As the saying goes; March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. Spring is finally here!!! So, while I am soaking up the sunshine, feeling like there is some hope that the Covid vaccine will be widely available soon, and seeing the opportunity for Tahzoo, I am reminded it’s time for some Spring Cleaning.
At Tahzoo, this is a good time for you to look at what’s working and not working. What is costing you time? Where could you have better practices for communication and collaboration? Is there something in your work process that could be improved? Jot down three things you’d like to improve. If you don’t write it down, then it’s a wish and not a goal.
I thought I’d share with you some of the things that I am doing for Spring Cleaning. I’ve finally decided to get all my folders organized so I can better find information. I’ve been wasting so much time trying to find things. I really appreciated Heather’s presentation today about where to find branded content. I was classically trained at one of the first companies I worked for to use email as my principal document repository. Turns out that my late ‘90s solution isn’t cutting it any more 🙂
I have been examining my time allocations. I think of time like money, which means I need a budget for my time. I make investments of my time with an expected result. Gabi and I are working on my time budget – ensuring that rather than spread my time evenly across every day, to find large chunks of time that can be dedicated to the priorities of the company. No more peanut butter time management.
These are just a couple of things that I’m working on as part of my Spring Cleaning exercise. Think about this over the weekend and write down three things you’d like to do. If you write it down, it’s a goal – if it’s a goal, you can make it happen. Enjoy Spring and be refreshed, use that extra energy to make some modest improvements in your work and personal life.
Let’s go be great!
Growth is good, with growth comes personal opportunities, career advancement, financial rewards, and the pleasure of working on an awesome team. We have a lot of growth ahead of us, we are so lucky to have this good fortune. Revenue in Q2 will be almost 40% higher than Q1, (just so you appreciate the magnitude of what’s happening). We are going to get bigger at an accelerating rate. Remember when we were growing 100% per year? Although it was back in the good old days, many of you were here at Tahzoo when that was happening, it was exciting.
However, for us to take advantage of this moment in time, we are going to need to change. We are going to need to be better at building and managing teams. We have very little hierarchy in our company, rarely is there one person “in charge”, and that is by my design. I want us to be good at solving very difficult client problems, working as fully coordinated teams, and innovating to build market-leading solutions. I believe that the quality of our teamwork is more important than rules, org charts, and experience.
We have super smart and happy people, there is so much talent inside of Tahzoo. My Mentor who recently retired from his firm after 35 years, has been doing some management coaching with several people across the company. He can’t say enough about what an amazingly talented group of people work at Tahzoo, this coming from someone who saw his firm grow from a startup to one of the most powerful companies in the world. We have the people, now we need to focus on adjusting our model to be more concerned about the team’s success than individual success. We need to start thinking and acting on what is best for Tahzoo and what is best for our Clients.
Imagine a surgeon, anesthesiologist, and a head nurse conducting a challenging and lifesaving surgery for a patient. The loved ones of the patient are trusting and depending on the team to work effectively and complete the surgery successfully. For the purposes of this letter, imagine our client having put their career on the line by hiring Tahzoo and depending on a successful outcome. Now imagine there is a breakdown in one of the three areas of trust: Capability, Character, or Communication between the operating team. For the sake of example, let’s say there is a breakdown in communication related to keep the patient properly anaesthetized. The nurse, the surgeon, and the anesthesiologist, they fail to track the drop in the patient’s vital signs and the patient unexpectedly and suddenly passes away.
The surgeon blames the anesthesiologist for mismanaging anesthetizing the patient, the anesthesiologist blames the nurse for not keeping track of the vital signs, and the nurse blames both the surgeon and anesthesiologist for not working as a coordinated team during the surgery. To some extent they are all right in their assignment of blame … except the patient is dead. If there was trustful communication on the team, they collectively would have seen the problem in advance and engaged their coworkers to save the patient.
What happens at Tahzoo when we miss the mark and one of our projects starts to struggle … ?
Increase our communication and actively problem solve to ensure the success of the client?
Or blame one another to ensure that you’re not held responsible?
Or worst yet ensure the slow-motion train, disengage, endure the pain and bail on your team?
I read an article on why trust is critical to a team’s success. Most of the article was self-evident although I liked the construct for trust that was outlined. They proposed a three-dimensional view of trust that I’d like each of you to consider as you examine how you can do better and how you can engage with your peers to build trust. The three areas are as follows;
Trust of Capability – Recognizing people’s abilities and skills, allowing teammates to make decisions, seeking input from others, teaching and growing the skills in your teammates.
Trust of Character – Managing expectations, consistency in behavior, delegating appropriately, encouraging teamwork through mutual success, following through on commitments.
Trust of Communication – Sharing information, telling the truth, admitting mistakes, giving and receiving constructive feedback, maintaining confidentiality, speaking from the heart.
I’ve been observing a couple of patterns in the company related to a breakdown in trust. One is that we aren’t clearly identifying the issues that are causing the breakdown and communicating openly and honestly. The three areas of Trust are a good way to segment the issues and talk about them more constructively.
The second pattern and the one that is most concerning to me is around assignment of blame or attempting to shield oneself from the blame. If it’s someone else’s fault the project or a portion of the project went poorly then somehow, you’re okay and won’t be held accountable. I want to root this notion out of the company as quickly as possible. It’s a toxic cancer that prohibits growth and will not allow us to achieve our goals.
Most of our work is bespoke, although we have patterns and practices, many times we are figuring it out as we go. We are an innovative company that takes on new and different work all the time. There is a certain amount of natural chaos that is a byproduct of our bespoke model. We don’t get the benefit of standardization, that focuses on efficiencies and consistency. Our model requires a high degree of trust between teammates, cross functional teams, and our clients. This is probably the most difficult consulting model to execute but it allows us to be a premium brand working with premium clients. We get to grow and thrive, let’s embrace this opportunity and focus on our teamwork.
Let’s go be great!
One year ago, today, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. It has been a year for the record books. Mostly people write about how quickly time goes by, this past year seems to have been the slowest year on record. Isolated and lonely, punctuated with moments of epic significance and consequence. It’s taken its toll on you.
I want to make sure you know how proud I am of you. You’ve managed to keep it together, take care of yourself and those around you. You’ve been a good teammate to your peers and participated in keeping the spirits high throughout the company. This last year has been some of your best work, innovative and often under difficult circumstances. All the while you’ve been setting an example for others to follow. Truly you have been tested and strengthened through the crucible of a year to remember.
You should take some time to inventory yourself. You have changed, how? What is more precious to you now? What are the things you have decided to let go? If you are holding any self-doubt about how you handled the last year, I want to disavow you of this. You are amazing and you have reached down deep and persevered. We all grow at our own rate, we all fall short, and we all rise to the occasion. You are just like everyone else in that respect. So, give yourself some grace and celebrate, if I told you one year ago today how truly difficult this year would be, you would not have believed it. Yet here you are, stronger, clearer minded, and more in touch with what really matters in your life.
We are all going to Spring Forward this weekend, Daylight saves on Sunday, set your clocks ahead. The weather is getting better and there is a lot of reasons to be hopeful and optimistic. If you haven’t received your vaccine yet, I am sure you’re on a list to get one soon. With this renewal and return of hopefulness, what are you going to do next? How are you planning to take what you have learned and move your life forward in meaningful ways? I’m asking you to write a few things down about what you’ve learned and how you’d like your life to be different now, because we are all going to get back to normal soon and I don’t want the clarity of this moment to slip from your consciousness.
I recently found a bunch of journals from my teenage years and it’s been a remarkable journey to remember where I thought I was headed, where I wanted to go and where I am now. I suspect that what you write down today will provide a similar moment of introspection for you at some later date.
I am gratified to be able to work with you and call you my teammate. Let’s not let this last year together go unacknowledged or undiscussed, we’ve been through a lot. We’re not quite done yet, but you’ve stuck by me and given me hope when I’ve been down, I want to do the same for you. I know we can do anything, accomplish everything if we stick together. It’s been great getting to know you under pressure and you’ve proven to me that I can count on you when the going gets tough.
Let’s go be great!
What an interesting week it was for me. I enjoyed some highs, some lows, and some conflict. It was a mixed bag, primarily good like most weeks, but I had to work for it. I’ve been enjoying the book by Adam Grant, “Think Again“. I hope that all of you order a copy and are reading it. I plan to start asking you questions about the book on the Monday/Friday calls… so don’t be surprised if I call on you.
The interesting thing about Think Again is that it explains that you need to ask yourself questions to learn and reset your thinking. Asking the right questions, examining your beliefs, and considering your precepts is the key to having a growth mindset. We are in the business of change – helping clients change and enabling change through technology. This means each of us needs a growth mindset to help our client find their courage to change. I’ve been pondering what it means to be open to change and how I make it happen for myself and all of you.
It’s all about questions. I used to think being smart was about collecting knowledge or demonstrating intellectual acumen. As I’ve gotten older, I recognized the most intelligent people I know don’t tell me very much. They just ask insightful questions that cause my mind to shift. It takes one part curiosity and one part genius to create and to cut through the fog. I can say without a doubt – I pay way more attention to the questions that people ask me than I do to what they are “telling” me. It would help if you did the same. Spend the next week listening to the questions that you’re being asked; you’ll find it enlightening. Questions are the basis for exchanging knowledge and ideas.
Let’s go be great!
I’ve been working closely with the management team over the last couple of weeks to improve alignment and ensure that our business’s priorities are being driven throughout the company. One of the things that I’ve asked the leadership team to do was to put together a 30-day goal plan. I am sure many of our priorities will take over a month to achieve, but some priorities can be done each month as a step towards our success.
As a company, we have a good vision and good strategic thinking across the board. I am very proud of this, and I think it’s a sign of how many smart people we have here at Tahzoo. The trick with a great vision is making it real. The idea of climbing a mountain is inspiring, but we all know it happens one step at a time. You must pick a route up the mountain, prepare accordingly, and get started up the path.
When we think about a 30-day goal for work, I think it’s important to remember only 20 working days. 20 days to make a difference, 20 days to get something done, 20 days to start your journey up the mountain. As I mentioned in the DOB a couple of weeks ago, writing a To-Do List every day is critical for your mental health. The joy, the satisfaction, and the sense of achievement when you can cross something off your list are essential for your mental health and self-esteem. Seeing yourself make progress towards longer-term goals is a crucial part of a successful life.
In 2021 we get a do-over. Our lives were temporarily interrupted by Covid. Our patterns, our practices, our habits. As we work our way toward the end of the pandemic, we have an opportunity to rethink our work lives and our personal lives. What an amazing, probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of us. Chart new paths, climb new mountains and set new goals.
There is something called SMART goal setting, which I shared with the leadership team last week. Some of you have heard of this or know this practice, and I’ve been using it for years. I wanted to share the idea with you and encourage you to think about what can you get done in the next 30 days? That’s the timebox portion of the goal setting. For those of you who are ambitious, think about journaling your experience towards achieving your goals and then look back each month so you can see your progress and make any necessary adjustments in your path.
What Does the SMART Acronym Stand For?
The acronym stands for:
S – Specific
When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include an answer to the famous ‘w’ questions:
- Who – Consider who needs to be involved in achieving the goal (this is especially important when you’re working on a group project).
- What – Think about precisely what you are trying to accomplish, and don’t be afraid to get very detailed.
- When – You’ll get more specific about this question under the “time-bound” section of defining SMART goals, but you should at least set a time frame.
- Where – This question may not always apply, especially if you’re setting personal goals, but if there’s a location or relevant event, identify it here.
- Which – Determine any related obstacles or requirements. This question can be beneficial in deciding if your goal is realistic. For example, if the goal is to open a baking business, but you’ve never baked anything before, that might be an issue. As a result, you may refine the specifics of the goal to be “Learn how to bake to open a baking business.”
- Why – What is the reason for the goal? When it comes to using this method for employees, the answer will likely be along the lines of company advancement or career development.
M – Measurable
What metrics are you going to use to determine if you meet the goal? This makes a goal more tangible because it provides a way to measure progress. If it’s a project that will take a few months to complete, set some milestones by considering specific tasks.
A – Achievable
This focuses on how important a goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable and require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not discouragement. Think about how to accomplish the goal and if you have the tools/skills needed. If you don’t currently possess those tools/skills, consider what it would take to attain them.
R – Relevant
Relevance refers to focusing on something that makes sense with the broader business goals. For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should align with the overall business objectives. Your team may be able to launch a new consumer product, but if your company is a B2B that is not expanding into the consumer market, then the goal wouldn’t be relevant.
T – Time-Bound
Anyone can set goals, but if it lacks realistic timing, chances are you’re not going to succeed. Providing a target date for deliverables is imperative. Ask specific questions about the goal deadline and what can be accomplished within that period. If the goal will take three months to complete, it’s helpful to define what should be achieved half-way through the process. Providing time constraints also creates a sense of urgency.
As you think about the things you’d like to improve in your professional life and personal life, set SMART goals. I am always happy to discuss any questions or want to hear about how I’ve adopted these techniques.
Let’s go be great!
I want to say thank you for your time and attention today on the all-hands call. These meetings are important, and during the time of Covid, it gives us a chance to connect, share, and talk about the company’s issues. Discussions are critical to our success and growth strategies.
Great teams have a common understanding of the central tenets that give the company meaning and purpose. In Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” he makes a compelling argument that people are more interested in why you do what you do rather than explaining what it is that you do. It’s a great read if you’re looking for a good book. As I’ve been thinking about 2021, there are a few questions that I want everyone to know the answers to. Don’t be surprised if you get called on by me or anyone in leadership to answer these questions, and please make sure that folks who are new to Tahzoo know this stuff.
Why did I start Tahzoo? To create a company where people could continuously learn and grow to become the best versions of themselves.
What is the mission statement of Tahzoo (Back to Simon Sinek – Why do we exist)? To make millions of people a little bit happier every day.
What are the core values of Tahzoo?
1. If you care about your clients and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about.
2. We look for interesting people who are interested in change.
3. We believe in the marketplace of ideas.
4. We hire for character before we hire for capability.
5. We believe in Smart and Happy people.
What is the most important tool for improving employee satisfaction at Tahzoo? The Voice of the Culture Survey and Kudos
What are the top three priorities of Tahzoo in 2021?
1. Great Customer Service
2. Perfect Quality work
3. Driving Profitability
How do you know if a client is happy? They tell you, and they buy more services from Tahzoo.
How did we come up with the name Tahzoo?
We had five criteria for the perfect name –
1. It had to be a six-letter domain name
2. It needed to be two syllables
3. That the name does not mean anything
4. That it sounded vaguely familiar and slightly whimsical
5. And that there was a lot of search engine equity in the first three letters
With GoDaddy open and having tried countless names, I noticed that behind the Barista, there were Tazo Tea boxes while sitting at a Starbucks. That provided the inspiration, and Tahzoo became the name of our company.
Let’s make sure that everyone in the company knows the answers to these questions, and these are our guideposts for this new phase in our growth. I hope everyone has a great week, and I look forward to speaking with you on Monday.
Let’s go be great!
“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
I’ve been on vacation this week, not exactly a week that I can totally check out but at least I’ve reduced my schedule significantly and had time to “Sharpen the Saw”. In Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, habit number 7 is “Sharpen the Saw”. The point is that your energy and enthusiasm is a renewable resource and it’s not an unlimited resource. You must cultivate who you are so that you can find meaning and purpose in your life. Last week I wrote about four habits that I follow for managing stress and “Sharpening the Saw”: Exercise, Planning, Losing Track of Time, and Empathetic Decision Making.
There is a great quote from W. H. Arnold – “The worst bankrupt in the world is the man who has lost his enthusiasm. Let a man lose everything else in the world, but his enthusiasm and he will come through again to success”.
As I took some time off this week and enjoyed exercising and losing track of time, it was great! Just a week into it, my mind is sharper and my perspective clearer. I’ll keep today’s DOB short, go read my letter from last week again. Take care of yourself and focus on reducing your stress. Habits are easy to talk about and harder to implement, take my advice as a challenge and get started on one of the four things today. I am hoping to pass out a lot of American Express gift certificates.
Let’s go be great!
I’ve been thinking lately about how Covid and all the other world issues might affect our mental health. My primary concern right now is that people are wearing out. Long-term stress and ambiguity have a real impact on judgment and decision making. For the last ten years, leading Tahzoo has been an exercise in finding “the balance.” The question is not, how can you avoid the stress, but how do you manage it? With stress left unchecked, you’ll lose your mental health and make errors in judgment. I’ll share for me, the secret for keeping the stress at bay boils down to four things; exercise, planning, losing track of time, and empathy.
Exercising – It doesn’t matter what you do, do it regularly; anything that gets you up and moving for twenty minutes. Long walks are great, working in the yard, going to the gym, up to training for a marathon – just be active. Do something moderately physical three or four times a week. Fill your lungs, get your heart rate up, and enjoy it wherever you are at from a fitness perspective. The last point, don’t make the goals for exercise so difficult that they become unachievable; just do it. I won’t pummel you with the reams of data about the benefits of being active. We all know it’s true. I never want to go to the gym, but I always feel better when I do.
Planning – Write out a to-do list every day. This will help you see your progress and remind you of what is important. I write a list every day, and it’s just a daily habit that gives me my sense of direction. Your to-do list will always contain more items than you can accomplish in any one day, and that is ok! Break your list into two sections, tactical things you can finish in a day and longer-term projects requiring your continued focus and attention. I get so much joy from crossing off an item on my “to-do list” that sometimes I write down stuff that I already did so that I can have the joy of crossing it off. On the term paper items, do one thing, big or small, every day towards the goal. Give yourself grace – you deserve forgiveness. There are days when you’ll kill your to-do list and days when you won’t get anything done. The point is writing the list, not completing the list.
Losing Track of Time – When you do something you love, your brain turns off its “time tracking mechanism.” This happens because your mind is fully occupied, and therefore it reduces your stress levels and produces healthy endorphins. Although your brain is engaged, you’re actually giving your brain a rest; it’s akin to sleeping. If you want to know more, read up on “Flow” by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. I have a simple exercise for you; write down a list of 10 things that, when you do them, you lose track of time. Then make sure you do these things more often. In fact, as much as possible. Work them into your day and your routines.
Here are the things that cause me to lose track of time… Playing Chess, Tennis, Reading, Writing, Cooking, Drinking Wine, Playing Card Games, Math, Golf, Selling, Giving Speeches, Listening to Music, Solving Strategy Problems, Studying Physics, and Spending Time with My Family. Go write out your list and do those things more often.
Empathetic Decision Making – Every day, we make tradeoffs around allocating time to people and prioritizing our to-do list. You can’t make everyone happy, nor should you try; it’s not good leadership. However, I want to offer a model for decision making that naturally creates empathy. The goal here is that you make managing your relationships your priority. Before you make a decision, take a moment to consider, “How will the people in my life be emotionally impacted?” More specifically, put yourself in their shoes and ask, “How will they interpret and experience this decision?” This does not mean that you won’t need to make hard decisions or that you can shy away from hurting someone’s feelings. It means you’ll consider how you’re going to keep your relationship healthy as part of your decision-making process. To put yourself in someone’s shoes, you’ll have to get to know them. You’ll be building a foundation of empathy.
These are just habits. They take practice to become automatic. But I know you can incorporate all or most of this into your daily life. I’ve spent decades dealing with long-term, highly ambiguous stress, and it can wear you out. I’m still going strong after all these years, including 2020 and Covid. “Man, we have a bright future ahead!” and that’s something to be excited about. These habits continue to clear the path for me. Let’s talk more about stress. I worry about you… if you need anything or want to chat, call my cell.
These disciplines are so critical, and I cannot emphasize them enough. Just try it for one month, give me 30 days, then book a half-hour meeting with me to talk through your experience. I will give you an American Express gift card. We will get to know each other a little better.
Let’s go be great!
What are you most proud of achieving in your career or life? Please take a moment to reflect on that feeling and how it improved your self-esteem. You worked hard, cared for your work, and overcame obstacles. According to Cambridge Dictionary, pride is defined as “a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that you get because you or people connected with you have done or got something good.”
Are you proud of the work you’ve done recently? Are you proud of Tahzoo? If you’re looking for a way to measure success, I suggest that you ask yourself those questions when you look in the mirror. No matter what feedback you get from others, only you know if you’ve done your best.
Tahzoo was founded on a core set of values created so that everyone who participates is given the opportunity to learn and excel. We provide a lot of freedom because we expect that based on the shared values and on the desire to learn and excel, everyone you work with, including you, is striving to do their best – to work hard, care for the quality of your work, and to overcome the obstacles to success, as an individual and as a team.
The company is evolving. We have a renewed focus on our service offerings, our software business expansion, and better reporting accountability and metrics. None of this will make Tahzoo produce better results without a focused and concerted effort by each person to strive for excellence. You may be worn out and tired. It’s been an exhausting last year for each of us but push through the hard part. Caring for one another during difficult circumstances is what will make this company, and you, great.
Easy excellence is a myth. Only hard work and determination will get you there. There are no short cuts to excellence. I am actively looking for and will be rewarding the difference makers. The people who strive for Great Customer Service, Perfect Quality Work, and Drive Profitability throughout 2021. Be one of those people, if not just for yourself, then for your colleagues and clients. While you will be rewarded financially in the moment, the experience you gain – the self-confidence and self-esteem will last you a lifetime. I want to be proud of you.
If you see something that needs to be fixed, then say something. Tahzoo is your company too. If things aren’t up to our standards or people aren’t acting in a manner consistent with our values, and you don’t do something about it, you’re the one who’s given up on excellence. It’s going to require each of you to be committed and proud of your work and your colleagues.
After 10 years of wins and losses, successes and failures, Tahzoo is in an incredibly enviable position. We have the opportunity to grow, to do great things, and to spread our values and influence. What does growth mean for you? An opportunity to learn, take on new challenges, and earn more money for your loved ones? It’s exciting. These windows of opportunity don’t happen very often. Let’s not squander this moment because we don’t have the commitment to excellence. Let’s be proud of who we are!
Let’s go be great!
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my first emotional response to a situation was sometimes wrong, or more often, incomplete. However, that doesn’t change the intensity of the feelings that I have at the moment. Our emotions are powerful motivators to action and can get the best of us if we don’t remind ourselves to seek understanding before reacting. Stress makes clear thinking and self-control even more challenging.
Covid and the political unrest in our country are creating stress for all of us; even if you don’t recognize it, know that it’s just under the surface, elevating the strength of your emotional response. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In part, it’s an evolutionary protection mechanism. However, I want to bring this to your attention to be more aware of this stress and how you might be feeling at the moment. I’ve spent a lot of time teaching my children that they can’t always control how they feel, but they can always control their actions. Or more frequently, I ask them, “are you in control of your emotions, or are they in control of you?”
I am sharing this with you because we have an incomplete picture of what is happening in our country right now. Over time we’ll gain a better understanding of the impact of Covid, the violence at our Nation’s Capitol, and of course, the transition to a new President next week. If you’re experiencing a range of emotions or you find yourself easily angered these days, try to take a moment of pause and remember that your emotional response may be based on incomplete knowledge. Right now, I need everyone in Tahzoo to focus on taking good care of one another and help each other cope or settle down if someone is having a bad day. We are, first and foremost, a family.
We have many reasons to be hopeful right now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and to quote my brother Matt, “it’s not a train.” The vaccine is being distributed, we have a new wave of economic stimulus supporting our fellow Americans, and Tahzoo has significant opportunities for growth in the New Year. As the tapestry of time unfolds, we’ll see all these moments in context with clarity and certainty that we can’t possibly understand today. As I said on the call today, let’s focus on taking care of one another and taking care of our clients. I am here for any of you who need someone to chat with, are looking to gain some perspective or a shoulder to cry on. Please send me an email or call my cell at any time.
Let’s go be great!