I think many leaders burn out because they're trying to be some caricature of what they think a leader should be.

In this episode

In this engaging episode, we sit down with Mark Macleod, a seasoned CFO, VC, and angel investor whose career has significantly impacted high-growth technology companies. Mark takes us through his extensive experience, from his roles at FreshBooks and Real Ventures to founding SurePath Capital Partners. He shares invaluable lessons on the evolution of the CEO role, emphasizing the critical aspects of communication, team building, and financial management.

In episode 10 of season 2, Mark explores the importance of maintaining boundaries and preventing burnout, offering practical advice on time management and self-care. He introduces the concept of the 24-hour rule for decision-making and discusses the necessity for CEOs to shift from working in the business to working on the business. Mark’s insights on creating optionality for startups and navigating uncertain times provide listeners with robust strategies to enhance their leadership skills.

As a coach to high-growth company CEOs, Mark brings a unique perspective on balancing professional demands with personal well-being. He highlights the importance of being authentic and designing roles that align with your strengths and passions. Mark’s ability to distill complex ideas into actionable advice makes this episode a must-listen for anyone aiming to excel in leadership positions.

This episode is filled with practical tips on preventing burnout, managing time effectively, and building high-performing teams. Tune in to gain Mark’s wisdom on leading with intention and navigating the challenges of high-growth environments.

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


Career experiences and leadership mistakes


The Importance of pausing and avoiding panic


A CEO’s role in communication, vision, and values


Burnout and time management as a leader


Calendar audits = the key to avoiding burnout


Design your role for personal happiness


The roles and focus areas of a CEO


Dealing with uncertainty and layoffs


Be your authentic self to avoid burnout

Resources mentioned in this episode:


Mark, welcome to the show.

Mark Macleod 00:03:32

Thank you for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:03:34

Yeah, super excited to do this. And by the way, congrats on the launch of your new podcast. I’d love for you to tell the audience a little bit about it. So today’s going to be for the audience. We’re going to talk a lot about CEO function and things like that. And Mark, so what is the new podcast?

Mark Macleod 00:03:53

Yeah, the world has definitely needed another podcast, so here I am coming to the rescue. It’s called the startup CEO show. So each week I sit down with CEO’s, typically of venture backed startups, that in many cases I’ve gone all the way to a big exit. And the idea really is to unpack how they got there and specifically unpack the CEO role. Right. With every other role, there’s sort of a gradual path for how you get to the top level of leadership, but with the CEO role, you just kind of create a company and now you got to figure it out. And so the goal really is to kind of demystify that for other CEO’s out there.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:04:31

Love it. And of course we’ll include the link in the show notes as well. So let’s start at the beginning, though. So you’ve had a very interesting career, a few different chapters, different leadership roles, building things, selling things, and everything in between. So one of the questions we like to always start with is just for the audience to kind of get a sense that no one is infallible and makes mistakes. We have two flavors to this, so we want to know about a mistake that maybe you used to make in the past, a long, long time ago when you first started to lead a team or something that is more recent, like a recent kind of management mistake or learning. And I’ll leave it up to you to choose something juicy that you can tell us about some mistake like that.

Mark Macleod 00:05:17

Yeah, I love it. I’ll go with the past one, because this was actually a really seminal lesson for me in the development of my career. Before I entered the startup world in the late nineties, I worked at a, I’m a CPA by training, and I worked in an accounting firm, but in the corporate finance practice. And I loved doing deals so much that I was just like super excited and would just hustle through everything and bring it into the partner. And here’s my analysis, and let’s go to market. Let’s get the deal done. And he would always find mistakes, and especially when you’re selling a company. I went on to lead an investment bank many, many years later.

Mark Macleod 00:05:56

And so I lived this firsthand. Like, if someone’s built a company for seven or ten years, now they’re turning to you to sell it. You can’t screw it up. The stakes are really high, and you can’t have mistakes in your models and your diligence, materials, etcetera. And so he instituted the 24 hours rule. I was not allowed to bring anything to him until I had sat on it for 24 hours and then reviewed it with a critical eye. And invariably, when I did that, I found my own mistakes. And so it was a tough lesson, because on the one hand, time is the enemy of all deals, right? You never know what’s going to happen.

Mark Macleod 00:06:33

Is a public buyer going to have a bad quarter? Will the market’s downturn? You want to push as hard as you can, but on the other hand, you can’t screw up. You got to dot every I cross every t. And so making these mistakes and then being forced to live the 24 hours rule was actually a game changer for me.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:06:53

That’s amazing. And so how does that materialize for you today?

Mark Macleod 00:06:57

Well, you know, I don’t have deliverables today. Today I coach CEO’s. But when I ran my investment bank, I ran an investment bank for five years prior to this, and I lived and died by that rule and had it with my team. And it’s more actually about just like you don’t get into this frantic panic, oh my God, I have to get it out there. You’re deliberate. You know, you take your time to get it right. You know, slow, smooth. Smooth is fast.

Mark Macleod 00:07:22

And so we absolutely lived and died by that rule.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:07:25

Yeah, no, I love it. And so I guess maybe a better rephrasing of that question is, you know, how would you take that lesson? And then in a coaching session with a CEO, get them to understand that point? Like how, you know, for the audience that’s listening in and saying, how can I use it? It’s a very interesting idea to sit with something for a longer period of time and not be reactive in that way. But I feel like this lesson is just more than just in the very circumstance that you described. It probably applies to many things.

Mark Macleod 00:07:55

Yeah, there’s two things. One is to breathe. Just pause, right? Where so many people and so many of my clients are caught in some level of fight or flight, chronic stress, living by their inboxes, their slack messages, and reacting. Right. There are passengers kind of surfing the wave of their company. And this rule kind of forces me to actually be deliberate and pause and take a breath and not panic and not feel like I just have to send that thing out and be like, no, it’s okay. It’s okay to slow down. By the way, especially for more senior leaders, I only coach CEO’s, CEO’s live or die by the clarity of their thinking.

Mark Macleod 00:08:44

And if you’re just going from thing to thing to thing, you’re not bringing your best brain to them. Right. So I really like that it forces us to slow down. And then, of course, whether it’s, in my case, it was financial models back in the day, but it might be for a senior leader, it might be a board presentation or some other kind of important communication. Coming back to it the next day with a fresh set of eyes is probably only going to improve it. Right. And more often than not, what it’s going to lead to is editing out. I don’t need to say all these things.

Mark Macleod 00:09:20

Right. You know, the more senior you get as a leader, right. The more potential there is for broken telephone. If I say ten things, by the time it makes it down to the individual contributor and the most junior person in my company, either the ten things has turned into 20 things or only one of the things made it there. And so clarity of communication, having crisper, simpler messages, actually will ensure or make it more likely that the message gets all the way through. Right. So both of those benefits, I think, come from that pause.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:09:55

Yeah. In general, I love this 24 hours rule. I think the way it applies for me is on ideas, and I’m sure you probably work with a lot of people who have Athens and ton of ideas, thousands per second. And so for me it’s, you know, I need to think it’s a good idea for at least a week sometimes before I talk to anybody else about it. And if you talk to my team, they’ll say, well, Aydin, how come you still come to us with a lot of ideas? But you know, that’s a filtered list. That’s not. Yeah, it’s definitely the filter down.

Mark Macleod 00:10:25

It’s not just impulse, right?

Aydin Mirzaee 00:10:26

Yeah, it’s not just impulse.

Mark Macleod 00:10:28

My wife applies this principle to things she wants to buy.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:10:32

Yeah, it’s a great one.

Mark Macleod 00:10:33

She won’t just react on the impulse like, okay, if I’m still thinking about it three days later, it’s informed it’s not an impulse, and I’ll buy it.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:10:42

Yeah, it’s super useful to know how to control those sorts of what’s an impulse? And from there make decisions and be very rational when it makes sense. So you only coach CEO’s, so why don’t we start with the, like, one of the things that I thought we could start with is what is the job of a CEO? Having worked with a lot, and obviously this changes and you mainly work with growth stage companies, but yeah, to some extent, have you been able to piece it together? You’ve been working with so many different CEO’s and everybody’s different based on their background and what they’re good at. But are there common things that you think everybody should do or how would you define the job of a CEO?

Mark Macleod 00:11:24

Yeah, I think. Fantastic question. I think it differs by stage. First of all, in the beginning you’re working in the business. You’re building product, you’re selling product, you’re taking out the trash, you’re doing whatever needs to be done. You know, really in the first phase. And again, I think more. My answer comes, I think in the context of high tech startups, the first thing is product.

Mark Macleod 00:11:45

Nothing else matters. Any time you’re spending doing anything other than finding product market fit is wasted. Time you find product market fit. Now, distribution, finding one or more proven repeatable channels to get to that ideal customer where you found product market fit and build initial traction from there. Now I can settle into actually building a company. And as CEO, I elevate from working in the business to working on the business. Do I have the right people? Are they pointed in the right direction? Do they have the resources they need to succeed? And as you’re making that elevation, the CEO role really becomes three things. It’s communication, communicating, vision, mission, values North Star priorities over and over and over again until you’re sick of hearing yourself speak.

Mark Macleod 00:12:37

Two, building the strongest senior leadership team that your scale and resources allow for your senior leadership team is your leverage, right? Because you go in the beginning from succeeding through individual heroic effort to now succeeding through others. And if you nail that, first of all, you get massive leverage. And second, those leaders in turn recruit great people underneath them. And the third thing is never running out of money. Now, there’s lots of little details. It’s not like the best CEO’s. And this is actually often why founding CEO’s build the biggest companies in the startup world. It’s because they have the ability to go from that working on the business altitude down into the tiny weeds and back again in an instant.

Mark Macleod 00:13:22

And so you will always have to context switch. But the thing that enables you to go wherever you’re needed most to deep dive into, like the one thing holding us back, the big unlock, the thing that creates that freedom, is if most of the time you’re just at that altitude, at one of those three roles, communication team or fundraising. If you’re actually in the critical path of things and you’re just going from meeting to meeting to meeting, everything goes through you. You’re actually the bottleneck and you don’t actually have the freedom to go where you’re needed to go. So that’s how I see the job as a company reaches kind of true scale.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:14:01

Yeah. And I guess from the people that you work with, how many people do most people do that well? Or are most people struggling? Or is that kind of like an ideal state? Is that like the textbook definition or what happens practically?

Mark Macleod 00:14:18

Yeah. More often than not, when CEO’s come to me for coaching, it’s because they’re burnt out. Now, a lot of that burnout is self created and is actually because they are not operating at the right altitude. Right. They continue to be in the critical path of deliverables. And you often see this tragic thing where the CEO is drowning, but the people beneath them want more. Give me more rope, give me more autonomy. I want to do more.

Mark Macleod 00:14:48

I want to take more ownership. So it’s like this perverse kind of scenario here. So what I’ve described is definitely the ideal, but it’s definitely attainable. And it’s a thing that I don’t have the Mark Macleod ten step method for how to be a CEO. Or I would have written the book and I’d be doing the late night infomercials on the book. But I’m absolutely. Trying to bring this thinking and this elevation to all of my clients. And first of all, understanding where they spend their time.

Mark Macleod 00:15:19

What does your calendar look like? More often than not, what I see is back to back to back meetings, no thinking time, doing things they hate. So when I first do an onboarding with a client, the second step is to do a deep dive on each of their leaders because again, thats job number two and its your leverage. And more often than not, that CEO thats burnt out when they come to me has been tolerating good leaders where they should only have great. And it may be someone who used to be great but just didnt keep up with the growth. And the CEO probably knows it, but theyre just so busy and theyre loyal because that person was great and got them to where they are, but they wouldn’t hire them for that role today. And so I’ll come in being completely dispassionate and be like, I don’t know that person. Why are you tolerating them? And just ask the questions that need to be asked. So I really believe in that power of leverage, not compromising on who the senior leaders are and then organizing your role, like defining the role around your superpowers and what you’re best at.

Mark Macleod 00:16:31

So an example that would be familiar probably to most of your listeners is Shopify. So look at Toby from Shopify, who you know well, he is introverted. He loves technology and product. He did not try to become this swashbuckling, charismatic CEO who’s going to do all the Wall street stuff and the public speaking and the analyst stuff. He hired Harley for that. He leaned into his superpowers and then built a team around him that complemented him. And Harley and he are polar opposites. And I think that’s a huge part of his success.

Mark Macleod 00:17:12

He leaned into his superpowers and clearly built a great team around him. So much more to unpack there. But that’s how I think about it.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:17:21

Yeah, it’s amazing to, yeah, I mean, that duo is a killer duo. And obviously they’ve done super, super well. And Harley’s been on the show as well. So for those of you haven’t checked it out, actually, episode number 50, I remember it was kind of a good way to on our one year anniversary of the podcast. So for people to check that out, let’s talk about the, you know, how you spend your time bit. And I want to kind of like work that way, you know, into the burnout phase because I think this is a real topic for any sort of, like, high performance person who is coming in, giving it their all. And in particular, I would say, like, the last two years in the world of software, like, you know, it has been a little bit crazy, right? Like, there have been a lot of layoffs. People have cut back spending.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:18:09

And so it might have felt like this place where people are doing what they can and they’re trying to push this rock, but the rock is not moving all that much. And so let’s talk about burnout. So how does burnout happen? Like, maybe we can start there. Like, if we wanted to burn ourselves out, what would we need to do? Like, what are the steps to achieve that state? And so maybe we can work backwards to not, like, not do those things.

Mark Macleod 00:18:35

Yeah, I was just going to say, let’s, if you aspire to burn out, how would you go about it? You know, fundamentally not having boundaries. Right. And that’s happened a lot in the last few years, especially with COVID and lockdowns. You know, before we used to go to an office, and even though we were reachable when we were home, at least there was some separation between the work and home. And now there’s none, right? I could be finish a call and go and do my laundry or do the dishes and come back. And so that’s a thing is lack of separation and not honoring, like, big thing. Very tactical thing is when everything that you’re responsible for is in your head somewhere. I got to remember to call Bob tomorrow.

Mark Macleod 00:19:22

I got to follow up on this. Oh, I forgot to write that then. We can’t get to sleep at night. So a huge thing is actually just getting everything out of your head and into just a note on your phone or a project management system. Like something, right? Like get it out of your head and then you can truly kind of actually relax. I think a lot of us, a lot of people don’t realize that we are mental athletes, right? We’re all. I’m sure most of your listeners are knowledge workers, right? You know, we’re not putting widgets onto a machine in a factory. We’re using our brains to create creative output.

Mark Macleod 00:20:00

And if you look at athletes, right, they set themselves up for success. First of all, they’re the best of the best of the best. So they work on their craft, but they have performance coaches, mental health coaches. They eat the best food, they prioritize sleep. We actually need to do all of these things. Even in my craziest, most insane part of my career, running an investment bank, I still went to crossfit four or five days a week. And through that dedication to that, that actually forced me to make sure I got at least 7 hours sleep a night, because otherwise I was going to be a wreck in the gym the next day. And it forced me to eat real whole foods, foods that exist in nature, foods that are at the kind of opposite ends of the grocery store, not in the middle, just these habits, right.

Mark Macleod 00:20:48

But a big thing is unplugging, right? Going back to everything, being in our heads, right? We identify with this brain, we think this is who we are, but in reality we’re not actually, we’re this physical body and we need to move it. So we’ve just kind of lost our way a little bit, I think, right. And so a big part of it is giving the CEO’s permission to take care of themselves, right. Self care sounds wishy washy. But like, first of all, most startups fail. The ones that get to exit take seven to ten years. Thats a long time. I can tell you as a guy whos done billions and exits, the number one reason why founders want to sell is because theyre burnt out.

Mark Macleod 00:21:32

They just cant go anymore. And yes, theoretically they could replace themselves and bring in a CEO, but first of all, a huge part of their identity is wrapped up in that company. Its hard to imagine the thing existing without them. And second, all of their net worth is tied up in the shares of this company. How are they going to earn a living until this thing exits, right? They’re not going to go get a job working for somebody else. So, yeah, burnout is just real. Very real.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:21:58

Yeah. So the um, I mean, to, you know, I have a question about burnout and the boundaries in particular, but I think one of the things from a, just going back to your energy giving versus energy taking and doing things like a calendar audit, I think that stuff is very important, and I almost think that it needs to be a recurring practice because as you know, even if you go through your calendar and you make a bunch of changes, six months later, things are going to get added back. And so I do think this idea of calendar audit going and color coding your calendar, energy giving, taking, and doing that on a recurring basis makes a lot of sense. And the other thing, as I think for myself, when I think that I get to work on the things that I want to, I’m definitely more excited. But if I feel like the entire week is doing all the things that I don’t want to do, but I have to do, then I’m not going to feel great. And I can. To me, that’s the stuff that can lead to burnout. But if you spend most of your week working on the things that you want to, presumably you’re more excited.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:23:07

All that to say is that that’s not an easy thing to do. You actually have to actively work on it and create the systems to make that possible.

Mark Macleod 00:23:14

Yeah, listen, in an ideal world, every single person in a company would only work on the things that they’re uniquely good at, the thing where they’re in flow and it doesn’t feel like work. So that’s hard to orchestrate across an entire company. But I think it is absolutely imperative for the CEO, especially a founder. CEO, you’ve created this company, you’re literally at the top. It’s your company. Why would you compromise on the definition of your role? In the beginning, you have to. You got to do everything. But as soon as you’re hiring, then, you know, at the risk of creating prima donnas, be selfish.

Mark Macleod 00:23:53

Right? Design your role around what’s going to make you happiest. But most importantly, how you can uniquely add enterprise value, especially. And again, I say that deliberately because I coach CEO’s that have raised capital and therefore there’s expectations. So it can’t be like, I’ll go back to Toby. I’m sure Toby would love to code, but I bet he’s been blocked from committing code for a very, very long time. So it’s not just about what he would like to do, it’s about how he can uniquely add value, which is it is his personal mission to make commerce simpler for everyone. So really nailing. He’s just endlessly fascinated with that problem and thinking about how it can translate into making products simpler.

Mark Macleod 00:24:40

Making products better is his purpose. So that’s where he should be spending his time.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:24:44


Aydin Mirzaee 00:25:48

And so let’s talk about this boundary notion. So what does that look like for a leader? You know, someone who still demands a lot from themselves and, you know, wants to work as hard as they can and, you know, has ambitions and objectives and which I’m sure a lot of these, you know, a lot of high performing growth stage CEO’s have. But also keeping in mind that they don’t want to burn out because like you said, in order to achieve highest enterprise value kind of depends on them not burning out. So how do you practically create those sorts of boundaries? Or what are some things that some tricks or hacks that people have done in order to do that?

Mark Macleod 00:26:27

I think it’s honoring all the parts of yourself. I’ll use myself as an example. So, yes, I run a business, but I’m also a husband. I’m a father, I’m a brother, I’m a son, I’m a friend. If we don’t feed and make space for these other parts of ourselves, we kind of wither up and die. And so the reality, especially for my CEO’s, founding CEO’s, especially, they give 100% of themselves to their business. With the 0% that is left over, they somehow find something for their kids out of obligation. There’s literally nothing left for their spouse.

Mark Macleod 00:27:13

And so the spouse gets the dregs, the absolute leftovers. Half of marriages fail. I haven’t seen the stats for entrepreneurial marriages, but I’ll bet they’re a lot worse, right? A big part of burning out is recognizing. Again, if I go back to, like, the average startup that goes all the way to exit, does so in either seven to ten years. That’s a lot. In that period of time, it’s all encompassing, but in the context of your life, it’s just a chapter, it’s just a phase. Last operating role was at freshbooks. I was all in at the time.

Mark Macleod 00:27:46

I used to have freshmares, which is freshbooks nightmares. And they were so pervasive. I kept a notebook by my bed because I would solve business problems and wake up at two in the morning and write down the insights. But that’s distant memory now. It’s like ancient history. I don’t think about it. Right? And so these other roles, being a husband, being a father, etcetera, they’re not ancient history, they’re current. Right? So that’s a huge part of it, is honoring those other roles and therefore deliberately carving space for them, creating real estate for them.

Mark Macleod 00:28:18

Right. Work will fill all available time. If you don’t carve out time for exercise, for loved ones, thinking, contemplation, whatever is going to make you the best version of you work will take it all up. And I’ve seen firsthand that when you do put work in a box, it still gets done, or at least the 80% that truly matters gets done. So, yeah, that’s how I think about it.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:28:44

You know, I think I agree with this notion that there’s almost always infinite work. Like, you could drill down into any function, any even role within a company, and still there would infinite work to do. And so when you think about a senior leader within a company, that is definitely infinite work. Yeah, it’s kind of like this never ending thing, which then kind of also brings up this question, which is, how do you know what to spend your time on? So when you think about time management, which is also going to be part of the burnout equation, if you’re spending time on maybe not so valuable things, what advice would you have for people or exercises or tips that if people want to manage their time better, how should they think about that?

Mark Macleod 00:29:30

Yeah. So for my CEO’s, it comes back to spending time in those three roles. Does this relate to my communication purpose, my team building purpose, or my funding purpose? That in itself is a huge filter. And also, by the way, is it in my zone of genius, my superpower? So all the things we talked about so far for other leaders within the company, even individual contributors, I think if the CEO and the leadership team have done the right job in communicating and therefore creating alignment, even that individual contributor will understand how their role contributes to the overall purpose. So I’m a manager for one specific function. I should ideally understand that this driver or this lever in our business is the one I’m responsible for. And therefore my focus is on getting a certain result or moving from here to there. I’m laser focused on moving that KPI.

Mark Macleod 00:30:41

This is where the communication role of the leaders is key, is to create that alignment and to connect the dots between an individual or small groups function and the overall machine.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:30:52

Yeah, at the end of the day, it’s like you said, for a CEO, it might be creating market value. And for everybody, there is some sort of high impact KPI or North Star, and really focusing on spending as much of your time as possible on that particular thing. I think that’s definitely a good guide for that. One thing that I wanted to ask you about, Mark, was so you had to post on LinkedIn. And for anyone who doesn’t follow, Mark, definitely he puts out lots of great stuff, lots of great content. But one of the things that you talked about was optionality as a tool. And what is optionality? How can people use it as a tool? Just curious to get your thoughts on that.

Mark Macleod 00:31:35

Yeah, so again, this is in the context of high growth startups, the vast majority of whom are burning money. And so optionality means I am running a startup that can get to cash flow breakeven before it runs out of money if it’s not already operating profitably. So that’s one option. Second, it has the run rate in unit economics to be able to raise more capital if and when it wants to. So it’s the second option. And then third, it is known to its most natural strategic buyers, and so it could enter into a warm, qualified strategic sale process anytime it wants to. If you’ve built a company that has those options, you’re in the driver’s seat, right? When it comes to fundraising, if you don’t have to raise, but you can, then the VC’s really want you. If you’re desperate to raise, they’re going to be like, oh, we’re going to wait for more information or we’re just going to pound you on deal terms.

Mark Macleod 00:32:43

And then, you know, when it comes to exits, like strangers rarely marry, it’s super risky to buy a company. So the more data points, the more touch points, common customers integrations, case studies, etcetera, just the more history you have with a strategic buyer, the more likely it is that they’re going to pay a strategic outcome. So that’s optionality. So it’s three things.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:33:06

Yeah. And what I love about it, just for me, taking a step back, is just this idea of having optionality for all the things that you do, right, not putting all your eggs in one basket and assuming one particular outcome and making it so that even if the main thing that you’re trying to do doesn’t work, you still succeeded. So you win in all circumstances, maybe different type of winning, but in each circumstance you win. And I think that’s a really great way to go about it. The other topic that you and I were chatting about before we hit record is one of the things that’s on people’s minds now, again, is all the uncertainty that exists within companies. I was hoping that a lot of the layoffs and company restructurings and things were behind us post 2023, but it turns out that it’s still happening here and there. So there’s that going on? There’s the AI wave that is coming in and changing everything and still lots of uncertainty out there. And yeah, I’m just wondering what are things that you’re kind of advising people you coach on how to deal with uncertainty and to make things still fun in an uncertain world?

Mark Macleod 00:34:23

Yeah, it’s tough. I lived through crash in 2001 2002, lived through the mortgage crisis of 2008 and now this downturn. So good news is that everything is cyclical and eventually things will turn around. That’s cold comfort today if you’ve been laid off and are not able to find work. Every single one of my CEO’s has been through layoffs in the last twelve months. It just sucks for everyone. And I dont know that were out of the woods yet. Im hearing about layoffs happening.

Mark Macleod 00:34:56

The us federal interest rate went up four times last year, which is pretty unprecedented. But the lease situation is troubling to say the very least. Theres a lot of uncertainty out there for CEO’s. The reason why companies die is because they run out of cash. You can keep going along, you can keep fucking up as long as you have cash. There are of course underlying reasons why you run out of cash, but that is the fatal event, right? So job number one for CEO’s is to not run out of cash. And so to that end, any and every spending decision should be on the table. But it is a trade off, right? If you’ve raised venture capital, you’ve got expectations attached to yourself.

Mark Macleod 00:35:41

Like you can’t save your way to greatness, right? You raise that money for a reason. So there is a risk that these companies that have cut and cut and cut to survive will just become the living dead. And then it’s self fulfilling, right? Your best, most ambitious talent doesn’t want to stick around for a zombie company. So they’re going to go and that just makes it worse. So I think a big thing in that situation is to recognize that you’re in it and cut bait and try and harness the value that you’ve created because it’s only going to diminish, right? It’s like a bottle of wine that’s open. If you leave it, it’s going to taste really bad in a week. Just drink it now. So that’s a thing.

Mark Macleod 00:36:22

It’s just to have the courage, right? To make the tough decisions, like these employee decisions. Like everyone I know that has hesitated to make hard employee decisions has regretted it. And so a lot of it is having the courage to make the tough calls and ensure survival without becoming a zombie company.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:36:43

Yeah, I think this makes sense. And one of the things that I thought resonated with me as well is that sometimes again when times get uncertain, there’s just this maybe tendency for you to want to like maybe you’re risk on now, you want to be risk off. Maybe you’re kind of on your toes, but now you go on your heels and you can’t forget, like you said, that, you know, you’re in there for an unlikely outcome to begin with. Like you’re there to defy gravity and you can’t do that by saving your way to greatness. So, you know, part of it is that I think like even in uncertain times we all have to remember that the startup game is really about taking risks. Now, again, you want to be smart about it and not run out of money and all those things, but at the end of the day you’re in it for this uncertain outcome. And so uncertainty sometimes works against you but a lot of times it works in your favor. And like in uncertainty there is opportunity as well.

Mark Macleod 00:37:43

And so yeah, that’s a really great point. I love it. I’ve had a few, I’m a masochist and so I’ve done lots of angel investing as well and I’ve had several portfolio CEO’s that are kind of struggling right now. Just saying like no matter what I’m going down with this ship, I’m going to go down in a blaze of glory rather than just like again becoming a zombie company. Right. So you have to play to win, not recklessly. It’s not like roulette. I’m going to put everything down on black ten or eight.

Mark Macleod 00:38:13

You know like yeah you can tell I don’t play roulette. It’s not binary but you have to take risk. To your point.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:38:20

Yeah. So mark, this has been awesome. We’ve talked about a bunch of different things, talking about the role of the CEO, how not to burn out time management, energy audits and everything in between. I’d love to ask you some rapid fire questions and we can go go through them and I can maybe change some of this stuff and I’ll make it a little bit more CEO oriented. So what’s something that you wish CEO’s would stop doing?

Mark Macleod 00:38:48

This one I think applies to all levels. Annual reviews complete and utter waste of time. It’s an archaic relic from corporate past. If you have feedback to give, give it in the moment. Feedback once a year is I think useless.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:39:03

I love it. I think theres a lot of wisdom in that and something that you wish that managers or CEO’s would start doing.

Mark Macleod 00:39:10

Yeah so the opposite. Dont do an annual review, come up with an annual roadmap again. I coach high growth companies, coach companies that are doubling every year, so the job isnt the same twelve months from now. So sitting down with the person that reports to you and be like, in order for you to be crushing it twelve months from now, this is what you need to look like, this is how you need to grow. You got a product roadmap, let’s come up with a people roadmap.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:39:35

Love it. And so what is something that you believe that others don’t or not enough people do?

Mark Macleod 00:39:42

Well, I really believe in being your true authentic self. Going back to burnout. I think many leaders burnout because they’re trying to be some caricature of what they think a leader should be. And I said a dirty word there, which is should I call CEO’s out on this word should all the time because it implies somebody else’s expectations, right. Be your true, real, authentic self. First of all, it’s going to feel great, it’s going to be natural, it’s not going to burn you out because it’s who you are and people are going to resonate with it. You can detect b’s a mile away, you can detect when someone’s not genuine. And we see this in the startup world, I think there’s much more latitude and openness to not behave in a corporate way, but I would just love to see that more generally just people leaning into who they really are.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:40:33

Awesome. And so the final question we always like to end on is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft, are there any final tips, tricks, or just parting words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Mark Macleod 00:40:47

Yeah, well you hit on a great word, which is craft. I really like that. I think of coaching as a craft. When I was a venture capitalist, I thought of that as a craft. So crafts tend to be apprentice driven. You just have to put in the hours, you got to put in the reps, the 10,000 hours. So that’s a thing, bringing that back to superpowers, find a role and a thing that is truly your purpose, because then you’ll want to put the 10,000 hours in, right? That’s a thing. And then second is, I think the superpower, the thing that enables people to grow all the way in whatever leadership role they’re in, is to have an explicit learning loop to get 1% better every day.

Mark Macleod 00:41:36

1% better every day is 37 times better in a year. It’s transformational. So if you go through an explicit learning loop every day, even every week, here’s what I’m doing well. Here’s what I’m not doing well. Here’s how I can improve. Start doing this, stop doing that, etcetera. Keep doing this. Create self awareness.

Mark Macleod 00:41:57

Become really aware and intentional versus like we were talking about earlier, just surfing and writing your role. You will crush it.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:42:05

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Thanks so much for doing this.

Mark Macleod 00:42:09

It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:42:11

And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the super Managers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at www. Dot fellow dot app supermanagers. If you like the content, be sure to rate, review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you could help.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:42:37

Us spread the word about the show.

Aydin Mirzaee 00:42:39

See you next time.

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