My most memorable course at HBS was taught by a young instructor (now professor) named Tom DeLong. It was called Career Management. I liked it for two reasons. First, it was the only self-reflective course I encountered at HBS and it exposed an atypical side of my classmates’ thought processes. Second, Tom was brand new at the school and was somehow less guarded than the average teacher. That made me root for him.
One little exercise for healthy communications Tom shared was an idea to discuss what aspects of a relationship you wanted your partner to “Stop, Start, or Keep.” It is simple, but very powerful, in the way it balances positive and negative feedback, and because it elegantly and somewhat dispassionately gets to pretty deep ideas.
When Grommet was on the cusp of growing dramatically in Q3 last year, I asked my team that same question. “While it’s just us chickens here, before a whole bunch of new employees show up, what aspects of our culture and behaviors do you want to Stop, Start or Keep?” The team had a lot of Keeps, a lot of Starts but not a lot of Stops. (Actually the lack of Stops worried me…were people holding back?)
I was charmed that one team member, Adam Russell, said, “I want to keep having all the birthdays and celebrations. I really don’t think any big personal event has gone by at Daily Grommet without us taking time to mark it.”
So it was fitting that we took the whole team for frozen yogurt yesterday to help Adam have his own Happy Birthday.
One of the things I decided to “Start” is a quarterly “Bloody Knee Award.” It was inspired by the Roxanne Quimby quote, “I believe that success is just getting up one more time than you fall” and my own crazy face-plant a couple months ago. I realized that there are always going to be people on our team who might be battling a particularly hard set of circumstances and we should recognize them.
Our first recipient, for Q3 2012, was Julia Kemp. She curates and produces the Grommets. For a period from May to September she single-handedly covered most of our launches (with a key assist from Kate McLeod). This crushing workload occurred right on top of the demands of planning her own September wedding. Julia’s extreme contribution and strength in the face of a killer challenge is highlighted by the fact that we now have SIX people covering that same set of responsibilities she handled alone!
So try this. Whether it is with a spouse or a child, or a business partner, or even your whole team. What would you like to Start, Stop or Keep doing?