Leadership during Turbulent Times

Andy Ellis joins Randall Palm on the Akamai Leadership podcast to discuss Leadership


In episode 5 of the Leadership During Turbulent Times podcast, Randall Palm interviews Andy Ellis, former CSO at Akamai and current operating partner at YL Ventures, about his approach to leadership and his upcoming book on the topic.


  • 🎙️ Andy Ellis is a former CSO at Akamai and current operating partner at YL Ventures.
  • 🌟 Ellis is a member of the CSO Hall of Fame.
  • 📚 Ellis is writing a book on leadership with the goal of creating a useful guide with flexible tools that can be adapted to different environments and cultures.
  • 🦉 Ellis hopes to redefine the definition of leadership from simply “getting the most out of your people” to something more nuanced and effective.
  • 🚀 Working with smaller companies means less bureaucracy but also requires a quicker pace, with meetings that are more focused, purposeful, and enjoyable.

Transcript (raw)

(00:00) leadership the action of leading a group of people or an organization sounds simple right it’s not especially during turbulent times my name is randall palm and over my 20-plus year career i’ve been blessed to work with some of the great leaders in the industry i’ve seen many leaders take teams and organizations to new heights while
(00:19) others have struggled to empower reward and foster a culture of diversity and inclusion over the past year leaders have been challenged like no other time i can remember from external forces like the pandemic and social injustices to the implications of these within their own organizations which in some cases has
(00:36) completely changed or accelerated their business model as we navigate the waters of these changes i wanted to talk with people i consider innovative leaders about their approach to leadership how they’ve applied that experience over the past year and what they’ve learned well welcome back to the pod everyone i
(00:52) am really excited today to have a special guest andy ellis andy is the former cso at akamai uh a real visionary technology and business executive leader uh who i’ve worked with for for you know two decades and probably with the last decade a little bit closer than that than the first one but um really excited
(01:11) to have andy on uh to get his perspective on this topic of leadership and a little bit of a different spin that we’re gonna put on it today um andy is also a member of the cso hall of fame um and before we get started in i’ll let you introduce yourself and i also wanted to ask like how do you get yourself into
(01:28) the cso hall of fame it’s kind of a you have to bat you know hit three thousand uh hits or 300 500 home runs or what’s what’s involved in that well thanks randall thanks for having me uh you know the cso hall of fame it’s it’s a little arcane i think it’s sort of like the nfl hall of fame you never quite know what
(01:44) the voters are going to bat um but i do have to say one of the high points of my career is i have beat tom brady one more time to something yeah i was born in california before he was i moved to massachusetts before him i married giselle before he did yeah yeah i even you know helped lead a boss and organized to
(02:03) dominance you know you could argue over whether akamai or the patriots got there first and now i got into the hall of fame first i think the only thing he beat me to is moving to tampa bay so i have a lot of friends asking if i’m going to florida not anytime soon yeah yeah no it’s uh it’s i’m sure it’s a that’s a
(02:19) cool thing i’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that but yeah no it really is they they pick about uh nine people a year there’s only the second year uh i’m actually the only uh person who’s not currently cso who was selected which was sort of an entertaining little thing when they announced everybody in their
(02:36) current gigs i am currently an operating partner at yl ventures so i’ve moved over into the the vsp space where i get to work actually across a dozen companies instead of just one yeah no that’s great um so a little bit about i think most folks are familiar with you but maybe just a little bit about your background and i
(02:54) was going to ask kind of what’s a day in the life of andy ellis looked like today now that you have you know working with lots of cool companies and have a little bit more maybe a little bit more you know freedom to do maybe more passion projects i assume than you than you have in the last 20 years yeah so every day is very different um
(03:10) you know and i thought it’s a cso that my days were you know radically different from day to day and it’s even more so right now um the biggest change actually is and this isn’t meant is it being on large companies but uh once you’ve been in a company for a really long time there becomes an inertia there’s a lot
(03:28) of time that you spend in meetings that nobody actually really wants to be there it’s a necessary meeting right but you’re more there defensively and i don’t have any of that in my day there’s very little bureaucracy almost all the companies i’m dealing with are a hundred people or smaller yeah there’s a
(03:46) few that have you know across that number but it really is that startup world now on the flip side that also means that when something comes up everything is moving much faster right and so you know the the old model of well yeah i’ll get back to that in a month you know it doesn’t really work but it’s it’s really
(04:03) fantastic like every meeting that i walk into i want to be there the people i’m with want me to be there and they want to be there because if those three things weren’t true we wouldn’t have the conversation right and that’s that’s fantastic so i meet with ceos of these companies i’m meeting with my peers across the
(04:21) industry because a lot of them are really interested in sort of what we’re doing and yeah i’m not sure if you remember as a cso i had this uh canonical vendor response template yeah that you know people would send me cold email yeah i clicked and reply and they’d get like i’m just going to get you to know really
(04:40) fast yeah and now i’m on the other side of that you know somebody who’s representing like a dozen startups i’m often saying hey randall i got some companies you might be interested in right and what i’ve tried to do is take the same spirit of that to recognize that 99 of vendor business interactions end in
(04:57) no right and that’s okay that’s not a bad thing so how quickly can i get you to a no so if i say hey randall like this is andy you trust me um i’m just going gonna give you plain language here’s what these companies do i expect you to say no to at least nine of the ten maybe all ten uh but if one is interesting let me know and then and
(05:17) only then will i do the introduction i’m giving you that opportunity to get to know really fast um they’re very you know succinct messages exactly what i asked vendors for so far nobody has yelled at me too much for that conversation what’s funny it’s it’s you know being in sales running inside sales and and bdr sdr
(05:34) organizations very different topic but it is becoming more like the traditional consumer space where we’re trying to find someone in market for that you know now it’s the shirt that i want and how do they know my shirt we’re trying to find people in market for products right now reach out at the right time and there’s a whole
(05:49) science behind that which is maybe a different a different uh conversation so the other the other kind of funny thing is not funny thing but um you know i i paint andy about this leadership uh conversation he’s like oh yeah you know i’m writing a book about that i was like oh that’s an interesting timing of
(06:06) it i’m sure you’re full of ideas so it’s a great great opportunity so maybe just a little bit about the book that you’re writing and you know i’m sure that’s kind of a fascinating i mean leadership and there’s a lot of layers to that but maybe a little bit more on that so so there are and let me tell you why i
(06:19) started writing this book actually was you know i’ve read a lot of books on leadership in fact we joked right beforehand because randall said oh you know there’s this great book about four presidents and i pulled it up as i was actually sitting on my desk yeah but oftentimes when you read these books on
(06:34) leadership sometimes they’re great stories about people right but many of them often have one thing they’re trying to tell you and it could be could have been written as a tweet and it’s just expanded out into 400 pages especially some of the ones that are written by sort of the consultants you know the experts in the space you know
(06:52) we can summarize a lot of jeffrey moore’s work this fascinating work but at the end of the day it’s one tweet right and a lot of us don’t have time to read books just to sort of get that one tweet out um especially it’s not gonna be enjoyable and there’s a second problem is that they often treat leadership as if there
(07:09) is one way to do it like for that mandalorian this is the way that you will do leadership and i have spoken um and that’s and neither of those things i think are really appropriate first of all um i don’t think there’s one way to leadership like my style of leadership and your style of leadership are always going to be different there
(07:28) will be things that are common between them practices we might both use because that’s useful for us in the environment that we’re in as a leader at akamai of an information security team that you know had a hundred people like i literally had 100 people working for me and now i’m advising companies that don’t even have
(07:46) that many people but i got to use tools for that organization that had almost no turnover 40 women because we had built and grown and established those tools i can’t just walk into some other environment and just say oh hey i’m going to use these tools when i’m working with a 15 person israeli startup
(08:06) that doesn’t know me we haven’t invested at work i’m going to use different tools different cultures yeah the whole thing so so that was sort of one motivator let’s say how do i write a book that is useful in that i’ll come back to my solution in a moment yeah but then the other motivators i actually think most people don’t
(08:22) understand the definition of leadership the i hear two definitions all throughout my career one definition is that your leadership is about getting the most out of your people right and to me that’s what management is that is actually the job of management but that’s not what leadership is um if we defuse that as a
(08:40) definition of leadership like there’s a lot of people who got the most out of their people um you could think about lenin and stalin like they got an awful lot out of their people before they killed them but that doesn’t make them leaders we would like to emulate there’s another one that says leadership
(08:56) is about having a vision and getting people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do which makes us sound like used car sales people right not clear that’s the model we want i believe that leadership is actually about investment it’s about how do you invest more into people develop them grow them now when you do that you get
(09:15) more out of them you achieve the goal of management and when they see that you do have their better interests at heart then they’re more likely to follow you places they wouldn’t otherwise so you achieve both of those goals yeah those are goals those aren’t the primary mission they’re sort of side effects yeah
(09:34) and so i approached the book and said how do i write this and so it’s uh it’s 55 chapters i’m in each chapter it’s almost like the bathroom leader instead of a bathroom reader they’re designed to be read standalone right there each one is here’s an aphorism and here’s though a little anecdote about that aphorism and then i try to be
(09:54) a clear message that tells you you know how you can do this and it’s organized as personal leadership practices that you as a leader should do for yourself you have to invest in yourself to invest in your people then team leadership and then organizational leadership yeah i had a question for you on that because
(10:14) i think that i want to maybe we can switch into kind of the role of the cso moving forward as a leader within an organization do you think leaders leadership is something that can be taught you think you’re born with it do you think it’s a skill set that can be developed because i do think that there are people that i
(10:27) listened to your podcast yesterday on tech perspective with um uh tony bradley and and there was a lot in there around him saying hey i don’t think i’m a leader i don’t want to be a leader like i’m good at what i do i don’t you know driving followership giving most of people is not i just forgot to do it myself yep you know and i think a
(10:45) lot of csos historically are like that they’re kind of like okay i gotta let me go tackle this problem i’m not really thinking about like leading a team or in most of them they’re technical technically oriental development is not necessarily top of mind so do you think leadership is something that is kind of innate or you’re or can can
(11:04) you grow into it or what’s your read there so i think that leadership is like almost all skills you know there are attributes that are somewhat innate and there are skills that can be taught you know if you knew me 30 years ago you would have looked at me and said this is not somebody whose leadership potential
(11:23) right yeah i was a little obnoxious you know i’m sort of at the edge of the yeah you’re you’ve overgrown you’re you’re not i’ve overgrown some of that you know i’m i’m at the edge of the autism spectrum you know most people wouldn’t wouldn’t recognize it but i have a hard time understanding human beings so i
(11:42) dedicated my life to learning how humans react in situations because it got in my way now most people might look at that and say wow you don’t understand how humans operate how are you a leader it’s like no now i have a lot of rules that i have learned over time about how people operate uh and i have people i trust to
(12:00) tell me when my rules are wrong right i say i’m gonna go do this and it’s often my wife because she’s often there when i have crazy ideas and she’s like yeah that’s just not going to go over the way you think it’s going to let’s have a conversation about how somebody else might perceive that right you know the staff that i had at akamai
(12:18) would often be my my test beds for that i’d say hey let’s go do a thing so i’ve learned this this is not a place that i started out and oh yeah i was obviously a naturally charismatic person in high school absolutely not um this is this is developed and practiced and just like any other skill you can get good at it
(12:36) now it helps if you have some of the fundamentals you know i’m never going to be a hall of fame quarterback so it doesn’t matter how much i go practice i’m not going to beat tom brady at that um but he’s never going to be the hall of fame cso at least i hope not tom don’t think that it’s a challenge
(12:52) we’ll put it past him don’t put it um you know i think that’s right i think india you mentioned this earlier i think it’s it’s kind of finding your way right i’ve had plenty of leaders you know people that you know well who i’ve tried to emulate and as soon as i try to be them i try to act like them
(13:06) you know that i think bad i think that um you know the the being um you know being real and coming across being you know authentic i think is a word that i use a lot around leadership you know what is your authentic self and kind of working on the skill sets underneath that because trying to be i’ve gone in lots of meetings and tried
(13:25) to be you know this this person that can that can be that person and it just falls on its face because it’s just because it’s it’s not you yeah and i think the other challenge we often have is people equate leadership with management yeah so that like take tony for example and i have to tell him we’re talking about him on this
(13:43) podcast yeah tony is a leader i i reached out to him yesterday too i said hey i really appreciate your talk so yeah yeah but he doesn’t see himself as a leader because he doesn’t see himself as a manager right he’s like i want to go do it myself okay but are you sharing your perspective so that other people
(13:58) can grow i mean that’s leadership right just because you’re not the manager how many people have we known through our careers who are individual contributors that everybody looked up to they gave back to the people around them like we know a lot of people in the in the sales force who are like that that you know when
(14:16) they figured out oh i can make more money doing this and and retire more quota like they didn’t hide that they went and told everybody around said hey you know if you do this this is working that’s leadership you invested in the people around you and that’s a step in leadership yeah i think there is this people have a little
(14:34) bit of a false sense that you know i’m not a leader because i don’t manage people i’m not a leader and and you’re like no you you know i’ll give you an example i think during um during covet it was more traditional leadership hey team let’s get together let’s you know we’re here for you and you know for me personally then we you
(14:50) know go into this summer with george floyd and all the social injustices where i’m a 44 year old white guy who hasn’t dealt with a lot of the stuff that’s happened i’m looking at my team of people that have you know trying to get their perspective on it because they’re leaving they’re leading the conversation i may be the
(15:08) one creating the space for it but i don’t i’m listening i’m learning you know from them and i don’t know that those people would say hey i’m a leader you know necessarily i’m an individual contributor i’m not you know i don’t have people working for me but man there’s a lot of leadership shown during
(15:23) that time it didn’t come from me as a traditional you know you as a traditional leader have that opportunity to create the space for them to practice leadership to make it safer for them to practice leadership yeah and that’s sort of key to growing new leaders right which is to look at opportunities and first of all it’s a
(15:41) horrible reason to give people an opportunity but we should find more reasons that aren’t horrible right everybody who works for you should be working on their leadership skills even if it just starts with their personal leadership how they lead themselves you as an organizational leader it’s about creating a safe space for them to
(15:59) practice you know one of the the leadership talents that i talk about is apologizing right because i hate blame culture but it persists everywhere humans love to blame other humans uh but it is it’s the death of a company you know if if you seek to blame another human people run so i would always practice i’d apologize
(16:18) if somebody in my team made a mistake i would apologize on their behalf great the whole goal was to neutralize the pain that would come from them to them when they tried something new right so i’m gonna give you a chance to lead in this space to try something new so we explicitly talked about an apology
(16:37) budget i would tell people if i never have to apologize on your behalf if you work for me and i don’t apologize on your behalf at least once in the year yes you’re not taking enough risk right right and that is so backwards like how many senior executives actually say that right that that you know can you imagine
(16:54) ceos saying oh i expect to apologize to the board on your behalf at least once a year no like that’s that’s just so wrong from a normal corporate perspective but to do that is so empowering to the people underneath you because you know you’ve got their back you’re not going to throw them under the bus just because
(17:11) something goes wrong yeah i was listening to a uh um i’ve been i’ve been using this app called blinkist which is like just a quick cliff notes on books right the news not even new anymore but simon cynic’s book and it was talking about ford motors and malala came in when they were kind of you know on the weren’t
(17:28) doing well and there was a real um um you know before his leadership everyone was afraid to give bad news he was afraid to tell the ceo something was wrong because he would berate him and fire him in front of everybody and he came in and said hey you know when somebody getting bad news he stood up and gave him up you know sorry clapping
(17:45) said thank you for giving me bad news everyone give me bad news like don’t be afraid to communicate bad news or make mistakes because i’d rather have that than you know then then everyone you know polish this thing up and everyone look good we’re not going to move forward as a company uh get out of where we’re at doing that
(18:02) well additionally you know we exist to take risk any organization whether it’s a company or not the only reason you exist is risk-taking now you might be taking risk in hopes of reducing risk elsewhere but if you never learn about the risks that fail because nobody’s going to give you the bad news you never get feedback that says oh hey
(18:22) you’re this category of thing that i thought would be successful 90 of the time oh i hear about the success 100 so i think great but it’s really failing 60 of the time like that’s a massive swing but nobody tells me about the 60 failures right the only time at the 40 success is well wait i’m i’m putting all
(18:41) my eggs in that basket because i think that’s remarkably successful but it’s going to kill us because we keep failing at a massive rate right right yeah i wanted to um maybe we can kind of shift the conversation a little bit back to the cso and um the role um you know i think five years ago i wouldn’t i don’t think most
(19:01) organizations organizations would say hey the cso is a leader within the company they’re driving you know where i think you know that’s you know i think you’ve always had a seat at the table with the board you’ve always talked i think you’re maybe a little bit of a unicorn in that regard meaning just the
(19:14) access to people i’m not sure so walk me through this cso role five years ago as a leader within the company to a year ago when or you know 15 months ago and covet hits and organizations are having to engage the cso around working from home risk assessments all the things that kind of change with digital transformation maybe where you
(19:36) think the cso role is going uh moving forward so i think the role definitely has been shifting and i i’ve been speaking with a lot of my peers especially even more so over the last you know six weeks um and i think the if you go back five years there’s no like average see so five years ago that’s pretty clear but i
(19:53) think the the challenge is is that cso means so many different things in so many different companies uh first of all in almost no companies there’s a small handful but nowhere do you generally see the cso reporting to the ceo it really is the the last c-level executive that doesn’t report to the ceo on a regular basis you
(20:14) know we’re starting to see you know other things get titled cxo in other places now but generally you talk about you have a chief revenue officer it’s your head of sales these report to the ceo the cto the cio the chief human resources officer the chief marketing officer but the cso is almost always at
(20:32) least one step and i would say like just not interrupt you but i would say the cio cio five years ago very few reported this right right so you’ve seen the cio has gotten that seat at the table i think probably ten to five years ago was started that big shift happening you know the cso shift hasn’t yet happened
(20:48) what has happened that’s interesting is as you talked about which is the board reporting i think that you know i was probably reporting to the board ten years ago infrequently five years ago it became every quarter i was in front of the audit committee um but it was it’s sort of interesting that i’m the i’m
(21:05) reporting the audit committee but i don’t work for this ceo like there’s a there’s an interesting disconnect i think companies are seeing and i see this more and more when i talk to peers you know i have csos uh one who came to me recently to sort of vent at their their challenges where um you know there’s not great news that
(21:24) they have to report the board wants to hear it um but the executive management doesn’t want the board to hear it so you know they get put at the end of the board schedule yeah the low end situation right it’s a known situation they’re like what am i supposed to do and so there are a couple quarters where
(21:41) they put at the end of the schedule and then they’re like it was really weird that everybody ahead of me went like five minutes long and therefore there was no time left for me um and then you know i wasn’t invited to a meeting and everybody went short and so you know my boss delivered a security update without me in the room which got
(21:57) the you know satisfied the board for a little while and so it’s it was fascinating to sort of hear this this uh thing going dynamic going on and i think that’s that’s a challenge which is because the cso is still viewed as an advisor rather than a leader in the business and a part of the management team
(22:18) realistically um it’s challenging when the board wants to hear from them about how they’re leading the security program when they’re not really leading the security program they’re trying to fit it in around the rest of the business priorities right that is changing it’s evolving but i think we’ve got another
(22:33) five or ten years before we’re really going to see you know the cso as a you know executive seat reports to the ceo and truly is leading and governing security across the business right in the same way that your hr is led across the business and marketing is led across the business right and i saw that you
(22:52) know i spent a lot of time with cios i think to your point about five years ago the cio went from a technical leader to a business leader yep right and most cios i talked to today they’re not that savvy as you’d expect frankly on technology because yeah but they have people who are that kind of like a little bit of let it
(23:10) control letting go to your team around leading and hiring great people and empowering them and then trusting them when they tell you what’s really going on because the challenge that you do have as a business executive rather than a technical executive is when somebody asks you a question you will give the answer in the widest
(23:30) context you know which is often the the best answer right everything looks rosy if you asked the cio and said hey or you know all of our systems patched the ceo says well of course they are but they’re not thinking about the systems that are off in the shadows that they don’t control they’re talking about their core you know our
(23:47) core windows servers are all patched but that wasn’t what the board really asked if a technical executive might say well you know in this domain we’re great but in these other places we’re not so great and that’s okay but i don’t want you to think we’re perfect everywhere and that’s that’s i think a nuanced
(24:04) conversation that boards need to have um when i talk to directors i hear that many of them want to have that conversation yeah their job is to make sure that companies are making appropriate risk choices which means they have to understand the downsides as well to know if that was appropriate if we hide the downsides from them then
(24:23) we’re not letting them do their job either yeah and i think i think it’s interesting too how the boards are changing right i mean boards are are there’s x cios on and they’re cesos we have an x c so of amazon on our board i mean that board just saying we need someone who can kind of bridge this language barrier that we’ve got and kind
(24:41) of speak it right so i think boards are changing and they’re the makeup of them i think the cios that i’ve seen have success and take on more are the ones that have elevated themselves above the technology and can speak to the business value the business impact and i think i’m interested to see the cso role that you
(24:59) know not not every cso wants to do that they you know most of them i think are kind of they like getting into the weeds of a real passionate about cloud security and you know fighting that you know it’s a different makeup right and i’m curious to see how that you know yeah and i think i see both in the
(25:16) industry yeah and there are some who’ve made that transformation i think i’ve i’ve done that i’m technical and i’m business oriented um you know i think the challenge is the language that you have to be able to communicate in doesn’t really lend itself well to cyber nuance um and i’ve been trying to find
(25:33) good parallels what do you think about like financial risk you know a company can say look this is how much of our income is in you know a foreign currency and so here’s what our forex risk looks like um and at the end it’s bounded if like 10 of your revenue is not in you know your whatever your native
(25:52) currency is then that’s percent of your revenue is at risk to weird foreign exchange rates right um in cyber it’s not really that way like i said well ninety percent of our systems are really well maintained that doesn’t mean that ten percent of the company’s revenue is at risk it means 100 of the company is
(26:08) still potentially at risk right because that 10 could kill us you know that could be the you know unsecured interface that lets somebody get in and say shut down our oil pipeline you know which basically can put you out of business because one system had a problem i mean an architecture had a problem with the
(26:27) colonial pipeline right right yeah look at any ransomware whether it’s colonial pipeline whether it’s you know merck maersk you know everything with not pecha and what you tend to see is people rely on these 90 protections and they don’t recognize that there’s this 10 weakness that is tied into an architectural flaw in their other 90
(26:49) which is you know i’ve always wondered like we build these systems because we don’t understand the technical nuance of oh yes we have one user that has administrative access everywhere which means if the adversary compromises that user we lose everything and right like in the finance world you wouldn’t say oh we have this one sales
(27:11) rep right like there’s nobody who controls everything right what would you say to a cso or even a cia you know someone who’s kind of as you think about your career and kind of making that shift from from you know security you know leader and and knowing all the technology to be able to speak enough business language
(27:30) right i mean were there books you read or or just in investment you made kind of in yourself and in the in in bridging that gap that maybe you had before so there’s a lot of books that i read most of them you learn a thing out of each one of them right i’ve read you know everything by jeffrey moore um
(27:48) almost anybody who’s done research in the cognitive and behavioral space i’ve read right from you know kahneman to klein to chabris like just just keep going on um but i’ll say that the single biggest thing that i learned to do was whenever i had an argument with a peer executive in the company i would
(28:07) say what am i not seeing because this person is really passionate and they’re telling me that i’m wrong and i know i’m not wrong like from what i know i’m right but i respect them and they think they’re right right what am i not seeing um what are their motives and you know there came a time there’s a
(28:27) another leader at akamai uh jenny lee that yeah i’m sure you know randall yeah um where there were a number of things where jenny and i were you were working together and she was representing the customer point of view and i’m representing the security point of view and you know we’d say we had these
(28:43) conversations and every time she would say no no andy you you’re not hearing me this is why we can’t do that i would i would literally go take notes and think about it and say oh here’s this dynamic and so then when people would suggest something say well i suspect if we put this in front of jenny here’s what she
(28:59) would say and then i would test that out and see if she agreed she’s like oh yeah that’s exactly it i’m like now i have a model of jenny’s customer right right so it really wasn’t about learning how to be a better leader it was about learning how to be another leader yeah how can i channel the services point of
(29:15) view or the marketing point of view or the sales point of view you know what is it when i talk to a sales rep that frustrates them about our products so that i can then take that back and represent their point of view and in doing that i become this more holistic leader that understands when i say the business it’s
(29:35) always sort of weird because we’re all the business yes it just understands more aspects of the business right so when you’re trying to define a solution you’d be like oh hey this is the sort of thing that field marketing wants which is different than what brand marketing wants which is different than what
(29:50) corporate marketing wants whereas when i first started interacting with marketing i thought marketing was this monolithic entity and i had no understanding that at the time when i went looking was like 10 years ago we had 19 different marketing organizations inside the company each of whom had their own needs and desires yeah yeah i
(30:10) think that just inquisitiveness and and to talk to different you know understand different perspectives is is is pretty critical especially i’ve talked to how this conversation last couple of weeks with a number of different executives and very few of them really well i’d say this with all you know you
(30:25) were writing a book about leadership but you know they’re like i don’t really read a lot of you know at their age and that much experience they’re really looking with the stuff that they’re doing are more like trying to understand the you know maybe it’s a passion project or maybe it’s something that
(30:38) they’re interested in or something that speaks to how um you talk to to build mayo over at the broad institute things that are kind of relevant to you know health care you know what they’re doing and i think that’s that is more kind of the business you know side of it right more so than like you know i’m gonna go
(30:55) and i’ve read a lot of books about leadership i think there’s a time there’s a little bit of a time and place in your career where you’re kind of a sponge around leadership if that’s what you want to do you know it sounds like you kind of committed to it i’ve committed to it but and those books you read kind of are
(31:08) rounding things off you know you’re picking up a couple of sound bites here and there but they’re not necessarily like like wow i read this thing i’m you know it’s at my age or maybe your age where we’re going to go and change who we are because of it you know it’s more about kind of picking up on the
(31:22) i guess the more the business either the side of things no i think you’re you’re absolutely right is if you look around at senior executives they are you know capstone of their leadership journey in many cases not all of them but most of them have already built their leadership practice even if it was accidental right they
(31:41) just copied the people around them they’re stuck in their ways i think one of the horrible conceits we see in the corporate world is that those are the people that we give leadership training to right we go to these three hour off sites and we get taught about something and most people aren’t going to change their practice they’re going
(31:58) to say oh well that’s too hard to do because i’ve tried it before right um you know the the people who need and by need i mean can value and benefit from leadership investment honestly the people their first day on the job if somebody just came out of school they just showed up that’s who we need to be
(32:15) hitting with leadership training because they’re eager they’re ready to learn and they don’t realize is the most junior person in a company people are watching you your peers are going to look at you and you might inspire them or you might demotivate them like you are a leader just with your attitude walking around a building
(32:35) right yeah i was talking to one of my teams um you know but in their kind of uh uh you know maybe second job out of school type of thing and i said to them i said listen like you all motivate me and inspire me i see what you do and i need as i need a little bit of wind in my sail every now and again yeah i need to
(32:55) see what you’re doing and say wow they’re making that extra doing that extra thing that motivates me and i think there’s kind of a you know i think it kind of gets lost if you are this leader that you’re good and you don’t need anything you know like seeing your your team run through you know just working their tails off you know it
(33:12) makes me want to work my tail on you know absolutely it is in fact that’s probably you just touched on a really important nuance that i think most people miss is the people who are probably under the most emotional stress that you will never observe because they’re sort of like swans paddling hard underwater but graceful on top are the
(33:31) people that you might look up to as a leader that when you look up to someone say oh my god that’s an amazing leader right especially if you look around them and say you know and they stand out because the people next to them and above them are not so great leaders like that’s the person who most needs the
(33:47) emotional uplift right when you do something great and show leadership towards them they’re like oh this is all worthwhile yeah right they’re like this is fantastic i built this this place that people can thrive um and it inspires them to keep working and i think this whole like this last 15 months specifically with you know covid
(34:06) and and and everything i mean even right now i’ve got teams in india who are you know really it’s terrible what they’re going it’s really um these during these turbulent times you see leadership for better or worse yeah a lot of great leadership i’ve seen a lot of not great leadership i’ve seen a lot of um
(34:22) what i would consider kind of vacuums right and then it becomes for me a little bit of okay wow i see this vacuum you know should i go fill it right like why wouldn’t i go fill it versus waiting for somebody else you know what i mean or maybe i can have someone on the team filler ask them to step in or create
(34:40) these spaces where people can i think the last 15 or so months here with covid and everything else has been a real opportunity for you know these these really cool situations for people to step up and and lead uh because it’s you know it’s it’s it’s easy to lead when you’re winning oh absolutely it’s you know it’s just
(34:58) get out of the way right it’s when you do go through tough times and the other piece about this too i think with covenant and whatnot is every organization’s had to whether it be a reorg whether it be a shift and go to market all kinds of i mean no one’s you know the business great you know get through all that
(35:15) piece of it where’s this business today and where were we and how do we change and driving that change within an organization and getting people to follow right has been a really interesting journey for at least for me the past you know three to six months is okay we’re going to pivot how do i get followership
(35:31) behind this pivot that we’re making when people are like nah not maybe i’m not quite sure about that you know and the cheese got moved and maybe you know things like attrition losing good people those things start to really i know really it really advocates it really advocates so it really changes that
(35:46) nature and uh somebody who some people i worked for talked about being shields down which is you know when everything’s going smoothly you know your people have their shields up like they’re basically defended against anything bad happening like recruiter shows up right they’re like you know i’m happy i’m fine um you know
(36:04) something you know bad in their world comes up they need to take some time great you know they’ll take it they’ll come back you know but as soon as something bad happens and those shields drop all of a sudden your things that before weren’t problems for you as a leader now become a problem because oh you know they just lost you
(36:22) know the the co-worker that they really loved working with well now they’re taking recruiter calls yeah right maybe they wouldn’t have taken that recruiter call six months ago and it’s not that they’re less bought in but the reality is they don’t think you’re bought into them because what they’re not seeing is the
(36:40) leadership that says you value them and that’s what you have to sort of focus on and restore it’s not about getting them to make the pivot with you it’s about demonstrating that you’ve got their back on the pivot yeah and i think the other piece too that i’ve learned throughout this process is being empathy realizing that
(36:55) not everyone deals with everything the same way that i do yep you know people deal with things very differently and to be able to give them space and be thoughtful about that you know i think there’s so much leadership that is just let’s go take the hill yep you know and let’s go and let’s go and there are times right now with with
(37:14) people being at home with kid you know mental health all this stuff that’s like i’m not like i need to i need a minute before i take the hill i need you to understand that and give me the space to do that i think that’s another thing i’ve tried to be a lot more thoughtful about is how do you how do you recognize that and be um and lead
(37:30) a little differently you know with certain teens or certain people versus just hey let’s go because it’s not everyone is ready to go all the time you know especially these days um cool well andy i’ll uh maybe i just kind of we wrap here i know i’m taking up a lot of your time and i appreciate it um can any last any last words or comments
(37:49) i i do think this idea of like okay i’ma see so and i’m i’m being put in front of the board like am i ready my assumption is there’s lots of kind of trepidation on that and any any words of advice for those people who are kind of assuming these leadership positions specifically in you know in a big role i’m sure like for example
(38:10) colonial pipeline hits i know every cso from every pipeline company is in front of their board or has been to saying could this happen to us yep and they’re you know to your point it’s not that it’s what’s the back of the agenda now it’s probably the front and they’re having to really you know step up and and lead a organization when
(38:28) maybe they weren’t ready or that’s not what they signed up for you know and what nobody any thoughts for people people and kind of during your evolution of this and how you got to where you felt comfortable in those shoes yep so i think the the important things first of all don’t ever say that you’re perfectly safe
(38:46) and don’t ever say that the sky is falling you’ll be asked do you have enough budget remember the board doesn’t give you budget executive management does if you’re going to say no in that room you better make sure that that no has been coordinated with the ceo and cfo any message you give in the board you
(39:05) cannot surprise anybody else with but you can meet with individual directors in fact on most boards you’ll find that there are probably two or three directors who will be happy to meet with you you know offline to talk through hey how should we present this how do we make sure that we’re telling the truth in a way that’s
(39:25) accurate and helpful obviously you’re not going to tell them oh this windows server over here hasn’t been patched like that’s not information that’s at the right detail level for the board but you can have a board mentor in fact you should have a board mentor if you’re talking to the board so figure out who
(39:43) that’s going to be um you know i never found any director who didn’t want to have the conversation with me right they want to learn from you so it’s a great it’s a you know a good two-way street i think yeah and you know prepare both uh um an overall summary of your company recognize that that directors aren’t full-time employees of
(40:03) your company they don’t know the company very well right um even if they’ve been there for a while you know they’re paging in their page out they’ve got a high level view so have a summary you can give them offline that says hey just when i talk about risk here’s how we think about risk here’s you know the
(40:18) inherent risks in our business that are unique to us here’s what’s part of our industry just so that there’s this level setting so that when you have that brief conversation in the boardroom it could be a productive conversation yeah yeah i think no surprises i think you know if you’re being asked to speak
(40:36) to you know a a board or whoever you know doing your homework meeting with them you know i think building a relationship with they want to see you successful yep you know and they’re your ally and and know that i think you know that they want that you know and i think that that mentorship those and there’s some i mean
(40:55) i’ve talked to a couple of our board members every time i talk to them you just it’s an it’s i always walk away with a couple things like you know again books and all that stuff you take glean from but man you talk to someone who’s been in the industry for 40 years about their experiences and and you know they’re they’re kind of they
(41:10) like mentoring for the most part they like school and so i think getting those people on your side you know versus just going in as as as a new face to everybody i don’t think that you i think you can kind of hedge your vet a little bit right with building those relationships yeah pretty much everybody who is on a board
(41:26) wanted to be there and they want to be there to help make sure that the companies that they’re working with are being run well they’re not interested in running the company they want to make sure the companies run well which means they want you to do better right and they will absolutely invest you their
(41:42) time in making sure you’re going to do better yeah and i think it’s a great and again i think the i think the no surprises that nobody likes to be surprised especially ceo cfo so it’s you know having you know preparing appropriately and that’s probably something in life that’s true yeah no one likes you know surprises i think
(42:00) the um you know during covid i think the uncertainty was was as much as from a leadership perspective providing some level of certainty we’re here for you you know companies you know we’re you know we’re i think work became a real certainty for some people during this uncertain time so as much certainty
(42:17) as you can provide i think that’s another area and the more homework you do the more you’re prepared i think going in with that that that story all right that provides some certainty on where you’re at what you need and everything else is really critical so cool um andy it’s been uh awesome talking to
(42:31) you as always um glad to hear that you’re doing some really cool new stuff and i can’t wait to to read the book and uh get some some snippets from it and uh appreciate your time thanks randall i appreciate you having me and always lovely chatting with you yeah cool thanks andy have a great day