Guest

26

"Get the right people in the right seats, with the right attitude, and the right alignment with the environment - that's when the magic happens. I know the pithy answer is, hey, it's all about the team. But that's not quite it, it's all about the team and how they work in the environment you've created, in every area in the company, and holistically across the company."

In this episode

In episode 26, Hiten Shah reveals the difference between culture fit and work flow fit. 

Hiten is a multi time founder, building and growing his own companies such as Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and now, FYI. He also co-hosts The Startup Chat, a podcast about startup life, insights and advice. 

In this episode, Hiten reflects on his first engineering hire and explains the importance of assessing talent accurately during the interview process to make sure they can succeed with you, in the environment you have created. 

We also talk about identifying slow moving teams, why managers need to be in tune with what their teams actually know (and what they don’t), and how founders can transfer their unique talents and skills to their teams. 

Tune in to hear Hiten share why environment fit matters to build a well oiled team. 


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


03:24

Have you tried this productivity and learning trick?

11:10

Working ourselves out of a job, as leaders

14:19

Evaluating your hires for environment fit, versus culture fit 

17:23

Management starts at recruiting

19:39

Why might you have a slow moving team?

23:36

Getting your team up to speed

25:52

This is where the magic happens

28:43

Conviction versus consensus

32:38

How Hiten identified work flow fit in his interview process

35:45

Well oiled teams are built on operating models, not great culture

38:32

Transferring skills amongst your team

40:34

Why you don’t need to take things personally <strong> </strong>


Resources


Episode Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee  2:36  

Hiten, welcome to the show. 

Hiten Shah  2:38  

Thanks for having me. 

Aydin Mirzaee  2:39  

Yeah, it’s exciting to have you here. I mean, you know, recently, I was an emcee of the conference, and you were talking there too. So I feel like I’ve had the privilege of seeing you a few times in the last little while. 

Hiten Shah  2:50  

I don’t know if it’s a privilege, but I’ll take the compliment.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:55  

 I just wanted to kick things off and just ask you, what have you been up to rate lately? 

Hiten Shah  3:02  

Yeah, I’ve been mostly working on my own business, FYI. And we’ve just been sort of building an iteration. That’s, that’s really the primary grind right now. Because it is relatively early stage and just working through all the different things, and all the learnings and all that kind of stuff. 

Aydin Mirzaee  3:19  

Cool. Sounds like fun. You know, there’s a lot that I want to talk to you about during this interview. And one of the things I wanted to kick things off with is just this concept of the way that you listen to audible and the way that you consume audio content. And is it true that you listen to audible content at three times normal speed? 

Hiten Shah  3:41  

Yeah, and I’ll even watch videos, and even TV shows and movies at two X. It’s just something I kind of got used to. 

Aydin Mirzaee  3:48  

That’s awesome. And so for the rest of us that want to develop that habit, like, are you? Is there a strategy that you’ve used to be able to do that? Or do you just like to start listening at that speed? Or how do you pursue that? 

Hiten Shah  4:03  

Yeah, I mean, if you start listening at that speed and are willing to wait about five minutes to see if you start getting better at recognizing, like the words and what people are saying, then you’ll know if three, you can hit three or not. So it takes about three to five minutes to get used to the speed, whatever the speed is, if you’re not used to just listening to it, people talk really fast. And then you know, if it works for you, great, like three x will work for you, if not just go go down. Or you could start with like 1.5 X and work your way up. But the big thing that people don’t tend to do is they don’t wait it out. They don’t they don’t actually put an effort in to get their sort of ears and their brains acclimated to the speed. And that that’s really the thing that I’ve discovered, at least for myself. 

Aydin Mirzaee  4:56  

Cool. Should I have to ask you one of the things that happens to me, sometimes when I’m listening to audio book content is, I might, you know, hear something. And then that kind of kicks off this train of thought. And before I know it, like, many minutes have passed by, especially if you’re listening to three acts, who knows, maybe 10 minutes go by, like, Do you often pause? Like when things like that happen? Or how do you play it? Like, how do you allow yourself to digest big learnings?

Hiten Shah  5:26  

This is a good question. Because I think that like people prescribe too many different theories to like how they believe they learn that that really basis whatever limitations you’re putting on yourself around, like how fast you can absorb information. So already people come in like you are where it’s like, hey, I need to synthesize it, or I need to have these big learnings for me, I don’t I don’t view it like that, I more view it like if something. For example, with audio, if something really like sort of gets me off on like a tangent in my head. It’s likely I’ve already bookmarked that section of the audio. And so if I wanted to, depending on the setting, and what I have available to me, maybe I can come back to it, I do do that. Another thing I’ll do is while I’m listening, I could I’m totally open to stopping and starting to take notes if I need to. So I think I think it’s more about having the flexibility and openness to do that kind of stuff. For me, it’s not about listening fast, so I can consume more, it’s more about listening fast, so I can consume enough. If that makes sense. I think that’s a very big difference. Because a lot of people might think like, Oh, he’s like, you know, listening to audio at three x just so that he can, he can get more in. And that’s really not the reasoning. I think for me, it’s like, there’s a lot of great information that’s out there. And these days, like, even if I want to dig into a single topic, I’ll go listen to the podcast about it, I’ll read some books about it. I even have a subscription to blinkist. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. But it’s like a book summary product, and they have a yearly subscription. So for me, it’s just like, if I’m trying to either learn something, or gain some information, there’s so many different ways that I can gain it. Books, audio, articles on the internet, podcasts. And so I just want to consume, like, it’s almost like surrounding myself with that topic in many different ways, and then tend to get the best ideas that way is like surrounding myself with that topic. And then just going through my day to day life. And then the biggest epiphanies and stuff kind of happened randomly, which is, generally when you look at the theory of how new ideas are developed and stuff, there is always that phase of not thinking about it. So I just try to like set up the circumstances and then in the situation such that I’m able to basically absorb the information I need at the time. So like, for example, if I were thinking about marketing, I’d be reading a bunch of different marketing books, I’d be listening to a few different podcasts looking at a bunch of people’s tweets, maybe even searching Twitter, for some specific things I’m looking for. And that tends to give me a really well rounded perspective. And so the speed thing is just something that helps me kind of do that more efficiently and more thoroughly. 

Aydin Mirzaee  8:09  

Got it. I think that’s particularly useful for us to kind of hear at the outset, because obviously, it points out that you care a lot about learning. And so you know, I’m very curious, as we dig into, to hear how you’ve learned these different lessons about leading teams. I do want to dial it back a bit, though, and start a little bit from the beginning, you’ve obviously done a lot. You’re an entrepreneur, advisor, investor, I guess, remote work evangelist for a long time, you’re not kind of like only into this because now it’s trendy. You’ve been into remote work for a very long time, just going back to the very beginning. Who would you say? If you were to point out to one person who would you say has been your best or most memorable boss? 

Hiten Shah  8:53  

I’ve never had a boss. I had an internship in high school at a medical devices company. And I wouldn’t count the head of it over there as my boss, but he was my boss the only reason I wouldn’t count him as it was an internship. So my obligations were very low. I just did mostly what he said. But I learned a lot about autonomy from him. Because he gave me a lot of that not just because I was an intern, I think that was his style. He generally when I was doing projects there, I did a few with them, including taking the company’s photo. They’re a public company now. And it was a lot of fun because they were just in one building at the time. And they’re a medical devices company called Massimo. I think I learned a lot of autonomy from him because he would give me tasks, give me the scope of them, and then expect me to complete them. And if I had any questions, he was always open to having me sort of ask him and he never said kind of it was a stupid question or even hinted at that he would he would be helpful. I didn’t ask many questions either because I think he realized that I wasn’t going to ask a lot of questions if I didn’t need help. So mostly just delivered the things you needed. But that was like not as professional of a setting as you would imagine. Just because it was an internship and we both knew I was just like me in high school just trying to help him out. And, you know, sort of he was doing somebody a favor by letting me even be in that role. I think, ultimately, for me, like I learned the most from people that I work with. And so there’s a person I hired when I was running kissmetrics named Steve. And he actually came from Intuit, and I had recruited him over to kissmetrics. Back then, this was, I want to say, like nine years ago now 2011 ish, is my guess it might have been a little bit earlier later.And I’ve learned the most about management from him compared to anybody else that I’ve worked with. And the reason for that is he has been the head of engineering for a few of my companies since then. And we actually hired him as an analytics engineer back in the day, so an analytics company hiring an analytics engineer. And then he ended up running product and engineering at the company. By the time we’re done, and he didn’t care what role he was in. So we weren’t trying to give him a fancy title in the beginning, he wanted to just earn, earn, earn the right to help the company and help the customers and stuff. And he ended up doing that. And so I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned from him is this, this process that he uses that he’s written about to where he kind of works himself out of a job for every single job in the company that he tries to do. So he goes, figures it out, like right now, let’s say like, you know, at FYI, we have like 10 plus engineers, and it’s about a 15 person company, he runs the biggest team in assets. And the way he operates is he has been doing engineering management. Because that’s why he was the only person to do it. We hired an engineer. And she ended up basically being really good at the types of ways that we do planning. And we do like a portion of engineering management. And so he was doing it, he kind of set the way that we do it. And now he’s getting her help to do it, with the idea that she just takes on more and more of that job that he’s been doing. Not because she’s gonna I mean, she came in as an engineer, and she’s a great engineer as well. She also happens to be really good at the way we like to do engineering management, which is not like some standard thing you’ll read about which I can get into if it makes sense later, he sort of started it, we hired a bunch of people, we didn’t know who would show up and be good at it. Or if we’d have to hire an engineering manager from the outside or something like that. Well, it turns out, we don’t need to hire engineering manager because what what ended up happening is this sort of effect, because of who she is, and kind of how she thinks about the world, where recently, she started sort of helping with the planning that he had already done a few times with us, and when with the company, and then he actually started coding again, as a result of the time that he had. And she noticed how much happier he was. Because he got to write a little bit of code, it was more than a little bit, but enough. So she basically put it on herself and told him like, hey, I’d like to do more of this. So that you can do more. It’s almost like if you ask me, why did that happen? And how did that happen? I couldn’t tell you how it happened organically. Like I couldn’t explain, oh, this, we hired this person, this person’s intention was, you know, this, we hired her with intention to do that, no, we didn’t hire with any of that intention. We hired her because we have an evaluation that we do when we recruit people to see if they can be successful in the environment that we’ve created on engineering. And I believe all recruiting in any department is really about bringing people into the environment you’ve created, and being able to find ways to accurately assess them during the interview process. And we’ve done a really great job of doing that, and engineering, to the point where like that system that Steve taught me, which is how to work yourself out of a job, he’s already able to do within just a few months of hiring, basically, all these 10 engineers, we just we just hired a whole bunch of sort of engineers and turned over a few others. And that’s kind of the situation, I think that that concept has really kind of stuck in my head. 

Aydin Mirzaee  10:00  

When it comes to management, could you maybe elaborate a little bit more like what kind of things you do to evaluate if people will be, I guess, be successful in the environment that you’ve created. 

Hiten Shah  14:19  

So what I would do, let’s say, in our environment, and then I’m happy to talk about yours, if it makes sense as an example, on engineering for us. Everything is planned with hourly estimates. And if we could get it down to a half hour chunks, great. And so what we do is we don’t do coding exercises. We literally put up a job posting for engineers. They apply by just emailing because that’s usually how it works these days. And then we vet them just by the email they sent. And then if they kind of qualify, let’s say we will send them one of two planning app exercises, those planning exercises are specifically designed around basically seeing how they think about in their engineering time, and how they plan out like, let’s say building a to do app, I think to do what to do app a basic to do app is one of the first ones. And so if they choose to, they’ll do the planning exercise, it’s usually a half hour to two hours Max, we don’t pay them for it, it’s just part of the interview process. In this specific case, in other scenarios, when it’s like more than about two to three hours, we estimate we will pay them. But we don’t do that in engineering, because we don’t have exercises like that. And then they get on a call after they submit their plan, with our head of engineering Steve, for 90 minutes. And that’s the call. So the call is basically, by the time the call happens, he’s already reviewed their plan, and said and gave him a score from zero to 10. And then when he gets on the call, he’s basically going through the same experience, they would go through if he was reviewing their plan once they were on the team. And so there’s about 30 to 45 minutes of him giving them feedback on it, talking to them about it, asking them questions about it. The rest of the time on the call, he’s telling them about the company, and explaining and we’re very forward to direct and extremely clear about the engineering team, the status of the code, what they’ll be working on, like, roughly speaking, who they’ll be working with, and how we work as kind of the other half of the exercise. And what we’re looking for in any interview, especially when it’s like engineering or something where we’re hiring, like at a cadence and might need to do it again. Because you’re you’re always hiring engineers off at odd or consistently, depending on your needs and your resources, we ended up basically creating this process by taking a piece of what we do, out of the sort of a piece of what we do in our work environment, the critical piece of planning, and kind of put it into our interview process, it’s been working out extremely, extremely well, one thing that we were anticipating but have been really pleasantly surprised about because it’s happening better than we thought is our Ramp time for an engineer is less than a month, we should be able to get an engineer ramped up in two weeks, as long as they’re an engineer that went through our sort of specific interview process. That’s kind of how we do it. I can give you examples from other areas, if you have certain environments you’ve created. But I think the thing people miss when they are doing recruiting, because management really starts with recruiting is they don’t think about the environment that they’ve created and how to assess somebody’s ability to succeed in it. During the interview process. That’s why we’ve even had and what we look for, as I was mentioning earlier, in these interviews, any kind of interviews we do, especially the ones are repeatable, if we’re looking for what the sentiment is from people who essentially we say no to. And the sentiment has been consistent with this process where it’s like, people have told us, this is refreshing compared to the coding challenges that they have taking it other places at the same time. In addition to that, people have told us that this was an interview that they actually learned in, which is exactly what happens when people join the team. And they start working in this way, they start learning how to work in this way, a lot of people can argue about how to do engineering. But at the end of the day, if an engineer can plan out their work and it can be accurate as to their estimate, we will be able to ship on time. If engineers can’t do that on our team, we will not ship on time. And this is what we really value very highly, which is that holy grail of shipping on time that all of us that build software think it’s impossible. And I don’t.

Aydin Mirzaee  18:34  

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I think it means a lot. It seems like again, like in your environment. shipping on time matters a lot. Planning matters a lot. And so the bulk of your interview, and everything is focused on making sure people are successful in that process. And yeah, and that makes sense. Like if you were a different sort of environment where there was top down planning, and you like in that kind of environment, you would obviously not interview in this way. So it just makes a lot of sense. 

Hiten Shah  19:03  

Yeah, that’s what people miss. The secret for me for management actually starts with recruiting. It doesn’t doesn’t start with anything else. 

Aydin Mirzaee  19:10  

Speaking of things like this concept of, you know, shipping on time. I know another thing that you care a lot about is speed. I’d love for you to kind of again like notionally, I know, you have this formula, which is speed equals focus plus sequence. But I’m curious, what are some mistakes that you have seen or or think about when you’re trying to diagnose a team that likes if someone came to you and said, Hey, Mike, you know, we have a slow moving team. What would you say are some of the common things that might be going wrong?

Hiten Shah  19:39  

Slow moving teams tend to be because of a lack of alignment, you could even call it incentive alignment. So if the incentives aren’t aligned people tend to not operate in a cohesive kind of straightforward manner. So it’s almost like one of the biggest actually pitfalls that I’ve seen is like all the unspoken stuff. All the things that managers assume their team knows that they don’t know, or assume that the team sort of will get it over time without you saying it. So there’s almost like a, I see some managers be pretty passive aggressive. It was what I would call it and in wanting to make their team learn the hard way, what I found is that if someone’s coming to me and saying the team slow, it’s usually indicative of some communication breakdown in their process somewhere where things are just not getting kind of spoken about in the right way. And clearly, things aren’t repeated information is taken for granted in the sense of granted in the sense of like a manager assuming that their team knows, which is kind of a terrible thing I think to do, I would, I would rather not assume they know things and instead, repeat them. Even if I sound like a broken record to some extent, just just to make sure that if it’s important, it has to be repeated. And oftentimes, you find managers who are saying their teams are slow. And ultimately, the environment they’ve created incentivizes the slowness, and a lot of that has to do with like, really small. And in sort of innocuous things like, and this is this is the one where like, oh, man, like I see this all the time is, there are things about managers in the people who they manage’s heads, and those things are usually how is this manager going to react when I do something. So if I do X, I know the managers are gonna react with y. But if x is good for the company, but the managers are going to react y and it’s a negative reaction, I’m probably not going to do what’s good for the company. So at the end of the day, as managers, we’re essentially training everyone to treat us a certain way. And most managers I’ve talked to, don’t quite get that until I explain it to them. And the way I explain it is like, especially they come in the scenario of slowness is like, Hey, what are you saying to them? What are you not saying to them? How are you doing your one on ones? How do you run the meetings that more than one person’s in, and then I really get down into that. And then what I’ll what I’ll tend to do is I’ll catch something, where what they’re saying is probably being interpreted a certain way that they did not expect. And so then they’re getting this result that they’re kind of seeing. And a lot of that has to do with the way we as managers react to things that are kind of sent to us by our team, that sort of thinking of the behaviors and interactions tends to be sort of shallow, most of the time, especially with founders who are first time founders, even if they’ve managed people before, because all of a sudden, if you’re a first time founder, sometimes even second time founder and third time founder, you’re essentially inundated with so much more information than you ever probably thought in your life, you could kind of process and handle it all at once. And thus, you don’t think about the team, you don’t think about the management side of it, especially earlier on. Because you’re just so inundated with just making the thing work in the first place. 

Aydin Mirzaee  23:16  

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, is there an example of, you know, or a story that you can remember where you were on a team that was moving incredibly fast? And like what you think were the things that you were doing that were right, that you would, you know, as a multiple time founder, like, what would you repeat in teams to get them to operate it at that speed? 

Hiten Shah  23:36  

Usually, if I’m doing my job, right, the thing I’m working on right now is going to be the fastest thing I’m working on. And so I’m working on FYI right now. And in terms of our speed for the things that we really care about. Right now, it’s incredibly fast, the way we’ve actually kind of developed that over the last, I’d say six months is partly what I was saying about planning, because for us speed is everything about how fast we can try to ship software and deliver value to our specific kind of audience and customers, et CIE, the biggest common pattern is not getting hung up on being slow, because I see people doing that, and instead trying to figure out what are the things we’re trying to accomplish in a way assessing your ability to accomplish those things, based on anything that you’ve done historically. And so if you’re fast right now, it’s likely that there are a whole bunch of things that you already did in the past that are making you fast now, not anything that you might have done recently. I know that sounds a little bit weird, but like all these things tend to compound. So for example, if that engineer wasn’t able to do planning, as well as she is and take on a portion of the burden of sort of engineering management, I call it a burden, but it’s not really I think that they have fun with it. But it could easily be seen as a burden. If only Steve were doing it or Steve couldn’t code when there’s certain aspects of the code and certain aspects that he’s just faster at and better at. So because she’s taking on this sort of responsibility of doing parts of the planning and engineering management, the way we do it, he’s able to make the time. And that’s actually one of the projects that we worked on recently, was shipped about three weeks early of a 10 week schedule. And the main reason is, because Steve was able to spend two weeks programming because Val is our is our other engineer who does engineering management, she was taking on at least half of that hand coding herself to we wouldn’t be able to move fast unless both of them were doing engineering management, and taking on the responsibility that only one of them had before. Could we have predicted that? No, could we have realized that that’s what was going to make us move fast? Quite frankly, no, it’s almost like get the right people in the right seats, with the right attitude, and the right alignment with the environment. And that’s when the magic happens. So I know the pithy answer is like, hey, it’s all about the team. But that’s not quite it, it’s all about the team and how they work and the environment you’ve created in every area in the company, and holistically across the company. So these are not things that I would try to optimize for speed, I would, I would try to really focus in on fit with the environment that you’ve created the way of working, it’s not a culture fit. It’s a way of working fit. And the culture fit super important, obviously. But that’s a separate to me, I just split those two up, there’s a way of working fit, environment fit. And there’s culture fit culture fit, I don’t stress out on too much because I’ve got like, on our team, like, there are multiple people that are sort of culture, I look for these folks too. But like, sort of culture Maven, if you want to call it that, or whatever, whatever the name is, but they’re just really tuned into the culture and the company. And when they interview someone, they’re able to assess that. So that part doesn’t really slow us down or have a bottleneck. The part that always does is that can this person be successful in this environment? How do we ensure that and every everything about speed came out of our ability to move fast comes out of that for us?

Aydin Mirzaee  27:09  

[AD BREAK] Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything. But because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news, it’s completely free to go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. 

Aydin Mirzaee 27:51

Yeah, so I”ll ask a related question. So again, we’re talking about creating the right environment and making sure you’re hiring people that fit in that environment. Another characteristic of the environment will obviously be things like decision making, right? So one of the things I know that, you know, you talk a lot about is this concept of relying on consensus for things like product decisions, or it could be management decisions, it could be business, it whatever it is relying on this concept of consensus, you have like, obviously, a different viewpoint on that would love for you to just talk about, like, how do you make decisions at the company? I know, you’re like very product oriented founders. So like, do you make all the decisions? How does it all work? 

Hiten Shah  28:35  

I have a take on this, especially as a product founder, somebody has to be highly convicted, or have the ability to be highly convicted with little data. Somebody on the team, one of the founders, ideally, because there’s so many things you’re going to be doing that you don’t have evidence that it’s the right thing to do. And so I think consensus is an interesting solution that people try to use to help teams move fast. And I think consensus can actually slow you down. So I go more for conviction. So if I’m the one that gets convicted early, I just test my own conviction before bringing it to the team. Once I feel like, hey, like this, this feels like the right direction, then I start basically talking to the team about it. And this is particularly critical. When you’re making massive changes, figuring out your ability to make those changes, let’s call it a pivot. Or you can call it like, you know, there’s an area of the company that you just need to fix, like, let’s say sales, was doing well and then something went wrong. A lot of times the founders are gonna jump in, or founders are gonna jump in and just take it over for a while because that’s just, that’s our job, right? Like, even if we even if that’s not our job, that’s our job like, and it’s as a result of that. I think. I just point to conviction. And I really look for where I am convicted. If I’m the one that has the most conviction, which I tend to, and then I start basically roping other people in by asking them questions about the direction and what they’re thinking what they’re seeing, giving them kind of an idea of like, what I’m thinking, but I’m not looking for consensus, I’m looking for opinions. And, and so oftentimes when, like, let’s say, I’m hiring, like a senior role, and let’s say it, and I’m hiring them, meaning it’s like a, someone who reports to me, let’s say a CIO, head of sales, something like that, we’re gonna be interviewing a bunch of people. And it’s rare for me to have a direct report that I am, like interviewing right now just the size of the team makes it so that we don’t have a lot of that. But let’s say I was one way to approach it would be sort of get on a call, start doing the interviews, have a bunch of people to talk to, and just start basically going through a regular interview process, the way I think about doing it for those kinds of roles. And hiring those roles is a little bit different. Where I’m actually reserving my opinion and judgment for the very, basically, and if you want to call it that, and I’m literally just asking people, what they think when they talk to this person, and just constantly just trying to take notes, calibrate what everybody’s saying. So that I can get a really, really solid idea of what this person’s about and what I might be missing. One of the reasons is, and this one’s probably a little bit special, in particular, to founders who are hiring people that report to them, you get very different perspectives from the people on your team that interview that person, because that person is going to tend to give their manager that they’re going to be managed by a little bit of a different language and different way of thinking, oftentimes, than they do people who they work with, who they’re probably going to be working with, like, let’s say on a leadership team versus the person who’s going to manage them. And so I’m just trying to calibrate like, what is this person all about, that we’re interviewing? What do they think about the world? How do they treat my co-founder? How do they treat the other people on the leadership team? How do they treat any of the employees that talk to them, things like that. And, and so it’s almost like, I’m not looking for consensus, I’m looking for data, looking for information, in order to basically have a very informed and objective as objective as possible decision about somebody. Another really good example of this is, I actually rarely will interview new people that are joining the team, if I’m interviewing them, it’s because the company is on the fence about them, the company meaning other people on the team. And that means that we’re trying to figure something out, that gives us pause about this hire. So recently, there was somebody who was interviewing extremely well on the team. And there’s something that they felt like they wanted me to kind of interview them as well. And one of the one of the things about me is like, I’ll do a regular interview and go through the steps and, you know, play the game, I call it as in like, you know, you do this interview, you do this, we don’t really do that at our company, we just know kind of how people think about these things. I’m not the one to follow those rules, in interviews for people in my company in a way that incentivizes the team to go make the decision themselves, and not actually involve me in it, especially with my co founder working in the business. And in our head of engineering that I work with for eight, nine years. They kind of already know, you know what I would probably say, so when they come to me, and they came to me with someone a little bit ago, they’re like, we just don’t understand what it is about her that like, gives us pause. So I get on a call. And I’m talking to her. And the sentiment is the same as what everyone else was saying, which is, hey, she seemed really great. As I was talking to her, I realized what it was. And I essentially caught something that I don’t think they were able to see, which is that she interviews extremely well. But the way that she frames the things she says to you is highly personalized to you based on how we operate, that probably wouldn’t work well on our team. And they weren’t able to quite see it. So then I came in. And they told me these things. And you know, and basically what I saw was somebody who’s very good in a single conversation with an individual and talking to the thing we noticed about that is there were slight sort of differences in what she was saying to one person and another. And those differences wouldn’t work on our team. Like the way that she was communicating, made certain things kind of vague. That didn’t need to be because she was personalizing constantly. So if I’m the founder CEO, she’s going to try to say things that she thinks mattered to me. So without asking, you know, in sort of framing things that way, and that that is just not like, like we’ve worked with people who kind of have that sort of way of working and we noticed that that way of working actually causes us to slow down and it causes us to think about things a lot. So what we’ve seen before when we hire somebody who has a certain pattern like that, is that it leads us as a team to run in circles. Because we’re wondering what that person meant by the different ways that they said something to each person on the team. I wouldn’t call that a bad characteristic. And that was why she even came to me. And like I was interviewing her, it was just a characteristic that I noticed that the other folks on the team didn’t notice that we already know kind of wouldn’t work very well with us. 

Aydin Mirzaee  35:26  

Yeah, that’s really interesting. And I think like, I mean, you kind of nailed it in that, it’s, it’s not that what she was doing was good or bad. It’s just you have no understanding of the environment that you’ve created for your team. And you’re just looking for people who are going to perform really well in that environment. 

Hiten Shah  35:45  

And that’s the thing about like, when you find when you have a well oiled machine, so to speak, in terms of the environment, all you’re looking to do is not screw that up. And if you don’t have that, all you’re looking to do is create that. And that’s, that’s it’s one of the two things you’re either not trying, you try to not screw it up. And I don’t mean great culture. I mean, like operating model, operating system, ability to like, run, and go as fast as you know, you want to go in Yeah, like you’re just so at this point, the way that we’ve set things up, especially on the engineering side, but probably across the whole company at this point. We just don’t want to screw it up. We don’t want to screw up the environment. So we’re being way more prescriptive about who we bring on and how we think about, you know, all these sorts of behaviors and things that we noticed.

Aydin Mirzaee  36:26  

You know, one of the things that you said earlier was, was it Steve, his name, the engineer, Dave, the head of engineering. Yeah. So one of the things that you said that he did in an interesting way was he was always trying to, I guess, put himself out of a job, meaning that, you know, create the systems and processes. I’m curious, like, does that model also apply to you as the founder and CEO? Are you trying to put yourself out of a job? 

Hiten Shah  36:52  

Yeah, so the short answer is, yes. There’s a much longer answer to that. But the short answer is, yeah, absolutely. If I’m not doing that, then that means that I’m doing, I’m doing things that other people could or should be doing at some point. And so the trick is, like, when do you decide that someone else should do it? And I think that can be a very tricky thing. 

Aydin Mirzaee  37:14  

Yeah. Because I think like, I wonder if it goes back to this concept of like, you know, you’re talking about if someone has very high conviction, I think like, would you say that like, in your opinion, does that model of like, if someone has high conviction than they should say, decide on something does that also apply for like, if someone is say, uniquely, really, really good at doing a particular thing. So for example, as a founder, say that you are uniquely particularly good at running, you know, customer interviews for a particular, like new feature that’s coming up, maybe in those circumstances, like, again, in a smaller team, you’re the one that actually takes that on. But, and you don’t pass on that particular thing to someone else. 

Hiten Shah  38:00  

Yeah, in those scenarios, I’m still trying to do whatever, I can repeat it. And I’m doing whatever I can to make it so that at some point, someone else might be able to do it. So one of the problems as a founder, some managers have this too, one of the problems as a founder is that you can easily get caught up and I’m the best person to do it. You can also when you do work if you’re not oriented around like organizing and planning, you might be doing the work and not making it so someone else can take it over. And so I would force yourself if you’re not of the mindset of planning, and organizing, and listing things out to just list out the things you’re doing with that, that task of the interviewing, and also try to figure out what makes you so good at it. Because oftentimes, it’s things that someone else can learn or that you can identify and other people to bring on. So I think Steve did this incredibly well, when he gave Val, our engineer the opportunity to do engineering management, once she saw that, you know, she kind of really likes it, and is really good at it, and gave her the opportunity. And that enabled him to see how she did it, give her feedback on it if necessary. And then over time, have her do more of it. And I think as a founder, you would want to be able to do the same thing. It’s basically a method of transferring skills. So I would first start with, are you really uniquely qualified to do that? Are you just asking better questions in interviews than anyone else? You know, and in case someone else can learn how to do that, too? Or is it that you just have a natural rapport with people? Because then you’d be looking at someone who can do that. But if you’re interviewing, you’re going to need some level of developing some kind of rapport ability to do that. And so, yeah, I think, I think that that whole idea is kind of what’s in my head about it, which is like, yeah, I think founders need to be doing much more of this. And if not, if they still can’t, because the team is small,  at least start documenting more, what you are doing. 

Aydin Mirzaee  39:55  

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, so many, so many good insights here. Obviously, like you know, we talked about speed and setting expectations and creating an environment where like the team can be successful in hiring people into that environment and really deeply understanding that and trying to put yourself out of a job. So all these are like, very, very good insights. And, you know, I’d like to ask you, as, you know, kind of like parting advice for, for everybody out there managers and leaders looking to get better at their craft, whether it’s a book or resource, a blog, or just, you know, an ideology or framework, any parting advice for for those leaders out there?

Hiten Shah  40:34  

I think all of us in different parts of our lives end up taking things personally. So my biggest kind of thought, tip, whatever for whoever needs it, and if you don’t, take, take, take what you need, and leave the rest is don’t take things personally. And I think that’s like something I wish I understood a lot more for myself. I also think it’s very personal. People take things personally, that they’re going to take things personally based on their own sort of ish, if you want to call it that. And that’s yours, not someone else’s. And so I think it took me quite some time to learn how to not take things personally. And realize that like, whatever someone’s saying, even if it’s about me is really about them. And that allows me to like to react in a much more balanced way, especially at work, which is where I want to react in a much more balanced way. Maybe when I’m playing with my kids, my reaction should be different. But working with the team for the most part, I think a balanced approach to anything that happens is a lot healthier. 

Aydin Mirzaee  41:39  

And what a great place to end it. Hiten, thank you so much for doing this. 

Hiten Shah  41:43  

Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It’s great. I love that you folks are doing this.

Latest episodes

We interview leaders from all walks of life to tease out the habits, thought patterns, learnings and experiences that help them be who they are.