"We tell candidates upfront what the culture is like, and how we operate. We tell people, if you're this way, A, B, and C, you're gonna love it. And if you're not that way, this is gonna be the most miserable job on Earth for you because you're gonna be surrounded by people who are that way. And so I've had people say, yeah, that's not me. Thank you. And that's great. Saves a whole lot of pain."
In this episode
Do the job descriptions match the reality of the workplace?
Joel Beasley is the host and author of Modern CTO, a book and podcast for Chief Technology Officers to share their experiences.
On episode 104, Joel shares the leadership traits that stand out and how important it is for CTOs to be technical.
Joel also talks about how he creates a great environment for his team and how he formed his hiring process to ensure alignment between expectations and reality.
Joel discusses how leaders can get better at self-discipline, creating momentum within a team, and managing trials and failures.
Tune in to hear all about Joel’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Modern CTO podcast
What makes a great CTO
What makes a great manager
Are technical skills a prerequisite to being a CTO?
Creating great environments
Discipline and management
“Success is built on failure, but does not drown in failure”
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 00:40
Joel, welcome to the show.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 03:15
Thanks for having me.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:16
Yeah, this is really fun for everybody kind of listening. And this is a collab episode. So I was wondering if I should say, Joe, welcome to the show. Or should I say, hey, both of us. Welcome to the show. I wasn’t sure how to play that.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 03:29
Anything works, man. It’s gonna be a good time.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 03:32
Yeah, no, this is awesome. Very excited to do this. I mean, it probably makes sense for especially our listeners, since we’re publishing this on both feeds. Tell us about the modern CTO podcast, why you created it, what it’s all about?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 03:46
Yeah. So I’ll give you the brief origin story. I was into technology growing up. We hear that a lot, right? doing these interviews. My dad he was in the Air Force. That’s where he learned software and electronics design. And they put the GPS system into the B 32 stealth bomber that was like their big project. And from there he freelanced outside of the Air Force, and I would go to work with him, you know, because my mom, she had a bunch of kids. And she’s like, take one of them with you, please. And I understand that now having my own kids. So I’d be the one that would go with them. So it’s always different office buildings, different technologies, got into some basic, really simple programming, pretty young. And then at 12. I got hit by a car. I was in a wheelchair for a year. Wow. Yeah, I was pretty crazy. So and then get this. So a year into my recovery. My sisters thought it’d be funny to put oil on the floor, on the tile to mess with me thinking like, oh, it’d be funny if he fell. Well, I did fall and I re broke it. So ended up being two years of like learning how to walk again. And the beautiful part about all of that horrible situation was I figured out that I could write code and make money on sites like script plans, so they didn’t care that I was 12 You know, laid up in bed with hurt legs and stuff, they just want a code written. So I figured out how to make money there, through high school, built some real estate software, sold it, Bill apps for like about a decade for companies, and then decided I wanted to sort of like, share or give back as listening to Gary Vaynerchuk. And so I wrote this book. Before I published the book, I started calling other CTOs. And I was like, Hey, this is the information that I’m going to put in the book, you know, am I gonna look stupid? Or what’s going to happen? And those conversations were a lot of fun. So after I finished the book, I wanted to keep them going. So we rolled it into a podcast. And then today, we’re five years 500 episodes in, and it’s pretty crazy.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 05:37
Yeah, that is pretty crazy. You know, it’s interesting, we just recorded episode 100. And so that’s amazing. I mean, you’ve been doing this 500 episodes. So I feel like I probably have a lot that I could learn from you. That’s awesome.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 05:51
It feels like pretty much the same. I think after 100 episodes, you’re just in a routine of doing it. And you just keep doing it. And then you just look back and be like, Whoa, it’s 500 episodes. That’s crazy. And then the game is with yourself, figuring out how to keep it interesting, right? So we’re building new studios, we got like a multicam studio here. And you know, we do all sorts of interesting things, trying to get different guests that we care about relevant topics. And so we always try to keep it interesting for ourselves.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 06:18
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I agree with you. And that one of the things for me was just at the outset, when starting the Supermanagers podcast, I always thought about, I mean, it’s exactly what you said, how can you make it interesting for you? And so I thought that if I can make it so that I can learn from every single episode, then this is independent of how many people even listen to the podcast, I’m always learning. And as long as I’m always learning, there’s like a personal motivation. And so I think it’s amazing. I mean, like, as you know, you get to speak with amazing people, ask them the questions that you want the things you’re curious about. And I always walk away learning something, there isn’t an episode that I don’t walk away learning something from, and I feel like it’s almost like it’s a life hack. Yeah. And I think tell anybody, it’s a certain extent, everybody should do it.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 07:08
Yeah, absolutely. Dude. It’s crazy. So I’m just a software engineer for 17 years, building apps and some teams. And then we started this podcast, and I get to like, one of the peak moments where I was like, This is real. It wasn’t I got to interview Sir Tim Berners Lee. I was like, This is crazy. As like he created the World Wide Web. This is unbelievable. And you know, we were just hanging out and talking about life. After that podcast. I was like, I don’t know if there’s another interview that I want more than having had that one, you know?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 07:38
Yeah. And that’s amazing. You know, it’s interesting. So you interview a lot of CTOs. And fun fact, we just interviewed for episode 101. We interviewed Brendan idol. Sen. Who’s CTO at zoom. I don’t know if has he been on your show as well?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 07:54
Their VP has. He was the CEO. There was a CTO there, zoom, zoom info, right or Zoom? Zoom? Just the know Harry has? I think Harry’s the CIO, Harry Mosley.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 08:07
Cool. Yeah, that’s awesome. So it’s just so we’ve interviewed a bunch of CTOs on the podcast. And you’ve obviously interviewed many, many hundreds. So curious, like from all the conversations that you have had? Are there things that you’ve noticed in terms of leadership traits or things that the CTOs you’ve been chatting with? Do that just make them you know, what makes a great CTO, if you were to really think about it?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 08:35
So we have super nerdy over here. So there’s a producer, and every show taking notes. And for about 300 episodes, what we did was we tracked in a spreadsheet, different attributes of different leaders and our subjective, you know, on their strengths, or how much they mentioned it or something, and created this like entire matrix to figure out what’s the most common things across all of these leaders. And so we boiled it down to like, a handful of things you want. Mm hmm. Yeah.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 09:04
That’d be awesome. Okay, curious.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 09:06
So they know how to put the right people together, which means like, not just find the most talented people, but find the people that work best together. Right? So it’s not just all about hiring a ton of rockstars. It’s like, how can we get these human beings to work together to achieve a specific goal. And part of that is also that they’re really good at curating the environment. One of my favorite people out there, you see to PBS, and he said, it’s like a gardener, right? He’s like, the gardener can’t force the plant to grow. But it can create an environment where the plant can grow. And so I was like, oh, that’s actually really good. And so those two things I sort of put as like one bullet point, they put the right people together, and they curate the right environment, and they’re aware of their environment. So often people are aware of when they’re in toxic environments, because they can very clearly identify that but being able to identify a healthy environment and one attributes make up a healthy environment and where it’s currently at. And do you want to change it? Do you want to grow it? Do you want to maintain it, having the vision to see that for a group of people, and it’s great, because it’s something you can practice without being the leader, you can be an individual contributor on the team and practice identifying the environment and figuring out you know, where it’s currently at.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:20
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting. And so you would put that all under one bullet point, are there other bullet points?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 10:26
Oh, yeah. The other thing they do really well, is they’re really good at understanding the energy of the team and how to adjust it. Is the team overly excited? Is the team depress? If they are excited? How do you get them to? How do you get the energy down enough to focus? Like, when you’re too excited, you can’t focus? Right? But like, how do you get it to focus? Or when you’re down? How do you get it up, so they have really good understanding of how to change the energy on the team.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:53
That makes a lot of sense. And you know, as you’re going through the different points, these are traits that can apply to any leader and not necessarily just a technology leader. So in interviewing, I think, you know, 100 episodes in, if I was to boil it down and say, What makes a great manager, great leader, the thing that I’ve noticed in the conversations is, above all else, they’re constantly working on getting to be a better leader, you know, best athletes in the world. They have footage, they mark up the footage, they look at it, and then they deliberately practice the things that they want to get better at. And so it’s the same thing for the world’s best managers and leaders, they’re actively working on it. They’re just not leaving it to chance and just saying like, hey, if I’m doing this for a long time, I guess I’ll get better at it. But the ones who are consistently focusing on like, How can I do this better? So even for all the topics that you talked about? Finding the right people and getting them together? You could just hire people and see what happens. Or you could say, you could write decision memos on why I hired this person, you know, how did it work out? What are the learnings? And like, be very proactive about it. So I think this is one of the main insights that I’ve gleaned. And people actually do this the journal, they talked about it, they have executive coaches. So it’s a very big focus area for people.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 12:13
Yes, continuous improvement. That’s one of our like, five culture items. And I don’t have them all memorized, we just kind of live them. And then we ask the team like, Hey, who are we and then we just post that as our culture on our site versus trying to make up words and change the company to meet those. But content, small improvements over time. It’s like an amazing part. You know, like Warren Buffett talks about compounding interest, it’s like that. It’s truly a magical thing. There was some guy out there that had wrote a book and done a couple talks, and his main story that he used a lot was about putting apples like on his countertop. And he would because he put them in the environment, he would eat them. And then it became a habit. And then he was a person who ate apples. But yeah, understanding how that sounds ever. Yeah, I wish I remember their names. Do you have this trouble of like, you talk to so many people, you can remember their stories, but you can’t remember their names?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 13:03
Yeah, it’s really hard. And the same thing happens. You know, if you consume a lot of content, or read a lot of books, you just forget, you’d like to attribute it, but you just don’t remember where it came from? It just all kind of melds together over time.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 13:17
Oh, yeah. Yep. And sometimes it’s like that I think of that, or is that something I heard? I don’t really care. I’m just gonna push it out for the audience.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 13:23
Yeah, it’s good. I mean, I think part of what we do is just curation. And make sure that great ideas go out there. So for the things that we’ve talked about, are very much people oriented. And when you think about the other skills that people like this have, how important is it for them to be extremely technical? Can you be a CTO and have been the worst software developer growing up and growing up through your career that is, and still be an amazing CTO? Or how do you see that or the CTOs you talk to, especially in larger organizations, still extremely technical, and that’s a big part of their role?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 14:00
No, it’s, you do not have to be extremely technical to be a good CTO, what the way I see CTO is understanding the needs of the organization and providing that, how do I fit in, because every executive team is going to be slightly different. Every company is at a different stage of growth. There’s like the CTO maturity model. So the things will type, they constantly change as the company grows. But one of the things that you can look at as like a core principle is paying attention to what the business needs, and how you are providing that to help achieve what your executive peers are trying to achieve. But yeah, I’ve seen a spectrum of people that are great at technology. I’ve seen people that aren’t great programmers be great leaders. But one thing that I do know, that kind of touches on the technical thing is they all have a deep understanding of the market and the problem that they’re solving. And so often that breeds like a certain level of technical competence, right? Like if I’m making a cloud ops, that helps scale infrastructure in AWS, and I know nothing about how cloud works. That’s a rare case. Use Really, they have some understanding, or they got acquired by another company. And they built some tools. And they have some real good understanding of how the core technology operates. With programming, like you can be a full time programmer and you can stop and the technology changes so fast that you might not fluently write code as quickly as you did. But you understand some of these core principles on how to structure Code Systems.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 15:21
Yeah, so it still makes sense at a high level to understand the technology systems or paradigms or frameworks, thought patterns, how these things generally work. But it seems like the larger than an organization gets, it starts to become more about people at the end of the day. So large organization, it’s always about people.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 15:41
Yeah, the first person that said that to me, was Cody, Sanford CIO AT T Mobile. He was there for like, 2030 years, and he recently retired. But he had said this thing, I asked him, like, what’s the one thing that’s rang true throughout your whole life in your career, and he paused for a second, he said, It’s all about the people. I mean, people make the numbers, people make the product, people buy the product, you know, we’re not out there, doing commerce with raccoons. Right, like other animals, we are just humans, and we’re doing business with each other. And we’re making tools that can help solve each other’s problems and those tools, create new problems, and so on, and so forth. So understanding the people, and then how they fit into that marketplace. Those two things are incredibly important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone around, and I’ve gotten to do talks, and I’ll ask, ask someone that’s in a higher level position, like how does what they do affect revenue, or how does what they do affect the customer directly, and they won’t necessarily be able to tell you, the great ones can. But some people get into this unfortunate rut of they’ll have a title, that’s an executive title, and they’ll just being be given task by some other people within the org. And they won’t actually know some of these core business principles that I argue, I will say that you need to know in order to have a successful organization.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 17:04
Yeah, you know, at the end of the day, it’s all of these things. And the thing that I would add on it is also the systems I mean, just going back to your point on curating the environment, like you can’t make the plant grow. But you can basically create the environment where a plant can grow. When you think about creating a great environment for people to be successful, what are some of the things that you think about? Or that you’ve heard from the people you’ve chatted with?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 17:29
Hmm, that’s a good question. So going to make a good environment is you’re going to need people who are good at what their responsibilities are. So you can establish trust with other members of the team. That’s one thing we’re really good at here. And we only have like less than 15 people. So we’re not like a big company. But everybody is super, super good at what they do. And that gives sales, a lot of confidence that production is going to deliver. And that gives production, a lot of confidence that they’re gonna get paychecks because sales is doing their thing. And it sort of creates this atmosphere of everybody’s like, super excited to be on the team, because we’re all really strong players. And then that produces a good result. So I’d say, curating them, like hiring and firing people, that was the hardest thing for me, because I’m, you know, I tend to be quiet and introverted prior to the podcast. And, you know, the first time I had to let people go, it was like, super difficult, and then you start to go broke, and you’re like, oh, no, I gotta get the right people together, so I don’t go broke. And then you sort of figure out how to be better at hiring, the better you are at hiring, the less firing you have to do. So you get better at hiring and figuring out like, culture items and how this person is going to fit in with the team before you bring them on. But you know, it’s never perfect. And when it doesn’t work, you have to let people go. And that’s a hard thing to do. At first, it was a hard thing to do. But since then I’ve sort of found perspective, that makes it easier for me to let people go in the sense that like, if you’re at our company, and you’re getting let go give you some context, or if you are coming again, like go that means well, first of all, you were an A player. So something happened. And we would of course, identify your performance drop and try to figure it out, like, is it something in your personal life? Like what’s going on? How can we get it, let’s say that for this conversation, they couldn’t solve whatever the problem was, and it’s gone on and they still are underperforming from where they were when we brought them on. At that point, I would have the perspective of it’s a marketplace, we are in an economy, right? And so if you don’t let them go, you’re giving them a false reality of what’s acceptable within the economy. And at the same time, you’re reducing your chance of success and increasing the probability of failure within your team. So you sort of have to do it both out of respect to your team who is being a player’s and out of respect to that individuals growth for them to understand that like, this isn’t an acceptable level of productivity for the position and then that gives them the opportunity to say, you know, reflect and make change. is because one of the most frustrating things in the world is expecting above average results without being an above average person.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:08
Yeah, it’s so interesting because like a lot of the things that you’re saying, tie. So all together, I mean, we started by talking about the environment and making sure that there’s trust in between the teams. And this is not a thing that I knew, starting out my career. But what I’ve realized is that trust and hiring are very interlinked, right. So if you don’t hire the right person, then they’re not going to do a job in accordance with your expectations, which is then going to result in you watching over their shoulder more. And as a result, it’s going to lead to less trust, because turns out, you didn’t do a good job at hiring, and the role is not working out. And so you’re watching over their shoulder more, you’re being a little bit more micromanaging. And then as a result, less trust develops over the course of time. Now, you can get out of this spiral. But hiring is so so important. And I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, nobody is perfect. Nobody gets, you know, a 10 on 10 on every hires. And unfortunately, it’s one of those things that if you do more, and you reflect on it, and you figure out what went right and what didn’t go right, it is something you can get better at. But a lot of it is is just setting expectations, right? Not only setting expectations when you’re gonna go higher, but it’s also setting expectations once they’re on the team. Hey there before we get to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything. But because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news is completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. You know, one of the questions that we asked for everybody who comes on the Supermanagers podcast, what were some of the early mistakes that you made when when you first started managing and leading teams. And what’s interesting is like one of the ones that gets said often is just I didn’t do a good job of setting expectations. I wasn’t very clear, like I thought that they would know things. My team would know these things. But it turns out that they didn’t, because you didn’t clearly communicate that it’s a hard thing to get really good at. But it’s so so important. Yes, that is definitely
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 22:43
on my list of things. anthropomorphism is another one where like youth, we think, like, I think you’re like me, because I’m me. It’s just like our natural state, we tend to think people are like us. And so I’m a very driven type of person, very disciplined type of person. So I would assume by default, everybody’s like that. And that’s not the case at all. So having an awareness of that. And then like, as you said, setting expectation is something we learned one way that we actually put that into practice at the company, when we share that, yeah, well, in the hiring process, the first thing that we do is the the bullet points of the job description are the same as the training bullet points to train for that position. So that’s really clear. It’s like, this is what you’re going to do from the moment they come in and see us it’s the first thing list they see. And then they see that list. Again, when they’re hiring. The next thing we do is we tell them upfront what the culture is like, and how we operate. And we tell people like, if you’re this way, A, B, and C, you’re gonna love it. And if you’re not that way, this is gonna be the most miserable job on Earth for you. Because you’re gonna be surrounded by people who are that way. And so I’ve had people be like, yeah, that’s not me. Thank you. And that’s great, right? Save a whole lot of pain. But the way we actually put it into practice, by saying it upfront in the interview, and then the Friday after they start, they start on a Monday, the Friday after they start, I meet with them. And I asked them how the expectation of what we said the job was going to be like, matched with the reality. And then we get that really tight. We get that really, really tight for the next hire in that position that
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:14
one week after you said, Yeah, okay. Yeah.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 24:18
Because they know, you know, like you were sold something, when you join this job, you just spent a week there you came in, and you will know at the end of the week, if what they said was reality about what the culture is like, what the job trainings going to be, like, all of the stuff, they’ll know if it matches and
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:32
just to highlight that I just think that that’s such a great question. person starts, you know, week in two weeks, and whatever the cadence based on what you were expecting and what you see now that you’re here. Is there a mismatch between your expectations? That’s just such an enlightening, great question. I feel like everybody should do that. If they’re not.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 24:53
Yeah, I did that because I hired people. They had a misunderstanding. I had to let them go. I hate doing that. It’s not fun. And so I was like, How do I reduce this from happening again? And it’s like, let’s really make sure that their expectation lines up with what actually happens.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 25:07
Yeah, super systematic. I love it. And you’re baking it into everywhere. This setting expectations even before someone joins, checking in on, you know, are the expectations, what they thought and how to constantly make that better and a more true indication? You know, it’s interesting, because you also, I mean, just in passing, you mentioned that you’re a very disciplined person. And so you might want to hang out and hire people that are more discipline, I would love to dig in on just discipline in general. And like, what role you think it plays in managing your team, your company?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 25:40
Yeah, well, it’s something I didn’t have for a large part of my life. So you know, that quote I said earlier, about, the most frustrating thing in the world is expecting above average results without being above average person, that quote, came into my life had a good time, because I was doing that I was expecting these amazing results, I was seeing the news feeds and IPOs, and all these things happening. And I wanted that, and I had to sort of match my reality with what I wanted out of life. And I figured, okay, well, I just have to be an above average person. So then I started Googling around watching YouTube videos, finding a lot of the motivational type people like the Tony Robbins, the performance and productivity people, the Tim Ferriss and I saw that this is the behavior that successful people have, and it’s monkey see monkey do. And if I just slowly adopt all these behaviors, eventually I will be seen as a successful person. And I knew from collecting bad habits and things like that, that they’re so easy. Once you collect them, you don’t think about them. So all I needed to do was really focus on a transition from the habits I currently have atomic habits is what it’s called, I think his name is James clear. That’s the Apple guy I was talking about earlier, and transition my habits. And I did that, and it worked. And to be honest with you, it was at the same time, it’s gonna sound weird, it was easier. And it was harder, it was easier to make the change and change all the things than I thought it would be. Because once you start building that momentum, right, like you can make more changes and more changes, and you get results. And you’re kind of excited about it. The hard part is, you know, we live in an entropy written world, right? Everything’s constantly dying and decaying. So consistency is like got a premium on it. So if you can be consistent with good habits, then you can win. So they’re kind of like two separate things.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:38
So it’s interesting, because you mentioned Tony Robbins, amateur average fan, have you been to any of his seminars?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 27:46
No, I want to so bad. I’ve got two kids, and a third on the way and my oldest isn’t? Yeah, it’s amazing. And it’s horrible. I love it. And I hate it. But my daughter plays with one of the daughters of one of the people on Tony Robbins team. So like they always do the conferences and stuff. But my schedule has never aligned. So the short answer is no, but my schedule never aligned. And then at the same time, they went online for a lot of them when the pandemic happened. So, in between, I learned from all of Tony’s materials, and I started to have a lot of success. And then I got to the point where like I was financially good. And that took a lot of time, right. So I’m just listening to the YouTubes of all the different people reading the books and everything. So when I got to the point where I could afford to be spending the amount of money, you need to spend to go to those things, and to take the time off, you have to get your business to a certain point, so you can take the time off from it. By the time I got there. It was around the pandemic. So I haven’t been but I want to go I look forward to it. I know they’re in Miami, I think every year or they’re like South Florida at least.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 28:48
Yeah. Someplace with a good climate. I’ve been very similar to you. I’ve listened to a lot of his materials books. And I had a chance to go to both Unleash the Power Within Yeah, which is one of them, and then also date with destiny. And I will say like, especially for date with destiny. It was a big commitment. I mean, we’re talking about seven days, I think it was seven days, if I remember correctly, but it’s a long period of time. You’re right, like it’s one thing to say, Okay, I will pay to go. But it’s also another thing to say that I can take off that much time. And things will just run and it’ll also work. Which reminds me of this. And again, it’s just like you I forget which guests it was that I mentioned this on the Supermanagers podcast, which was the vacation test, which is can you go on vacation without things falling apart? And it’s actually a sign of being an effective manager or leader. We just talked about this concept of how can I put myself out of a job and if you can build the systems and things so that you’re less critical bottleneck to just your company or your team succeeding. That’s actually a good sign. So if you can go to these conferences and take the time off It’s actually a very good sign.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 30:02
Yeah, and it’s one of the early mistakes I made a lot was, you know, you don’t need the prerequisite to have a business is what filing fee for the state like 100 something dollars or something like that. And I think you could just do it as a sole proprietor. So there’s very little barrier to keep people from going into business. So there’s no like, standard of qualification. And I was, you know, inexperienced when I started, like everybody. And I assumed my first thought into like leadership, and I was going from individual contributor to the first time my project got traction, I started to build my company out and build a team around me and everything like that. I had this vision of like me being in the center of this room, like, almost like in a cockpit, and I’ve got all these people around me, like, you know, in Star Trek, or whatever. And I can like, just shout out things to all of them and command all of them. And I can just extend myself and amplify myself. And I was like, Yeah, that’s what I want to do. And then I realized, that’s a stupid system. It creates way too much work for you, and it gets you the wrong people you need people that can think for themselves can problem solve, can push things forward and come back to you and tell you about what they did. versus, you know, coming to you expecting you to solve, like all their small problems. So yeah, that was a mistake I made early on. And I found that if your goal is to sort of, like get a bunch of administrative assistants that can do various isolated things you can do, it’s a super fragile system. And it doesn’t scale, it doesn’t work very well.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 31:28
Yeah, that’s a problem. And I feel like in the realm of mistakes, this is one of those things where it’s, especially as you rise up the ranks, and you start as an individual contributor, and your manager, and you’re leading teams, I mean, you were likely the best person that was doing whatever you were doing. And so it’s really hard to also make the transition to say that, I need to now hire people who can do what I was doing in a better way and get satisfaction from different things, I don’t need to be doing the work, I don’t need to be the most critical piece, I’m the designer of the systems, I mean, like you started the conversation with my job is to create the environment where these goals can be met. And these things can be successful. And it is a mental transition that you have to make. But it’s also the best people like you said, they want to work in an environment where they have autonomy and control and like they can contribute. And the hardest problems in the world are actually, I mean, you can’t solve all of them yourself. This actually reminds me of a great story. It’s interesting, and I’m gonna forget who it was. But there was technology leader. And in their business, they were at a certain point where they had this really big problem, it was a very big existential threat for the business. And they were saying that, Oh, I’m so busy, I need to clear my time. So I can like focus on this and solve this problem, and I need to solve it. And they got the advice that no, what you need to do is you need to make it clear to everybody on the team what the problem is, and explain it to them and make sure that everybody knows is is the most important problem in the company to focus on. And by doing that, then they were actually able to solve the problem. So even for things like that, it doesn’t need to fall on your shoulders, you can leverage the team. And by the way, that’s what makes the team enjoy working there. Like they’re there to solve hard problems, make progress and grow. And if you’re depriving them of that, that’s not a good environment, either. No, not at all. So, Joel, you’ve also talked about this concept of creating momentum with your teams. Do you do one on ones with everyone? Do you do them weekly, bi weekly.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 33:38
I do one on ones with my direct reports. And there’s an official one typically weekly. So like on Mondays, I have an update meeting with each one of the department heads. So marketing, sales and production. And so on Mondays, we’ll figure out what was produced last week, we track it week over week, we have very clear KPIs in every single position at the company that makes everything really easy. And they’re not nerdy to the point like, there’s a balance, right? You don’t want them to be annoyed with tracking stuff. Like you don’t want to track too many things. You want to track the right amount of things. So we have those, we refine them for the positions that we have, and we track those week over week, see if there’s any issues, any roadblocks, things like that. And then I just think that’s like hard to teach. You just gotta care about people you gotta care about on like, I’ll call them throughout the week. And I can tell you, what drives each one of them. Those things change too. So if you figure out what drives the person, when they’re hired, that will change like things change in life. So I stay up to date with the human in an appropriate way. And again, that’s a very like subjective thing. But keeping in mind, like you know, people go through different stages of life, right? You can be, you know, in your 20s and wanting to build name for yourself, you can be at a point where you’re having kids, you could be at a point where everything is super, super good. And you just love the craft, maybe you can be at a point where like, you want a bigger house. So your thing is money right now. So it’ll change as you go through different parts of your life. And it’s, I think it’s important for the leader to have some awareness of what’s driving the people that work for them. That way, they can make sure that the team is running smoothly.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 35:28
Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And I agree with you the hard part. But the most important part is you’ve got to actually care about the people on your team. And if you can actually do that care above all else, I think just a lot of these things fall into place, and it doesn’t have to be process that one, step two, step three, if you just start from a place of hey, these are people and, and I love what you said about just cycles, like people definitely do go through cycles, life events, they care about different things at different stages. You know, everything in life has cycles. So I think that’s awesome.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 36:03
What about failures? This is a another topic that I know you’ve thought a lot about, you have this quote, where you say success is built on a collection of failures. Yeah. But you also said, but it doesn’t drown in failure. So I’m curious, like how you think about this, and like, what you talk to your team about, or just things that you’ve heard about how other company leaders think about failure and talk about it within their companies?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 36:32
Yes, so I got the best experience from a TED Talk that really stuck with me. And they were giving a brief story of laundry detergent, the powdered laundry detergent versus the liquid, what they would do with the powder is they’d actually spray liquid onto the wall and scrape it off into the giant bin, and then they would package the material, and then they would sell it right. So it turns out that a very important part of that manufacturing process was the design of the nozzle that sprayed the liquid onto the wall. That was like the difference between the different brands. And they were all competing to have like, the better nozzle. And so they ran an experiment where they hired someone, scientist, just based off of physics and liquidity, and everything that we know about science design, the single most perfect nozzle. And then they hired a second person to just take the current performing nozzles, and trial selection variation of them scientific method type deal, where they just took three made couple variations of each took the top two or three performing variations dropped, the others made variations and just cycled. And at the end of the process, of course, you know, that person won. And they had no idea why their nozzles better. They don’t know, they just tried different shapes. And they went through the process. And that was it. They looked at hindsight to try to like figure it out, like this one produced the best, but why? And they tried to come up with a reason why, but that process works. It’s how we get all of our amazing inventions. And honestly, I don’t understand how you can do something without doing that to some degree, even if you only tried once, right? Like you’re always trying things. So if you’re going to succeed, you know, you’ve got to try different things. And you know, those are failures, but you only really fail. Like, I believe that you only really fail if you actually stop attempting to achieve the result. And I’m specific about that too. Because I’m not saying to get the exact outcome you wanted. I’m saying like to get that result in general. So it’s a hard thing to do. But when I was raising money for the company, they asked me, they said, alright, you want us to write you half a million dollar check. Most businesses fail, we see 100 of you a day. Why should we write you the check. And I said, Well, this isn’t going to fail, it’s going to work. I’m not quite sure exactly what’s going to play out. But I can promise you this, like, I’m not going to stop until it does get the result that I want. And I want this more than anything. And I will like if I spent all the money and everything was gone, I would still like get a job at Walmart scrubbing toilets, to pay my bills and to continue to work on this as much as I possibly could, until I get it because I was just determined on the fact that like the only way I could be okay with myself on my deathbed is to have tried completely my entire life and failed. And if I tried as hard as I possibly could my entire life and failed and I could die a failure. And I’d be cool with it be like dude, you went out there, you put on your best effort, and you tried for 60 7080 years, and you didn’t get it. I admire that and you know, and so I did that. And dude, it was like what, like a couple years and it’s so so much easier than you would think and that the time is gonna pass either way. So I don’t know. Don’t try to sell people on being great, but
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 39:56
no, that’s awesome. I mean, with that type of determination. It’s hard not to Do I want to invest? So that’s awesome. That’s a great story. I did want to just add one more thing to what you said about sometimes you just got to try things. And like the scientific method doesn’t, you know, just basically being super programmatic about things sometimes doesn’t lead to the results, because you can only explain why something happened in hindsight. And there’s this great book. Have you read out to me?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 40:23
The book? No, but it’s been recommended to me more than once. Yeah, yeah.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 40:27
So Rory Sutherland wrote this book. And I believe he is the, you know, I’m just looking this up. But I believe he’s a leader at Ogilvy. He’s the Ogilvy advertising legend. But this book is awesome. It basically talks about how a lot of the greatest things learned in marketing, a lot of them were by accident. And he talks about just a very basic thing that say, in tech, we talked about a lot, which is a B testing various things. And I think there’s an example in the book where he talks about, you know, sending letters, fundraising letters to people’s homes, and he talks about all the different variations. And the variations that often win aren’t necessarily the ones that you expect will win, but they win. And then after the fact, you might say, oh, that’s probably because this happened. But you could only back into the reason why certain things play out. And so if you’re not willing to try some irrational things, some crazy things, then you might not get the outsize outcomes as well. So failure is just also if you’re not failing enough, maybe you’re just not trying hard enough. Two
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 41:35
things people asked me to speak about a lot in person. They’ll have executives that like multibillion dollar companies, 50 executives in a room, and they’ll ask me to come speak about failure, because they’ll have these executives that’ll be scared to make decisions. And the first thing I always asked them, when they asked me to give this talk, I was like, have you designed their compensation structure to certain targets that they absolutely have to hit to get like their buyouts or their payouts and things like that, like, Well, if your financial incentive is off, if your financial incentive tells them not to take risks, then they’re not going to take risk.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 42:09
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense as well, you know, on the decision making front, another great piece of advice I’ve heard is that for most decisions, you just need to be 70%. Sure, you don’t need to be 100%. Sure, I feel like a lot of people just wait to be 100% for what they also talk about, you know, type two decisions, like reversible decisions, you don’t need to be 100% Sure, for any decision that is reversible. So I think that is, but yeah, it’s such an important thing. If you have a high degree of fear of failure, then then obviously, you’re going to try and want to be 100%. Sure, right. But you don’t need to get there for every decision.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 42:49
Yeah. And that’s hard. It’s a hard game, I always play with myself too, right? Like, you have to make some move. At the moment, I’m feeling stagnant. That’s usually my sign to just pick something. Because if I’m just iterating over the static variables, then it’s just insanity. I need to do something to change the context or to get new data to need to take some action. And then like you said, the one I’ve heard a lot, which is like, pretty much identical to what you said is the amount of time spent making the decision should directly relate to the impact that decision can have. Right. So if it’s a really low impact decision, you can make it fairly quickly. It’s a really high impact decision, you can spend more time on it.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 43:30
Yeah, I like that just simple framework and gets you to the same place. I love it. Joel, this has been really awesome. I’m really glad that we had the chance to do this. We talked about everything from characteristics of CTOs. But really, I think it applies to all leaders, everything from putting the right people together, curating a great environment, the energy of the team trust, we talked a lot about setting expectations. We even chatted a little bit about Tony Robbins, which I thought was like a cool thing that we have in common there. But this has been awesome. One of the questions that we ask everybody who comes on our show, is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 44:17
I’d say go listen to your podcast. Do you want to give a shout out for your podcast real quick?
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 44:23
Yeah, so as Supermanagers podcast, we focus on more tactical tips to help people continuously be better at the art of managing teams.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 44:34
Yep, so there’s that and there’s also and we have a podcast, but I would say the most effective thing would be to join a group like some sort of in person, group or, you know something to build real relationships that can help you solve the details of the problem. One group that I like is called elevate 150 but really getting around people who are similar to you have a similar role. Typically, I try To find people who are a little bit of ahead of me that I’m learning from a little bit below me that I can help and then some peers so I can bounce things off of directly. So try to design that network for myself. And then it really helps. But the relation nothing’s going to beat. Having someone that you trust and respect and being able to pick up the phone and talk to them and have a long running relationship with them. And you have very few of those in your life. But if you, you know, build them up, they’re super rewarding long term.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 45:26
That’s great advice. And I think I second everything that you said, this was really fun. Thanks for doing this.
Joel Beasley (Modern CTO) 45:33
Dude, I had a blast. Thank you so much.