Two guys grabbing dinner in San Francisco

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with one of my old teammates from Optimizely. He's doing well: director-level position, managing a growing team, and meanwhile hyper-focusing on how he can take it to the next level as a leader.

So I asked him a question:

"If I were to meet with your team over drinks, and I asked each of them to describe you in three words, what would you want them to say?"

Simple question. Long, thoughtful answer.

His final answer: 

  • "Caring, consistent, and challenging."  [Three C's FTW]

While the answer was revealing, the true value was in talking through the various tradeoffs one makes as a leader:

  • Friend vs. boss
  • Lenient vs. stern
  • Strategic vs. tactical
  • Inspirational vs. directive
  • Spontaneous vs. predictable

And while none of the above are mutually exclusive, a leader has limited time. Very limited. So you have to explore: what is your management philosophy? How do you want to be perceived? Even. . . remembered?

So I challenge you:

What are the 3 words you would want your team to describe you?

If you're still staring instead of thinking, below is a insightful list of questions your team is likely asking themselves right now.

Credit due to Fred Kofman’s book, Conscious Business, in which he crafted these questions about communication clarity, mission, shared values, respect and teamwork.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing high-quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

The DBT Ventures team hopes this article has been helpful in urging you to proactively control what 3 words describe you as an executive.