The era of Conscious leadership – RobertGlazer [Interview]
About Robert Glazer
Robert Glazer is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners. He is a columnist for Entrepreneur, Forbes, Thrive Global, and Inc. writing on topics ranging from performance marketing, and entrepreneurship to company culture, capacity building, hiring, and leadership. He is a past recipient of the Boston Business Journal “40 under 40” award and is an advisor/board member to several high-growth companies. We are extremely happy and honored to have him on our interview series today.
I have with me Sekar – Sekar is the COO of peopleHum. His prior stints include various product Engineering roles in Successfactors/SAP, Yahoo, and Informatica with 30 years of experience in both enterprise and consumer internet products.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Robert Glazer today to our interview series. I’m Sumitha Mariyam from the peopleHum team. Also, just a quick intro of peopleHum – peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Over to Sekar now.
Welcome Robert, we’re really thrilled to have you.
Thank you very much. Excited to be here.
Thank you, Robert. So the first question I had for you Rob was,
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to Acceleration Partners?
Yes, it’s a little long and windy. But yeah, I have always, I was sort of interested in fast growing companies. And before I created one, I liked working with them, and we still do, and I sort of focus on strategy consulting, then a little venture capital, then went to work in an operating role and saw a lot of things about companies that were consistent in terms of the challenges and opportunities of how they scaled and ended up starting Acceleration Partners to help companies really scale their customer acquisition.
And as part of that, became aware of something called Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing, which is just, I think, one of the best ways for companies to grow and to align incentives with their partners for their marketing and their spend. So we focused in a few different areas and we really developed a specialty in that and have grown that on a global basis.
Acceleration Partners has been ranked very highly on the best places to work on LinkedIn. How do you go about creating the best place to work culture? What are things that you have been typically focusing on to inculcate that culture in your company?
Right. I would like to point out, we’re very fortunate to win a lot of awards, but I’ll be the first to tell you I do not think we’re the best place to work for everyone. I think we have a specific culture, a specific point of view, and our job has been to find people who are aligned to that. So I think if you’re trying to build a great culture, you just want alignment between what you think and what you say, what you do.
“If you’re trying to build a great culture, you just want alignment between what you think and what you say, what you do.”
So many companies, those are three different sets of things. We’ve been very specific as to, our sort of vision and where we want to go, our values, our goals and targets and then finding people who are excited about those and who are fit for those and supporting them and developing that. So I believe we’re a great place to work. But it’s probably for about 2% of the people, and I think that’s the challenge for every company is not to be everything to anyone, but to be really clear about who they are.
“The challenge for every company is not to be everything to anyone, but to be really clear about who they are.”
I liken it to sort of universities. There’s all types of different universities. Big, small city, rural, different programs like each one is going to be a better fit for a different person.
It’s interesting. I really like how you said, it’s not just about being a great place to work, but it’s also about really identifying your identity as a culture. So you clearly identify yourself as a healthy and high performance culture.
Can you, and there’s one interesting article that you had discussed and had written too where you had talked about this practice of ‘Employee Wish Granting’.
I think it was sometime around the Christmas of last year when you talked about culture and things.
Can you just talk to us about that? A little bit about what your ‘Healthy High-Performance Culture’ means and what this ‘Employee Wish-Granting’ concept means.
Yes, So we are a high performance company, we’re very goal-driven, we have targets. We want to be the top company in our industry. We’re also in client service, we’re in marketing engines again, these are things that have to align with what people want to do, no matter how much they love the company and the awards we win, if you don’t want to be in a client service business, you don’t want to be in a fast paced, you won’t like it.
So that’s what I said. We try to support and develop our employees as much as we can. We also hold them to be accountable onto the expectations and the things that they said that they were going to do when they joined us and took the job. So I think it’s that combination.
I think there are a lot of companies that are healthy and treat people well, but they don’t have a lot of accountability and they don’t really accomplish much, and I think there comes on the other stand that sort of accomplished a lot by turning and burning through people like I am most proud of the fact that 80% of our leaders have really grown up from within the organization, and we’ve been able to grow their capacity and do that.
Part of that is understanding what’s important to them, and that led us to sort of this wish granting initiative we started a couple years ago, which is to find out things that people wanted to do, things that were important to them, try to sort of surreptitiously collect that and make it happen. Now it’s less of a secret. But we still have done it the last three years, and it’s just a really incredible moment at our sort of end of the year event.
Oh, so do you think this wish to grant, is it more about the professional development in the context of their carrier and the company or it could be anything but it just helps in improving their performance in the long run?
“I believe in holistic development. And I believe you are the same person inside and outside of work”
When you think about what a lot of people want to accomplish, it’s something that is related to their health. Maybe they want to run an Iron Man or a marathon, or they wanna go somewhere and see something they haven’t seen or repair a relationship or, these are all things that impact them holistically and their gullible capacity. We’ve always, I just believe, invest in people holistically. A lot of our training is about how to build people’s capacity overall, and we think that we get the work benefit of that and they get a benefit outside of work.
“Build people’s capacity overall, and we think that we get the work benefit of that and they get a benefit outside of work.”
It’s very interesting. I wish more companies also do that, so slightly related. But I know that all said and done there, while we bring in people who fit in with the culture when they come in and so on, there are also some exceptions. One thing that I had noticed in one of the articles that you had written in Inc. magazine relates to your experience of how an employee wrote his or her feedback on Glassdoor for your company.
And it was such an interesting article on how you dealt with that.
Could you just walk us through that experience? How should companies deal with such comments or such experiences on Glassdoor?
Yeah. Look, I know some people are very frustrated by Glassdoor. It’s very one-sided. I know some people wish there’s a Glassdoor for employees, right? Because there’s certainly bad companies out there and there are certainly bad employees. But I do think it keeps us a little bit honest in terms of thinking about, like a customer in the same way or the same dynamic in a restaurant like, but it just makes sure, like don’t have any customer leave angry because you know they’re gonna go on the up.
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It sort of creates a higher standard. So I think, we know that if people are angry, they have an outlet, and that makes us think about it. But also, people are gonna be upset about things. They’re gonna look at things through their own lens. We can’t make everyone happy. But I do think, I think I already did share in that article is, it is helpful to read it, take a deep breath and then do understand that people will view different situations differently, and I think you can learn from that.
But I’m also, to what I said before, I tend to be unapologetic about things that we don’t want to change. And, well, we’re really open to feedback. I think everyone needs to be careful of the feedback of one, right? Where, to me, if in a 170 person organization, if one person says it and versus 20 people say it, I think that’s really different.
I think everyone has different viewpoints but someone thinks that people want to change are the things that the other 169 people love, like if someone says, look, we need a slower pace, we need fewer accounts, we need more direction and I say that my answer is like, don’t work in the marketing agency. That’s just not endemic in how we operate.
So rather than us changing the whole company and our business model, I’m happy to help you find a job that’s a better fit for what you’re looking for and I mean that sincerely, I want people to succeed. I want them to be happy. We’re not the right choice for everyone or we may not be the right choice for everyone.
Excellent. Thank you. It’s very, very insightful because many times as companies and leaders, we always see some exits like this. And then there’s some Glassdoor comment that just rattles us off, right? Oh, man, that’s not really what happened.
And we are at a loss of how to handle this. This was very insightful.
We had someone recently who says, when we just don’t listen to feedback and honestly, it’s just not true. I mean, the amount of feedback that we collect in different ways is extraordinary. The reality was they didn’t like the answer that we gave to the feedback about something that was not going to change. And I think the company has the right to be honest about that.
The employee has the right to decide if that’s something they can’t live with. But again, talking about both sides of it and I had a sense for probably who that was, we had heard the feedback and I think we were really clear that we weren’t gonna make all of these changes because it was just not the business that we’re gonna be in.
For instance, we are a remote company. We have been forever. If the feedback is adamantly that we should open offices and do this stuff and the answer is that we’ve made that decision. That’s not, you should always be open to bow. We made that decision, and your colleagues don’t agree with you for the most part. So if that’s a real gating issue for you, then then then we need to have a real discussion about that.
Alright. So shifting gears a little bit.
There’s also another very interesting article that you had published on HBR on how organizations respond to this ‘Flashbulb Memory Problem’.
It’d be great actually if you can just set the context of what really that problem is and what should organizations do to deal with those types of things.
This started out of some stuff I published around why we don’t do counter offers and the data on counter offers is pretty terrible, like, as an organization, why we don’t make them and why we don’t, we don’t counter offer employees, and we don’t sort of get into a bidding war otherwise, and I think it says, the majority will have left the organization within 18 months who accept the counter offer.
And so when I posted this, that’s a lot of people respond. They responded sort of with the exceptions, like, Oh, but I hired a great guy or a woman or so and this case where I was the one that took a counter offer. And maybe they’re in month three or month four. And what’s interesting is when you do something that there are a lot of things that you will do once as an organization, you have to make your best guess.
But what I realized when we looked at is we have learned to make data driven decisions based on not the exception, but the rule. So what those people are failing to point out is that it might be that the one employee worked out, particularly in hiring. But they’re missing the nine that didn’t and you wouldn’t really, if you’re playing for average, you wouldn’t do anything that has a 10% success rate.
So I really encouraged people to focus more particularly onto repetitive decisions like we’ve gone back and looked at the performance of different types of sales accounts historically and then said to the sales team, you cannot sign accounts that have this sort of like written qualities because the retention rates are really poor because left to their own devices, they want to sign it. And you know what? One out of eight of those will work, but it’s not worth the seven out of eight that don’t work, so we tend to remember kind of right in front of us.
And we tend to remember the big things that worked and just not the sort of evidence based statistical thing, And I think for decisions that repeat themselves, we really need to bring data into it and focus on the averages overall, because there’s a great thing about hiring about this coach at the Michigan softball team said, I would rather not take the right player and she beats me twice a year than to take the wrong player and who beats me every day. So, she intuitively understood that you’re gonna miss some wins with that. But getting it wrong the majority of the time is a lot worse outcome.
So how do you actually, there are all, so there are situations where repetitiveness like, okay, there is data you can, but there are also situations where there is a little bit of intuition-based decision-making, right?
Like you don’t have fully baked data and it can be a six versus half a dozen decision. And you’re just letting your intuition work. But how do you, what types of guidelines do you have in those types of situations, where the data is till not that complete?
Look, I go to Malcolm Gladwell’s work on Blink on this. I think a lot of our experiences sort of come together in a feeling about something that is less like intuitive, more scientific than we realize. It’s kind of like our brain processing all of the past, inputs and coming to a conclusion. So I think you talk to people, you use logic, use your best guess, and you might not get it right so, yeah, a lot of decisions don’t have precedent, but I think the ones that organizations need to really focus on, like interviewing, like something that you’re doing over and over and over again.
Like one of the things I’m very critical of is what I call, ‘The Voodoo Interview questions’. Like these ones that the CEO loves to ask about, what kind of lunch you had or what animal you’d want to be or whatever, they have no statistical validity.
And so they say, Oh, but the two people I hired both said Lion. And, but you have no proof that the people that said cow would not have been good. Like I said, there’s actually no validity to that. So, I don’t insert myself in the interview process. I work on the process. Not, I don’t get involved because I actually think the most important thing about the interview process is sort of repetition and consistency around the entire process.
Because there is so much bias, there’s bias, all kinds of bias around, even just bias so that the person who needs the role, like today and is desperate to want that person and someone else who needs to sit in the organizational seat and be like, whoa, you said, you said you loved Mike. But like the number one quality on this job description was attention to detail. And Mike’s got terrible scores in this whole thing for attention to detail. So, I really believe in repeatable systems around things that happen over and over again.
Cool, okay. A little bit of shift of gears again.
Social organization and conscious leaderships, how do you explain that to the leaders of today and the benefits of practicing conscious leadership practices and things like that?
Yeah, I think a lot of businesses have been running a sort of command and control playbook long past when military is even still running that. And if you don’t engage with people, if you don’t understand what’s important to them, if you don’t make them part of some sort of journey, they might as well go work for the gig economy somewhere, right?
If there’s no meaning to being part of a team, and it’s just about a paycheck, there are so many other ways to do that today, so I just think it’s the right thing to do. I think you get higher performance, but I’ve also been making cases for people, I think if you’re going to run a business that’s hey, it’s just about me and what’s good for me.
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And don’t ask me, you have a hard time employing people because they’ll go build their own job. If they don’t, it’s like, why be part of a team. If it’s just about making money, I could go put together a whole bunch of projects and do that, and I think that’s what freelance work in the gig economy and sort of all the sort of digital transformation of not being stuck in a town and having to, only one employer to work for has changed.
Okay, cool. Lastly, any important soundbites that you would like to leave our audience with?
Yeah, I think, one of the most important things for anyone or for leaders and I talk about this in my book ‘Elevate under sort of spiritual capacity’. But it’s to understand your personal core values and be able to articulate those, I think how you show up as a leader, the decisions you make are very driven by core values, whether you’re able to see that or not. And if you’re able to articulate them and put them in front of you, it becomes really clear about how to make decisions, what’s the right choice? What’s not the right choice?
That’s been super powerful for me and I actually work on it with our leaders as well, because it’s also something I’ve seen that really elevates their level of leadership. Being able to understand their core values, articulate them, internalize them and then communicate them to their team and say, here are the things that are sort of really important to me and non-negotiable to me and it’s important that people understand that because I think people will act consistently within their values.
“Being able to understand their core values, articulate them, internalize them and then communicate them to their team and say, here are the things that are sort of really important to me and non-negotiable to me and it’s important that people understand that because I think people will act consistently within their values.”
Wonderful. It was a pleasure talking to you Rob.
Thank you very much.
I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us. It’s been a learning experience for me and will surely be for our viewers too. Let’s keep in touch and have a safe and every time ahead of you. Thank you. Good day.
Thank you so much. Okay.
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