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CEO Holiday Notes

Hi Team,

A quick message to say – well done for getting through our first month together as Splento’s  Leadership Team. 

Thank you for your hard work! 

I’m going away in an exceptionally busy period, but I will try to switch off from work for that time and below I’ll outline why I think my going away and switching off is actually the best team building exercise for us. 

What is a Leadership Team:

A Leadership Team is not a group of Departmental Heads who meet on a weekly basis to update each other on “what’s up”. 

A Leadership Team – is a team of senior leaders (who happen to be Heads of their respective departments) committed to a common mission

Your job – is the success of the company, not the well-being of your individual departments. 

An ideal leadership team meeting is one where someone who doesn’t know us walks into a room and can’t tell who the CEO is. It’s not a meeting with everyone reporting to the CEO. Instead, everyone is engaged in a healthy debate about which priorities to tackle and how to help each other achieve our common goal

This is why you should never refer to our weekly reports as “a report to Roman”. These reports are: 

  • for your personal benefit
  • for your teams’ benefit (the leadership team and the team you lead), and yes
  • last (and in this case – least) for my benefit. 

Food for Thought:

Therefore, to get you to perform better and stronger whilst I’m away, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned over the years about:

1) Healthy Organisations

2) A Cohesive Leadership Team

3) Effective Leaders.

This is my leadership approach (hugely influenced by Patrick Lencioni’s management philosophy) and I will do my best to reinforce it over the coming years, but as always – I’m happy to change/update it if there is good evidence to support a more effective approach. 

1) A Healthy Organisation:

Organisational health is one of the greatest opportunities for improvement and a competitive advantage that is really hard to copy. 

Despite all the cash, we know our main competitors are broken internally. Everyone in the industry knows that. Even their customers (now our customers) know that.

Just like personal health, organisational health is so simple and accessible that many leaders have a hard time seeing it as a real opportunity for meaningful advantage. But it is.

For me personally, it’s hard to admit (because it goes contrary to my desire for speed, efficiency and quantification), but when it comes to organisational health: 

  • There are no quick fixes
  • Becoming a healthy organisation takes time
  • Any one metric won’t give us all the answers. 

Therefore, we all have to work hard on growing up as a healthy organisation. 

So how shall we do it? 

We need to:

A) Have a cohesive leadership team

B) Create clarity

C-X) Over-communicate clarity

Z) Reinforce clarity.

Every single one of us is responsible for this organisational A-Z, but of course, the buck will always stop with me. 

The strategic initiatives you’ve all submitted to Evgeniy this week were all about: Creating Clarity. 

Once we finalise this document – we will all need to start over-communicating and reinforcing this clarity. How to over-communicate and reinforce clarity – is a whole essay in its own right, so I’ll leave that for another day. 

Next, I’d like to focus on how we should Build Our Cohesive Leadership Team. 

2) A Cohesive Leadership Team: 

The foundation of any successful team is full trust. 

People who trust one another aren’t worried about holding back their opinions. This can only happen when teams aren’t afraid to talk about their challenges and are openly sharing their weaknesses, passions, frustrations, expectations and more.

All those posts I wrote on our blog are there for a reason. I cannot ask you to trust me if you don’t know me. 

We trust people we know. 

There are two particular articles worth reading:

  1. https://www.splento.com/blog/2018/10/05/hi-im-roman-nice-to-meet-you/
  2. https://www.splento.com/blog/2019/12/01/roman-for-dummies-a-colleagues-manual/

However, these two articles don’t quite address the leadership philosophy per se. So here is a quick summary:

3) Effective Leaders: 

Effective leadership is such a deep subject that one can spend their entire lifetime writing about it, but sticking to Evgeniy’s suggestion for Splento to use “3-80” in our reports, I’ll mention three main things that have a disproportionately large effect on my leadership style. 

A) I don’t give a shit about personal status or recognition – I care about the results.

As opposed to many CEOs, raising the largest funding round, becoming a Unicorn or being all over the news – isn’t something I care about. 

What I do deeply care about is that we are the number one choice for millions of clients around the world when it comes to their visual content. 

For all I care, we could be the largest visual content and tech provider no one knows about. 

Minnesota, a midwestern state I spent numerous summers in, is home to one of the largest corporations no one has heard about – Cargill: $100bn+ in annual revenue and millions of happy customers – is what matters. Not mentions on TechCrunch or fancy job titles. 

B) I have no problem with being wrong 

I am comfortable to make decisions with limited information and being proven wrong. 

I have no problem with people making mistakes. As long as you learn from your failures and share the learnings with the wider team (so they can learn too), I will fully support as many mistakes and failures as you can handle. 

But if someone betrays my trust – we will part ways. 

C) Productive conflict trumps harmony. 

For me, accountability trumps popularity. I won’t water down negative feedback and will remind everyone of my expectations constantly. 

I’m also wary of the “yes-men”. When a lot of smart people are in the same room discussing a difficult issue and all I hear is yes – it either means: 

  • no one cares;
  • there is no trust; or
  • people aren’t actually smart enough.

Neither of these is good. However, productive conflict is good. 

This is it for now.

With my best wishes from snowy peaks (actually from a dingy cafe at Linate Airport),

Yours truly, 

 

Roman