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Tag Archives: management

How to Run a Board Meeting: The Slide Deck

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my first board meeting as a CEO of a venture backed company. The response to the blog post was great and I received a few emails asking me to share more details. In that sense, I decided to put together a template of the slide deck I am using during board meetings.

The purpose of the board package slide deck is to provide a clear summary of the current state of the company including the major milestones achieved and challenges faced since the previous board meeting. CEOs should use the slide deck as the main vehicle to drive the discussions during the board meeting and it should be structured in a way that prevents unnecessary discussions that might derail from the main goals of the board meeting. In order to present the current state of the company, CEOs should give clear metrics about the main areas of the business: finances, sales, business development, product, team, marketing, etc.

While preparing for my first board meeting, I looked at different recommendations to structure the slide deck but, at the end, decided to create a specific structure that work for our investors. Even the slide deck template before might result as a good reference, I suggest you do the same and try to find the flow and structure that works for your company.

I hope this helps. Let me know your feedback.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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I Want Control, I Want a Pretty Tittle, It Makes Me Feel Happy

controlThe story sorts of goes like this:

One of your employees continuously express the desire of leading or managing specific activity and have more control over certain decisions given their particular expertise on that specific area. After months of hearing this argument, you finally decide to promote that person to that management position to implement some of his ideas. Immediately, you realize that, even though your employee is very happy with the new “title” or position he constantly struggles to make any decision and is constantly asking for the involvement of his superiors to address some of the tasks that fall under his new role.

Sounds familiar?

As recent research studies proves, the sense of control is one of the elements that contribute to people’s true happiness. The ability of influencing the outcome of a situation based on our own actions gives us a sense of comfort and confidence that ultimately becomes an important factor in our happiness.

If we extrapolate this to corporate environments or startups, is not strange to find people who constantly request greater and greater levels of controls for no apparent reason other than to feel important or appreciated. Contradicting with that addictive desire of acquiring control, we must acknowledge that most people have no idea how to exercise control effectively. Quite the contrary, most people struggle when making decisions and going through the pain of taking ownership and responsibility for specific situations.

Even though most capable people like the feeling of having control over specific outcomes, they are constantly challenged by the responsibility that comes with any level of control and start making erratic decisions that affect the rest of the team or, sometimes, making no decisions at all. However, there is no doubt, that people are genuinely happier when they feel in control over specific situation. To address this contradiction, most big organizations create all sort of vague mid-management titles like “Director of X” or “Manager of Y” titles that gives employees the illusion of control in very constrained environments that prevents from causing any harm.

During his days at Opsware, Silicon Valley legend Marc Andreeseen famously said something around the lines of “if titles make employees happy, give them titles….”.

Whether you agree with that philosophy or not (I personally don’t ), there is no doubt  that granting the right levels of control to the right people is a continuous challenges for most Sr. managers in organizations. The easiest answer to that challenge is to hire really talented people that are also solid team players and granting them the right levels of ownership and control so that they can also influence the rest of the organization.

Easier said than done though :)

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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I am LinkedIn-Addicted and You Should Be As Well

This week during a board meeting, I was helping a fellow CEO with some business development strategies for her company. During the meeting, she was a little bit surprised how I was constantly using LinkedIn to answer most of the questions that were being debated. I never thought about using LinkedIn that way she said; I know, I was there a few years ago, I thought ;)

Despite its remarkable success, LinkedIn remains the forgotten child in the social network platforms ecosystem. A lot has been written about the influence of Twitter or Facebook in the business world while the real power of LinkedIn remains invisible to most people. Even great companies like BranchOut have attempted to build solid alternatives to LinkedIn leveraging the power of existing social connections.

As most people, I used to only use LinkedIn as an efficient way to keep my professional profile up to date and to maintain a decent professional network. However, everything changed last year when I needed to start doing some heavy business development in areas on which I had no prior exposure to. At that time, I realized that the network I had been building for years was my best allied and I became addicted to LinkedIn.

I use LinkedIn all the time. I am a paying customer and a very happy one. Over the last few years, I’ve built a very interesting network that includes tech executives, technologists of all sorts, customers, venture capitalists, investors, analysts, academics among other types of professional profiles that are related to our business. Not a day goes by on which I don’t leverage that network to accomplish some of the tasks at hand and I devote time every week to expand it and nurture some of those relationships.

My LinkedIn network has become the main mechanism to directly connect with potential customers or partners instead of sending cold emails or making surprising phone calls. You would be surprise how responsive people can be when you are approaching them through a known connection. If you have a decent network, you would also be surprised that you are only a few connections away from almost anyone you are likely to be interested on talking to. As your network grows, you will find that you will be able establish a connection with almost anybody you need to as the degree of proximity to that person is likely to decrease.

In addition to the normal networking routines, I also use LinkedIn to study hiring or growth patterns within specific industry segments, analyze where companies are spending money and identity helpful industry patterns. More importantly, I have daily exchanges in LinkedIn with different people about different business or technology topics that help to keep me sharp and current on different subjects. On a daily basis, I receive a lot of help from my professional network and I try to be helpful as well.

As a startup CEO, I would encourage you to put the time and effort to nurture your LinkedIn network. Yes I know, who has time for that when we are all busy dealing with challenges, building dreams and fighting fears ;) but trust me when I tell you that LinkedIn can make a huge difference in the way you operate your business.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Leading a Self-Managing Team

Last week one of our top engineers approached me directly to talk about his performance on a new product we are days away from announcing (here is my Tellago Studios plug ;)). Apparently, he had noticed that we were been driving extremely hard to make our launch date and he was concerned that he had been regularly missing some of the deadlines assigned to him. More importantly, while being very critical about his performance he presented a very comprehensive plan about how to improve the quality of his deliverables.

 

As a CEO, you can’t avoid but feel proud when you see that level of self-criticism and honesty coming from your team. This is even more remarkable considering that we have a lot of flexibility in terms of our deadlines. Even though we have a set launch date and we are operating on weekly iterations with well-defined deliverable, we have the flexibility of pushing some deliverable to future iterations without affecting the overall execution of the product.

After adding a few suggestions, I approved the plan my engineer presented and gave him complete control over the decisions related to that area of the product. I literally asked him to become the CEO of that part of the product. The entire conversation didn’t last longer than 10 minutes and I am already seeing the improvements in our execution model. The reason I was so conformable making that decision is because, long time ago, I realized that these group of engineers worked so well together that didn’t need any level of management: they are a self-managing team. Regardless of the level of talent we pride ourselves to bring in Tellago Studios, I haven’t been able to build a self-managing team until we assembled the team for this specific product.

During the 1992 Olympics, legendary coach Chuck Daly told the members of the USA Basketball Dream Team, that he was intending to go through the tournament schedule without calling a single time-out. Think about it, regardless of the superior talent of “The Dream Team” you could almost be certain that they will face unforeseen situations during specific games that will force the coach to call a timeout to make the necessary adjustments. After all, no other Dream Team has been able to do this despite their superior basketball talent. The reason Chuck Daly was able to lead the Dream Team all the way to the gold medal without calling a single time out wasn’t only because of their remarkable basketball skills, but rather because they were a self-managing team. Any combination of players on the floor knew how to make the necessary adjustments and changes without having to rely on the coach. There were no egos and all the players had a lot of respect for each other and they were striving towards the single goal: bring the gold medal back to the USA.

Building a self-managing is almost impossible. You need right combination of exceptional talent, passion, hunger to win, a great team dynamics and an incredible humbleness to work with other super talented individuals and make the necessary sacrifices or adjustments to accomplish the task at hand. More importantly, in a software development scenario, a self-managing team only works well in a context on which the team members can have enough ownership over different areas of the product that allow them to execute based on their own vision.

As a leader to a self-managing team your task is extremely simple: set the vision and the game plan, trust your team and get out of the f….. way That’s certainly what I’ve been doing with this current group and I am having a blast. Establishing management layers in a self-managing team will only hurt their productivity, introduce bureaucracy and harm their creative and leadership skills.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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