Address for the Job You Want Done

The iconic business book, given to me as I started my career those many years ago, was Women’s Dress for Success. In it, the author prescribed a wardrobe of “power suits” augmented by silky bows, pumps, and pearls.  As I looked around the newsroom at men and women dressed in denim, loafers, and baggy sweaters, I knew I’d chosen the right profession. I am, decidedly, not the silky bow type.

Still, I was admonished to “dress for the job you want.”  I did.  Jeans, a black turtleneck. (And yet I’m not the CEO of Apple.)  I realized pretty quickly, though, that while I was completely comfortable at work, I wasn’t dressing for the job my parents wanted me to have. Still, I’ve done a pretty good job emulating the wardrobe of a tech analyst and, well, nearly 25 years later, here I am.

I was reminded of all this early this week when I sat down to catch up with Soujanya Bhumkar, CEO of Cooliris.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am an adviser to this incredible company.  More often than not, though, I come away from my visits with Soujanya energized by his thoughtful and insightful leadership of his company.   This visit was no exception.

After reviewing the status of the company (it’s on a roll) and getting a peek at the product roadmap (heading in exciting directions), Soujanya talked about the new hires he’s planning:  a VP of User Growth and a VP of Partner Distribution. Huh?  Not the normal titles you’d see on an org chart, to be sure.

“I call them what they are responsible for,” Soujanya says. “I’m not hiring a VP of Marketing, because you can be sure that person will come up with a plan to spend money on tradeshows. I want my guy or gal focused on growing the user base.”

It’s not a new idea, perhaps:  Reward the behavior you want.  But with a twist: Name the job for the performance you must have.

It’s easy for  a new company to throw up a traditional org chart and label boxes VP of Engineering, VP of Marketing, VP of Business Development.  Oddly enough, it’s harder to talk about what you want those people to do, what you want them do day to day, for what you want them to be responsible.

“I won’t hire a Biz Dev guy,” Soujanya told me.  “What does that person do?  I’m hiring a VP of Partner Distribution because those partnerships are critical to our success.  We need partners to distribute our product. The VP of Partner Distribution is responsible for that.”

Especially now, with daily admonitions to startups to tighten their belts, control costs, and stay focused,  young companies need to hold every employee responsible for the success of the company, and ensure that every day, every employee knows exactly what he or she should be doing.  Forget fancy titles; address for the job you want done.


1 Comment »

  1. Great article. The term “product manager” (my profession) is extremely overloaded. Some PMs spend all day doing outbound marketing, some do lots of user research and testing, some write lots of specs, some act as managers to developers, and some even write code. Such overloading can be useful, because it a single product manager has a big bucket of tasks that all are loosely related: we all kinda know what a PM is.

    However, perhaps we ought to differentiate between temporally-based tasks (e.g., 3 months before a product launch I’m spending a lot of time with requirements, whereas right before launch I spend lots of time doing PR) and core tasks (e.g., I never code and some of my colleagues never do outbound marketing). Maybe it’s time to split up the PM profession into a few affinity groups that better describe what that type of PM does. If nothing else, it’s a good opportunity to sit back and think about what each member of your PM team contributes to the company. . . need to think about this a bit more.

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