I’ve just completed 34 years of this adventure in the world of technology. More specifically, I’ve spent the vast majority of my time building businesses, crafting brands, and selling software and data solutions for the corporate enterprise. Being a continual learner is one of the ways I tried to ensure those years were compounding. In the last 6 years, I’ve had the privilege of being part of the Growth Acceleration Partners team, and below are my 6 key lessons from the last 6 years.
1. Don’t eat bad cheese.
Bad cheese is one of those things you didn’t say no to, but you decided to take a bite of because something outside our ideal framing convinced you the cheese would taste good — whether it be fear, greed or arrogance.Think about that for a minute. I describe bad cheese as that thing that looks good but winds up being really bad for you, and there is plenty of that to go around. In the consulting and services business, we expect to be in a relationship for many years. So before you say I do, you better dang well mean it, especially if you have long lead times. Bad cheese could be the deal you took, the partnership you formed or the person you hired, but you started to move your ideal framing target in such a way that it is now unrecognizable because you were busy eating bad cheese. See point number 2 for how to avoid eating bad cheese.
2. Diversity powers clarity.
The topic of diversity has garnered lots of attention. Diversity drives inclusion, powers clarity and engages the best ideas for even better outcomes. Here is how I’ve experienced its effectiveness. I’m sitting in my seat at a soccer game. Members of the group I’m working with are sitting in different seats, in different locations throughout the stadium. We all watch the same game, from a slightly or completely different point of view, given the vantage point of the various seats throughout the stadium. I have no way of seeing what others saw, and vice-versa. It’s important to invite people around you with different vantage points into the discussion. These diverse views help paint the best and most detailed picture of what really happened, or hypothesize about what will happen. Ask others to share with both passion and clarity what they saw, and why it matters. Hire people different from you, and give them a seat in the stadium. Listen, rinse and repeat.
3. Human Engineering is equally as important as Software and Data Engineering.
I work for a strategic technology solutions partner where we create transformative outcomes through superior engineering. The solutions we design and build for clients are incredible. But keep in mind, it’s real humans whose hands are on those keyboards, whose brains are engaged in problem-solving, and who are the real product decision-makers. They know what the product needs; if they don’t, that product is going to have real problems. It’s similar to leading and managing teams — you better know what they need, and when they need it, or your outcome is going to suffer. My advice for leaders — get to know the human, and engineer an environment that is ideal for their unique strengths.
4. A broad brush is really only good for painting houses.
As humans, we tend to form opinions on others based on a broad view of their “grouping.” For example, a broad-brush stroke of one of my groups is white, male and executive. Reading those three words together has formed some opinions in your mind. And you might not alway have a positive opinion, fair or not. When I/we do this, we marginalize the individual and diminish the beauty of their uniqueness. It’s important to decouple the view of the person from the prescribed group. Groups come in all shapes and sizes, but humans come in single drops of ONE, each with their own story and unique qualities. The most valuable connections are formed when you make way toward the individual and get to know them and their story. In my business, the vast majority of the GAPsters are located in Latin America. I can’t speak for that whole group, but from the person of ONE, my desire was for them to recognize qualities like grace, humor, transparency and generosity in me. I have the responsibility to help some of the groupings I’m a part of become better — by being the salt and light in sometimes tasteless and dark places.
5. Play the long compounding value game.
The ability to build relationships by caring about your teammates and clients with an eye toward a better future is a game changer. Once I changed my mindset from looking at quarterly revenue targets (transactional), and started fully investing in people (relational) that would span beyond work and last beyond commerce, it’s been a big game changer. Developing healthy, long-term relationships creates meaning, purpose and even some fun. By starting with the mindset that I’m going to know this person and get to know them for the rest of my time here, while most of the time won’t be true, it gives you the foundation to operate in a freer space.
6. Walking and Chewing Gum at the same time.
Is it about you (me), or is it about the team? Just because you aren’t in the position you want to be in doesn’t mean you can’t make a tremendous impact. To paraphrase one of my favorite books, “Employees, serve your bosses with deep respect. Serve them sincerely as you would serve your God. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.” That is a big challenge for sure. So, let’s apply that to my current situation. My desire is to be a CEO again. At GAP, the CEO in the seat is better than me… and it’s not even close. However, I don’t have to forfeit my desire while simultaneously serving my boss, investing in our GAPsters, adding value to our clients, and being part of the team that is delivering 40+% growth, year over year. I (and you) can do it all at the same time.
About Darryl Worsham
Darryl Worsham is GAP’s Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer. He is a seasoned software technology executive with more than 25+ years of experience in both publicly and privately held companies offering enterprise analytics (SaaS/Cloud), mobility and consumer-based products. Darryl’s experience has given him a unique combination of industry knowledge in analytics, security, mobility, and product life-cycle management. He is a strategic leader in Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Product Management and client management. You can connect with Darryl on LinkedIn, or send him an email.