Roman for Dummies: a Colleague’s Manual

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Dear beloved Splentoites. 

There are two things I would recommend you do, before embarking on a splendid journey of getting to know your CEO better. 

(1) Read this “high level” intro I wrote a while back (Hi, I’m Roman. Nice to meet you). Just like with a warm up before a hard workout, it will ease you into what’s coming next.  

(2) And continuing on with the sports analogy, I also highly recommend this soundtrack to get you into the right mood. 

There are several things you need to know about me that should make your Splendid Journey more rewarding and productive, and working with me a lot more fun.

ROLE IN THE COMPANY:

This is what my position agreement says I’m supposed to be doing:

  • Communicating on behalf of Splento with shareholders and potential investors.
  • Leading the development of the company’s short and long-term strategy.
  • Creating and implementing the company’s vision and mission.
  • Building and leading the senior executive team.
  • Maintaining awareness of the competitive market landscape, expansion opportunities, industry developments.
  • Modeling and setting the company’s culture, values, and behavior.
  • Allocating capital to the company’s priorities.

But just like with almost everyone at Splento, on top of this I keep doing lots of other jobs, which perhaps I shouldn’t. It’s not because I can’t let go. It’s simply because there are thousands of “jobs to be done”, but we are perennially too short-staffed to assign them all. 

Trust me, I can’t wait for the day when I can just concentrate purely on my duties.

OPERATING APPROACH:

Laissez-Faire Management & Leadership Style

I deliberately abstain from direction or interference, especially when it comes to individual freedom of choice and action of my direct reports. If you are used to working with military-like clarity of direction and 100% adherence to your Position Agreement, then you’ll struggle reporting directly to me. 

There are lots of roles within Splento that urgently need this exact approach, but with me – I’m less of a personal trainer and more of an experienced running buddy whom you can tap into for sage advice. 

But everything is in your hands. Therefore, if you are a results oriented ambitious self-starting A-Player – you’ll thrive working directly with me. 

Dress code

I don’t like wearing ties, so if you see me wearing one – it must be for a very good reason. As for you – I don’t mind whatever you are wearing. As long as you are productive and delivering amazing service to our clients and bringing incredible results to our team, for all I care – you can come naked to work. 

Time-keeping

The only thing we can’t buy is time. You can spend your precious moments on this planet as frivolously as you want (even by smoking cigarettes or checking Instagram & Twitter every hour). Your choice, who am I to judge. However, when it comes to my time – I do judge!

Our friends use a colloquial term “Estonian punctuality” when they describe my family’s timekeeping habits. It is for a good reason. We rarely arrive on time, instead we always arrive early. One of the very few things I actually stress about in life – is being late. Occasionally I am (trains do actually get cancelled and tech wouldn’t connect me to the conference call no matter what), but I hate being late with every bone in my body.

Therefore, if you are late to a meeting with me or my colleagues, that is a huge black mark against you in my book. So please don’t ever be late.

Money

I’m financially prudent, both when it comes to my personal finances and company finances. Even when we reach billions of dollars in revenue and are a global household name, we will not have a grand head office or Beyoncé singing at our Christmas Party (unless she does a favour in exchange for an amazing Splento headshot). 

However, I will not hesitate for a second to approve a training course for you if it makes an A-Player into an A* Player or invest in a piece of technology that will skyrocket our ROI.

Working hours 

I also have a boss. Despite her tender age (she’s only three), just like any good boss – she manages to bring out the best in me, but at the same time she pushes me to my limits and constantly keeps me on my toes. Especially when it comes to my work schedule.  

Eva takes off for school around 7:40am and goes to bed at 7.30pm. So I try not to leave home before 8am and try to make it back home before 6pm on many nights, because I want to spend as much time with my little boss as I can.

That’s why a couple of days a week you may see me leave the office just after 5pm to catch some quality time with Eva and a few days a week I’ll stay until 9pm, when I missed that window of opportunity.

Travelling 

I enjoy travelling for numerous reasons, but the main one is – I come up with dozens of ideas during my travels. Planes are my “proverbial showers”. I regularly come off a plane with a list of ideas that I would normally need a month to fill in. 

I used to travel a lot. Now I want to spend as much time as I can with my little boss, so I cut down on business travel, but when duty calls – I will take off in an instant.  

If you don’t like how something works in the Company

Go and fix it. No process? Create one. Mismanaged department? Tell me. Stop complaining – everything is in your power.

Company Politics

I would love to be able to discuss people only in their presence, but with a team spread out all over the world, usually we have no choice but to assess people’s performance and company fit without their being in the room. 

When I say something about someone, rest assured – I have said or will say exactly the same thing to their face, be it positive or negative. 

So please, behave in exactly the same way and never ever play politics with me – it will backfire. 

COMMUNICATION APPROACH

Meetings

Communication is the bloodstream of any business and meetings are the arteries that carry the blood. They can be extremely efficient or they could be clogged. One thing you can’t have – a business without meetings. 

There are different types of meetings with different purposes and I will write a separate post about different types of meetings at Splento and how to conduct them properly. 

But here are a few simple rules to follow:

 ⁃ have an agenda 

 ⁃ start on time

 ⁃ no more business to discuss, finish early

 ⁃ document action points after the meeting and assign their execution to specific individuals

Emails

I have a zero-email-inbox policy, which means that my inbox serves as one of my to-do lists. The other one is a Kanban Board, organised by GTD principles. 

I don’t understand how someone can stay organised with thousands of emails in their inbox, so I try hard to persuade people to switch from the Dark Side to the Organised GTD Side. Therefore, if you come across my murmuring something ineligible when I see 10+ emails in your inbox, don’t panic and feel free to carry on as you’ve been operating before. I’m just trying to make a more efficient Splentoite out of you.

1:1s

I believe that 1:1s are your meetings and are your most powerful tool for communicating with me on a regular basis. Therefore, I don’t want to dictate the form this tool should take and the frequency of its use.

It’s up to you how often you do them with me and what format they take, but I would like to cover the following things in addition to whatever you want to discuss: 

 ⁃ work progress since last meeting 

 ⁃ results 

 ⁃ blockers and how I can help

 ⁃ personal development 

If you don’t organise 1:1s with me at all, don’t blame my laissez-faire management style. You didn’t take that chance to communicate with me regularly.

Skip-level meetings and projects

I often skip org chart rungs and ask for help or feedback from your direct reports. Unless proven otherwise, I believe this is a lot more efficient.

Reports & Data

I love data, but I have my limitations. I can’t read through dozens of reports trying to figure out all the wonderful treasures hidden in your data. So please always send me summaries that your mum will understand, along with a full report in case I do need to dig deeper into a specific point. 

I believe regular reports are to the benefit of the person writing them even more than they are beneficial to me. They help you structure your thoughts and work better and keep yourself accountable. So please do them often and do them right.

If we’re discussing something and you have data that would be useful to our decision, bring it up.

Telegram messages 

We have a whole document dedicated to Splento’s rules of engagement on Telegram. Please read them. 

Two things I would like to mention about my Telegram habits:

 ⁃ I prefer to record audio messages. I’m constantly on the go and in between meetings and when I have free time to sit down, I prefer to think and write longer pieces like this one. As Mark Twain said, I don’t have time to write you a short message. 

 ⁃ However, I prefer to receive messages from you in the text format, unless they are really long (1 min or more), in which case feel free to record a message for me too. But text is still better.

Roman’s “Midnight and Weekend Telegram Missiles”

I think about Splento 24/7. Yes, bizarrely I even have dreams about Splento. So don’t be surprised when you receive my Telegram message at an ungodly hour and from an unexpected place (holiday, airport, during my run or even from a mountain top). 

Unless I specifically ask you to reply ASAP (and I almost never do), feel free to reply in your own time and in accordance to your own schedule, not mine.

Unless there is a call to action in my message (i.e. I ask you to do something specific by a specific time), these messages are just FYI – my way of making sure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. So just digest and move on. 

Calls

I don’t like when people call me without scheduling a call in advance (and ideally we would have a calendar entry with agenda for the call). 

However, if we are working on something very urgent and incredibly important that can’t wait (and we all know it when we see it and Darren does really well): please-please-please pick up the phone and call me!

Calendar Entries

Talking about calendar entries. I live by my Calendar (I have a whole philosophy around why this is the right way). Unless there is an entry in my calendar – it’s highly probable that I will forget to show up to a meeting with you or join a call. So if you really want to see me, send me a calendar invite.

Social media

I won’t bore you to death as to why I think it’s bad, but you guessed it already – I don’t do it. The only social media app I open on a weekly basis is LinkedIn and it’s only because I use its InMail feature to reach out to amazing people (partners, investors, clients, potential employees). Oh, how I wish LinkedIn had just their messenger as a separate app. Then I would be able to cut out all the distractions. 

Social Gatherings 

With my single-minded focus on results and productivity, I struggle to justify attending various types of social gatherings. So please don’t get offended if I politely say no. 

Unless there are enough people in the room with whom I can talk business – I’ll be a very boring addition to your lovely company (whether it’s 4, 400 or 4,000).

OCD & Attention to Detail

English is not my native language, so I still struggle big time with “a” and “the” and the correct use of tenses, but I notice double spaces, incorrectly formatted documents and terrible sounding sentences (thank my former boss James for infecting me with this OCD back in 2005-2009). So please read and reread very carefully anything you send me to avoid looking “I don’t give a shit”-ish in my eyes.

I love people who say “no”. I also hate people who say “no”.

The answer to this riddle is simple – there are two different ways to say no. 

The one I love and wholeheartedly support – is what I call “the Alex no”. It goes like this: “Thank you, Roman. X sounds like a good idea and I can do it, but I’m busy with Y and Z, which should take me so long to complete. I can start working on X, but that will be at the expense of either Y or Z. I understand our priorities are Y & Z, but I’m happy to revise if you can persuade me otherwise”.

The one I don’t like goes like this: “No, I can’t do it”.

You guessed correctly – there are many more answer options, the two most frequently occurring being: 

⁃ Yes – and doing it.

⁃ Yes – and not doing it.

No explanation needed which one will get you in my good books.

Hugger and Firm Handshaker

These two are quite self-explanatory. 

Humour

When it comes to humour, I can not only take, but also appreciate anything from deepest darkest politically incorrect Russian jokes to subtlest British irony. Bring it on!

Temper

I’m pathologically incapable of losing my temper, so when I say in a calm voice to you with a smile on my face that “this is where I should get mad at you” or something along these lines, it means you are doing something wrong and it’s time to stop and rethink our dialogue.

If you don’t like something I said/did  

The action matrix for situations when I did or said something that you don’t like is very simple.

  • The best way: tell me straight away what was it, why you didn’t like it and how you would like it fixed.
  • The mediocre way: never tell anyone about it and just carry on as if nothing happened. 
  • The worst way: never tell me, but tell other people about it.

I’m an infinite learner and self-improver, so I sincerely love and appreciate it when I can learn something new about myself and get a chance to become better.

VALUES

You can find the full list of our values and principles here: https://www.splento.com/our-values 

I highly recommend you read them and reread, because these values play a very big part in my formula of measuring A-Players (insanely great people) against everyone else.

But if I were to highlight one single value that you should guard, epitomise and treasure above all else – it’s trust: trust I put in you, trust our clients have in us, trust your colleagues have in you, trust you should have in the company, it’s mission and it’s bright future. 

Make a mistake and as long as you and the team learn from it – I’ll fully support you. 

Betray my trust in you – and you are out of the proverbial door in a snap. 

VISION

That’s an easy one. Keep checking my annual letters (https://www.splento.com/blog/tag/annual-letter/) and you will understand the WHY, the WHAT and the HOW.

Well done for getting through this opus. I hope it helps you understand me better and make your experience of working with me mutually beneficial, an extremely productive endeavour and most importantly – great fun! 

Just like with any workout, we now need to cool down. A good mind-stretch to finish off our session today is a very simple theory I’ve got.

My take on learning is simple – you haven’t learned anything, unless you change something as a result of this new information.

So, having read this Manual – how will you change the way you work with me?

With love, hugs and communist kisses.

Yours truly,

 

Roman
CEO, Splento

1 December 2019