Don't be a Chief Janitor

We all think that servant leadership is the right model to empower a team and be a great leader.  But not if you're using servant leadership to mask the story you are telling yourself about not being worthy in your CEO role.  This post questions whether that servant leadership (or Chief Janitor) role is really something to be embraced if the CEO isn't prepared for it.

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There is Never a Bad Time to (Re)Define Your Culture

I have been thinking a lot recently about company culture and the intentionality for which it should be built.  Many start-ups begin their business with a strong intention to get a product to market quickly but fail to prioritize the necessary endurance that only the right company culture can sustain.  There is never a bad time to work on organizational culture but it takes on different forms at different stages of company development. 

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Getting Control of Bad Email Behavior

Email sucks or it's awesome.  I don't know.  So much of our headspace is spent checking emails, sending emails, thinking about what to write in emails, writing the perfect emails, hoping I didn't miss an email, waiting for an email response, figuring out how to respond, and on and on and on.  Email may be the single biggest productivity killer and drama creator in your life.  It is time to wrangle this beast once and for all to use it for good.  Here are a few ways to navigate email crazy successfully.

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Leading at the Right Altitude

I recently finished leading a strategic planning process for a non-profit in Seattle.  It was an incredible opportunity to work with the Board and the community to set the course for the next three years.  But the process also exposed an area of risk for both the Board and senior leadership.  The risk was one of altitude.  Boards fly at one level.  Executive leadership at another.  Staff at another.  Knowing your altitude often determines the trajectory toward the destination. 

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Stay in the Race. It's Not Painful Forever.

Have you ever started a new project, a new business, or a new relationship and realized, when it's too late to turn back, that you're in a little over your head?   Many of you know what I'm talking about and it is a defining moment.   Frankly, if you haven't had that moment you aren't pushing hard enough.  Most people will run away before they hit that point of no return because the force of fear is too great.  For many of you though, you make the decision to  take control and in the theater of battle, to wrangle the uncertainty.  Why do you do it?

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Cash is King

In 1996 I nervously approached Day 1 of investment banking in New York.  The training program would last about a month and we were all bright eyed, anxious, committed, and less than humble.  Frankly I couldn't even believe I landed the job (a different post for a different time) but I was ready.  The trainer for the program was a guy who made such an incredible impression on me.  His name was Paul Kushel, but he went by "Cash" and he managed to make even the most mundane accounting topics crazy fun and exciting (I know, I have issues).  You can read about how he got the name Cash here but it wasn't because his wife's name was Flo (that's run of the mill accounting humor).  Cash left a big impression on me and an impression I want to leave on you.  When it comes to business:  CASH IS KING.  Know it.  Love it.  Lean into it.

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Release the Pressure Valve Gradually

Entrepreneurship is a little like pressure building up in the Instapot you bought over the holidays.  There is so much energy inside of the vessel that it feels like it’s going to explode.  I was reading about Instapot horror stories online where people accidentally (or out of curiosity) flipped the release valve, only to have tonight’s soup spraying on the kitchen ceilings and walls.   I have felt like that guy many times over the years. That might be you too. 

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The New Board Order

I do some work facilitating strategy with non-profit boards because it's important and it's complicated with a sprinkle of drama and a whole lot of varied interests.  Have you ever sat on a non-profit board and just shook your head at how difficult it is to get everyone aligned to just make a decision and move on?  Why is that the case?  Well, many non-profit boards are grown organically, not intentionally.

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Russell BenaroyaComment
Decisions! Decisions!

In 2015 we were struggling with a hard decision at EveryMove.  There were four of us in a conference room, my co-founder and two relatively new senior people that had joined the Company.  We were struggling with the question of whether we were a B2C (Business-to-Consumer) or a B2B (Business-to-Business) company. 

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Russell BenaroyaComment
Managing Successful Board Meetings

So I'm nervous, like is often the case before many Board meetings.  I tell a story in my head that I need to be massively prepared and if I'm not I'll undermine investor confidence.  So I spend a ton of time putting together material upon material and it's impressive.  Fully prepped. Ready to go. 

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Russell Benaroya
"With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" -- Uncle Ben

I'm running home from a beautiful trail run at Tiger Mountain this morning, feeling strong.  I had the intention when I went out that I would move for 2 hours, 30 minutes and not stop on the climbs.  I ended the run and I felt powerful, accomplished, and grateful.  On the drive home I turned on my local NPR station and listened to Dalcher Keltner being interviewed about his book, The Power Paradox.  It got me thinking about power as a leader.

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Do Less Faster

A terrific book has been written by Techstars leaders, Brad Feld and David Cohen titled, Do More Faster. The book synthesizes the key ingredients necessary to start and scale a business and reduce the risk of failure. I have been thinking a lot about that title recently since I have made a pledge this year to actually Do Less Faster. Part of me feels like I am shortchanging my goals but I think the opposite is true. Why will doing less make me more successful this year and why might you want to consider it as well?

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Russell Benaroya
If You Can't Grow the Pie, Tread with Caution

I am a pretty open book. I think if you met me you would see quickly that my agenda is to “grow the pie”* of opportunity, not necessarily take more slices than you. I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable or skeptical. I don’t know if it has made me a stronger leader yet because the world can be pretty unforgiving if you don’t look out for #1. I’ve tried to live my life with a “grow the pie” strategy but it’s really hard. Why?

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Russell Benaroya