twitter: @kyleporter


 Bio: Founder of SalesLoft, Lover of smart sales and marketing 





Hi Kyle, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about decision making and leadership. Let's get started.

How does your team prioritize initiatives?

Focus on the customer first. Stay close to the customer and implement changes that will make the most impact with the least amount of complexity.

If you ranked the companies priorities in order and your reports ranked theirs, how closely do you think they would they match?

Super well. Our culture is aligned by our core values and priority projects which we review weekly and keep track of through our one-page strategic plan and our weekend updates.

How do you pick what project to do next? Do you use any formal methodology?

We take quarterly retreats and prioritize projects based customer needs.

What does the word "consensus" mean to you?

That everyone is comfortable with the direction

After you've laid out the vision, how do you know that the troops are behind you?

When hiring, we focus on positive, supportive, and self-starting individuals.

How do you make sure that introverts get heard?

We send a bi-weekly 5 question form to each member of the team using Google forms and spreadsheets and automate the emails to go out every other Friday using Boomerang.

There are lots of behavioral types, which ones do you find the most challenging to work with?

Negative and lazy. We don't hire people like that.

What do you think of the quote: "Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it."

I prefer: "The role of a leader is to serve"

Were you a leader in elementary school? Or did that come later? Any particular instance come to mind?

I was a leader of troublemakers :)

I love it. Thanks again Kyle! We'll have to do a follow-up on your band of trouble makers soon. "Solve For The Customer" is a great goal. Finally, I think your quote about leadership is spot on. Not easy to do in practice, but spot on.

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Topics: leadership


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