Here’s a quick book review for Matt Blumberg’s new book, Startup CEO.

Some of my favorite things about this book:

  • It’s written in a pragmatic and engaging style, without jargon or filler.
  • It includes actionable tips and frameworks for all aspects of managing a company.
  • It has soul. It’s not just about increasing wealth. It’s about doing that while being mindful of your emotional and mental health. It doesn’t leave out the team either. It’s written with the full understanding that we’re people, not just entrepreneurs.
  • It’s got a lot of great contributions from other experienced entrepreneurs, so you don’t feel caught up in tunnel vision.
  • It’s humble. This is very hard to do when you’re writing a book about how to be a great CEO. Matt has pulled it off. It’s written from an earnest and earned perspective. There is no arrogance.

It’s proven a great resource so far.

The section on 360s was particularly useful for me. I’ve struggled with how to make 360s more useful at Moz. I often feel like they are too much of a popularity contest or love fest–people usually give positive feedback to folks they enjoy working with.

When constructive criticism is given, it’s hard for the manager and the employee to put in context. How important is this? How does the behavior impact others? Is this a small thing? A big thing? Is this the most important thing for this person to work on?

In his book, Matt suggests convening a facilitated 360 panel. You get a group of people together who work with you, and together they come up with constructive feedback for you. Of course, you’re out of the room while this goes on. The group  can use their collective experience to help prioritize feedback, explain the impact of the behavior (beyond a single person’s experience of it), and assure the feedback is really about you, and not the person providing the feedback.  The facilitator packages up these comments and reviews them with you. There is complete confidentiality within the group on who offered what, and how the conversation evolved.  You and the facilitator then work on creating a development plan in response to this 360 package. Viola!

Obviously, this is very time intensive. You couldn’t do it often, and you probably can’t do for everyone in a large company. Regardless, this was a powerful insight for me. It really got to the heart of what is frustrating about a traditional 360 feedback program based on one person writing feedback inside form, sometimes anonymously, about another person.

We can’t/won’t jettison the traditional model at Moz, but maybe we can experiment with this more intensive and useful model in some cases.

You’ll be seeing more about the book in this blog from me, the company operating system and schedule analysis stuff were also very relevant for me. What a handy resource when you’re feeling blocked! Thanks for writing this Matt. It’s helped a lot already.