Doing What You’re Good At

Seth Godin posted a nice little piece today, as he frequently does, about passion and expertise in whatever you do. Very timely, as I’ve been facing this very question in the past few weeks.

CitySquares has a tribe member who’s been with us for about a year now. She’s a rock star in so many ways. She also really enjoys her job and is proud to work at CitySquares. This is partly what makes her a true member of the tribe.

For the last year she has filled some big shoes, and performed in a job that was not well defined for her. She kicked ass at it, like I never thought possible. And over the course of time she’s naturally filled a role within the company that not only has been a bit of a vacancy within the organization, but is something she’s simply really good at.

No one asked her to do these things, no one pointed her in that direction. Instead, she saw a need in the company, and then filled that need. She’s done so with poise, enthusiasm, with total ease. Today, she was formally moved into that role.

What she did over the course of time, perhaps unknowingly, is what she’s good at, and what she enjoysvoluntarilyon her own. She did so because she has a natural expertise with it, and because she has a passion for it. You just can’t buy that.  The result, and hopefully the result of good observation by management, is a permanent move into that role. This will result in even better performance in this role, it addresses a need within the company, in a happier, more efficient, effective successful company, it results in happier customers and better retention rates, and best of all – a member of the tribe who’s even happier and more successful.

Founders and Leaders

george_bushEntrepreneurs come in different flavors, different sizes, different languages, and different abilities. Some entrepreneurs are brilliant engineers, some are opportunists, some are really good at sales and marketing. One thing is for sure though – not all entrepreneurs are leaders.

There are countless books on leadership. I’ve read a few, from Jack Welch to Rudy Guiliani, to Seth Godin. In this entrepreneurial age we’re living in, leadership has taken on a new meaning. Leadership is a bit more scientific too, than say entrepreneurship. Yet leadership can also be as enigmatic as entrepreneurship.

I’ve been thinking about these things lately, thinking about the essence of leadership in an entrepreneurial setting.

Fred Wilson, on his blog, said the following the other day:

I’ve heard people say, “If you want to know about a company, all you need to do is look at the leader” and it certainly is true that companies exhibit the traits of their leaders. But it’s also true that companies exhibit the traits of their founders. In fact, I’d argue that founders leave a longer and more indelible imprint on the DNA of companies than the person who is currently running them.

There are a host of reasons for why that is. To start, the business that the company is in is more often than not determined by the founder. And companies can move into different businesses over time, but most stay fairly rooted in the initial business that they started in. It’s also true that the culture of a company is defined early on and it’s hard to change it. Some companies are technology driven, some are product driven, others are marketing driven, and others are sales driven. That most often comes from the founder and it’s hard for a new leader to change that mindset. Another important reason that the founders often have the greatest impact on the DNA of a company is the entire initial management team is most often built by the founder. That initial selection of people is a critical determinant in the way companies evolve and behave and new management will always struggle to change the behaviors a company exhibits.

Founders are entrepreneurs, whether they like it or not. That’s just inherent in founding a company. It’s like giving birth to a child, you are a mother. However, just because you’re a founder, or just because you’re an entrepreneur, doesn’t mean you’re a leader.

I recently read Tribal Leadership, by various others, and Tribes, by Seth Godin. I’m trying to better understand my own style of leadership, the qualities and the characteristics of it. I’m trying to be a better leader, and know where my weaknesses as a leader may lie in order to do so.

What I enjoy most about doing what I do every day here at CitySquares is not closing deals, analyzing Excel workbooks, or conducting board meetings. I don’t particularly enjoy any of those duties and tasks, or many of the countless other responsibilities that come with being the CEO. And none of those things actually make me a leader. What I do enjoy doing is working with the people within CitySquares, as well as the customers and the advisors. I enjoy affecting change, helping the company move forward as a single unit, as a tribe, who actually enjoy their jobs. I enjoy protecting them from the noise outside these walls, and from those who may try to stop them from succeeding. I enjoy achieving our goals, collectively. I enjoy inspiring. I enjoy seeing them smile at our holiday party, as if they’re actually happy to be there because they like the company, they like who they work for, they like who they work with. I enjoy working with my team to find new ways of accomplishing the greater mission of CitySquares. I enjoy inspiring and affecting change then watching them execute, and learn, and get even better at it.

Is this leadership? I don’t know. It’s me, I know that. It’s who I am and it’s what I do best, I think.

Sixth Photo Meme

My friend Sooz tagged me in a little Interweb game called Sixth Photo Meme. Basically, Sooz went to her Flickr account, to her 6th page of pictures, and to the 6th picture on that page and then tagged me in the picture. Now although I’m not actually in the picture isn’t the point – the point is that this viral game spreads like wildfire. It’s fun! The one caveat is that you need to have a Flickr account to participate, but even still you need to have at least 6 pages of photos.

So here’s my Sixth Photo Meme! This is a picture of the best game of baseball I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend – October 17, 2004. It was the 2004 American League Championship Series, game 4 at Fenway Park – Boston vs New York. This was the game 4. The one that resulted in the best comeback in sports history, the comeback that ended the Red Sox’s 86 year championship drought. I had the great fortune of attending this pivotal game, this pivotal moment in baseball history. I watched Dave Roberts steal second base – the single moment, the single play that changed it all. This is a picture of Mariano Rivera, perhaps the best closer in baseball history, on the mound in the midst of this game as it unravelled for the Bombers. Anyway, here’s my 6th photo from page 6:
IMG_0947

So it’s my turn to pick 6 people to play this game. Here we go:

Ryan Sarver, Sean Coon, Nate Aune, Tara Hunt, Dana Zemack, CitySquares

Google Shutting Down Local Business Referrals Program

Back in August of 2007 Google announced their Local Business Referrals Program. A lot of people shook in their boots, others doubted any success. I suspected that it was doomed to fail.

I just don’t see Google coming into this space, sprinkling it’s Google fairy dust on the marketplace and voila – cracking the code. OK, so maybe Google’s isn’t trying to crack the code, but just penetrate the market a bit more than they’re able. Google should want to penetrate this space, of course they should, but doing it themselves? Gimme a break! And this approach is just silly. I kind of get the sense that this is a desperate move by an increasingly clumsy and goofy corporation that will yield very little. Next step for Google? Snatching up local search players.

Success in the local search market will not come from a giant like Google or Yahoo or Microsoft. It will come from the small startups like, well, like CitySquares.

Here’s Matt McGee’s post on the demise of the program, which gives some more detail. Here’s what Google had to say:

On December 31, 2008, we will end the Google Local Business Referrals program, which was one of many Google Labs initiatives that we had developed as part of our ongoing commitment to experimentation and testing new ways to help businesses establish a presence online.

Many relationships have been built as a result of Google Local Business Referrals, and local connections between representatives and businesses have been forged that we hope will continue. However, the program will conclude at the end of the year as part of our effort to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business.

So, what’s next for Google and their local ambitions?