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The Human Performance Lab

[TD;DR: Tips for growth founders on hiring and nuturing talent.]

You thought you were starting a SaaS business. Once you find product market fit – surprise! – you’re actually running another business, and it’s called the Human Performance Lab.

Your job as CEO of the Human Performance Lab, is to transfigure high level business metrics (revenue growth) into the right goals for the right humans on your team. You are a professional tasked with engineering greatness in humans.

I find means means two things primarily:

#1: Finding superhumans. After we sold my company to Apple, we had instant “mega-market-fit”. My role became that of a full time talent scout. It is a very different job from the one I had previously. Having the ideas mattered less than finding the DRIs for the ideas. Regardless of role, my role was to find X-Men and X-Women that we had no business hiring, and attempting to hire them. If there’s one thing you take away from this post, let it be this: you literally have a different job now. You need to change your schedule and expectations for how you spend your time. You are a full time talent scout.

#2: Engineering greatness. You need to say the right words to the right person with the right context so that – click! – that person performs to their maximum potential.

These are your two jobs at Human Performance Lab LLC. That’s really it. You are a router for work seeking maximal network saturation. It’s not easy.

Nature does not configure founders for this. In order to start a successful business you need to be hyper-industrious and conscientious. Then your business grows. You hire people. Those people aren’t founders, and they don’t have the psychometric gene you carry. When they don’t perform, one can experience a kind of confused rage. How… is it possible for this to happen? You can’t think straight; the CPU is spinning too hard.

Nobody cares. Surprise, nobody cares how frustrated you are! Especially not the employee who produced the B-rated work. It’s really vital to quell the storm, smile, see it from their perspective, and then utter the right words with the right tone so that you unlock perfect performance from them in the future. Even if you fire them, your employees should not have a bad experience. You cannot deliver bad experiences. Tips:

View achievement engineering as an intellectual puzzle. As a leader, your words carry a special energy. You have read/write permissions of influence few people carry. It becomes pleasant to challenge yourself with saying the right things to get the job done once you see the effect.

Focus on channeling. David Rubenstein interviews various leaders on Bloomberg. I find them wry and funny. When I’m stuck in an interview that’s boring, I think “what would David Rubenstein do”, and I try to channel him. When I’m trying to give harsh-yet-encouraging feedback, I think of my running coach. Before presenting to a crowd, I try and channel a Peloton instructor. This kind of priming helps set subtle cues in the mind in a way normal tips can’t capture.

Sometimes you find yourself a Kobe Bryant. Put them in any situation and they’ll thrive. Often that means screening for very high-energy people. More often than not you’ll need to focus on task optimization (don’t let Shaq be the point guard) and nurturing (tell Shaq he’s excellent at rebounding). Rarely you find talent that requires no engineering; most require some.