Monthly Archives: May 2016

One Year in SF

This past weekend I crossed the 1-year mark living and working in San Francisco. I arrived with considerable hopes, dreams, and even a “plan” but I’d be lying if I were to say that I had it figured out.

In fact, I ultimately had very little idea of what I was doing, what I was supposed to be doing, and how the first year would inevitably turn out. It’s been one helluva ride.

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Process is Documented Culture

Image via BOSSFIGHT

One of the things that became very apparent to me while putting together my last company was the idea that documenting culture was how you identified and refined the organization’s culture.

In other words, if one is to organically “build” culture then it’s actually better to simply observe what is already happening and then document those things (or codify) so that others can ratify and improve on them.

This is why I believe that much of the culture that an organization has are simply the very things that are already happening, the actions that you and your team are doing, exhibiting, living, and breathing day-in and day-out.

There’s no need, especially in the beginning, to manufacture culture — it’s already happening and being built in real-time. The leader’s job, therefore, is to document them, observe, and codify them so that everyone can become literal champions of those things, especially as you begin to hire and scale the business.

When everyone else is trying to “develop” great culture I believe that those things are already happening and that the culture can’t really be created since it’s essentially already happened.

What’s nice about this model as well is that if culture is truly fluid and malleable then so is your process(es) — you can add, subtract, and completely eliminate or rebuild and retool as much as you’d like, especially as the team changes over time.

There are no “sacred cows” when it comes to process because it’s based on the people, the team, the overall staff, and the leadership. As those things change your culture changes. As your culture changes so does process.

Sure, there should probably be a few things that are uncompromisable but those things are obvious — things like integrity, honesty, and transparency. An organization should never have to have those as explicit value statements as no organization worth its salt should be without them.

And we all know what it’s like when those things aren’t really in play.

Process is documented culture, especially in the startup phase. The challenge of any growing organization is to make sure that the team takes the time to document their (changing) culture consistently — most organizations forget to do that.


Originally published at John Saddington. At Eve we believe that there is a better way to do HR. Follow our continued progress of building a company in San Francisco via Twitter, this blog, and even via our email newsletter.

Process is Documented Culture

One of the things that became very apparent to me while putting together my last company was the idea that documenting culture was how you identified and refined the organization’s culture.

In other words, if one is to organically “build” culture then it’s actually better to simply observe what is already happening and then document those things (or codify) so that others can ratify and improve on them.

Continue reading

Does My Work Really Matter?

We all want our work, our contributions to matter. We want our effort to count, to have real meaning, and to know in no uncertain terms that the time we spend is moving the needle forward.

Not only do we want this to be absolutely clear for our team and the business that we work for but we also want to know that it’s also moving the needle forward for ourselves, professionally.

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On Creating Greatness

via BOSSFIGHT

The goal of any leader (and the companies they lead, for that matter…) should be to inspire and create greatness in their staff.

Not just for their fiscal bottom-line but because helping other people become better humans, both personally and professionally, is a win-win in every single way imaginable.


And, in fact, when it happens, the bottom-lines grow.

Leadership is the art of creating greatness in other people.

This means that it’s intentional, not a mistake, and that it’s costly. Anything worth doing will always cost something because creating something is never truly deus ex machina; rather, the artists themselves must give of themselves to others for this exchange to happen, for real growth to occur.

In other words, the leader must sacrifice part of herself for the other so that they might grow and become all that they can be. It is a gift, an offering, an act of self-pruning that seeds and plants the greatest opportunities for growth in others.

When I mentor and lead others I feel the weight and responsibility of that burden. I know the cost because I immediately feel it emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I have given of myself so that the other person, sitting across from me, might accelerate, might grow, might improve, might ascend to new heights.

The expense is worth it, the investment is sound. There are no guarantees and sometimes there is no obvious return, but, I always feel amazing when I stand up, shake hands, give them a final hug, and depart, knowing that they have been encouraged to be more courageous.

And it’s medicine that I need to swallow myself day-in and day-out. I hope many of you have mentors and coaches that you trust, that can help you accelerate to be the very best versions of your worthy selves.

via Gaping Void:

It’s not a leader’s job to be great at whatever. It’s the leader’s job to make the people under him/her great at whatever.

Which is why, in old school Chinese martial arts, a master is not judged by how good his kung fu is, the master is judged by how good his/her students’ kung fu is.


Originally published at John Saddington.

On Creating Greatness

The goal of any leader (and the companies they lead, for that matter…) should be to inspire and create greatness in their staff.

Not just for their fiscal bottom-line but because helping other people become better humans, both personally and professionally, is a win-win in every single way imaginable.

Continue reading

Art Before Commerce

One of my favorite comics of all time is Calvin & Hobbes and over the years I have posted a handful of times here on my blog about them (like here, here, herehere, and here, and here, here)… wow, that’s a handful of posts (and some of them are epic wallpapers)!

This beautiful overview describing Watterson’s decision to put art before commerce is fundamental and has captured my heart over the last few days:

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Bad Systems and Good People

Image via BOSSFIGHT

We all know that any good organization worth its salt has powerful and intimate systems that regulate it, that help it move things forward, that allow it to perform optimally, and that help it maintain its course.

The challenge when you start a new venture is that you’re building most if not all of these systems on-the-fly; the common metaphor that is that of putting together an airplane mid-flight — this works because that’s exactly what it’s like.

Some would find the idea of this frightening while others, like myself, find this exhilarating and in many ways I live for this type of dynamic; there are few things more exciting than putting together something from scratch.

We’re building the rules (and breaking them) all at the same time and all of this somehow works together to push things forward. And if there’s an art to it then I’m still learning how to paint and if there’s a science to it then I’ve never been classically-trained — I’m just enjoying the ride and very grateful for the opportunity every single day.

But it doesn’t escape me that putting dedicated time every week to review the systems that I’ve instituted and to ask myself and the team whether they are working.

Why? Because if the systems are fundamentally bad then we’re in grave trouble. I’m reminded of W. Edwards Deming’s quote regarding systems and people:

A bad system will beat a good person every single time.

What I think Deming forgot, though, is the fact that great people can build new systems that can eradicate a bad system — it just takes time and, sometimes, the “system” is actually related to certain people and not some abstract set of things that need to be done in specific steps.

In other words, sometimes you have to both add new people to the team and remove old people to continue moving the ship forward. I’ve had to do this with my previous organizations as it really is a matter of survival — if you’re going to sprint a marathon then you need the best people for the job at that specific leg of the race and you can’t except sub-standard substitutes.

Knowing all of this doesn’t make the job of hiring and firing any easier — I’ll admit that it’s the absolute worst part of my job and I’m still learning how to become a better manager (a better hiring manager, to be more specific) and a leader overall.

Putting things in order.

The most encouraging thing about company building and the work done so far with Eve is that I can literally see my own growth as a person and professional in real-time. I am still learning, every single day, on how to do my work better and as a result I’m surviving, my company is surviving.

To summon Deming once more:

Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.

Amen to that.

The goal is to hire the very best that you can and, together, build systems that move the ball down the court. Bad systems with bad people is certain death while the opposite, good systems with good people is the obvious goal. Everything in between is merely an opportunity for improvement, for optimization, for growth.

And if you’re growing then you’re headed in the right direction. Keep going.


Originally published at John Saddington. At Eve we believe that there is a better way to do HR. Follow our continued progress of building a company in San Francisco via Twitter, this blog, and even via our email newsletter.