Quarterly Employee Check-in Process

With it being near the end of the quarter, it’s a good time to revisit the idea of a quarterly employee check-in or lightweight quarterly performance review. When the startup is small, this can be overkill, but as it grows, this is critical. At Pardot, we kept things simple and answered these four questions every quarter in a Google Doc:

  1. What did you accomplish this quarter? (List top 5-10 accomplishments)
  2. What 3-5 goals will you focus on next quarter?
  3. How can you improve?
  4. How are you embracing the company values? (Please provide specific examples.)

Pretty easy, right? Once the doc was done, the manager and direct report met for 30 – 45 minutes to talk through it, and the manager provided any coaching or feedback.

Entrepreneurs would do well to implement a quarterly employee check-in process as the startup grows.

What else? What are some more thoughts on a quarterly employee check-in process?

The Ideal Team Player

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite leadership authors writing books like The Advantage and The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. His latest book, The Ideal Team Player, is focused on “how to recognize and cultivate the three essential virtues.” As always, he starts with a fable and then goes into more detail.

Here are the three virtues and descriptions from the book:

  1. Humility – Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
  2. Hunger – Hungry people are always looking for more.
  3. People smarts – A person’s common sense about people…the ability to be interpersonally appropriate and aware.

Looking to improve your leadership skills and build a better organization? Start by reading Lencioni’s books.

What else? What are your thoughts on the book The Ideal Team Player?

Video of the Week: Dharmesh Shah – Why Company Culture is Crucial

Corporate culture is one of my favorite topics (more here). For this week’s video, listen to Dharmesh Shah talk about Why Company Culture is Crucial and read his famous Culture Code deck. Enjoy!

From YouTube: Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO at the marketing and sales software firm HubSpot, distills his 128-slide presentation on company culture down to its essence, describing it as a business’s “operating system” that lets people do their best work. Shah says entrepreneurs must create a company culture they love, because one will eventually emerge no matter what.

Maintaining a Sense of Urgency at Scale

Last week two different growth-stage entrepreneurs brought up the question of how to maintain a sense of urgency at scale (e.g. > 50 employees). When it’s a small team toiling away, it’s easy to maintain a sense of urgency just by constantly talking about the challenges and opportunities by motivating the team directly. As the company grows beyond the founders, that same passion and energy has to be translated through the culture. Peter Drucker came up with the famous phrase “culture will eat strategy for breakfast.”

Here are a few thoughts on maintaining a sense of urgency at scale:

Maintaining a sense of urgency at scale comes down to the culture and communication. Set the foundation and reiterate the message.

What else? What are some more thoughts on maintaining a sense of urgency at scale?

Feeling the Energy of the Culture in an Office

Earlier today I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Kabbage office in Atlanta and the energy was electric. As I entered, several people walked by smiling, and enjoying each others’ company. Walking in the kitchen, a number of people were sharing stories while exuding a warm vibe. Culture starts with the core values and permeates through all aspects of the business.

Here are a few thoughts on the energy of a culture in an office:

  • There’s no one right or wrong culture. Some are formal and some are laid back. Some are silly and some are serious. What matters is that everyone is aligned and buys into the core values.
  • Office environment, style, color, and layout either augment or detract from the culture. Visual cues matter.
  • First impressions, like the receptionist at the desk, set the tone.
  • Subtle things like the way people decorate their desks and leaving private office doors open or closed are important.

We’ve all walked into offices that have made us happier and offices that have made us more depressed. Energy of a culture in an office matters and it’s important to be intentional about building the best one for the startup.

What else? What are some more thoughts about the energy of the culture in an office?

Benefits of Internal Recruiters

When a startup hits the scaling phase and starts hiring a significant number of people on a regular basis, one of the best things to do is to hire an internal recruiter. At Pardot, we actually hired several full-time internal recruiters well before we hit 100 employees as we saw our fast growth continuing indefinitely. Here are a few benefits of internal recruiters:

  • Internal recruiters learn the culture and core values inside and out
  • Internal recruiters get to know the team and hiring managers such that they can better align candidates with positions
  • Internal recruiters are only focused on their own company (as opposed to being split across different companies)
  • Internal recruiters can build a future pipeline of candidates well in advance so that when the next milestone is achieved, or funding round secured, the time to getting great new hires on board is significantly reduced

Hiring internal recruiters early on in the scaling process can make a huge impact on the business. Entrepreneurs would do well to engage internal recruiters earlier than expected.

What else? What are some more benefits of internal recruiters?

6 Steps to Build a Culture of Accountability

One of the challenges most entrepreneurs face is building a culture of accountability. As much as we want everyone to own their results, most employees can’t answer the three basic questions (who’s my boss, what’s my job, how do I know if I’m doing well). After many years of trial and error, here are the six steps I’ve learned to build a culture of accountability:

  1. Start by answering the three basic questions for every employee
  2. Decide on 3-5 operational metrics with goals that each employee owns and reports on weekly (e.g. story points, calls made, appointments set, marketing qualified leads generated, customer satisfaction scores, billable hours, revenue, etc.)
  3. Review the employee’s day-to-day/week-to-week work at a daily check-in or weekly team meeting along with their metrics
  4. Provide a central system (like a Google Sheet KPIs Dashboard) for each department with everyone’s metrics so that there is peer accountability and visibility
  5. Analyze the personal goals on a quarterly basis as part of the quarterly check-ins
  6. Tie everything together with the Simplified One Page Strategic Plan and help each employee understand how their goals align to the company’s goals

While this process seems straightforward, very few entrepreneurs actually implement this type of system. Why? It’s requires a tremendous amount of ongoing leadership and management, and most entrepreneurs don’t understand the value. The next time an entrepreneur expresses interest in growing faster and scaling more efficiently, ask them about their existing culture of accountability.

What else? What are some more thoughts on these six steps to build a culture of accountability?