Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #102


Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to the episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan. Rutan joined as ever by Wil Schroder, my friend partner and Ceo, founder of startups dot com, I will be wearing the gray hat today. Um, we've, we've decided that it was time for a wardrobe change. So I'll be, I'll be wearing the hat today

Wil Schroter: looking good. I've combed my hair for what is now the fourth time since the beginning of cocoa.

Ryan Rutan: And as anybody who's been watching recently knows I have none. So that wasn't my issue. I'm just trying to keep the sun off, trying to keep the sun off so well. Um, we've, we've talked about lots of aspects of being a founder and lots of aspects of leadership, but there's, there's one that's, that's fairly specific. Um, and, and that's around, you know, as we lead, how important is it that we're liked right by, by our staff, by investors, by, by, you know, partners, clients, everybody. Um, there's a whole host of people around us that we can easily piss off. Um, and so how important is it that we're liked and in your experience, like what's the cost when, when we're not liked? Where does that, where does that go south for

Wil Schroter: us? Well, um, as someone who has been on both ends of the spectrum liked and not liked. I know this is gonna sound shocking to you, but this might, this is my admission, believe it or not, Ryan, not everybody has universally loved me,

Ryan Rutan: wait a minute. You just sent out a company email that said yesterday after 30 years of being universally loved as a founder and Ceo and I quote

Wil Schroter: one of the things I think I know I screwed up and I'm sure you probably have similar stories Early in my career when I was, when I was first getting started, uh, everyone was my age, right? So like it oddly wasn't, I don't want to say this, it wasn't hard to be liked because we were all in the same boat, we were all like 22 years old, right? It's

Ryan Rutan: also everybody's first job. So they had nothing to compare it to

Wil Schroter: 100% right? And we're basically just college kids that happened to be working together, there was almost like, like, like no other commonality and, and so at that point, you know, every night after work, you know, we're all heading out to happy hour and you know, kind of enjoying good times and what have you. And um, I found that it was easy to build a lot of friendships within the organization whenever none of us were sober long enough for it to be a challenge. But look, what I didn't understand, I just hadn't, again hadn't been through this long enough. What I didn't understand and what I would come to learn later is that the path of a founder in a leader to some extent is polarizing, right? Just by nature by nature, it's polarizing. And so even if things are all fantastic and everybody's just a high five fest in those early years, early days, what have you, it's going to change, it kind of has to write because yeah, as things evolve, you get into a lot of ship that not everybody is happy with right, you lose consensus pretty fast and things start going the wrong direction and look, even if you do everything right, you know, by virtue of the company, there's still somebody that didn't get the position they thought they were supposed to have or the company grew so fast and outgrew them or didn't get the raise they wanted. There's just so many versions of opportunities for people to not like you.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Yeah. In my case, in a very similar early, early company, uh you know, mid college we weren't even old enough to go to happy hour. I mean we did on occasion because there were places that was, it was possible. But um you know, our thing after work was that we'd flip over as much of the web server as we could afford to without impacting performance. And that became the counter strike server. And and we we would run, you know, our own local game there, but then we would play against people in, in in other places. And it's a really unfair advantage if you've never done that when you've got six people in a room who can all talk to each other. Um playing against people who are spread out all over the globe, it's an unfair advantage. But um I also started a position where most of the people who I hired the first seven um in particular we're all friends

Wil Schroter: first.

Ryan Rutan: These were people who liked me, right? They started by liking me and so I think right, right. Yeah, I mean and and even even with a new hire um I think you know you you sort of get the benefit of the doubt in the beginning right? Um But I think because of the fact that and some of these were longer term friendships, some of these were you know people I had known 67 years which at that point was like a third of my life. Um So it was the change from being liked just as a friend to then having to make some of those hard decisions and and and see people unhappy with me over something other than not letting them, you know, breach the door first and counter strike. Um It was tough, right? It was it was hard and so I think there's there's two sides of the coin that I want to, I want to make sure we cover today in regards to, can I can I lead without being liked? And one of those is is it possible and practical to lead people without being liked? And and and we'll cover this in detail but also as the founder, can you do it right? Do you have the fortitude to be able to make those decisions and say like I can lead and I know that I'm not gonna be liked all the time, but I can do it anyways. And I think that's a separate issue and one that we should probably try to unpack at least a little bit today.

Wil Schroter: I think it's also becomes a distraction. I mean, at some point, you know, you start thinking, well, I want to I don't want to do this, I don't want to make this decision because it'll be unpopular, right? But look, there comes a time, especially if your organization is growing where you actually have to make fundamentally unpopular decisions for the sake of the business. I'll give you a great example When you go from 10 people to 20 people to 50 people to 100 people. Those are all very consistent milestones, no matter how many businesses I've seen, where things start to shake up. Where the person who was the CFO, because they were the little person that took a finance class in college isn't really a CFO, Right? And so all of a sudden you're at 50 people in finance matters, right? You have receivables to tracking tables to track and that person is way in over their head, right? You know, they're way beyond what they could do in a spreadsheet, let's say. And so now you have to bring in someone to essentially take that job. It happens all the time, actually, it happens if things are going well, like that's the problem. This is

Ryan Rutan: that's the yeah, success begets this problem, right? This is it's a high quality problem and that it comes along with success and growth.

Wil Schroter: Well. So yeah. And so what happens is, let's see, this person was a friend of yours, somebody that kind of jumped in early and, you know, they were trying to help out and I don't care if this person's in any department, they could be in sales marketing, Deb doesn't matter. But the problem is the same company quickly outgrows them. And now there's not a role that's that has a c starting in it for them with their uh, you know, capabilities. And so, so here's what happens. You're sitting there going, well, boy, you know, she really helped out in the early stages. She was, you know, super capable, helped get us to where we are, but she can't do what we're trying to do anymore. And now we're gonna bring in someone else, right? And so now I know that if I make this decision, she's going to be pissed, she's going to go to lunch with a lot of other people and she's going to be talking about how, um, how unfair this is and and fundamentally it is, right? And it's unfair. She put in the work and she'd expect, you know, the return, uh, irrespective of whether she was qualified. And this is how it starts, it starts because you're now making an unpopular decision for the right of the business and now someone's pissed and when people are going to lunch and they're pissed, they tend to talk about it. They tend to talk about it a lot. And it isn't until the business has kind of um, built some steam some headway until these things really start to add up. And it could be because you're growing failing you name it, This is this is how it all starts. And all of that gets pointed to one person most likely or not. One person, I should say one roll, which is the c level suite, right? Where they're saying? Management sucks because X and that just keeps on going again. If things are going well, it's because I'm not getting my do, if things are going poorly, it's because things are going poorly. But either way, what I think founders miss is that were put on this pedestal going into this job and this pedestal isn't necessarily all people worshiping us were put on a pedestal because every decision maps back to us and whether or not people like it maps back to us before we get into this next topic. I just want to let you know what we talk about here is like 1% of the conversation, You know, really, This conversation is going on all day long online at groups dot startups dot com Where Ryan and I pretty much talk endlessly with founders about every one of these topics. So if, by the end of this discussion, you like the topic and you want to dig into it a little bit more with Ryan and I just had two groups startups dot com and we'll pick it up from there.

Ryan Rutan: The pedestal doesn't create a hierarchy of, of, of liking or of respect even it's about visibility, right? Essentially all it means is that your elevated above the crowd to the point where everybody's watching what you do and okay, most of the, most of the decisions do map back to us in some way, shape or form, but even the ones that are indirectly ours, they're still ours right there. Like, well, you know, my, my direct manager didn't do what I wanted to do, but you're the one that hired him. So ultimately it's your fault, right? It's your point. It's, it's really tough, right? Because, and it's tough for for both the founder and, and for the person, let's go back to the example you used, where somebody just gets surpassed by the growth of the company, right? That's never how it feels for them, right? It feels for them. Like they're taking a step back, right? And they feel like, well I was asked to create this momentum. I was asked to help create this growth.

Wil Schroter: I did in the

Ryan Rutan: time I put in the effort, I did it and now I'm getting left behind, right? It's like, hey, would you help me push my car so we can get it to start

Wil Schroter: and then the second the engine revs up, they just drive away.

Ryan Rutan: Guys. Wait, what happened? Right? So it's really tough. But you know, again as the leader, you have to make the decision that leads to the growth. Um, and, and I don't know that there's really a way to be, to be likable in that situation. I think that the best you can do is explain to them how we got there, right? This harkens back to an episode that we did well all of yesterday I think um where we talked a bit about transparency and, and and kind of helping people to understand how we got to. That decision is going to make them like you more. No. Is it gonna make them talk about you less at lunch? Kind of depends on the food. Um, and, but, but at least might change the color of their understanding of it. Right? My flavor of the conversation slightly differently. Um, and it's always important to provide that level of transparency and if possible their path forward. Right? I think that's the other thing that that happens a lot early stage is that we grow so fast that we don't have time to or we don't take the time, let me say that, let me see that differently. We have the time. We don't take the time to re contextualize things for people, right? Company just passed you by. We're bringing in so and so to replace you. Um, she's gonna be your replacement because she already has the skill set required and you're gonna have to grow into it. But we don't have time to do that. Um, and here's how you get to fit into that organization, right? And, and and find ways to make them feel as good as possible about it. Not easy. And again, you're probably not going to cross the threshold of likability, at least not at that point. Um, but the door stays open. At least

Wil Schroter: you said something earlier that I thought was interesting. You said that when you started, you were working with all of your friends. And I think this is something that's vastly overlooked from founders. When we're starting out, we're working with people who we've built relationships with and generally have a lot in the bank with, right? Um, and probably a lot of good stuff, right? Which is why we wanted to bring them along. And so, so we have a lot in the bank. And when things start to get weird where they didn't quite the race they wanted or, you know, this happens or that happens initially, we have enough to fall back on that. It kind of balances out a little right. But then new people show up and we don't have anything in the bank with these people, right? They don't care what a good time. We had two years ago and went on spring break. They only care exactly the decision you just made today. That is their entire history with us. And then you start to compound that you had more and more and more people that don't have anything in the bank and all they see are the answer of no. And, and, and that does not lead to likability in our job, has a lot of no attached to it. Um, and, and that's the part I think for founders that we don't quite understand how incessant that is. Right? So all the little knows that, that we don't think much of, right. Ryan your CMO. So we talk all the time about, you know, can we raise a marketing budget? And the answer is no, a lot. Right? I mean, it's just like, you know, we were limited at some levels of what we can do on budget. And so the answer is no. Now I don't think, you know, your super frustrated, but it's not as cool as yes. Great.

Ryan Rutan: But it

Wil Schroter: doesn't change your likability. I think it adds up, but it comes with the job. I mean at its core, it comes with the job and I don't think folks who are new leaders or certainly new founders really get how inherent that is with what we do. We don't get to be johnny likability all the time. Like that would be cool. But we have a job where we have to say no all the time and there's no version where people get told no in race home to their spouse to tell them how awesome that decision was,

Ryan Rutan: right. Unless the question was, am I being let go? Right? Right, Right, right. There is the one exception to this rule that proves it? Yeah, no, it's, it's not, yeah, it does, it's compounding and like you said, um, overtime, right, particularly, you know, if you started with people that you had a lot in the bank with. Now, my first startup was, was, was built on on mostly just social friends, right? That was just all I had, I had no career at that point, so I didn't have any career friends or colleagues or people I knew from industry or whatever. Now, 2nd, 3rd, 4th startups, you can start to roll that in, right? And you may have different level of, of, of sort of banked experiences with people. Um, and so, and then those mileage on those varies, right? It's very different than, you know, the kid that you grew up with, that you also had three fistfights with, that you've got to overwrite the, like there's that level of friendship and then there's, we had a professional relationship, you bring a lot to the table. I want you to join my startup again, you're starting with something in the bank. I don't want to belabor this point, but I think that one of the things to keep in mind as as time goes on and you do start to add people and in which you have nothing in the bank with the way they view your decisions starts to become purely objective and and and zero subjective. And I think that's the main difference between people that you have something in the bank with and people who you don't can give you the benefit of the doubt and apply some subjectivity to your decision making and and give you know some color some flavor behind here's why he had to do that, right? I understand who he is as a human. And I know he made this decision because of this, right? Somebody that you have nothing in the bank with pure objective, right? It's binary. I wanted Yes, I got No, I'm gonna go home and slag him off to my spouse, Right? That's all I can do.

Wil Schroter: But but actually think about every No as another seed, right? Initially when you're getting started and you're bringing everybody on, there's not a lot of No, it's yes, you can join. Yes, we can do this. Yes. You know, it's yes, everything. But then people get, you know, locked into their position and you know, you're sitting on a white board and you're not necessarily agreeing with everything they have to say, right? So so that starts to bubble up or you know, we keep talking about HR related stuff? But I think that's a that's a powerful component, but that's only a component, right? And it's not often not as frequent, it's not until you start to get all of these little seeds of no where that ship starts to bubble up, right? And now people are at lunch and they're like, hey, you know what like you know will and Ryan said this one thing that's kind of sucked up right? Like and then the next person chimes in. Yeah, I felt the same way and this is how it starts, right? It's a whole bunch of, I don't care if it's a slack chat, you know, a lunch chat, Happy hour chat. It's a whole bunch of chats, but by the way, don't involve,

Ryan Rutan: you will never know

Wil Schroter: where you're cool boss persona gets chipped away at and like I used to think right now we're kind of talking about this earlier, I used to think that like I'm gonna be cool boss, right, I'm going to hang out with you know all my friends, I'm gonna buy rounds of drinks at happy hour, like you know it's a high five fist companies growing everything's awesome, right? And then all of a sudden I stopped getting invited to happy hour. Then I stopped getting invited to lunch which by the way if you're buying lunch and you're not getting invited. That says it all good chance, you're fairly low on the likability

Ryan Rutan: index at that

Wil Schroter: point. And look this is a rite of passage. Uh, employees. Team members go to lunch to pitch about their bosses and bosses go to lunch to bit about their employees. It's kind of that simple, right? We don't really need

Ryan Rutan: to eat that meal. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: right. Um, but but until enough of those events have happened, right, Until this thing starts to kind of snowball, you don't see it yet again, at, at first you're, you know, mr, popularity. It's not until these things start to compound and it's, it's actually a factor of time. Typically until you start to realize that I'm gonna make a lot of unpopular decisions. I'm gonna try to make good decisions. I'm gonna try to make people happy, but I'm gonna make a lot of unpopular decisions in overtime. Each of those seeds are gonna get planted and they're gonna get, they're going to grow in every one of those lunches slack chats, et cetera. And over time my popularity score is going to continue to trend down? My polls are going to trend down. But here's the thing, the question and the thing is at the top of the episode, at what point does my likability still matter? And at what point do I start to get to a point where actually it does matter. You know, by the way, I just want to mention if what we're talking about today sounds like the kind of discussion you wish you were having more often. You actually can, you know, we're online all day every day. Working through exactly these types of topics with founders, just like you. So any question you would have or maybe some problem you just want to work through. We're here and we love this stuff and we're easy to find, you know, head over to groups dot startups dot com and let's just start talking.

Ryan Rutan: I want to talk about time in this in a slightly different way. Um, and tie it back. You said you used two words in that last, that last bit, which was time and growth, right? And I think that one of the things that starts to change about the decisions that we make are that people feel like we have more ability to say yes over time. That's the perception right early on. When somebody's like, hey, can we order a pizza for everybody tonight? And you're like, um, we have zeros of dollars, no clients and a bunch of, a bunch of payables, right? So they get it right. The minute the company starts to look like it's doing well, right? All of a sudden the expectation that you can start to say yes changes as the company grows the expectation. Um, that not only you can say yes, but that you should because I was part of that. You know, going back to what we said before, we asked everybody to contribute to all of this stuff and they did and now we've grown beyond them or we've just grown to a point where they feel like they could say this might be a full replacement, might just be something that they want, that we can't give them at that time. Could be a tool, could be, uh, could be a subordinate, could be another teammate, could be so many things right. Um, and I remember early on in that we're not too early on about a year into that business. Um, at one point selectively opening up the books to somebody who didn't have a reason to see the books other than they were incessantly bothering me with a question that required finances that we just simply didn't have what they saw were booking new clients, um, money coming in.

Wil Schroter: Every assumes you have more money than everybody

Ryan Rutan: seems to have more money than we did. So then I showed them, I was like, you know what, I'm not going to open up everything to you, but here's our checking balance right now. Would you still like that thing that you want that's gonna cost three times what we have in our checking right now and bankrupt us so that you can have that thing that you wanted. And that changed the conversation very well now. Did it make him like me anymore? No, but it gave him that context around why? And, and this is really less about, um, how this impacts likability more just about how those decisions start to become more necessary. Um, and the expectations start to shift again, this goes back to some of that objectivity or subjectivity, um, you know, they were looking at it subjectively and saying, hey, companies growing, um, therefore you should be able to do this thing well, objectively. We just couldn't. Right,

Wil Schroter: Okay.

Ryan Rutan: I surrender my soapbox.

Wil Schroter: But what about when decisions don't map back to you right. In other words, you have two people in the department that just, well, that just don't agree, right? So they have created the problem, right? But again, this is, this is where the multiplicity comes in, the more people that get added, the more things that can go wrong that end up, you know, the blame shifts to you. So you got two people, you got to developers and they both have a different direction in which they want to take the technology, right? And maybe you both have their own merits, but it maps back to you to choose one. Now you didn't create this problem, right? This isn't something where you're like, I don't have enough money in the bank, but ultimately you have two picks up aside in the moment you do. Again, whoever you didn't pick is running home saying, go fund him. Right? And again, this is where it starts as, as the management of any company, you know, certainly within the founding team, etcetera, you are at the nexus of pissing everyone off and people don't realize that because when you say, hey, I can't give you the rays or I can't make this expenditure, They forget that they're just thinking it's just you and them, right. They forget that you had to have this same freaking conversation With 10 other people today, right? And you pissed all of them off

Ryan Rutan: too. Um,

Wil Schroter: at its core. It comes with the job, right? It's, it's kind of what we signed up for. However, if we're early in this job, you know, if we're really early in this job, we just haven't seen it yet. And so we just don't know what's coming. So like I want to be likable, right? I won't ever really like me. And it's like, it ain't easy, Right?

Ryan Rutan: It's not easy. It's not even necessarily possible. Um, it's also not even necessary, Right? I mean, it'd be nice

Wil Schroter: be

Ryan Rutan: nice to have, but it's definitely not a necessity.

Wil Schroter: You could maybe not be liked, but you have to be respected. And I think that goes with nearly any job, whether you're, you're the parent or the president of a country, um, you have to be respected, right? The moment you lose that, you're screwed. And so let's just dig into that a little bit and kind of, you know where that line is drawn because there are, there are no lack of leaders who were very unlikable, but kind of got the job done right? Um, you look at almost every tech leader, People see Elon musk, right? Elon musk is so much weird jet, right? But If Tesla stock is up 10 x everyone is okay with it. Right? Try smoking pot on joe Rogan while your stock is going down 10 X and see how people respond to that right? At the end of the day. He can, he can deal with, you know, people look at him okay. That's weird. If he's respected in the respect comes with the outcomes, you know what I mean? Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: yeah. In that case it's yeah, right. They can, they can respect the outcomes of the decision making at a personal level was sometimes very, very weird stuff, but the professional decision making. Um, they could agree with, right and they could understand and there was contextualized by the results. Um, pull another example, steve jobs right? Not known as being particularly likable

Wil Schroter: or even like he went out of his way to be unlikable.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. He was just known for being really, really hard to work with, hard to work for, um, irrational at times, you know, flying off the handle temper you name it right? Like really bad behaviors and yet because of the results that he drove and demanded. Um, and the results that he created not just for the company, but for the people that worked for him, right? Because there's a lot of those stories too where it's like, yeah, he was an asshole and I hated most of the time that I spent working for him. But I learned a ton and I grew as a person. This is not a license to go be an asshole to people under the guise of pushing them and making them better people because you're an asshole of a leader. That's not what I just said. We're using these two to sort of illustrate a point here. Um, don't just go be a jerk for the sake of being a jerk because it's like, oh, it's a, it's a great management philosophy. It's not, it is not. Um, but outcomes can trump behaviors right? And, and, and likability, right? And so especially in the case of steve jobs, um, the things he did with Apple gave him enough respect that his respect carried him through the tide of his shitty

Wil Schroter: behaviors. Let's investigate and kind of just unpack both ends of that um, of that process. So on the one end you have respected but not liked and on the other end you have liked but not respected, right? Both are a problem. So we were just talking about respected, not liked and you can take it to a certain degree right? People can respect you. But if they just actually really hate you, then you're only going to be able to have so many wins before you have a palace revolt, right? I mean if if everybody's going home saying like what a jerk this person is. It does not take very long Before you make one slip up Steve jobs in the 80's and you're out of a job, right? And and so so to be fair, if, if you totally overlook the being like part, if you're just an a hole, um you can only outcome that so long before eventually people are like, you know, actually just don't like you and at that point you've got, you know, pitchforks at the drawbridge and people like, just, we hate you, right?

Ryan Rutan: Right? Yeah. At some point the, the, I think that I think that the, the lack of respect or the dislike can grow geometrically, but the outcomes required to overcome that have to grow exponentially, right? You can't be an asshole and be running a midsized revenue company that gains and nobody notoriety for having worked there right now, if you're growing apple and you're creating these crazy, crazy, life changing products, outcomes, you know, stock prices through the roof, that exponential reality buys you more geometric asshole tolerance, right? But you can't be an exponential asshole and, and extension returns, right? Like it, one has to really outweigh the other um, in this case to remain positive, those, those big outcomes have to be there right early on in the startup company, nobody's sticking around. If you're an exponential asshole creating geometric outcomes. It just doesn't happen.

Wil Schroter: Let's move the slider to the other end of that spectrum, you are johnny fun times, everyone loves you, but you suck at your job. Um, people will tolerate, actually, they'll tolerate a lot more of your incompetence. If, if you're also likable until you actually have to map that back to demonstrable results at which point the likability just doesn't last anymore. I would say this, your, your job longevity is actually much better as being an asshole who gets shipped done for sure. Being the nicest person in the world. That's incompetent.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. I mean, nice doesn't sign paychecks, right? Like it, well, you can sign them, but it doesn't, doesn't necessarily, you know, ensure that there's any money behind them. So what we're saying is you have to be able to balance, you know, those, the results. Um, and the behaviors right? Like, yeah, you can be the most likable person in the world. Um, but if you're so bad at your job other than, you know, making people like you that you've got no money in the bank to pay paychecks That runs dry pretty quick, right? People are like super great guy. It's gonna feel really bad to let him know I'm leaving, but I'm leaving right at some point. You've got to make practical decisions,

Wil Schroter: building that I think part of how we end up getting there is we're afraid to make hard decisions because we don't want to lose our likability, right. You know, sometimes you don't have to be an a hole necessarily, but sometimes the best decision is really unpopular, right? For example, during Covid for many companies, the best decision was laying off a third of the staff try to win a popularity contest on that boat, right? But it was the best decision painful. Again, it sucks for anybody to do it. But it's the best decision now. Think about that. If I'm sitting here going, man, if I do that, I'm gonna be really unpopular. And again, this isn't just an ego thing. It's just like, hey, I'm gonna lose, you know, so much in the bank with so many people, you know, people are going to be at lunch, just, you know, you know, adding a lot of expletives to my name. Um, and, and everything is gonna suck and I don't make that decision, right? I don't go forward because I'm afraid of, again, the folks with the pitchforks at the gate, then I've also gone the wrong direction, right? Because in that case, I'm more concerned with everybody being happy than the decision being put together, the business being put together, right? And that's actually just correct.

Ryan Rutan: And, and that has, that has a short term gain with, with long term consequences, right? Like that, you're, you're just putting up a facade at that point. Um, keep everybody happy, you know, pretend nothing's wrong. And then instead of letting go of the third of the staff, the entire staff gets let go. The company has to get mothballed. Um, yeah, Covid was, was such a crucible for this. I and I'm sure you got the same thing. I had a lot of people calling me um employees of startup companies saying, look, you know, you know how these things work, um what happens next? Right? Like they just let go of a third of our staff. Is that writing on the wall, Does that mean that that that I'm gonna be next? Is this just a matter of time? And I said, well, I don't know, and I was like, but here's here's what I can tell you. They didn't let go of of a third of the staff because it was fun. They didn't let go a third of the staff because oh boy, that'll pad bottom line, they let go a third of the staff to make sure that the other two thirds could, could maintain their paychecks, keep the company going and hopefully be able to then rehire that other third at some point, right? This was the decision that was made right there, bailing water, right? You can't just sit and take it on until you sink. And so I said, does this mean that you're not going to be in the next round of layoffs? I have no way of knowing that it's like, but um this isn't necessarily just, you know, oh well, a third of the people were let go, that's the canary in the coal mine, eventually the entire company is going under. No, these are the decisions that get made so that the company doesn't go under likable, No necessary. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: but, but but you said something within that, that I think is really important. It was how it was delivered because if we're trying to, you know, look at at both ends of the spectrum, you know, uh, the jerk that's unliked or the most popular person that doesn't get the job done. Um, and really the spectrum doesn't exactly work like that. It's more quadrants, but whatever, um, at its core, what you just said is it's about being a good human, a good human is the kind of person that can make hard decisions while still caring about how people feel, right? Being thoughtful and how they present that right. Um, be able to allow their own vulnerability to show through to say, hey look, you know, I have to let you go or I can't promote you or you know, you know, whatever these types of decisions are, but here's how I arrived at that decision. Here's what concerns me. You know, here's um, it's just being a good human, like being open with how you feel and being empathetic with how other people feel, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, and I can tell you actually, it's a, it's a great point and in, I would say I could probably put it at 100% of those calls that I had in the discussions that I had with these folks that it mapped back to a lack of transparency, right? It was like a third of the staff has gone. Um but there was no context. There was, there was no discussion of how this impacts the trajectory of the company. Here's why we did this. Um you know, at best they gave them, you know, we had to cut those costs because we couldn't sustain them. Okay, well, great. But what does that mean? Right, So and what does that mean to me? Right, and I have no idea how they communicated with the people that were let go. Um but I can tell you that the communication was definitely subpar in all of these cases. Otherwise people wouldn't have been calling me, right. There's somebody who's completely removed from the situation, right? So what they were looking for to your point was a good human who they felt like could give them some understanding of the situation, right? Which absolutely should have come from their leadership right now, Why didn't their leadership do this? Um maybe they were afraid to have the conversations. Maybe, maybe they, you know, they didn't take the time to do it. There's a lot of reasons why it might not have happened. Um could have been the likability factor, right? Like I'd just rather not tell you why we had to do this, um because it was an unpopular decision. So I'm just going to avoid the conversation around it, right? That I would say almost always a mistake, right? You can't just leave things unsaid have to have that communication, have to have the transparency, have that vulnerability. Um, you know, I've had days like that where, you know, I've had to have conversations with 678, 10 people and nobody walked out of the room happy, but I made sure that they all walked out of the room informed, I made sure they understood how I felt, I made sure that they understood that I wanted to know how they felt. I didn't always get that. I wasn't always given that opportunity, right? And that would have been, you know, it wasn't their privilege right to to tell me how they felt or not. Um, sort of gauge right. Um, but you know, the important thing there was being human in that moment, delivering whatever the news, whatever the outcome was, that was unpopular, that, you know, led to me being like lesson that day. Um, but it was important to me that everybody that walked out that door was treated like a human by a human and I think that goes so far in terms of, again, you may not maintain likability in that moment. Um, it's not, it's not a popularity contest, as you said several times, but at least it leaves the door open for humanity and maybe return to likability, right? They may not like that decision also doesn't mean they're gonna hate you forever. Uh, you brought up a really great point a couple of weeks ago, in, in another episode when we were talking about, you know, failure and, and that it's about severity and duration, right? So what is the severity of this decision that I'm making in terms of how it impacts this person and what's the duration? Right. Very, very few things in startups are forever, um, including startups themselves, sadly. Um, but I think that those are two things that we need to constantly remind ourselves that, you know, there, there is a severity of this decision, right? No, you're not getting the full raise you want versus I'm cutting your pay, right, severity on those two things are very different, but we'll revisit this next year or we'll revisit this in three months, right? There's your severity and your window of duration in terms of when can I repair this? When can I regain some of that likeability. When can I repair this relationship a little bit,

Wil Schroter: a big part of it for um, for managers, founders, what would have you that are getting into this is that as the organization grows, you have more and more people that aren't connected directly to you write reports of reports. And so the moment that happens, the moment you're one degree away from someone, 2°, 3 days, it doesn't matter your stock plummets, right? Because every decision, someone doesn't agree with their is nameless. Faceless. Amorphous management that made that decision and in the history of anybody using the word management, it's never been followed up with how awesome they are, right. It's like when people talk about the government, right? They never follow that up with how awesome the government is, right. And what that always means is the moment they use them and they go in. And you know, these connectors that basically say, I don't know who that person is. You're screwed. And that's inherent in the organization getting bigger. It's also inherent in how you divide the organization. You know, the less flat the organization gets, the more points you lose because fundamentally, people don't know who you are. They just heard that Ryan and will had to make cuts and you know, there are two or three legs down the org chart and they just lost their job. There's no version where they see the humanity or the reason or the thinking or anything else like that. They just heard job lost came back to those guys. Those guys are a holes. And I think, uh, when, when we're thinking through that as, as, as founders and managers, when we're thinking through how this organization is going to grow, right? When we start to think through, hey, as this thing gets bigger, I'm going to have fewer and fewer opportunities to create goodwill and fundamentally to be like. But ultimately I have to make sure that as decisions come across that may be unpopular that my humanity comes through so that I'm also not this cardboard villain. And I think once I get painted as the cardboard villain that, you know, things are going wrong and this person has no humanity, The Mark Zuckerberg, you know, kind of effigy. Um it goes south very fast because at that point nothing you do bis any sort of goodwill, right? And it just compounds once again.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah. After the fact very little you can do. I I think, I think there's a number of things you can do to to cede some goodwill. Um one of those being opening yourself up for this conversation, right? You might be two or three degrees removed from that individual. Um, but I think having open and honest conversations with your management and saying like, look, um I want you to own the good outcomes that you create. Um there's gonna be times where you're forced into making decisions that are going to be unpopular, involved me in those involved in the decision, involved me in the communication, let me deliver some of that message, um doesn't mean that you're taking the full brunt of it, that you're you're taking full responsibility for the decision. Um because managers do need to own that their own decisions, they need to own their their their weight of the of the organization. Um, but I think that you're you're building goodwill with your management team at that point. Um and you're you're maintaining some goodwill with with the person who's on the wrong end of that decision, Let's just stick with hR It's if somebody had to get fired, not only are you maintaining good, you know, you're probably not maintaining a ton of good well with that person, but everybody else who's at that same level in the organization will appreciate the fact that you came down off the pedestal and had the conversation personally with that person. Um And and we've done this before, right? And it's not just the person who's being let go that needs that conversation. It was the three people that they sat next to, it's the 45 people that they went to lunch with. And by the way, we'll still go to lunch with even after they're not in the organization. And guess what still happens, they still complain about you. It's like maybe even more so at this point, right?

Wil Schroter: No, getting around that. Yeah. And in so look, man, you know, can we lead without being liked that. That's kind of where we started with this. And I think the answer is yes, but alright, Yes. We can lead without being like, we have to be respected. Like, like that's that at its core, but I think we have to look at likability as something we don't want to totally lose sight of, hey the organizations growing everybody's stock prices going up. So, you know, who cares what they think about me, I think it's a recipe for disaster to, because it is as soon as you lose the humanity. And I think at its core, that's what we're talking about, maintaining the humanity, letting people understand that you're vulnerable, letting people understand that you care, right. These aren't just decisions being made in a vacuum, giving people the blueprint for how you got to your decisions. So they can understand, maybe they don't agree with it, but they can understand how you got there. I think it's fundamentally the responsibility, not only the founder, but the entire managing team. Alright, So that was fun. But let's actually keep this conversation going. You've heard what we think about this. But you know, Ryan and I would really like to hear what you think and we're online all day long pretty much talking about every startup topic you could think of from fundraising, the customer acquisition to just really how to get all of this crazy startup stuff out of your head. And there's tons of other founders, just like you, they're weighing in on these topics so you'll get a chance to just hang out and meet some really smart founders. We're also super, super easy to find you head over to groups dot startups dot com and let Ryan and I hear what's on your mind, Let's get to know each other a little bit and let's just start having more of these conversations

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