What can I say?

I’ve been struggling. I wrote a post last week that I decided not to post. I had an experience today that I wanted to share. But overall for both, I did not feel it was appropriate to share just yet. I will share these points, but the immediacy is a challenge, as some things still need to shake out. I’m realizing that many things that are pressing on my mind, I just can’t post yet. So, tonight I took a step back, took a deep breath and here are my two experiences over the last week based on that wide-angle lens…

A tool I’m finding useful

A few months ago, the Spreadshirt Vorstand (roughly translated to executive board members … it is a German legal construct), we adopted a principle to follow: ask questions first. The point was to give the presenting person(s) the benefit of understanding their position and reasoning, before going negative. This sounds good, but rarely works in practice. Lukasz and I have done a good job of pushing each other on this principle and it has led to good results. Basically, we have both become comfortable saying, “I think you are breaking our questions first principle.”

What it has done for me… rather than feeling defensive if Lukasz starts with arguments on a point rather than questions, I back up and push for the questions first, as that brings out the issues more clearly… rather than a presupposed solution. Since we’ve both adopted this pretty well, I believe he feels a similar comfort.

Now, we need to be better about this in the Vorstand in general, and it is a concept I’m trying to practice and encourage in the company. So, even if you don’t have this principle agreed in your situation, you can take this approach. As soon as you feel that “defensive” instinct triggered, back up and ask for the questions. Don’t defend your position, until you get those questions and understand the other party’s concerns.

This tool reminds me one of the principles of talking to the press… answer the question you want to answer, not the one asked. This doesn’t mean ignore the question, but turn it into one that makes your key points. Like the above, this “press” principle puts you in control and not trying to back track through logic unfamiliar to you. Back up, start at the source where you are both on the same page. To be clear, to do this, YOU MUST LISTEN.

Something I didn’t do, but wish I had

In Watkins’s 90 Days book, the first point he makes is to promote yourself: Make a mental break from your old job and take charge in your new one. His principles and my comments on this:

  1. Establish a clear breakpoint. I did a rolling start versus a clear breakpoint. Watkins says to identify the ways you have to think and act differently. Maybe this is a good thinking point for the plane tomorrow night? Anyone have experience or advice on this?
  2. Hit the ground running. Done. I run and I feel good milestones have been established weekly, monthly, etc. that follow the corporate priorities. I’m following these and also driving them through the org.
  3. Assess your vulnerabilities. I’m on the fence on this. First, I’d redefine “vulnerabilities” to energy assessments, meaning where do you get energy versus have energy taken. But that’s not the point. I don’t agree with the assessment which puts me weak on Finance and R&D. I agree that I don’t get energy from Finance; I like the analysis, not watching the sausage being made. But I get tons of energy from R&D. If you look at the questions though, one of them that I ranked low was “project management systems” (I don’t get energy from implementing them, but I love them in use!). But the bigger point is, I don’t see that as R&D. OK, so that’s not Watkin’s point… the words. The point is knowing where you are vulnerable, and if I ignore getting project management systems in place because I don’t get energy from them, then I could be vulnerable. (Does this count for #5?!)
  4. Watch out for your strengths. I’m guilty here. I should back up more and spend some of the time I’m working more closely with some teams backing up and communicating the vision and priorities for the company more. This is really critical, even if the vision is the same, people need reassurance that it really is the same, and in general, “it’s the same” doesn’t seem to hit home.
  5. Relearn how to learn. Done. Well, I didn’t need to relearn here. My career has been spent as a learner. It is a strength… oh, darn, according to the above, I guess I should worry about that. I feel like I’ve just hit a circular reference. 😉
  6. Rework your network. Done. I haven’t done this as consciously as Watkins suggests, but it is again something I’ve always done. I’m fortune to have an incredible mentor network — I call them friends — who constantly reveal new skills and insights to me!
  7. Watch out for people who want to hold you back. I suck at this. (I am quite sure that isn’t something a CEO should say. Oh, well.) It has impacted me in my career. I trust people, and if they don’t want to support me, it is their issue not mine. With respect to Mr. Watkins, I’d change this one to… stay true to yourself. Don’t change your beliefs because of your new role, and don’t let the naysayers distract you. Learn from them, but don’t let them distract you from what you know is right. This thought crosses my mind almost daily.

So it is bedtime now, and this brings me to what is on my shirt today…

I’m recruiting!

 Spreadshirt is hiring, and we need great people. What better place to say it than a shirt?

4 thoughts on “What can I say?

  1. Nitin Kailaje says:

    Hi Jana.. I came across your company and the website and absolutely loved the concept.
    Believe it or not, the way i came across your web site was while researching about niche TShirt printing opportunities in India :). . .

    Does the idea of us exploring possibilities of setting up an Spreadshirt India venture sound good? Given that India has a huge youth … population ; and a creative lot at that , this is certainly an untapped market. Moreover, India has some local brands but which do not go beyond a few designs.

    Among my contacts I have established players in the Indian Textile industry ( primairly jobbers) who know a thing or two ( or even more ) about T shirt printing / Embrodiery and willing to invest locally in a big potential business, such like this.

    I can be contacted at the email nitinkailaje@yahoo.co.uk



  2. Hi Jana,
    To be the CEO of Spreadshirt is really one of the hardest things one can imagine, because the company is growing that fast.
    All people who are in high positions come to the point where they need something to stick to. You found that book. Others even find religions. 🙂
    The method of rather asking, than arguing against each other is quite good and should be used in private life, too.
    Watkins book looks interesting to me.
    With the first point he might mean for example a situation, when those who worked WITH you now work FOR you.
    So you behaviour has to change – in my opinion there is no escape from that. For example jokes with them are not the same as they were before. They are understood differently. It’s generally spoken, because I don’t know you and I don’t know your sorroundings. Maybe you already did that right.
    Concerning the energy you have to remember that you can get most energy by relaxing. I hope you will have some free days?
    To give you a little bit of energy, I made a favicon for your blog. It’s the American Apparel in small. You can find it here. . Copy it into your main folder and rename it “favicon.ico”. That’s it!
    Merry Christmas in advance 🙂

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