Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 153: Q&A with Alex Shootman @shootman

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Late in 2015 we started producing a weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve featured an impressive list of guests and will continue to do so with awesome content going forward. We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes, Blubrry, Google Play, or Stitcher.

Our most recent episode is called, Hitting your number and doing it the right way: This and more advice from Workfront CEO Alex Shootman.

Alex Shootman CEO of Workfront joins us this time as we talk about principals of doing things “The Right Way”.  Check out his book, Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Get Stuff Done.

Alex gleans from over thirty original interviews with experienced leaders across a variety of industries to show how tomorrow’s leaders can effectively navigate the modern workforce.

“… this notion of getting it done and doing it right– and mentally, if you think about a two by two grid, with a vertical axis being getting it done in a horizontal axis, being doing it right, it’s a notion of … the vertical axis is low to high. Are you getting it done or are you not getting it done? Doing it right is are you living up to the values of an organization or are you not living up to the values of an organization? It’s this notion of if you’re not getting it done but not doing it right, it’s probably not great place for you. If you’re doing it right, but you’re not getting it done, you have the values of the organization, but you might need some coaching on how to objectively accomplish the role that you’ve been given.”



“If you’re getting it done and you’re doing it right, you’re the person that everybody ought to see their name in lights. The tough one is if you’re getting it done, but you’re not doing it right, you probably ought to be fired faster than anybody in the organization, because nothing destroys the pursuit of the culture that you want in a company faster than being willing to tolerate people who can accomplish their goals but don’t live up to the values of the organization.”

“What I found over time is I believe people are good and people want to do the right thing. A lot of times they just haven’t been given the space to put a premium on values.”

Learn more at DoneRightBook.com

Follow Alex on Twitter @shootman

Matt:  Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks so much for joining us. For those of you listening on podcast feed, thank you so much for subscribing. You can find every current past and present episode of sales pipeline radio at salespipelineradio.com. Every week, we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different. I am extremely excited to have with us today Alex Shootman. He is the CEO of Workfront. I got to know him very well back in the Eloqua days. We got so many topics we can cover, Alex, but we want to talk about the book Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Get Stuff Done. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Alex:  Hey, Matt. It is great to be here and as always, it’s great to work with you.

Matt:  Thank you for that. I was mentioning to you just as in our prep here that your name comes up very often from people when we ask them at the end of interviews for Sales Pipeline Radio, we ask them who is someone or a couple people that have had a big impact for you in your life and your career and the name Alex Shootman comes up a lot, especially people that have worked with you in past roles that were part of the Eloqua team up and through going public.

One topic that comes up a lot is something that you shared with me and I’ve heard many, many people that you work with quote as well. It’s a big part of this book, Done Right, and it’s the idea of hitting your number and doing it the right way and how you think about the answer to those questions and what it means for the people in your organization. Start off by maybe just giving people an overview of what that philosophy is like for, you

Alex:  One of the things that we talked a lot about at Eloqua, and we talk a lot about here at Workfront, is this notion of getting it done and doing it right and mentally, if you think about a two by two grid, with a vertical axis being getting it done in a horizontal axis, being doing it right, it’s a notion of the vertical axis is low to high. Are you getting it done or are you not getting it done? Doing it right is are you living up to the values of an organization or are you not living up to the values of an organization? It’s this notion of if you’re not getting it done but not doing it right, it’s probably not great place for you. If you’re doing it right, but you’re not getting it done, you have the values of the organization, but you might need some coaching on how to objectively accomplish the role that you’ve been given.

If you’re getting it done and you’re doing it right, you’re the person that everybody ought to see their name in lights. The tough one is if you’re getting it done, but you’re not doing it right, you probably ought to be fired faster than anybody in the organization, because nothing destroys the pursuit of the culture that you want in a company faster than being willing to tolerate people who can accomplish their goals but don’t live up to the values of the organization.

So that’s the notion that was shared. What I’ve found over time is I believe people are good and people want to do the right thing. A lot of times they just haven’t been given the space to put a premium on values.

Matt:  I love your explanation of all of that. I think it makes a ton of sense. It sometimes falls into the category of easier said than done. People hear that we want to maintain culture, but when the rubber meets the road I’ve seen many organizations struggle with that a little bit, because sometimes you’ll have some of your best performers, perhaps in a sales or business development role, hitting their number, supporting the sales or sales numbers. Sometimes you turn a blind eye to the way that they’re doing it, either internally or externally, but as you know well, as we’ve both seen many times in the market, that is a poisonous thing to allow to continue in the organization. One thing you mentioned is you don’t just fire them, but you fire more quickly than anybody else. Talk a little bit about the cultural impact of doing that or not doing that and how that very quickly changes trajectories of businesses.

Alex:  Well, I think the one thing we have to remember is we’re talking about B2B. My main perspective comes from a lot of years in the B2B technology space. What you find as you go through the years is that the world gets smaller and smaller and smaller and customers have a very, very long memory. So I think the biggest impact is, if you’re willing to do the wrong thing to bring in revenue, that your customers will notice sooner or later and yeah, you might make the quarter, but you’re not going to make the decade, because over time, customers want to do business with people that are invested in their success. So I think that’s the biggest impact, but a lot of B2B sellers, they live in a market. You know, you live in Chicago, you’re making your career, and your reputation matters. Over time, what you’re really trading on is your reputation in market, not the firm.

Matt:  You are not alone in this. I appreciate what you’ve done to codify a lot of it in your new book, Done Right, but this book is based on over 30 interviews with leaders across a variety of industries that share a common philosophy around this, and I imagine that your philosophy here is born out of your values, but also born out of some of the leaders you learn from. Talk a little bit about some of the companies that you spoke with and that you put into this book that have also put this philosophy into practice.

Alex:  To be clear, what the book is specifically about is the challenge of getting stuff done in a modern work environment. At Workfront, much Salesforce automate sales and Workday automates a human capital management, Workfront automates knowledge working in an organization. Our customers have been faced with the challenge of getting stuff done in amongst the turmoil of all of the digital transformation that’s occurring. So when we would sit down with our customers after we talk about our technology, they kind of ask this basic question of, “Okay, that’s great, but how do I actually get stuff done in a complex organization?”

We kept hearing that, and that’s what we decided to write a book upon, and so we did. We interviewed 40 different people, many of them customers, some of them leaders in their own field Navy Seal commanders, Deborah Cyril, who was the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic, and we asked them a basic question which was how do you actually get stuff done? Their answers are what we translated into this book, which are just some basic principles of how you get stuff done.

Matt:  Well, I think that that environment that people are facing, that certainly includes internal and external factors, makes well-meaning businesses face a number of challenges to execute. It’s not surprising to see your career progress into a CEO role, but also not surprising to see it at a company like Workfront that puts such a focus on helping to manage people effectively. Talk a little bit about why you chose Workfront as the next stage of your career and why the work they’re doing has been so important.



Alex:  Well, I’ve been very fortunate to be at different companies that have categories going back to BSM at BMC, which was the precursor to ITSM; as you mentioned, being fortunate to be at Eloqua, which was all about marketing automation; being fortunate to be at Apptio, which was TBM.

Because of that, you start to see some pattern recognition and the pattern recognition that I could see is that all categories are born from an external pressure that is a huge extra pressure. If you think about Eloqua, B2B marketers who are starting to realize that the way marketing was going to be executed was completely going to be impacted by the digitization of consumer marketing. So here at Workfront, what we see is that 80% of CEOs believe that their current business model is going to survive, and so they do what CEOs do. They send a lot of money and they don’t achieve their intended results because they need multiple groups of people to work together effectively. The product team with the technology team, with the marketing team, with the distribution team. So what I could see from Workfront is part the transformation efforts inside their enterprise. That’s why I came to Workfront.

Matt:  Just a couple minutes before we take a break with Alex Shootman. The CEO of Workfront. What I love about this book you’ve written is not just that it’s got a great a lot of great advice, but it got a number of tools that allow people to start to put these ideas into practice. Right at the very beginning of the book before you even get into it, there’s this exercise workflow that is this progression going from your vision statement into how you are working and managing and responding to what happens in the business and in the market. You can download a lot of it just at DoneRightBook.com to a more specific sort of operational exercise level.

We’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more with Alex Shootman. We’ll be talking a little more about some of the components of Done Right workflow, including making sure you’ve got the right foundational pieces in place and then have the tools and the strategies to make adjustments along the way. We’ll right back on this episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  Welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. Thanks so much for joining us today. If feel like we could go for an awful long time talking to our guest today, Alex Shootman. He is the CEO of Workfront. He has run many companies. He was the president of Eloqua, leading through the IPO and the acquisition by Oracle. He has been on the board of numerous companies and is now not only the CEO of Workfront, but also the author of the new book, Done Right.

Before the break, we were talking about this exercise workflow. There’s so many great tools in here. I feel like even if people don’t take the entire toolkit and workflow, there’s components that are really, really important. One of the very end of the workflow you call the Done Right value pyramid. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and how people can put that into practice?

Alex:  Yeah. What we actually do at the very end is each chapter is a building block, basically in terms of building a work plan that allows you to be to be successful in executing work. So starting from the very beginning of, “Are you able to explain to people why you’re doing the tasks that you’re doing? Why are you pursuing the work that you’re doing?”, through to, “Who are you serving? Who is the financial beneficiary of the work? Who actually has to do the work? Who gets served by the work?”

Every single chapter builds on each other until you have an overall work plan, and so what that final chapter is, in terms of all of the Lego blocks that come together to say, “If you’ve done all these sames, you are in a position to effectively execute work.”

Matt:  I love that, and I think you can definitely get a copy of these exercises, learn more about the pyramid at the website. Hold on one second. The website, DoneRightBook.com.

The other thing that was really interesting to me, and it’s mentioned a couple times in the book, is this idea of commander’s intent. I love the idea of having a strong sort of objective and intent up front. Talk a little bit about what that means from your perspective and then how you manage that in a work environment that tends to be maybe a little less autocratic in many companies than used to be. How does that work? How do those things work together?

Alex:  Well, first of all, I learned commander’s intent from a friend of mine, Commander Martin McGuinness. He spent over 20 years in the Navy Seals and the actual notion of commander’s intent is, as Mark taught me, as the leader, my role is to explain what we’re trying to accomplish, but then my next job is to get out of the way, because you’re really smart and you ought to be able to come up with approaches to accomplishing the task at hand. If you can turn it over to your team to figure out the how, so commander’s intent is not meant to be autocratic. It’s actually meant to create a lot of freedom in a dynamic work environment.

Matt:  I found, to your point, is that a lot of times, even though people don’t want to be told what to do as a command, they want to know where their work is coming from. They want a strong leader that can tell them, “Here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re going to do it.” I think that gets back to this idea of doing work the right way. You mentioned earlier that people generally are good and are willing to do the right thing. How do you as an employee, how do you, as someone working and managing your career, try to find organizations that are doing the right thing? It’s one thing to look at what people’s values are on their website or maybe on the wall, but how do you truly find evidence of companies that are going to live those values and sort of live the intents you have in the book here when you haven’t been able to spend time living and breathing that culture?

Alex:  Well, it depends upon the size of the organization, but what I would look for is, like if you came to work for, if I was interviewing at Workfront, I would ask people, “Hey, tell me who you tell me who you think is a really great employee inside of Workfront. Tell me who has been recognized lately for doing a great job inside of work. Tell me their names and then tell me some of their behaviors. Tell me if they were rewarded for those behaviors.” Because here’s the thing about culture. Culture is merely the external manifestation of a shared set of values of a group of people, much like behavior as individual is merely the external manifestation of the beliefs of that individual. My wife and I have been together for 34 years. After 34 years, she does mostly know me, but she still doesn’t know me completely, and the way that she forms her opinion of me is how I behave. How I behave is related to what I believe.

So I think if you go into a company and you ask people who are the winners inside of the company and how do they behave and how do other people talk about the way that they behave, you’ll start to pick up on what that organization really values and doesn’t value.

Matt:  Well, just a few more minutes here with Alex Shootman, the CEO of Workfront. Definitely encourage you to check out his book, Done Right. For the number of people that I’ve heard. Talk about just how much they’ve learned from Alex on leadership and culture and just doing things the right way in organizations, this book codifies a lot of that. So definitely encourage you to check it out. You can get a copy, learn more at DoneRightBook.com.

Alex, I think you know, I want to end where we started. I mentioned to you how many people we’ve interviewed on this show that have mentioned you as an inspiration in their career. Who are some people that you to that have been inspirational for you? People that either have been managers in the past, mentors, they could be authors, they could be alive or dead. Who were the people that are meant a lot to you that maybe you recommended other people seek out and learn from as well?

Alex:  Well, one for sure is Bill Miller. Bill is currently at BMC Software and bill actually hired me into IBM a million years ago. Bill was the person that taught me that there’s a right way to do things and that it’s worth doing things the right way. My first boss ever was just a great a fingerprint on me that said there is no shortcuts and you have to do things the right way.



Another person who was at BMC, he’s now retired, is a guy named Darryl Bettenhast. Darryl took a big risk on me and asked me to do a pretty big job at BMC.

I’d say the last person, he’s a board member today, and I feel like he was a partner when we were at Eloqua, was Joe Payne. The thing about Joe that always stayed with me is you just cannot outrun your customers. You have got to do a great job by your customers and your customers are your future reputation. Bill and Darrell and Joe. Finally, in the acknowledgement of the book, a guy named Art Wilson, who was my mentor for years, and many of the principles that are in the book, I learned late nights at Arch Ranch in Boerne, Texas.

Matt:  It’s hard for me to think about Joe Payne without imagining him or seeing him again in a spacesuit up on stage at Eloqua Experience. But his lesson around putting a greater focus on your customers could not reinforce that or reiterate, more from an Eloqua standpoint, I mean, we were an Eloqua customer, Eloqua partner for a long time and there aren’t that many conferences you go to where you see more hugs than handshakes. I’ve been to maybe three in my life and one of those was every year in Eloqua Experience. It was the community that the company built, it was a relationship with customers, it was the culture, it clearly you and Joe and others in the company had built a very successfully.

Well, if you want to learn more about how to build for yourself and in your organization, not just your sales and marketing team but your overall organization, get a copy of Done Right. I want to thank our guest, Alex Shootman, for joining us today. If you want to learn more about Alex, if you want to share this episode with others in the organization, check out a copy on demand at SalesPipelineRadio.com shortly. Thanks so much for joining us. We’ll be here again next week.

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