Skip to main content

So we're all to be "CEOs" at "startups", I suppose?

Warning: I was in bit of a ranting mood as I boarded a late-evening bus back to NYC when I started this post, but didn't get around to finishing it much later, so the tone may change a bit. :)

There's an interesting interview with Mark Pincus., well.. there's an interview with Mark Pincus, in the NYTimes.

Now Zynga is extremely successful right now, and Mark Pincus seems like a pretty smart guy. I was at a conference where Pincus was on a panel and he was by far the most interesting and opinionated person there, and clearly pretty sharp.

But I have a problem with this article. I find the "everyone is a CEO" terminology annoying and condescending. Why on earth do people feel like they need to be told to be the CEOs of something to do their job well? The real problem I have with this: its seldom true. I appreciate the power of the words to inspire and the empowerment that people feel when you tell them this. For example, you're probably a lot more likely to think outside the box and take responsibility if you're told you're the "CEO of solving problem X" than if you're told to go "solve problem X." The problem is: you're likely to get more annoyed when you're told they can't do what you're suggesting because someone else changed their mind or until you have a couple of presentations or until the budget is approved next month or .... you get the idea.

This annoys me almost as much it does when people tell me they work at a "startup" which has been around 15 years and been profitable for most of it. You're not at a start-up son, you work for a small company and you should be proud of that.

Like I said there's power in words and imagery though; and employees can be much more effective when they truly believe they're CEOs or at a startup. The challenge though, is that those who confer the "CEO" and "startup" titles rarely believe it, and even more rarely empower people enough so that it rings true on a sustainable basis for them.

So
  • don't use the metaphor, unless you back it up
  • don't fall for the metaphor, ever.

Comments

Brad Feld said…
I wrote a longer post about this idea at http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2010/02/be-the-ceo-of-your-job.html
navinsamuel said…
I guess I know your reasons... very often heard from someone we both know?

Popular posts from this blog

Everyone's struggle is real... at the very least to them

A couple of weeks ago, while in line waiting to pick up some food I'd just ordered, I overheard two conversations - I don't make a habit of this, but it's hard to not hear things when you leave your phone behind. :-/
My first reactions as I heard both of these conversations was annoyance at the protagonist in one and admiration for the other. Both conversations stayed with me for a while, but it took me some time to realize that was unfair on my part to be annoyed at the person that I was annoyed at.

So about these conversations:
The first was between someone working there and a friend. She was sympathizing with her friend who'd be starting a new job leaving this place. "Oh, it's minimum wage again?", she said with concern in her voice. "Yes, but it's fine", said her friend. The job was closer to where she lived so she thought she'd make about the same and she might get home a little earlier to her daughter some evenings though the hours…

Yup - humans still lack humanity

Every once in a while, I'm reminded that humans can be completely lacking in humanity.

My wife had the following experience yesterday on her ride back home. She got on the train and found a seat. The train was unusually crowded and it looked a lot of people had to stand for a long ride. An elderly Asian gentleman carrying a few things in both hands, was looking for spot, started to complain smilingly about the train being so full and stood in the aisle at the back of the carriage some seats away from her.

She expected someone closer to gentleman in the aisle (lots of younger people on the train) to give him their seat.

No one did.

The train started, and it was clear the man was having a lot of trouble standing up. Then at the next stop there was actually an announcement saying the train was full so please give up your seats to people who needed them.

Still nobody moved.

My wife got up walked to the end of the train and asked the gentleman to go over to her seat. She still couldn&#…

Whimsy when I changed my profile picture...

I changed by profile picture at work.



Later in the day, two people on my team had changed their profile pictures to these.. :-)



It made my day!

I changed my profile pic again today. Let's see how fast anyone catches on this time. :-)