We are discussing all of the considerations that go into hiring and maximizing your team: from culture fit and making sure that people are enjoying their work, to what it means to be a leader and why the best leaders bring out the best in each person, not for the sake of the company, but for the betterment of their lives.
CHRIS MARTIN: Where do you start this process of hiring and maximizing your team?
TODD WERTH: Hello, Chris. This is Todd, CEO and founder of Infinite Red, for those who don’t recognize my voice. It’s a super important question. We run the company as a Council of Elders. The three founders all have equal power and equal responsibilities, but we all choose various parts of the company that we focus on. And one of my main focuses is the team, so this topic’s very interesting to me.
I would start out defining our opinions on what different roles of management, leadership, coaching are, so people have kind of a frame reference. There is management, but that’s a purely logistical thing. For example, we’re a consulting company, and we have a lot of projects, usually six to eight projects going on at once. And we have to schedule those. So, that means putting blocks into holes on the schedule, figuring out resources, that kind of stuff. That is management. There’s no real leadership going on there. There’s certainly no coaching. I mean, there’s some, of course; it’s not a perfect science.
But those kind of tasks are management, in my opinion. We manage what’s necessary, but we don’t manage what’s not necessary to manage or what would be better served by being a coach, to use a sports analogy, or being a leader. That’s kind of the primary thing. We can talk about later what bad leaders do. One of the things they do—just to highlight what I just said—is they only manage; they never lead, and they never coach.
And then we have leadership and coaching. Could be the same thing, but I’m gonna break those up just a little bit. A coach’s job is to find the best teammates that they can at the time with the resources that they have, and put people in the jobs that they’re best at and maximize those people. Coaches don’t say things like, “All players suck. I’m losing because you can’t find good players,” because it’s literally their job to find those players and to maximize them and to put them in the best spot possible. That’s what I consider coaching.
Leadership is everything else. Leadership is you’re leading, and you’re guiding people to where they’ll be most effective. You’re guiding people through problems. You’re the first one on the battlefield, in my opinion, and you’re the last one on the battlefield. You lead by example. It’s everything else that goes in, all the soft skills of helping a group of people accomplish tasks and goals.
JAMON HOLMGREN: Yeah, thanks, Todd. This is Jamon, founder and COO of Infinite Red. I think one of the key aspects of maximizing your team comes down to trusting them and providing the right level of support. So, a lot of companies will put in place restrictive policies that are more along the lines of trying to kind of shoehorn their employees into behavior that they want to see.
And we take a very different approach here. We’re very resistant to putting in place policies. We may give some guidelines that are more along the lines of ideas of how you might approach something, but we rely more on trusting them to make the right call, and if they don’t make the right call, to respond the right way. And we can provide support for them if they need help, if they need encouragement, if they need course correction, whatever, we can do that in a supportive way and not so much in a management way. And that’s what Todd’s talking about when he’s talking about the leadership.
But, yeah, it’s about trusting your team. And it’s about putting them in places where they can succeed and not putting them in places where they’re not well suited, finding the right path for them. You can put someone in place as, let’s say, a programmer. And if they’re struggling, you can just sort of like flog them. You know, not literally, but just sort of put a bunch of pressure on them to get their job done faster. And that’s how a lot of bad leaders approach maximizing their team.
From our standpoint, it’s a very different approach. It’s more of an open approach. It’s about trying to find what they’re really good at, and then letting them go, letting them do their thing. There are many examples within Infinite Red, which we can talk about, where people have taken the initiative and done things that are outside of their normal job description, but which they’re interested in and which they’re good at. And that is more where we see the maximization of the talent that we have.
CHRIS: How do you hire for culture fit within Infinite Red?
KEN MILLER: Ken Miller, CTO and founder. I would say the easiest way is always a referral. Always, right? I bet everybody’s gonna tell you that. The hardest, almost impossible way, is just an interview of somebody off the street. One thing we’ve kind of done that’s sort of in between is we’ve hired freelancers. So, from time to time, we have more work than our core team can handle, and we’ll bring on a freelancer or two. And on a couple of different occasions, we’ve liked them so much we’re like, “Hey, do you want a job?” And that’s worked pretty well.
TODD: It’s actually pretty difficult to hire for anything, much less culture fit. I am still dubious that getting a bunch of resumes, doing interviews, and choosing one of those people is any better than randomly picking someone. I’m sure people have done studies, and it’s probably better, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s better.
What we are particularly good at is we have a strong culture, and we have a strong idea of what our culture is. And we have a strong idea on what attributes that our people to have. We let a lot of our team interview. For instance, Chris here, when he was interviewed … I don’t know how many interviews he had, but it’s probably like 10. We let anyone on our team — and we’re a team of 26 people — interview everyone if they want to. We try to get a lot of people to interview them.
Different people are looking for different things. For example, I am solely looking for culture fit. I assume that the people that came before me, like Jamon or Ken, if it’s a technical position, already interviewed them for technical stuff. I assume by the time it gets to me that they’re qualified for the job. So, I really just chitchat with them and try to see if they’re a cultural fit.
JAMON: Yeah, and one of the dangers with trying to hire specifically only for culture fit is that you can end up with a monoculture, and that can be a problem. And so that’s something that we watch for. When Todd’s talking about cultural fit, it’s very much more about specific values that are kindness and helpfulness and things like that that are more about humanity and the type of person that they are, more so than maybe a specific culture, and I think that term probably needs to be defined a little better as we go through here.
KEN: No rock stars.
JAMON: That’s right.
TODD: Or ninjas or unicorns.
KEN: No, yeah. No rock stars or ninjas.
CHRIS: What about gurus?
TODD: No gurus.
KEN: Well, we’d have to see about a guru. I don’t know, we’ll see.
TODD: Yeah, so just real quick, our main cultural fits, the soft stuff, is supportive, kindness. I would say even creative would be one of mine now.
JAMON: Absolutely. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a technical person or not, creative is absolutely one of our values … Todd, you’ve talked about … What was that that you sometimes say about creativity?
TODD: I do believe very strongly that the company and day-to-day work life should be fun, and as little stress as possible. And the reason I say that is the most creative and the best work comes out when you’re having fun. Like, I like to joke around a lot. People sometimes say, “This is more of a serious matter, don’t joke.”
I don’t agree. If someone’s doing brain surgery on me, the doctor, I want him to be having a great day, feeling good, making bad, inappropriate jokes about my tiny brain, that kind of stuff. Because you know what, when you’re in that mood and you’re having fun and you’re in that mode, you do your best work. I can think of almost no place where that’s not true. I don’t know if that’s what you’re talking about, Jamon, but when you’re having fun, you’re being creative. When you’re being creative, you’re solving problems with more than just pure nose against the grindstone.
JAMON: Yeah. And some of the other attributes that we evaluate on are productivity, leadership, being pleasant, being a good communicator; those are all soft skills. And it’s kind of interesting because I sometimes get questions on Twitter, “What do you look for in a developer?” And my answers are usually probably more soft skill than people would expect. I’m not necessarily looking for hard technical skills. That’s not what we value as much.
KEN: It’s always been very important to me that we make the work fun, that we find people that enjoy what they do, find as many as ways as possible to make them juggle. It’s not always possible. Different clients are going to be different ways. Different projects are gonna be different ways, but as much as possible make the actual work fun as opposed to, what a lot of startups I’ve seen do, which is a lot of booze and free food to numb the pain of the work that you’re doing. That’s a very, very, very strongly held view for me.
TODD: It only takes about a week to build culture at a company because that’s how long it takes to get the ping pong table delivered. (laughter)
KEN: And we have to deliver a ping pong table to every single employee’s wing and we have this elaborate system for simulating the trajectory of the ping pong so you like hit the ping pong ball and you kind of measure where it went-
JAMON: That’s what we spend our time on.
KEN: You have somebody send you the … That’s a lot of work.
TODD: That’s a typical startup.
JAMON: We put together a presentation for a change in some of our strategy and showed it to the team when we’re all together in one location last fall. And one of the things we had was this sort of like seven points that we were looking for, and I actually pulled it up on my computer so I can remember what they were. It’s creativity, productivity, quality of work, communication skills, being a pleasure to work with, consistency, and leadership.
Now not everybody is great at all those things obviously. Some people are more strong in the communication side of things. Some are more productive. Some are really, really great at quality. It’s a mixture of those things that makes Infinite Red. But that’s what Todd’s really talking about when he’s saying that he optimizes for the culture fit, what he looks for, the things that they do well. And all the technical stuff, I mean, it’s important but people can learn the technical side of things.
KEN: The reason that we don’t focus as much on raw technical skills … I wouldn’t agree at all that we don’t focus on it. We definitely want people who can do hard things. It’s just that the world of software development began its life in a world where humans had to contort themselves into the world of the machine very heavily. You had to really, really intimately know how the machine worked, and that was a pretty rare skill; people who could kind of form the mental model that they needed to in order to work on these old machines.
Steadily, over the decades, the slider between the machine and the human has gotten closer and closer and closer to the human side where your job is not as much to mind meld with the machine, it’s to really to intimately understand the human’s problem and translate it into the high level languages that we use now for the kind of software that we do, application-level software. Like, we’re not writing operating systems or databases. We’re not writing Google-scale, massive data-crunching applications, that kind of thing.
For things where the human factors even all the way down to the technical level are the most important. So like manageability, that’s a human factor even though it’s highly technical. Having people with the soft and social skills who can also think in the abstract where you need to to be a programmer or in the way that you need to be a designer as well in this sort of breaking problems down in your mind.
We’ve seen many more project go awry because of soft skills than because of hard skills.
JAMON: Yeah, I agree with that. There’s a line at which, of course, all of our people have to be competent in their jobs, whether technically on the engineering side or on the designer side.
TODD: Yeah, I think it’s a lot easier to test if someone who you are looking at to be on your team, whether they have technical skills, it’s a lot easier to look at someone’s portfolio and see that they’re a great artist on the design side. These kind of real, tangible things. The reason we’re not talking about it as much is not because it’s not important or that we don’t have these great skilled people, because we do, it’s just a lot easier to determine that part. And by time, it gets to us determining if they’re in our culture, we’ve already assessed that they have these skills.
I feel like that doesn’t give us a competitive advantage to figure out the easy things that everyone can figure out. So I don’t want to give the impression that we just don’t care about them, we totally do. The soft skills or the cultural fit is where I think you can have a competitive advantage and where you can as a coach part of your job, select the best players for your particular team. It’s a sports analogy. I don’t know why I’m using all these sports analogies. I’m not even a sports person. (laughter)
JAMON: The truth is that as far as hiring is concerned, I wouldn’t say that we’re necessarily great at it. And that’s not to say that we’ve hired a bunch of people that aren’t good, they’re really great. I think in some ways maybe that reflects more of our ability to intuit what will work well and what doesn’t. But I think that you get good at something by doing it a lot. And we haven’t actually hired a ton. We’ve purposely have kept the team small.
KEN: I don’t know if there’s a sweet spot some place. I feel like being very small it’s harder to do hiring because as Jamon says you don’t get a lot of practice. Being large, I think it’s also hard to do hiring because you have to have so many layers of filters that you get lots of false negatives and false positives just by virtue of the scale. But like, I wanna believe that there’s this place in the middle, but I don’t even know if I believe that. Hiring is just hard. There’s no silver bullet.
JAMON: There’s also the turnover is a factor in this too. And we really don’t have turnover. Pretty much everybody that we started from 2015 has stuck around until today and that’s something that we’re very proud of. That may change at one point, but we’re very proud of that fact. It does mean that we don’t hire to replace, like we haven’t. And we only hire to grow and we’re growing very slowly.
CHRIS: Jamon, that brings up a really interesting point in which, when Infinite Red merged from two separate companies into what it is today, there were two different cultures where, as a team, you had to learn new personalities and learn how to work with new people so how did that change this dynamic?
JAMON: Yeah, from my perspective, it was … It actually kinda floors me how well it went considering what we had to deal with. At ClearSight, we were a … That was my previous company that I started in 2005. We had a long history, so some people had worked with me for a very long time. I mean, I hired everybody as a brand new junior. I mean, I didn’t hire hardly anybody who had experience.
We were not remote as we discussed in our previous episode. We were not remote at the time. And we had a different business model the way that we worked at ClearSight versus Infinite Red, LLC, which was Todd and Ken’s company at the time, they were very senior-heavy. They had all seniors. In fact, I think almost everybody at Infinite Red, LLC was older than me, and I was the oldest person at ClearSight. So that was an interesting aspect.
TODD: There was a lot of Metamucil at Infinite Red. (laughter)
CHRIS: This episode of Building Infinite Red is brought to you by Metamucil. Get your fiber in today. (laughter)
KEN: You have to keep that in.
JAMON: Yes. So that was an interesting aspect because it was very different. We were in Vancouver, Washington area most of us and they were down in the bay area, a little different style there. It was just different vibe in the two companies, but it went really well, and that’s something I think we should talk about.
TODD: I’ll not paint as a rosy picture as Jamon did. It did end up very well through a whole lot of effort and going forward. I do want to interject real quick on the last thing. One of the qualities we look for, and it also plays into Jamon’s comment about monoculture, I consider us a little band of misfits, and that’s on purpose. And we’re misfits in a variety of different ways all over the spectrum. I won’t go into different ones, but we have a wide variety of misfits, and I think that’s a very important part of our culture, which I enjoy very much.
KEN: We’re the island of misfit toys.
TODD: Correct, except for we’re not toys and we’re not …
KEN: Yeah, there’s no island and we’re not toys, but otherwise, we’re a totally the island of misfit toys.
CHRIS: This episode brought to you by competing metaphors. Metaphors; the things that we compete against. (laughter)
TODD: Yeah, the culture was quite a bit different. We put a lot of effort and this is a team effort as well as a leadership effort for sure, and it took a while, but the end results I do agree with Jamon, it came out really well. Obviously, we didn’t have anyone quit, which is fantastic, which is a major accomplishment. And, of course, the two cultures changed each other, and we came out as a third culture.
JAMON: Yeah, totally.
TODD: Which was very hard, but very exciting.
KEN: One of the things that happened when we merged was Vancouver, Washington is for the Pacific Northwest anyway, a relatively kind of conservative area. And obviously, we were here in the Bay Area, which is not a conservative area, and we were a little worried about that. Like we were a little concerned like, “How’s that gonna play out?”
JAMON: Especially during the time that it was, 2015, all of the stuff that was happening back then.
KEN: Yeah, and I think that we managed it pretty well in the sense that I think we set standards for how you interact with your colleagues.
We created special Slack rooms. People wanted to argue about politics, they can go and argue about politics in certain places and it was pretty much banned anywhere else, saying like, “You know, if you want to talk about these hot button topics, that’s fine. Here’s the ground rules, right? Like, you’re always respectful, and you do it over there where people who don’t want to have to interact with that don’t.” And that’s worked pretty well. I don’t go to those channels, and I don’t really see it come up very much.
And people generally … Like, we will see people who we know have completely different viewpoints working together great and having a great working relationship and having mutual respect, and that is sort of the core value that we brought to that. And I think that’s also the core anecdote to any of the monoculture concerns if you set the grounds rules that like, “Hey, you can disagree, but like this is how you can disagree. When you’re at work, this is the way you that can disagree.” Part of the reason we wanna grow slowly is so that as people come in with their different perspectives, which we really value and we want people to be able to share their perspectives, they abide by these rules about how we get along and make something together.
CHRIS: Is this an instance where policy is actually a good thing where you’re setting-*
CHRIS: -maybe rules of engagement for how people should interact in certain arenas?
KEN: I mean, it’s the exception that proves the rule a little bit. It’s not that we don’t have policies; it’s that we don’t want to manage by policy all over the place, right? It’s sort of like, “Here’s a few … Here’s the constitution, right? Here’s a few rules about you interact with each other,” but then the rest is like common decency.
**CHRIS: Todd, you mentioned something in the Slack channel in preparation for this episode about the question, “what do engineers and designers care about?” And you included some fun things, but the question I have is what do engineers and designers care about and are they similar things or are they different things?
TODD: The short answer in my opinion is, no, I find engineers and designers to be very similar. A lot of people think of engineering as math. I think of engineering, and I’m an engineer myself, as much more creativity, at least the kind of engineering we do, than more like mathematics and that kind of stuff.
To answer that question, what do they care about? I would love to actually hear Ken talk about what engineers really care about as opposed to maybe some other professions, what they care about. And I’m referring to stuff like money-
KEN: You mean, like what would motivate them? Is that what you’re asking?
TODD: Correct, yeah.
KEN: So I always said that like you have basically three levers to pull when you’re hiring. One is money, which is not as important to engineers as you might think. I think it’s important that they feel that it’s fair, but I’ve seen very few engineers ever be motivated by more money than the fair baseline. I mean, everyone wants more money, right? Don’t get me wrong, right? Everyone would like as much as they can get, pretty much. All else being equal. But all else isn’t equal.
And so lever number two is interesting work. That’s a really big one for some engineers. Not as big for some other people, but for some people that’s a huge lever, and you could like throw money at them, but if you have to work on a finance system or something that they just don’t happen to find interesting, they’re gonna be like, “I’ll pass.” I was always that way. I think most engineers frankly are that way or they’d be working at hedge funds.
And the third lever is lifestyle. How close are they to work, like do you have the ping pong table if that’s what you care about, do they give you free food if that’s something you care about, and for us obviously, the remote work piece is the big giant pillar of our working environment.
JAMON: You know, it’s gonna be hard for us to compete with Google or Microsoft or something just purely on amenities and dollars and things like that, but when our engineers maybe look around, they have lots of choices. They’re great engineers and they have a lot of options, but they look around and they say, “Well, they’re not remote work. They don’t have this particular culture. They don’t put a high emphasis on it.” Maybe some of them do have remote work programs, but they’re not a core part and piece. And so that’s something that we lean very heavily on and the lifestyle part of it where families are part of what we do. If I have my 4-year-old daughter bust in and wave at the sales lead on the video call, that’s fine. That’s just a part of how we work.
KEN: And a huge part of our mission, I think, is that returning people to their families and communities so that they don’t have to live in San Francisco Bay area or New York or wherever. They don’t have to come in to commute. They can live in the town where they grew up. They can live rurally. We have a number of people that live rurally. They can live nomadically. We have one guy who lives nomadically. That’s the closest thing I think we have to like a real mission, like a guiding star for like what we want to see in the world. And it’s been central to our belief in remote work, that people’s living situation should be based on their personal life and not on their professional life.
TODD: It’s not just our remote work. We respect people as humans, more importantly as adult humans. I personally have an aversion to people controlling my time.
KEN: Well, controlling for no reason, right? Controlling just to control.
TODD: We don’t own people’s time. We don’t own people’s location. In my opinion, that stops being acceptable after childhood. Now, of course, if you have a responsibility and you’ve agreed to those responsibilities and you have a responsibility to show up at a meeting at a particular time, that’s different. But we don’t control people’s time or place and I think time is actually a very important part to lifestyle which I agree with Ken, our team especially finds very important.
JAMON: So the title of this episode is I think Maximizing Your Team or something along those lines, and when I look at the word “maximizing”, we even thought about changing the title when we were first starting this, but because it feels a little bit off in some ways to our core values. It just occurred to me why.
We do believe that we should maximize our team, but not in a way that is purely Infinite Red serving. It’s more about maximizing them personally, their particular lives. So we give up some productivity in order to maximize their flexibility. We give up some high bandwidth situations so that they can live remotely in other cities. We give up some things that maybe if we were strictly optimizing for maximum productivity would be better in certain cases. And although, even some of those are arguable. I think we’ll probably talk about those in future episodes, but maximizing them is more about maximizing them as people and not just as employees.
TODD: I’m really glad you brought that up because, yeah, the title’s a little weird to me as well. But our job is to lead people towards their best version of their work self. Obviously, everything we’re talking about is an ideal and nothing’s perfect.
But I used to ice skate, for example, and some coaches would just tell me everything’s great all the time. Those coaches didn’t care. Their job literally is to help me improve. So if I’m doing everything wonderful, then that’s not helping me improve. I take the same approach with people and my job is to, in a supportive and kind way, as often as I can given my time help people improve. Well, a couple things for that. One is you want to find the right places for people.
Getting angry at a dog because it doesn’t climb a tree as well as you wish it would is stupid. You can take a dog and push it towards the best version of a dog, but you can’t make a dog a cat. I know, I’ve tried. (laughter) I’m just kidding. And that’s super important. I think a lot of leaders … Let’s call these people managers just to be derogatory. (laughter) A lot of managers will try to make dogs into cats and they complain to all their manager buddies over their cheap beer that employees all suck. And I’ve said this in a previous podcast, I’ll say it again, employees don’t suck, you suck. You’re a bad manager. Just stop trying to make dogs into cats and try to optimize, make it the best dog that is possible given the time and the particular point of the path that that particular person is on.
I don’t know why I’m calling the team dogs, I’m sorry about that. I love you, team.
KEN: I was gonna say, this is probably the reason we don’t have any ambitions to become a very large company because, frankly, once you’re at a certain scale, it becomes impossible to do what we’re talking about. Like the company needs people to fill particular sized round holes, and they will expect people to shave off their corners in order to fit into the round holes. That’s just reality. I don’t even think that there’s anything wrong with that exactly and some people thrive in that sort of environment, but we try to look at, yeah, what’s the best version of this person and like how can they fit into our team rather than doing it the other way around?
JAMON: And because of that we tend to hire a little more generalists than maybe a large company would where you can afford to hire a bunch of specialists that only do one thing. Even though we hire generalists, we’re still looking for their particular set of properties, what they’re good at.
TODD: Also, from a leadership standpoint, a leader enjoys working with people who have issues to work on. A manager, which once again I’m using as a derogatory term here, only wants the good people that they can be lazy about and just works. But think about that for a fact. Like I want to be a painter where all the canvas I get already have the paint on them. I want to be a house builder where when I show up to the work site, the house is built. Your job is to literally to help people improve in their work and to help them be the most efficient and the most creative and the most fulfilled that they can be. Why would you complain about team members who have problems? That’s literally your job.
Team members who are awesome, they don’t need me. We have them and that’s great, and I still try to help them move forward, but, of course, the further along one’s path to their ideal craftsperson or whatever, the less they need you. And, in that case, its more just morale and that kind of support. But what makes me excited as a leader is the people who have quite a few issues to deal with and how to creatively come up with a way to help them deal with that.
CHRIS: You’re kind of hinting at it, Todd. And I think there’s this underlying thread that in order to maximize your team, it’s really about being a leader not a manager. So what are some of the ways that people can approach building a team? What does it look like to be a leader?
TODD: One, care. Two, work hard. Three, who knows? Four, profit.
KEN: That’s basically it. I wish there was like a nice summary, a nice silver bullet going, “Hey. Be a leader trying to this one weird trick.”
The CEO at a startup that I was at for many years where I built a team, he was like, “You know, I don’t know what your magic is.”
I’m like, “There’s no magic. I just care.”
And it can be exhausting at an intense startup. It can be emotionally, physically, super draining to do that really well. I had to rest like to the point like I went and took just a regular engineer job for a couple of years because it took a lot out of me, and so the hard part is not how do you be a great leader. That is, you care and you pay attention. The hard part is how do you be a great leader sustainably over time without it destroying you. And I think having co-founders really helps with that. This is what I’ve definitely discovered.
JAMON: I agree. Some of my most draining weeks have been working on team issues, working on developing people and kind of working through all of that. It’s something that you’re not really trained at as a software engineer. You end up being, in some ways, kind of a psychologist or something along those lines where you’re having to think about a lot of issues and melding personalities and competing priorities and all of those things.
I actually talked to my brother-in-law last night and one of the things he mentioned about his job is he went from doing some kind of individual contributor type work to managing a team. And he actually built the team. It was a design team. And he said that it took years off his life doing that because it’s not something that came natural to him. And he is the type that absolutely cares. Like he is a very kindhearted, very nice person, and he really cares. And because of that, it was absolutely draining.
So I think it’s across industries, across disciplines that sort of leadership is … It’s hard. It’s not easy to do, so that would definitely up on my list of things that tire me out in a given week.
TODD: One thing I want to interject real quick before I go on to my next point, never confuse kindness with weakness. That’s a pet peeve of mine. It’s sometimes the kindest thing to do is grab their hand and yank them forcefully out of the traffic of oncoming cars.
Secondly, I don’t … I guess this is why one of my focuses is team, it doesn’t drain me that much to be honest. I really enjoy it. Any day where I’m only interacting with our team as opposed to worrying about business problems or maybe interacting with outside people is a good day for me to be honest. I feel good about that.
As far as what does it mean to care and what does it mean to work hard? Well, one, get to know your team. If you can’t say your team member’s spouse’s name whether it’s a wife or their husband or whatnot, that’s a problem. One of my goals is for us to all to be in a meeting with someone from the outside, and I can go around the table and introduce every single person, know about them, talk a little bit about them. That’s huge; just simply knowing people.
Also, the other thing that’s super, super important … And, gosh, we could make three podcasts out of this to be honest in my perspective. But one of the things that’s super important is when someone does have a problem or they make a mistake or something like that, they feel comfortable coming to you. I had some person recently come to me and say, “Look, I overslept. I missed my alarm and I missed a meeting.” It was a client meeting, and that’s one of the things that is kind of no-no here at Infinite Red. But they came to me and said, “I just wanted to let you know so you heard it from me first.” That’s awesome.
Well, in this case, I didn’t actually say much to be honest because they already knew what they did. They brought it to my attention. Like the end result was done by them. My real job was making them feel comfortable to come and tell me that. If you can have people tell you when they did something wrong instead of hiding it, that’s a gold star day for you as a leader in my opinion. That’s hard to do, but you have to make people feel comfortable. When they make a mistake, you almost celebrate the mistake because mistakes are what we learn, and you don’t beat them up for it but you are firm, fair and kind in response to it.
KEN: And on the subject of mistakes, we make tons of them. What we’re expressing is our goals and our practice. Just like engineering or design or any of the tasks that our team does, this is our ideals. Sometimes we fall down, and we try to sort of notice and correct. I’d much rather have a system that’s built on that feedback loop than on one that is built on never making a mistake. That’s part of our kind of our ethos of resiliency that we hope that we are instilling in our employees by embracing ourselves.
TODD: Yeah, we make lots of mistakes. One of the things I tell clients is, “Look, we’re human. We make mistakes. I would ask you not to judge us on the mistakes that we make. I would ask you to judge us on the speed and the effort we make in correcting those mistakes because that is something we can control. We can’t control this being perfect. We’re not.” And I think the same applies to our team, and hopefully if the team feels it applies to us because I would imagine we make more mistakes than most.