We’re in the middle of an audacious product launch here at Shipwire, one that I hope to blog more about after it’s out the door, and we’ve tested it with a group of our customers.
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Rather than speak to the features or the launch process, I’d like to talk about inspiring a team to elevate ideas, even if they’re risky or could potentially trigger a backlash.
I’d like to remind the reader that, as the CEO, I’ve tried to surround myself with people smarter than myself. In my blog, you can read tidbits from our sales VP, our board of advisors and other brilliant team members. This post is a puree of ideas I’ve gleaned from our team, my college roommate and a great quote from a mentor.
At Shipwire, I don’t want sycophants or “Yes men” and I doubt any entrepreneurial CEO does. I want ideas to be fairly challenged in data-driven discussions that lack any internal “political” agenda. But, how do I get ideas to percolate up from the bottom? How do I sponsor a culture of risk taking?
Here are three ways that have proven useful.
The first comes from Aaron Ross--my college roommate, a prolific writer, entrepreneur, and early Salesforce employee, where he built a $100 million business. He recently started a new business, called CEO Flow, to help CEOs turn their employees into mini-CEOs.
I highly recommend his blog. He advocates empowering every employee to become a mini-CEO, with responsibility for his or her own business unit.
The second idea comes from Nate Gilmore, our VP of marketing, who learned from his mentor Ron Scott: “When you succeed, you get the credit. When you fail, I take the blame.” Powerful words to hear from your manager to inspire intelligent risk taking. In practice, it helps the team know there isn’t a glory hog above them; and, even better, that somebody will “have their back” if their risk taking doesn’t turn out favorably.
The third is my favorite: be humble, and open, to inspired thoughts from wherever they may come. As Shipwire has grown, I have needed to get a higher and higher viewpoint while trusting the managers of my core business to have the ground level insights and field vision.
To know what’s really going on when I come into the office, I need to check my ego at the door and do more listening than talking. To help me get in the right frame of mind, I really try to start every day being grateful for the people around me that are helping me achieve my goals. I’ve seen other enterprise leaders inject humbleness into their way of being. For example, when I watch that CBS program “Undercover Boss,” my favorite episode is about GSI Commerce CEO Michael Rubin.
Shipwire is like GSI Commerce for the SMB; so it was particularly powerful for me to watch Michael shed the board attire and go to work in the warehouse, load trucks and answer customer support calls.
How have you inspired ideas and risk taking in your enterprise?