Career Advice

Why being kind as a leader trumps yelling every time

Are you conscious of how you react as a leader when someone makes you angry? With an attack or with kindness?

I once worked with a head of sales who, when things were not going his way, would curse out anyone not on his team who he thought didn’t appreciate how hard his job was. Unkind, unnecessary accusations of incompetence or intentionally obstructing sales. Engineering, customer success, marketing – you name it – they all got yelled at instead of constructively engaged. But unpredictably so everyone walked on egg shells around him.

I recently saw a situation where an employee disappointed a startup CEO and the CEO chose to call her up and scream at her. Profanity laden, unfounded accusations of mal intent. The employee had resigned at an inopportune time and the CEOs reaction was to attack. Not give the employee the benefit of the doubt, or quietly share her disappointment.

And sometimes it even happens with customers. But in all cases shouting and bullying is not only poor leadership – it is harassment.

It’s so easy to react emotionally and react with anger. To raise your voice and attack. To clench your fists and shake with emotion. It is so much harder to react with kindness and yet being kind is often one of the characteristics of great executives. Not soft or weak; kind.

This is because it takes extra energy and thought to manage your reaction. It takes caring about the people you are leading or working with more than yourself. You have to step back and make the mental space to think through what’s behind the employee’s action. Have they made a mistake because they did not have enough information? Or because they didn’t think their action through? And if so how should you react to help them make a different decision next time?

I had the pleasure of working for a COO once who was a master at this. He never got angry, never raised his voice. He had a staff who were strong willed and opinionated – we must have been a nightmare to manage. Several of us went on to bigger jobs as CEOs, professors, GMs but at the time we were never satisfied, always pushing for more and for change. And we were definitely not always constructive. I learned, while working for Chi-Foon Chan at Synopsys, that you never need to attack to get your way. You can listen, respond with thought and patience and still exercise tremendous power. Very, very occasionally the chief would get angry but he would go quiet and still and wait us out and then quietly corner us with intellect. Impressive and something I aspired to once I was a CEO (although not always successfully).

The net result of having the self-control to think of your employee first and be kind is that people will remember you positively, will want to work for you, and will recommend other people work for you. You will make their lives better and they will be in the foxhole with you as you grow your company. And if their own careers are growing and they want to move onto a bigger job they will talk with you about it so a) you will not be surprised and b) you can help them find their next position – thereby earning their lifelong loyalty. I worked with a first-class CFO once who had three department heads: Accounting, FP&A and Treasury and he was clear that part of his job was to groom each one of these heads to be a CFO, knowing that when they were ready they would leave him. He succeeded and inspired deep loyalty in everyone who worked for him.

So if you find yourself reacting with anger and raising your voice, or worse yet yelling at an employee, step back and count to ten. Breathe deep and find another way. It’s simply not worth the destruction of relationship that occurs when you lose your temper.

Photo: Capital in Vézelay France © 2018 Penny Herscher


Dressing like a woman — not a man

A year ago at Dreamforce 2012 I was delighted to see women dressing as women – and posted on the trend. And this year in 2013 we had both Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer on stage with Marc Benioff looking like women! Fashionable, professional but very feminine.

Why do I care? Well here is my employee badge from Synopsys in 1990. Thirty years old, very, very much in the minority, and I decided to poke fun at the system and the dress code (I always was a bit of a rebel). A baby face in a suit and tie — I figured I’d have fun with the dominance of men and dress like one so they just might not notice I was a woman.

So yes, I appreciate that we can dress like women in the office now!

My Personal Journey

The Biggest Little Industry You’ve Never Heard of Turns Fifty

Posted on the HuffingtonPost earlier

Chips touch every aspect of our lives. You use chips in your car, in
your phone, in your TV, in your fridge, when you play a video game, when
you text, Skype or blog, in the bar code reader at the grocery
checkout, when you take a photo, as your luggage is routed through an
airport — any time you use electronics today you are using chips.

Now I am not talking about potato chips, I’m talking about
semiconductors — integrated circuits. Those small, intricate pieces of
silicon, doped with chemicals in factories in the U.S. and Taiwan, that
use logic and memory to take action for you. To shoot the zombie, or
control the brakes on your car. To route your phone call to your mother,
or tell the government what you just said on Facebook.

The semiconductor industry is a $300B industry, dominated by global giants like Intel, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, and it’s an industry where the complexity of its products doubles every two years. It costs billions of dollars
to build the factories where the chips are built and millions of
dollars to make the first one of a new design, all so that the chip in
your phone or your car can be cleverer than a mainframe computer was a
few years ago, but only cost a few cents.

None of this would be possible without the computer scientists and
physicists who work in the industry that makes these complex designs
possible. That industry is Electronic Design Automation — EDA — and it
is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

When the first integrated circuit was designed at TI by Kilby in 1959
design was done by hand. But once the idea was out, a new industry
emerged creating sophisticated software programs running on computers to
help humans create more and more complex designs.

Today integrated circuits are less than 1 square inch in size but are
three-dimensional and have many, many miles of metal interconnect on
them, where every line of metal carries a signal like a wire in your
house, but is thinner than a fraction of a human hair. They can perform
millions of operations per second and store the Encyclopedia Britannica
in your fingertip. And a human mind could not fathom the complexity of
these chips without software programs to control the design and
simulation of the chip before it’s built.

The EDA industry is the group of companies, and brilliant people, who
make the amazing computer brains in the devices we take for granted
every day possible. They build software to model how to turn analog
signals — like your voice — into digital bits. They build simulators
that use physics and maths to model Maxwell’s equations and predict how
electricity is going to move through different materials, at different
speeds. They simulate the memory cells that store data, they predict how
complex logic will work with the different inputs you give it. The
chips being built now have features so small that you can’t use light to
expose them any more (the process is a lot like the old photographic
process) so they use math to adjust how the light will behave and
compensate. It’s rocket science built into software.

But despite being such a profound building block of our modern
electronics, EDA is a relatively small industry. With revenue of $7B,
the industry is dominated by two California Bay Area companies: Synopsys
and Cadence, who work alongside many small, highly innovative
specialist companies to solve the hard design problems (and yes, the
small companies get bought up by the big companies over time). The
industry is small because the number of companies than can actually
afford to design chips is low even though we all use more electronics
every year. But it’s a healthy industry where the leading companies are
growing and generate strong operating margins and where new startups
emerge every year.

And it employs the brightest engineers. Graduates with EECS degrees
(electrical engineering and computer science) from colleges like
Berkeley and Stanford and MIT walk the halls. The executives are all
engineers too because the pace of change of the chip technology is so
fast you need to be able to talk with your customers about what they
need in the language of technology.

Men or women, they’re mostly a nerdy bunch. But tonight, at a banquet to raise money
for the Computer History Museum, they’ll be dressed up and celebrating
their love of one of the most fascinating technical areas you can choose
to work in. And next time your phone, or your camera, or your TV makes
you gasp in wonder think about the software nerds in California who
design the tools, that design the chips, that make your device magical.

Career Advice

Another marketing organization rip up and retry

How to organize marketing of B2B high tech products is always challenging. The best products rarely come from marketing people and the deeper the technology the more the R&D team is in the inventive role and driving marketing.

As a result, where to have marketing report is an ongoing political battle in many companies – and Cadence Design Systems marketing revolving door is a fresh example of this. According to the online gadfly DeepChip.com, editor John Cooley reports “Cadence CMO Bruggeman rumored ousted in unexpected palace coup”, confirmed also by Gabe Moretti on his EDA blog because of the decision to put “product marketing within the three divisions responsible for product development. According to Pankaj [Mayor, chief of staff to the CEO], who will act as Head of Marketing in addition to his other role in the interim, this is the event that precipitated John’s departure”.

Product marketing belongs close to R&D, but as companies grow they often oscillate between a functional org chart (all R&D in one team, all marketing in another) and a BU org chart (all R&D and marketing for a business line working in one unit). Having been a part of this oscillation more than once in my tenure in marketing I have seen both sides. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways, but the deeper the technology the more important it is that R&D and product marketing work very closely together and so I favor marketing within the business unit.

The reason for this is that in very complex technology products R&D is leading the customer, not the other way around. The classical view that product marketing goes out and talks to customers, figures out what they need and then comes back and specifies a product for R&D to build is the road to a mediocre, losing product.

With breakout products customers don’t know what they need. Sometimes they know the problems they are going to face, sometimes they can describe the performance, time-to-market or cost problems they are facing but they can rarely describe how to solve the problem.

Consider Salesforce. Did CRM users know they needed a cloud based product they could easily configure themselves? No, when Salesforce was emerging customers were asking for more and more features on their Seibel systems. And yet Salesforce dramatically reduced the cost of deployment and support of CRM systems.

Consider Synopsys. Did logic designers know they needed to radically change the way they described chip logic by moving up to the RTL level instead of drawing gates? No, they asked for more and more features to draw gates faster within their Daisy or Mentor systems and yet the move to RTL based design dramatically changed the complexity of designs that were possible.

Centralized marketing makes sense for all the cross functional responsibilities. Communications needs to be one voice with common positioning and messaging. Third party business development – coordinating partnerships and industry initiatives – needs to present the company as one entity to partners. Market research and competitive intelligence is more cost effective and can serve the sales force with one set of tools and content (like FirstRain) if the intranet and intelligence are run centrally.

But product marketing needs to be close to R&D, sitting with R&D and not confused about their role. Design collaboration with R&D, interface specification, customer introduction, field training and support all need to be done working hand in glove with the R&D team that is pushing the envelope of the technology. Org charts should not, in theory, change behavior but they do.

Organizational change is also almost always good and keeps people on their toes – and shows you a lot about the organization. Holden powerbase selling methodology teaches sales people that change illuminates the power structure in an organization. Any time you see a reorg someone wins and someone loses. If you want to really understand where the power lies take note of which executives build a little bit of power every time. Subtle, continuous, increases are a sign of someone strategically building power.

It’s true that product marketing has an important role to play. Much of the time the work to be done is incremental, and then it does not really matter where product marketing reports. But when you are building a product that has to leapfrog your competition and stay on the bleeding edge you are reliant on the R&D and conceptual brains to figure out the leap and product marketing needs to be part of the leaping team.