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“There's absolutely times where you need to present a lot more confident than you are. But especially when it's your team, it's people that you have to build trust with. And that's the only way that it's going to work - authenticity and vulnerability is the fastest path to that trust in that relationship, as long as it's genuine.”

In this episode

What should you do if what you want is completely different than what your team wants? 

In episode #127, Mike Adams shares how he deals with managing a fully remote team while hating remote work.

Mike Adams is the Co-founder and CEO of Grain, a communication platform for teams that helps capture video snippets with ease.

Mike shares stories of how he showed vulnerability and chose to lead with authenticity and the impact it had on his team. He also explains the importance of knowing your audience as a leader.

Tune in to hear all about Mike’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.


03:37

Hiring the underdog

13:09

Authentic leadership

16:30

Showing vulnerability to your team

20:20

Knowing your audience

24:34

 “I lead a fully remote team but hate remote work”

35:15

Ironmans and management

40:30

Grain’s mission

45:00

 Customer alignment meeting


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:22

Mike, welcome to the show,

Mike Adams (Grain)  03:39

Hey, Aydin, nice to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:40

Yeah, very excited to have this chat with you. You are a three time founder and you’ve worked at many accompany your last company was acquired today you are the founder and CEO of the company called Grain. It’s a communication platform for teams. And I’m very excited to talk to you about a lot of things management work, Future of Work, hybrid remote, many things altogether. But what I wanted to do is maybe start from the very beginning. Do you remember in those early days when he started to first manage people? What were some of the mistakes that you used to make?

Mike Adams (Grain)  04:18

Yeah, I remember pretty vividly being a brand new manager. And while I was excited about it, I was also a little bit scared. I had actually previously co founded a company and we were all just so small that I didn’t have like a direct management. And so I left the company after a couple of years before it got big. And within I would say six months of this job. I had a team to build. And so I think my biggest lessons in hindsight that reflecting back to being a brand new manager was that the thing I did well as I leaned into, I would say my strengths and my beliefs and my passion and what thing I was really passionate about was like finding under are dogs and I kind of feel like an underdog, I feel like I’m very motivated by winning and beating the odds. And I didn’t have like the super academic backgrounds and coming out of college with all the top jobs. And I feel like I’ve kind of had to like, just be hungry and gritty to get where I gotten in my career. And I looked for that in the folks that I was hiring as people who had the attributes, if not necessarily the experience, and honestly, that worked out like incredibly well. And part of it might have been just a little bit of luck and timing, because I’ve continued down that path as I’ve continued to hire and manage people. And I would say, as the stakes get higher, the consequences of those types of bets get higher as well. But early on that would say was my guiding principles, really looking at the person and the potential and these attributes that I really believed in, that would make a great hire, and doubling down on those, and it worked out and I rehired multiple people in my next company that I had hired kind of using that practice, because they were so great.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:00

That’s awesome. I mean, that is a good practice. I don’t know that. I would consider that a mistake, though. Was there any downsides to approaching it that way? Or? Come on? Mike, we need to hear some of the mistakes.

Mike Adams (Grain)  06:13

Oh, man, I mean, well, the mistakes I feel like have come probably not so much from that early. That works great when I was a young manager, but I could tell you a bunch of examples. Were continuing to guide us that playbook has not worked out as the stakes get higher. Yeah, let’s talk about that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:30

I think that’s very related. And you know, I think I can relate to that as well. You know, my last company was bootstrapped. And so we never had the ability to just hire someone who’s proven track record and all of those things. So I feel like I also had to make a lot of those bets early on. But yeah, what’s the flip side of that? When does this not work?

Mike Adams (Grain)  06:51

I’ve done a lot of thinking and analysis on this. And I think the attributes around like, when it works versus when it doesn’t, is, I would say it’s probably two parts. One is the person and and one is the process, the process is probably even more important than the person but if the person has a self driving ability to figure things out and problem solve on their own, and you that’s the attribute that you’re looking for, generally speaking, it doesn’t take a huge amount of process to get them to be successful, because as long as they’re empowered, and they’re clear around, like what the outcome is that they’re supposed to be driving, I think the areas where when it hasn’t worked out, are more when I believe that they possess the attribute. And then I probably am a little too light, not probably and definitely to light in terms of the direction and the expectation setting. And then a little bit of time passes, and the results aren’t there. And the more time you give some feedback, the more time passes and the results aren’t there. And as I’ve reflected on that, you know, I think that part of it is a bit of a miss on hiring of like just leaning a little too much into the grid over experience. And sometimes people just need to have more experience, especially more specialized it is. And the other part of it is process is not the most organized founder in the world, a lot of times founders are not a more kind of moving in a lot of different directions. And I’ve learned that I have to take that time to really set the expectations to really set up that higher for success. And so I think it’s a bit of both. But if you kind of go wrong on the hiring part, and they’re not as self directed as you would like, and then your process is kind of having them figure a lot of it out on their own, then that combination is a recipe for disaster.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:31

Yeah, that makes sense. Now that you put it that way. And I can see where some of this framing comes from, right. As a founder, you are doing exactly that you were starting something that doesn’t exist. It’s very, I guess, greenfields, it can be built in a bunch of different ways. And you’re really figuring out stuff for the first time and, and a lot of the functions are like that, too. But I think you’re right, that spending the time setting the expectations is a very important function. And over the course of time, I guess it’s the sort of thing that you probably want to incorporate into just onboarding and hiring in general. And I would imagine that you folks today probably incorporate that expectation setting as a process for when you hire people on

Mike Adams (Grain)  09:19

Yeah, nowadays, I think that when your skirt crappy and early, that’s where some of these like kind of bet on the person more than their experience works out so well is because you’ve just kind of got to like move fast. And there’s not a lot of clear direction anyway. But as you find success doing that, the context all, you know, all of a sudden kind of shifts. And if you keep executing that same playbook without updating the support that you’re providing on the other end, you’re more likely to kind of get into that, you know, lethal combo that I mentioned.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  09:47

I agree and should you also use this other phrase, which was when the stakes are higher, and I think this is an important one, because sometimes you make a bet like this and it pays off and it pays off. Really big. And you know, it’s a homerun. But sometimes, like you said, the stakes are higher. Now, either that means that there’s less time and this has to work on the first try, or it’s a very important part of the company and like a mistake there could collapse the whole thing. I think in those cases, you’re making decisions based on a different set of factors. What Why does it matter? Why do the stakes matter in how you make this decision?

Mike Adams (Grain)  10:24

It’s a good question. Um, I think there’s kind of two elements of the stakes. One is like the context of the company, in terms of if the company is bigger, if you’re making more progress, there’s actual customers, as opposed to pre customer and pre revenue. So that’s part of it. And so it’s just the consequences of bad decisions are more impactful to more people, and it can really slow down the machine. And then I think the other part of the stakes being higher is the level of the person that you’re hiring. So a really positive example of this is about three years ago, I was part of a founder group, 19 year old who had raised his own fund and was just like, clearly a go getter had put out his resume to the founder group. And I was the only founder that responded, and I was like, This person has the attributes that I’m looking for. And I hired them as an intern. And I set like the expectations very much in place to kind of like prove their worth, and it worked out amazingly. And then they grew over time, and then took on more responsibility and more responsibility. And it was like a total win. And it was really a win win, because it was a win in terms of them getting the, you know, opportunity and experience they’re looking for. And then it was also a win for the company, being able to find like a really talented person at a scrappy, pristine stage budget that we have to work with. I would say like some examples that haven’t worked out is when you’re empowering someone to manage or lead a team, and they don’t have the experience that they would need to be successful in doing that, it’s a completely different ballgame than being a successful GRI I see are individual contributor, very different when they’re managing a team or a process or an outcome, or like a functional area, which kind of tends to happen as you start to grow. And that’s what I probably mean by the stakes getting higher is it’s not just this individual who’s trying to do a specific job, but it’s more like a function that needs to get done. And it becomes increasingly more important that the person you’re hiring has that experience, and they’ve done something like that before. And if they haven’t, it’s unlikely that they’re going to figure that out on the job, it’s actually pretty rare. Whereas like, if it’s the responsibilities, just being an individual contributor, is as long as this goes, that’s those attributes, it’s most likely they’re gonna figure it out, and you’re gonna be successful. But that’s kind of like the pattern I’ve noticed on times it’s worked out versus times that it hasn’t when making kind of some of these Saan the person over there experience.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  12:46

Yeah, ultimately, it’s interesting, because it’s basically this evaluation of there’s obviously a risk in hiring any given person, and you just need to understand what the risks are, what the potential payoffs are. And this is why hiring is never easy. And even the best of the best don’t get every hire. Right. So it’s a constant learning process. I did want to ask you about something that is a part of your leadership style, which is just being authentic and vulnerable. I’m curious, is that a way that you have always been leading? Like, has that always been your approach? Or is that something that you’ve learned over time is an important way of doing things, maybe you can talk to us about why you think it’s important to be authentic. As a leader,

Mike Adams (Grain)  13:34

there’s probably two elements to it. One is who I am, it’s kind of baked in, by hate BS I hate like posturing and politics. And, man, it’s just the more authentic, the people I’m around, the better I am, the more I like them, the more likely we are to be friends, like I just really don’t like personally, that in other people and the leaders that I’ve kind of worked for in the past, it’s really been kind of an integral experience for me. And then I think that just ends up being kind of baked into the type of leader that I want to be as a result. And I will admit that sometimes the pendulum can kind of like, swing too far to the other side in terms of authenticity and vulnerability. But that’s kind of part one. And then I think Part Two is experience is that I’ve just found really positive response to my leadership, the more authentic and vulnerable I am, I went through a pretty intense exit than my first company. And for four years, I was really angry and bitter and mad and pointing fingers and looking outside and just convinced about how right I was. And then time passes. And things become a lot more clear to me. And there were to the point where the company was very successful without me, and I had to like, reflect and look inside and be like, Whoa, maybe I was even right about what I was talking about. But I was wrong in the execution. And that was very authentic for me because I felt really passionately About this destruction, I wanted a company to go, but ultimately lacks the tax to be able to, I would say, into maturity to be able to push that authentic belief and position that I had. But the more I would see that experience has been really foundational for me and my next two companies, because it just helped me to know that I don’t know everything that like, I don’t know, just be vulnerable and recognize that like, I’m just figuring it out. And people actually find comfort in that versus the like posturing and the kind of fake sense of confidence. And there’s absolutely times where you need to probably present a lot more confident than you are. But especially when it’s your team, it’s people that you have to build trust with. And that’s the only way that it’s going to work. authenticity and vulnerability is like I would say, the fastest path to that trust in that relationship, as long as it’s genuine. And the key way to do it is to just let your guard down and not think so highly of yourself, and having experiences where you’ve been really beat down and had to kind of eat crow or realize you weren’t as smart as you thought you were, or important as you thought you were, I think can be really, really serving to developing that attribute in the long run.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:09

Yeah, that’s a great story. And it’s really cool to understand the origins of that way of thinking, Do you have an example or a story of a time where you did present yourself in a more vulnerable way about something that happened at the company, either this one or previous one? And, and how people responded really well to that and how it was better than say not sharing something?

Mike Adams (Grain)  16:33

Yeah, totally. So my last company is called Mission year, we built an online school on the back of zoom, it’s kind of where it drain my current company came from is we built like a video content management system for ourselves. And then we got acquired by WeWork, in 2018. And that’s where I kind of started this company from was like, Oh, we’ve solved this video meeting management problem for ourselves. Why don’t I go start a new company on the back of that. So when we sold mission you to we work, the external perception of that was very positive, it was congratulatory, I had personal wealth managers reaching out to me assuming I made a bunch of money. And I did not, it was not a great acquisition, I think now there’s a lot more out about who we work was at the time and what their leadership style was. And it was kind of the opposite of what we’re talking about in terms of authenticity and vulnerability. It was a lot of posturing and a lot of presentation. So when ultimately, we had to let our students know that the school was getting acquired, it was being framed and positioned as a really great thing for them. And they weren’t buying it. They just weren’t. Because you look at it objectively. And it was like, Yes, I made sure everything I possibly could, as one of the co founders, but not the controlling party. It wasn’t really my decision, but I ultimately sorted it and did everything I possibly could to make sure that their experience, they were gonna get those jobs that we’re looking for, and continuing to support them through the end of the commitment that we’ve made forgiving their income share agreements, which is basically the tuition that they paid. So they went to school for free. And all of that wasn’t really enough, right, they were still just like, upset that this thing they bought into this vision, this dream of just being the first cohort or two in this, like, the vision for the way higher education should be, you skip College, and you just go to mission you and you get a job at Spotify, and that work for some, like many of our students, and they were just so disappointed that this vision was gone. And they felt a little bit betrayed, they felt a lot of different things. And most importantly, didn’t feel like we were being really straight with them. So we were in this meeting, I’ll never forget it with these with our students. And they were just passed rightly so. And they were upset that they weren’t going to get the alumni you know, kind of brands just this thing that they baked into, even if they were still going to get like the delivery the service. And I asked and I listened and I asked and I listened and I asked I listened. And the more I asked, the more I listened, the more things kind of calmed down. And then after there were no more questions, I just acknowledged that we let them down, that we fail, and that it wasn’t a good thing for them. And that in particular, I was sorry. And everything changed, not only in the moment, but afterwards, it was like a completely different thing. And instead of it being bitter and hoodwinked and frustrated, it was like Yeah, well, you know, it didn’t work out and shit happens. But like, I can understand that because that was leading with authenticity and vulnerability. And it was okay to say, You know what, we failed and I’m sorry and I let you down. And that was a huge lesson for me that I’ve taken into everything else that I’ve done, just lead with that. I just kind of skip the posturing part now. It’s just like they’re not gonna buy it anyway.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:54

Thank you for sharing that. That just in itself is a lesson in how to be authentic. If you were to reframe that say like you were walking into that meeting announcing this acquisition, and you were to replay it, how would you maybe frame it going back so that if you were to skip all the posturing and everything else that came with it, just so that we get a really tactical way of here’s how you should do it.

Mike Adams (Grain)  20:19

Know, your audience is my main thing. So there were probably three audiences to the acquisition news. One was the general broader audience that honestly, the posturing was probably fine. Training it in a way Oh, we got acquired, and this is good thing. And you know, whatever else, like it’s a little bit of saving face. And that’s probably fine. I don’t even mind that posturing. Because there’s not really a relationship there. That is true, the thing happened, and you can frame it in the most positive light possible. But trying to take that and then use it as the same playbook for the audience’s that you owe more that were more invested, that are owed better answers and more troops around like what you know, the reality is situation is have real consequences for this thing that happens, that’s where you got to change the message from the get go. And so what I probably would have done instead, I recognize that this is being framed as a really positive thing. But I know that it for you, it’s not, and I’m sorry, and like, this is what we’re going to do to try to make it better. And, you know, make the most make some lemons lemonade out of the lemons, it really just kind of comes down to that audience. In the case of acquisition, there was a third audience, which was like the education community, they were pissed. They were like, we had like four different articles that came out, just completely flaming us, after this really positive one on Axios, about the Newman’s, and we work and blah, blah, blah. And then this, just the education community, you just like lit us up the right way to probably manage that as recognize that that was an independent audience from the general public, and maybe be a little bit more honest and vulnerable around like what we learned. And so I have a lecture every year at Stanford, but I guess for the last four years, and I’ll probably do it again this year, where I just lay it all out there in terms of lessons learned to this community, this educating community, and I’ve had intended to like write blog posts and turn that presentation I have into content, and then I’ve just gotten too wrapped up into Grains to really do it. And in fact, even as I say that, I’m like, Man, I need to get that out there. But it really comes down to making sure that your message matches your audience. And the higher investment, the higher the belief is, the higher the consequences of what happens. Obviously, the more authentic and vulnerable you need to be around reality, because otherwise, you’re just going to create distrust and frustration and anger and resentment. You can pretend like it’s positive, but it won’t actually be received as positive unless you take that proactive step to frame it the right way. Using authenticity and vulnerability.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  22:51

Yeah, thanks for breaking it apart that way, I think that’s super helpful. What I really liked about what you said, was to understand who your audience is, and break it apart, understand where they’re coming from the sorts of things that they would care about acknowledging the facts. And with anything like this, there’s usually uncertainty involved, right? There are even maybe beliefs that you have on something how something will turn out. But you may even say that, well, this is what we think will happen. But we’re gonna see on the ground, how this plays out. And I think just acknowledging all those things, like you said, is going to build a lot of trust and get everybody on board on what the next steps are from that point on. So, you know, I think that makes a lot of sense. Okay, they’re just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single spaced font, you know, lots of tax. There’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information. We spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to Fellow.app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. It’s there for you. We hope you enjoy it, and let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. As we were getting started with the conversation, and I think this kind of relates to the being authentic and vulnerable. You had a pretty I guess, widely liked and widely distributed LinkedIn post where you talked about a bunch of things, you know, obviously one of which was how you decided to focus and make green a remote first company, but in there you also talked about something personal around something you learned about yourself. And I was wondering if you could maybe talk about that a little bit and how that has changed your view on how to manage going forward?

Mike Adams (Grain)  25:10

Sure, I think there’s probably two parts, I keep saying two to two. But it’s true. There are two parts to that post yesterday. So I just press publish on this post, I took a couple hours writing it up about my thoughts on remote work, which is a hot topic right now, press publish, looked at it like five or six hours later, and was like, Oh, my gosh, this thing’s like really taking off. But now let’s have like a half a million views on the post on LinkedIn, which I didn’t even know was possible on LinkedIn to be frank. And like 4000 Plus likes and just deep engagement, because there was just this kind of like nerve that is real, that people are feeling. And this the audience again, here, which is like professionals working in, I would say, either tack, or the broader professional world are feeling around this return to Office idea. And so it was actually interesting, because we want to do more thought leadership as a company as a team. So it was proposed as a thought for me to write something and I had kind of a template or a skeleton from someone, my team to follow. And I followed that template. And I spent several hours writing it. And I was like, I don’t believe this. It was like very like pro remote work in a way that I just did not. Like I’m just not, it was like, Oh, here’s all the benefits of remote work. Everything in there was like true. Like, those are benefits that are really remote work. But like deep down, I fucking hate remote work. Sorry, I don’t know if I can say that. I really have a deep passion about how much I don’t like fully, fully, fully remote work. Working out of my home, every time I missed the office, I missed the taco truck, I miss that just like casual camaraderie and the accountability of that space. So I rewrote the post. I never published the first one, I rewrote it. And I led with I read a fully remote team. But I hate remote work. And explained what I meant by that. And really what I just said here, and my takeaway was after talking to a bunch of friends and trying to figure out why this was the case, I learned about myself, that the hatred in that was really personal that it was it really didn’t have anything to do with what was best for my team, it had everything to do with what was best for me, that point has seemed to really resonate with people is that like, yes, when it comes to return to office, it’s not just about the leader who makes the decision, it’s about what’s best for everybody. And a lot of times there’s a difference between what environment the leader is best in, they tend to be extroverted, they tend to like, you know, enjoy this kind of more in person environment, and then the individuals. So calling that out, I think really seemed to resonate with folks. And then what I was mentioning to you before we started was, as I was reading through the comments, I mean, I think there’s four or 500 comments. Now it’s crazy. Just really passionate about this, I had mentioned that one of my things I had realized after like, oh crap, I’m just being selfish. And this was that I prefer in person because of the way my brain works. I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, and getting that diagnosis has been just huge for me, my self worth my self confidence, my ability. And frankly, I was moving out of the office and out of my place of power into a kind of executive suite outside of my house that like I hated going into every day because it was in this like dank basement nearby. And even if it was a nicer space, it really wouldn’t have made much of a difference. But I got to the point where I was going in every day. And I get there earlier and earlier. And I was still not starting to actually dive into my work until about 10:11am. Just so overwhelmed. And so I just like scroll Reddit, I just do whatever, until my first meeting, until my first thing where I was like, Okay, I’ve got to finally like do this. Because my feeling of overwhelm is just like so enormous, that an office environment is somewhere I could kind of go in and I could you know, interact with people. And frankly, in some ways a sub optimal, because it’s more of a forcing function to do something to make yourself feel productive, even if it’s not necessarily the right thing. And so I’m trying to like learn from this experience around like, oh, actually remote gives me in many ways more power. Because if I can get control of my brain and manage this field of overwhelm, I can actually not get distracted by the person sitting next to me or whatever else and I can focus on the most important thing for me to do, which is a really, really, I would say it’s the number one challenge any leader has to manage is working on the most important thing. So yeah, it was that experience that I had day after day going in and being like, What is wrong with me? I talked to my therapist, my therapist recommended a psychiatrist who’s actually like a doctor who can prescribe things and I started on a couple of medications and I’m still figuring it out. Frankly, like there’s a lot of benefits to medications. There’s a lot of downsides. Like I have insomnia when I take a medication that I’ve been trying and I don’t sleep till four in the morning every day that I take it and only take it like once a week, but like just having a answers that all have like, Oh, my brain is like fundamentally different, like it responds to these medications in a way that a normal typical brain would not. I don’t have to be so hard on myself, I don’t have to, like feel these, like deep pain, frankly, of like showing up at an office earlier and earlier and doing what I’ve always done in my career, just white knuckling it, which in office kind of helped me to kind of, I would say, pretend like that was working, and get an actual answer to what was going on. And I’m many, just, I wouldn’t say in many ways, just I’m deeply grateful that it kind of worked out that way. Because even as now I look back on my life, and like, oh, that’s why I didn’t have the grades that I wanted to have. I have always been a person who crammed and focus on the end. And I would always just, and we usually worked out like I would get good, almost always good grades. And I went from like, really good grades to not good grades, the semester where I met my now wife. So the like, that’s how I, my brain has always operated. So finally, figuring this out, gave a lot of explanation in terms of like how my brain has always been, and then helps me now to lead from a place that’s more intentional. But it ties back to this idea of being really authentic and vulnerable, because I had to be authentic with myself. And now as I’ve learned this about myself, like I choose to be vulnerable, and be open and sharing what that experience has been like for me. And the more that I am open about it, the more my team goes, Oh, that makes sense why you’re that way. We really like working with you. But yeah, this is a negative consequence for the way that your brain works. And knowing that gets rid of all of the animosity and resentment and the confusion and the misinterpretation of things is like, oh, that’s just kind of how Mike is. And I would say just the more vulnerable I’ve been the more authentic, I’ve been just easier, frankly, it is for me and for the those that I’m leading. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:46

thank you for sharing that. And that is from a very high level, it is very interesting how it took remote work for you to be able to pursue and look further into figuring out how you can create systems around adopting your work style to this new environment. And even though you had all the reason in the world, to force everybody back into the office, I think that if you, you know, under the circumstances still chose what was best for everybody else. I think that says a lot too. But you’re right, not everybody loves remote work. It is just true that different people have different styles. And one of the main advantages, I remember one of the actually first episodes that we had in first 20 or 30 episodes, we did have Supermanagers, we had yo who’s the CEO of remote.com. And he used to be head of product at git lab for a while. And it was very early in the pandemic. And they had been doing remote forever. And he said, Look, remote is harder, remote is 100% Harder, it’s going to require more work more systems. But the one advantage is that you can have access to talent, anywhere. And so you can find the best talent and it doesn’t matter that they live in, you know, a 20 mile radius of where you are. And that is the advantage. And because that advantage is so great, it’s worth all the other downsides. And the way that he put it really made me understand it in a way that I hadn’t up until that point. And so everything is nuanced, and management. That’s why this stuff is super hard.

Mike Adams (Grain)  33:19

And it’s like I even recognize on paper, I think most people can recognize the benefits of remote work. One thing I include in my LinkedIn posts is like, I set a goal to do a half Ironman event, like week before COVID started. And then COVID hit and all of a sudden I got like two hours that I wasn’t commuting. And so instead of listening to podcasts while commuting, I was listening to podcasts while running and biking, and swimming. You got these like underwater headphones or consultant podcasts. It’s

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:44

great. Oh, wow,

Mike Adams (Grain)  33:45

I didn’t even know that was thanks to a half Ironman. I did like a full freaking Ironman because I had so much time back. And I was just like loving it. It was great for me for great for my mental health. And so I can see those benefits. I think most people would see those benefits that can see for my team. But there’s still just this like underlying burn of like this thing you’re missing that you used to have you love. That’s what I think I’m trying still to like, really unpack because the benefits are pretty obvious. The downsides are pretty obvious. It’s like navigating the reality of those downsides, and in many ways, taking ownership over them in a way that they can become upside. Like I was mentioning in terms of being more intentional with usage of my time once I actually figured out what was going on with my brain, right? Like, it’s just complicated, but I really agree with what you said that you’ll decide which is it’s harder, and there’s no doubt it’s harder, but harder usually ends up being better. Almost every time about everything.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:42

Yeah. So you were one of those people that pandemic happen and you were going to do a half Ironman and so instead you decided to do a full Ironman. So that’s incredible. It’s good to hear.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:52

You know, it’s funny, I have to ask you about that a little bit. It’s one of those bucket list items for me at some point in the future. What was the most you had ever done before engaging? Because it seems like did you go from like zero to full Iron Man? And how long did that take? Just curious. This is not our typical Supermanagers topic. But since you pointed it out,

Mike Adams (Grain)  35:13

I’ll tie it back to management. Or at least my point of view, so are what I learned about it. Zero. I had run a marathon in 20 1314, or something like that. And it was really rough, and I hated it. I was like, This is the worst, and I kept getting injuries. And so I didn’t run at all after I ran the marathon. In fact, I had actually been in an accident. And I went to a podiatrist to finally be like, Why does my foot hurt so bad because it hurt the entire marathon and my best by accident was like three years prior, he finally diagnosed and I was like, you have a thing called this wrong injury, lose frunk injury, basically have a massive lifetime arthritis in your foot, and you shouldn’t really be a runner. So just kind of rode off running, rode off for a long time. And overtime, I just said get better shoes. So I got better shoes. And then the problems going away, they issues went away. And I was like, maybe I can actually start to run. So I was just on vacation. And it was like one of the last vacations I actually took. But like I was on vacation right before pandemic hit. We were in Hawaii. And I just was like, You know what I’m gonna do this, like, this is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a bucket list thing for me to maybe the now the ADHD thing probably makes more sense as to like mixing up the sports is better than just doing one. But yeah, I was like, I’m just gonna do this. And it was so overwhelming at first. And so I signed up for sprint, which is like, maybe an hour is about how long that one takes. I’ve actually never done a sprint now, because it all got canceled. So I signed up for all these things I sign up for sprint, and then the Olympic and then a half and then a full or I didn’t sign up for full. And I just kind of slowly started working my way through it. And I just fell in love with the sport with the like figuring it out. It was like a nice thing I could control while I’m CEO of a thing that is so hard to control. And the endorphins made me better from a mental health and just focused perspective. And just kind of started training. And I kept going even though the pandemic hit and canceled all over my races, I had a friend I would say that’s key to if you want to do anything like this, you have to have people you’re training with it hold you accountable, because it’s almost impossible to hold yourself accountable. They’re running, they’re posting to Strava on posting struggle, I fell in love with Strava. And after like six months into the pandemic, we said actually, okay, well, this was supposed to be the race day. But let’s do it anyway. So we went and did our own half Ironman, and I failed. I didn’t do it. I tried my hardest I did this swim, I had a massive panic attack because I wasn’t used to open water swimming. I did the bike and I didn’t finish I couldn’t get to the last hill I did 50 of the 56 miles. And then on the run, I only did six of the 13 miles. And so it’s a half marathon and 36 mile bike and it’s half of what a full Ironman is. And it couldn’t do it. It was too hot. I just wasn’t prepared, even though I’d been training for six months and right on and it was really devastating. But the pandemic started to wane and they were going to do my race in May of the next year or so I had another six, seven months to get ready. So I just kind of stuck with it. And every day I would take my kids to school and I instead of commuting, I just get my run in 30 minutes, 45 minutes, quite a bit on the weekends. And then I did it, I finished my first half Ironman, and about a year after the pandemic hit and it was 2021 May. And I said, Well, I want to do a full now. And so you just kind of keep going. So I did the full they ended up turning it into a world championship. So I was able to like do the World Championship, which is normally only in Kona, Hawaii, they moved it from Hawaii to St George for like one time they’ll ever do that. And so I was able to like compete in the World Championship because I’d already registered for the race. And I did it. And I finished and it was amazing to look, it was two years from the beginning of training to the end. And I’m looking back and it was like it didn’t kill me. Like it was hard. It was really, really, really hard. But I just slowly, gradually continually worked at this thing. And I did it. And then it took me 13 hours and 46 minutes. It was a grueling course, like the rigging the wind and the heat. But I finished and it was crazy to go from a place where I like genuinely could not finish about 18 months before even a half version of it. Like I finished them. Maybe I could have done a little bit more, but not much. But it was like it didn’t kill me. And I don’t know, it’s just a big lesson for me around like what you’re capable of doing what you can do what your team can do if you just continue to like grind away at something. And I think the other takeaway from a management perspective is how much more clear my mind got when I had this release for me to clear my brain and to focus and get that sense of progress and accomplishment. And I think it really has helped me as a manager because after I finished the Ironman, I hate to report that I have not been very on my training. In fact, I did a two mile run this morning and I was like huffing and puffing because my training has been so bad, but I missed that. In fact from you, my wife just yesterday was like you should really maybe sign up for another race or something like that because I think it’d be really good To get back on that regimen and just to get that exercise in, I personally kind of need this like thing hanging and looming in the distance to motivate me. But I think as part of that ad HD thing that I learned about

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:11

what a great story, this is awesome, and certainly like an inspiration for me to maybe look into actually doing this. Yeah. I mean, 13 and a half hours or so is a long time to be doing anything, let alone an intensive physical exercise. But that’s awesome. You know, Mike, before we get into my final question, I did want to just very quickly, how would you describe your mission at Grain, and I wanted to maybe ask you a little bit about one of the meetings you run, which is your customer alignment meeting. So maybe we can start with what your mission is at grant because you hope to shape the future of work as well. And then maybe dive that into a meeting that you have internally, and how you might use the software? Because I think it’s a very relevant thing for all the listeners who are trying to make hybrid work more effective.

Mike Adams (Grain)  41:05

Totally. So first on the mission of the company, and then second on that customer alignment meeting we have so it’s been interesting in terms of the mission statement, in many ways. So I recreated I created a mission statement, when we started the company, it was to make recorded meetings accessible and useful. Still true, still mission, but it was lacking this kind of why behind the mission statement where you’re like, cool, but like, why? What does that lead towards? What’s our purpose inside of that mission, because missions really need to be correlated with like, I would say, like our mission and mission you was to displace college and make it accessible to them and make crew transitions accessible, and faster, right. So it was like, very clear surrounds, like, why we’re doing it, making video meetings, recordings accessible and useful, is really just kind of like phase one, that guide and directive, like we’re not doing this, because it doesn’t make the meeting successful and useful. We’re not doing this because it doesn’t make video meetings accessible and useful. It’s been really, really helpful. But what we’ve kind of learned, we just got out of a team off site in Barbados, we actually flew our entire team, it was just it was possible, because unfortunately had some visa issues. So folks, and countries that were struggling visas weren’t able to come in at the last minute, it was devastating, because that was the whole reason we chose Barbados because so visa friendly with the transit races that kill people. But to kind of get back to the point here, we just have this off site in Barbados, where it was like this revision to the mission of building it to that next phase and the next level. And what we really learned from our customers, is how they primarily use green to learn from their customers. So there’s a little bit of a meta thing there, turning these conversations into a shared knowledge and understanding of what people want, what they feel what they need. And there’s just this like real, why that’s there for our core use case inside of Grain. And so I kind of updated division to include that, which is to increase the collective intelligence teams have about their customers, and even the customers is really just in pursuit for a period of time for what will eventually be an updated version mission, which is just really raised the collective intelligence or collective IQ of teams, that every conversation that you have, that I have, that’s either talking to a customer or it’s an internal meeting, is making us smarter, it’s moving that IQ that we all experience together of how well we can work and how well we understand the world and can solve these problems further to the right, you know, on the x axis. And that has been, I say, really well received internally, it’s beginning to shape more and more of our product marketing and product positioning. And it’s more true to the name of the company in the first place, which is green intelligence, comma, period. That’s what I named the company. It wasn’t Grain X, Y, or Z, or P or D, a key that it could have been, it was great intelligence. And so it really feels in many ways like this evolution, that is also very true to where we’ve been, and we haven’t really paid it in. Even at any point in the company, we did throw nine months worth of product away. But even that wasn’t a pivot, it was just a new iteration on the problem trying to solve and kind of coming full circle. So that is, I would say the kind of thoughts around the mission and then happy to talk about the customer discovery bi weekly that we have,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  44:21

what I really liked about what you said was how the mission started with one thing. But the mission really needed a strong why and it may be helped with the constraints around how to shape the product and where to take it. But you felt that over the course of time, you had to put in a strong why and two, and it was really nice actually to just hear the evolution of that. I think this applies to not just company mission statements, but also team mission statements or project mission statements like that clarity goes a very long way. Thank you for going through that. I think that’s very instructive in itself, around how to form clarity around the topic, and so forth. One of the questions that we always do like to end on as we get close to time here 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?

Mike Adams (Grain)  45:15

Sure, I’ll mesh the two together. So that bi weekly that we have is something I think every single manager should do, if they have any customer facing role, which almost everybody in the company does is have a meeting, you should have people who are customer facing in their jobs, and make sure that the interactions that they have have value beyond the interaction itself, that it’s growing the collective intelligence of your team. And you have to be intentional and deliberate in order to do that. So this bi weekly meeting we have, I don’t even run it, this woman on our team runs it. And she has an amazing job. And her job is to serve and support and to help our customers. And she doesn’t mostly over zoom. And she is learning throughout all of these different things. And she’s supporting. But after the end of a week, she’ll use our products to pull out those key moments, synthesize them into like a highlight reel, and then posted into Slack into our voice of the user channel. And it is amazing how much easier it is to manage the team, when we’re all a little bit blinded around like the voice of the customer, the voice of the user is so much easier when it’s not just being like my opinion, it’s just like, This is what they said. But that doesn’t happen naturally. It doesn’t happen organically, you have to be intentional and deliberate. And you have to empower people to know that that’s part of their job, that their job isn’t just to make our users more successful. It’s to make our team more successful in serving those users and customers. And so yes, she runs this meeting every two weeks. And I can say without a doubt it is the most valuable meeting that we have at our company, it’s more valuable that our all hands it’s more valuable than every other meeting. And I look forward to it. And it’s just amazing to have this forcing function. And then we’re all discussing, we’re all thinking about it. We’re all comparing it against our roadmap and, and what’s in the next cycle. And it’s just becomes this extremely collaborative thing. But it has to be, you know, intentional and deliberate in order for it to actually happen. So I would say that’s kind of my advice is is to really think about whether or not you’re leveraging the voice of your customer or your user to align your team around what matters. And if you’re not be intentional and deliberate about making sure that that does happen.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  47:27

Yeah, that’s great advice. And of course, we will include the link to the template for the customer alignment meeting. Mike, thanks so much for doing this.

Mike Adams (Grain)  47:36

Likewise, thanks for having me on. It’s a lot of fun.

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