Guest

20

"The first step to becoming a Supermanager is recognizing that you might never be that. So, in the pursuit of getting 1% better every single day, over your career, you're going to be super valuable to not only the people that work with you, but also the ecosystem that builds around you."

In this episode

In episode 20, Michael Litt reminds us of how important it is to exercise our minds, so we can execute our mission and our values as leaders. We talk about how leadership changes as your business grows, the importance of communication and structure to keep tasks on track, and having empathy and compassion for your team. 

Michael Litt is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vidyard, the online video platform that helps businesses such as SalesForce and Marketo unlock the power of video. Michael is also a Tedx speaker and has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. 

As Vidyard’s CEO, Michael strives to build a team of fantastic developers and evangelists that are dedicated to the company mission.

Tune in to hear about what building a business has taught Michael about leadership and management. 

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


02:50

A university project turned Y-Combinator graduate

05:25

Michael shares his first ever promotion he received

08:22

How getting your hands dirty and doing the work builds compassion and empathy for your team members

10:20

Why your 100th employee will change your company 

11:02

Stepping back so your team can step up

12:22

Deciding where and how to insert yourself as a leader and a manager

13:30

More people does not always equal more productivity

15:02

Vidyard’s annual strategy maps and why they exist

16:25

Structure and processes before speed and velocity 

18:08

Vidyard’s pivot in the Covid-19 pandemic

22:11

Developing Vidyard’s values, vision and culture for the first time

25:57

What is a Fuckberg and how to spot it in your company

28:59

Culture changes and culture has to change

30:45

Ensuring Vidyard has the best team behind it

32:47

The importance of spending half your time externally, and the other internally

33:20

TV, cream cheese bagels and a new Vidyard website

36:37

Why managers are like athletes


Resources


Episode Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee 2:03

Michael, Welcome to the show. 

Michael Litt 2:05

I am happy to be here. And thank you for having me. 

Aydin Mirzaee 2:07 

There’s a lot that we need to talk about, you know, you head up video today. And I think you’re having like, are you around the 200? employee mark, or how many people work there today?

Michael Litt  2:20  

Yeah, so we would be just approaching 250 total.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:24 

Oh, wow. Okay. 

Michael Litt 2:25 

Yea, our team is split between the vast majority are at HQ in Waterloo, Ontario. We also have a fairly sizable team in Vancouver. And then we have small pockets of people in Boston, in Dublin.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:40  

All right, very cool. And what I do know about you is you basically started Vidyard, very soon thereafter, graduating from school, right?

Michael Litt  2:50  

Yeah. So Vidyard was actually part of our capstone project. We graduated from system design engineering at the University of Waterloo. And we had kind of combined Human Centered Design are machine learning courses, as well as the capstone project to build the video hosting and analytics framework that eventually became vid yard. So we actually started the company during undergrad during our fourth year, I took my last Co Op off to actually start the business and find some customers. And then we went straight from graduation to Y Combinator. And so my only professional experience outside of undergrad came from the co op program at the University of Waterloo. So I’m grateful for that.

Aydin Mirzaee 3:32  

Amazing and so I guess that kind of answers my my next question, which was, who is your I was gonna say, Have you who’s your first boss? Like, would you even have you ever reported to anybody else?  This isalways interesting to know. 

Michael Litt  3:46  

My parents, when I turned 14, I was responsible for all of my own purchases, including kind of add home goods to everything from toothpaste, deodorant to clothing, so I had to get a job fairly young. So in grade eight, my first job was at Forstall pharmacy. And I will not mention the name of the manager by work for this very, very grumpy pharmacist that treated me like absolute garbage. And in from that process, I definitely learned what it is to have a little bit of empathy and compassion at the very least for your employees, especially the ones that ultimately are cleaning up your messes. It was a it was a it was a really good experience. I remember I used to sit in the bathroom and cry. Because I felt I felt so poorly treated in that job. But yeah, that was my very first experience with a manager.

Aydin Mirzaee 4:41  

Yeah, sounds like you, you you learned a lot from that experience. And so I guess like you guys, so you started Vidyard and then the first time that you would have actually led a team, I guess in an official company setting I’m sure there was like school projects and things like that what would have then been at Vidyard

Michael Litt  5:00  

Yeah, yeah, there was a bit of a, there’s a bit of a hybrid role. And one of my internships actually the last Co Op, I had the University of Waterloo where it was in 2008, which was a very interesting year. And the company was in Silicon Valley, I was living in San Jose, one day, I was asked to stay at home, because they were essentially laying off a huge portion of the workforce in my team, and they were going to retain my job because they needed somebody to do some work. And they didn’t want the team seeing that the intern was was maintaining his role. So I went home, I came back two days later, and instead of reporting to a manager, and I reported to an SVP.

Aydin Mirzaee 5:35  

Wow, that’s awesome. What a great promotion.

Michael Litt  5:38  

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was still an intern, there was no pay increase. But it was a phenomenal experience, because my responsibilities increased overnight. And it wasn’t directly managing people. But all of a sudden, I was managing projects, which people were contributing. And so it’s a bit bit trial by fire. But that was absolutely My most memorable experience. And, and the leader, I had, you know, provided a lot of conviction and support, and helped me understand the value of transparency and leadership. Because if she wasn’t willing and able to give me every piece of information I needed, there was no way I was going to be successful in the job. And, and we’ve carried that forward in Vidyard as well.

Aydin Mirzaee  6:15  

Very cool. And so I guess that so I’m going to transition to you know, your time at Vidyard. Obviously, you start hiring folks. And you started leading a team? When did you officially realize that you had to spend more time managing people rather than like actually doing things yourself?

Michael Litt  6:36  

Yeah, that’s a really good question. You know, it’s funny when you’re, you’re 10 15, 20 people, you know, we were doing daily stand ups, where everybody in the company was talking about what they were working on. And every single person in the company was doing a task that was moving the needle, we were a completely flat org structure. At that point, there was very little hierarchy. And again, I was essentially at that stage, cold calling, I was still doing sales, I was trying to develop partnerships, I was heavily involved in product direction and discussion over time, obviously, you you try to scale those efforts. And, you know, the way to scale those efforts in a modern organization is by, you know, being able to amplify your impact through a team. And that requires management. So the first real kind of management function I took on was essentially, as a sales manager, the sales story of Vidyard really started with me doing prospecting, I did about 100 outreaches a day, trying to find companies and organizations that were interested in using our products from a crawler that developed leads that we had developed called the noster dominance basically found any company with a website that had a video on it, and then ranked the company based on videos on the site map, and then size of company. And then we get the contact list from an overseas worker from Autodesk. And then I would call through that list for the day, eventually, I hired someone to help me do that. And then I became the account executive and closed it. Eventually, that person became an account executive. And then another person became an existing account executive. And then I realized that this whole process needed some form of management, because my contributions were essentially getting in the way, and we needed to find some scale. And so that’s the first time I realized what being a leader actually is. And I’m grateful for the experience of getting my hands dirty and doing the work first, because it means there’s compassion and empathy for what is required. And a huge portion of that sales process still exists in our workflow today. But that was the first moment that would have been when we were probably approaching 3040 people. And, and, you know, that was the moment when our daily stand ups weren’t necessarily scalable, because they were taking too long. And so we went to a weekly stand up. And then I realized in that process, I wasn’t maybe communicating as clearly with everybody, or as easily with everybody as I was prior. And so I needed to think about my communication strategies and even think about focusing the team on weekly objectives versus daily objectives and, and thinking longer term on strategy. And so it was definitely an evolved process. But I remember very explicitly that the time, much later than that, probably when we were around 100 employees, and I was hiring an executive team, when I realized I was now out of my depth and my passion for the work. And my passion for what we were doing was not going to scale me as a leader. And that’s when I had to get serious about my management skills and the experience that I had.

Aydin Mirzaee  9:34  

Let’s talk about that. You know, it’s interesting, it feels like there are these pivot points from just say management and leadership and like these places in an organization’s growth where things really change, I guess, like when you’re first bringing on like a real executive team, and now there’s like multiple layers in the company. That’s usually a painful process. How did it go for you and what are some mistakes that maybe you made? And what are some things that you learned? And is it like around like the 80 to 100 points where a lot of that stuff starts to happen?

Michael Litt  10:11  

Yeah, I would say there was a gentleman in the K tech ecosystem system named Dan Sherman, and he told me that at 100 employees, your company is very different than it was, you know, 10 20, 30, 40, 50, because the hundred person that joins your company expects to be joining an established company with established processes from onboarding to hierarchy leadership to the way strategy’s communicated. And they don’t want to show up with their own laptop, they don’t want to figure out what they’re responsible for. They want kind of direction, and, and leadership. And, you know, I think it’s an arbitrary number. I think there’s some correlation to Dunbar’s number, which is the number of personal relationships one individual can have at scale. And that’s when I think it starts to deteriorate for a leader. But 100%, it happens. And for me that one of the hardest things was I think, dealing with my ego, ego being the fact that I wanted to be involved in everything. And I wanted to be a part of every story. And I had hired executives with more experience in the broad industry of scaling companies than I bought with less experience in the category we were building and developing. And so there was this, you know, potential conflict that was occurred between me and some of these new leaders who wanted the flexibility to go and execute on their terms, but potentially felt afraid to do so because, you know, I was critical of their execution, based on my expectations, and based on my understanding of what they were capable of. But in reflection, you know, they were probably doing things their own way. And so I had to mature really quickly, if I was ultimately going to be able to work with that, that type in that level of executive and I had to start removing myself from the process. Of course, eventually, I hired a leader. And I removed myself completely from that process and entrusted them with the efforts and capability of scaling and go to market function. But unfortunately, it didn’t work. And so then I had to re insert myself and understand what was going wrong, and ultimately make some hard decisions there. But there’s always been this push and pull, I think of providing the materials, the landscape, the information, etc, to allow somebody to execute, and then figure out where you, as a leader, or manager need to ultimately insert yourself to optimize the process and help someone avoid the mistakes that that you may have made, but also let them learn on their own so that they can improve inside of your market and inside of your opportunity. It’s very nuanced. 

Aydin Mirzaee 12:49  

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And have you found that you, you’ve also needed to say, I guess, reorient the way that the team rallies or basically does go to market or does produce product, you know, one of the things that I hear often is that you, you get to a point and all of a sudden, it feels like you’re not moving as fast as you were when you were in like the, you know, 20 or 30 person stage, it’s like the same feeling is not there. And a lot of it maybe makes sense, right? I mean, obviously, you have now all these things you need to support. And so some of it at some level makes sense. But did you have that? And how have you dealt with it? Have you overcome it? 

Michael Litt  13:30  

I think there’s this theory that you can just have more people and add more productivity. Without the right bumpers on the bowling alley, without the right strategic  direction, and top down efforts communicated effectively and transparently, you just end up creating more noise, because there’s confusion, there’s potential dissent amongst the ranks, you as a leader, start to become more focused on the efforts around human resources, and managing the productivity of those people and resources than you do of actually doing the stuff. Right. And, and I think, you know, back in the day, when I would get involved in a sale and close a deal that would move the needle, but at, you know, meaningful scale, I could get involved and close the deal. And it doesn’t actually really move the needle that far. And so how do I take my efforts to not close one deal, but help the team go and close 20,30 or 40 deals or build a product faster, because we have this new allocation of resources. And I think that’s when structure and process ultimately need to come into the company. And so we went from, for example, this daily standup where everybody communicated what they did, to weekly stand up where everybody communicated what they did, to weekly stand up where there was broad headings for all the divisions in the business. And what was communicated was what they did and what they were going to do on a weekly basis. And in parallel with that, I had to develop a process of communicating a strategy to accompany on a semi end You will basis and so we implemented something called strategy map. It starts with vision mission values, our cultural statement, who we serve, how we win key initiatives for the year from a product perspective, KPIs that identify if we’re being successful. And so now my senior leadership team goes off and builds this for the year ahead. Our year end is in April, we go build it in February, we deliver it to the company in May. And we adhere ourselves to this strategy map. So that we can align expectations and then everything else happens tactically against that map for the year. So my ELT is all the senior most leaders in the company, there’s six of us, we get together and we discuss the tactics that are blocking our execution from a human perspective and a cultural perspective and a performance perspective every single week. And then the SLT meets quarterly to say, okay, where are we going to go this quarter, to achieve the expected results at the end of this fiscal year, or 12 months in advance, and then all that information gets consolidated, and packaged up nicely and delivered down through the organization so that we can achieve as much alignment as possible so that everybody is going in the right direction. And the analogy that I always use for this is, is Bambi on ice. And the concept is like, I don’t know, if you’ve seen Bambi it’s a great, great film.

Aydin Mirzaee  16:23  

I have kids. So yes,

Michael Litt  16:25  

 So there’s this moment where Bambi is running down the hill towards this frozen lake, right, and Bambi has got all the speed and Bambi hits the ice, and then his legs go in four different directions and falls on his little dear belly, and then finally stops. And that’s what happens to companies, right, you have this velocity and this speed, and then you hit the ice. And without the structure and the process of knowing how to skate. Ultimately, you lose traction, right, and you start to go in these different directions. So this whole initiative of organizing our culture, and, and me stepping up as a leader, and helping to find the objectives and how we’re going to ultimately accomplish our goals, is really us figuring out how to how to get traction I,

Aydin Mirzaee 17:09  

I love it. So I have to ask now. So you have this vision map, everything laid out, and then the world changes as it has in the last few months. So I’d love to know, you know your playbook. You know, I I know that you know, as we talked about, you’re also a partner at garage capital. And you folks made some sweeping changes at Vidyard. And like, quickly mobilized, and I’d love for you to walk us through that process. But then you also, you know, mapped out some of those things and sent it to all your portfolio companies as well. I just love for you to walk us through, you know what happened at Vidyard? Like play by play? What did you guys do? And I even heard that you launched some new products during this time to help people navigate this work from home sort of mindset as well. So it sounds like you’re able to handle it and then thrive. So we’d love to hear the story.

Michael Litt  18:08  

Yeah, for sure. So the story, from my perspective is my wife and I were on a holiday and starting to see the COVID thing, come across the ocean, so to speak, and start to enter North America. And it was clear that it was going to impact us in some way, in what way we didn’t know. And so we immediately started communicating with the team, hey, we’re aware of this, we’re keeping an eye on it. There’s no changes at current. And that was kind of in the first week of March. By the second week of March, I was back from the holiday and I was in the office. And it was clear that this was going to become a thing. And so we did work from home, we decided to work from home on Wednesday, on March 16, we did it and we literally never went back. And we’ve been working remotely ever since. Interestingly enough, you know, we are a business in the video communication world. We have a number of products, but one of them is a Chrome extension. There’s also a mobile app and a desktop app, an Android app coming shortly, that allows you to either record your screen or record a video from your webcam and send it to someone you know if you think about the way people were communicating before this is they were having in person interactions right? During this now we’re sitting on zoom calls all the time. These are synchronous meetings. But synchronous meetings aren’t necessarily that effective all the time. There has to be this asynchronous component. And without the ability to like quickly give somebody information in person. This idea of sending them a video became really, really valuable. And it was always a growth market and it was a growth opportunity for us. But COVID hit and the demand for this thing skyrocketed, right? It’s more efficient, it’s more expressive, and therefore it’s more effective than standard text. And so we saw probably a five Lift in the volume of installs within that first week. But the challenge was our security features to lock down a video using a password or some type of single sign on method weren’t going to be delivered for another another couple of weeks or months even. And so we recognize that, hey, our mission is to help organizations succeed with video, and they’re coming to us trying to use this product, we have to completely refactor our roadmap and expedite these features to make sure we’re delivering this here now. Because a, it’s an opportunity for the business and b, this is what we can ultimately do to help. And the team just rallied behind this initiative. And I think a big driving force of it was I immediately started doing weekly updates for the team using our product, talking through how I was feeling about things the market was feeling about things with the board was feeling about things, and just being open and transparent and empathetic in an asynchronous fashion, which gave the team better insight because they’re not seeing me in person anymore. And I would, I would, you know, normally regularly do that on a weekly basis at our stand up. So I took that to a synchronously saw the value and then rallied behind this concern of Okay, what Mike’s talking about isn’t necessarily secure, somebody could share this link, we got to build these features and build this functionality. And so the team really got behind it. I think that’s a testament to our culture, and our values and, and the work we’ve done to define these things. And in the same period, our NPS went up by 12 points, and now we’re just north of 75 on the whole. And so it’s been a really big rallying factor for the company, there’s been a ton of momentum in the market. And I think we’re really fortunate. But I look to the systems and processes we’ve set up in advance of this as a big factor to why we’ve been successful.

Aydin Mirzaee  21:51  

That’s a great story. I mean, let’s talk about those systems and processes and culture. I know you’re big in culture, I’ve heard the story about, you know, how you first came up with, I guess, the initial set of those values, I would love for you to tell that story to the audience. 

Michael Litt  22:11  

Yeah. So we were about 50 people and starting to experience this tension between trying to achieve scale and feeling like we were getting unproductive, kind of like what we talked about the beginning and, and I was on a family holiday in Mexico. And the very first night we got there, I went to the buffet, and there was this big plate of steak tartare. And I hate it, try it for yourself. It was tasty, but it wasn’t a good idea. Because it’s, it may be very sick. And so I spent the rest of the week essentially in my hotel room dealing with some type of a stomach bug. And I found myself thinking a lot about work, right, this was at the end of the calendar year, it’s almost time for reflection, I was thinking about these competing things at the company, I said, You know what, I think what’s happening is, everybody has a slightly different version of what video it is. And we need to bring this together and help people understand what’s expected of them, and what they should expect of me and us. And so I wrote this document called The Guardian ism that spelled out our values, our vision, our culture, because at the end of the day the two things that I think help a company perform, especially during a crisis like this are a unified purpose. And ideally, employees join the company for the purpose. So our purpose and our mission is to help organizations succeed and communicate with video. If you’re interested in that, you should come and work in video. The other one is the glue. And the glue is your culture. The glue is the people, the glue is the experience that they have, the glue is the brand value that sits with employees. And I felt like that glue was lacking. So this document, this vegetarianism document became the glue, I came back to the office, I read it to everybody at an off site and I said, Look, if you agree with this, come and sign the document. And if you don’t agree with it, suggest an amendment and we’ll place it in because this is our document, this is our version of the yard and everybody came up and there was a good conversation and they signed it. And to this day, when you join the company, you signed a version of the video series and document and then you dip your hands in the company colors and press them on the elevator shaft at all of our offices, the entranceway because every day when you come in, it’s a constant reminder of your commitment to the values and essentially the glue and to uphold the aspects of the Vidyard culture that we all want to protect. And we all find it so valuable. And so there’s lots of things in there that are Vidyard specific, the concept of the Fuckberg has been translated into more inclusive terminology, but these are all things that are essentially an operating system for how you should behave inside the organization. And it’s the value set that we hire against and I think that’s why our culture has been so strong.

Aydin Mirzaee  24:55  

So much to unpack there, you know, the concept of you know, for one thing Getting sick and then coming up with brilliant ideas. I mean, it sounds uh, you know, I’ve also heard that the story of Stewart Butterfield, who’s CEO of Slack, apparently before that he had this other company called, what was the company now? It’s escaping my mind. But was it Flickr? Flcikr? Yes. Flicker, Yes. So yeah, he came up with the idea for flicker in a very similar scenario. So maybe eating the steak tartare is not a bad idea. But yeah, the other thing I was gonna say is, it’s very interesting. I mean, you coming up with the values but you actually got everybody to sign it and I love the  handprints on the entrance of the doors. I mean, these are the the shorter rituals that like, really get people to buy in. And I think that’s, that’s really cool. You mentioned this word, fuck Berg. So you have to explain. I don’t I don’t think people know what that is. What is that?

Michael Litt  25:57  

Yeah, yeah, I apologize, it slipped in there. Um, so so one of the one of the hardest things, I think, in humanity, is that we like to propagate bad news, we like to propagate negative emotions. And I just think it’s, it’s this, there’s this natural instinct, and there’s this attraction to tragedy, which is very destructive. in, in, in our world, it’s very destructive, politically, it’s very destructive socially. And obviously, it’s very destructive inside of an organization. You know, it’s, it’s fun to talk about those things. But left unchecked, they can, they can be very destructive. And so the concept of the fuck Berg is that, when you see the tip of something that looks like, it could have negative consequences, or when someone’s talking about something at the expense of someone else, or their decision, those things are objects to the culture, and the values that we espouse as an organization. And so that is called the fuckberg because you see the tip of it, but there’s something much larger underneath, right? And so Vidyard is the Titanic, you know, Fuckbergs can ultimately destroy us. And so we want to avoid these things as much as possible. And it’s everybody’s responsibility to call these things out, when they see them. Now, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. But what it means is that we see them and we can handle them before they potentially destroy the ship, if you will. And so it’s a concept that, you know, I think, is relatively straightforward. But it’s basically saying, hey, there’s this basic human instinct that we all have myself included, to amplify bad news to amplify things that we’re not comfortable with, or people that we might not like, let’s avoid that, and confront it for what it is, and actually tackle it. And I think calling it something so explicit, I think even makes it more more explicit in that people will never forget it.

Aydin Mirzaee 27:59  

Yeah, I love that. So what is the you said that you’ve revised, what it’s called? In your handbook. 

Michael Litt  28:05  

So now, it’s called an iceberg, formally, it’s just because, you know, obviously, curse words and bad language, you know, at some point, aren’t necessarily representative of everybody’s best intentions. And, you know, having a diverse and inclusive culture is important, for obvious reasons, in terms of complexity of opinion, and ideas and what individuals can bring forward. And so we didn’t want the language in our guide to dismiss anyone’s best intentions. And, and so it still can be spoken about in that term, and often is, but with respect to the formal documentation, it’s it’s just kind of described as what it is. And I think some people appreciate that much more.

Aydin Mirzaee 28:53  

So does it does it in parentheses, say formerly known as.. 

Michael Litt  28:59  

No, it’s just, it’s just kind of like a known, unknown thing that gets talked about a fair amount. Culture has to change, right? If our culture stayed the same, we’d be a bunch of white guys and pajama bottoms, right and code and like that was not going to be scalable.

Aydin Mirzaee  29:13  

I think the the thing that I really like about this, and what I want to kind of emphasize is that giving people this common language is what truly makes a difference. I mean, it’s a thing that happens, but unless you can speak about it in the same language, it really becomes hard to mobilize people, you know, something as basic as a sales training, right? Sales training is useful. It’ll get your sales team, you know, ideally, to perform better, but one of the biggest values in my opinion is now everybody can refer to all the same things with the with the same language. And I think like that, again, at scale makes a huge difference. 

Michael Litt  29:48  

Yeah, and I mean, in a sales context, like hopefully, it’s the right language, right, that you’re emphasizing and investing in scale, because getting that wrong can be catastrophic. And I think the same thing goes for We’re building a company culture, but I think every company has it, it’s just a matter of looking within and picking the best parts of it. And expressly communicates the expectation that people follow and then taking the worst parts of it, and expressly communicating that, you know, we don’t want that. And that’s kind of where the concept of the footprint comes from.

Aydin Mirzaee  30:18  

Yeah. So Mike, I have to ask you, so at this scale, how do you? What iis your like, what is your time spent on the most you talked about, in the beginning, it was very much helping move the needle by closing that sale. And then, you know, gradually, that changed to helping building out the plan. But now you have an executive team that can also help with that, what takes up most of your time these days?

Michael Litt  30:45  

Yeah. So broadly speaking, my role is to make sure that we have the best people working to solve the biggest problem, and ensuring that we have the money, the financing the model, etc, to support that initiative, right. And so if I break that down, what I spend my time on today, for instance, outside of external communications, podcasts, customer interactions, partner interactions, all that stuff, which happens constantly, you know, CEOs are in high demand. And that’s where I love to spend my time. So let’s say I spend, you know, 30 to 40 hours a week doing that stuff. The other kind of 30 to 40 hours gets composed of thinking through how we ensure we’ve got this awesome, awesome team that is aligned from the top down to go and achieve a result and ultimately get the most out of this market opportunity. So the way that looks is building the systems and workflows to communicate, developing the strategy, working with the business model to understand what is possible, and ensuring that we have the comp plans and the executional frameworks inside of the broader go to market teams to go and achieve that result. We have an AMA coming up next Tuesday, where we’ve taken, you know, questions from the entire team, you know, those are always very interesting, because you get the questions that people might not be able might not be comfortable attaching their name to. And so preparing responses to that, and ensuring that those responses align objectively to where we’re going, but provide enough information to the company, we had a board meeting this week. So working through how to communicate the feedback from the board, to get the best execution out of the team. I mean, list goes goes on and on and on. I think in the CEO position, again, you can frame up objectively what your goals and objectives are in those three buckets. But in those three buckets, there’s a ton of variability in how you do it. And, and again, I’m probably spending half my time externally, with customers, partners, potential financers, promoting the brand, and establishing what we do and our market leadership, and then the other half ensuring that all the resources we have inside the company are supporting that effort in that initiative as well.

Aydin Mirzaee 33:04  

Very cool. I have to ask you, who is Tyler Vincent? And there’s this story that I heard about Tyler at Vidyard? What is that story? And what impact do you think that that story has had on on your culture?

Michael Litt  33:20  

Yeah, I mean, we have this thing called Vidyard lore. And, as you probably know, and have experienced, things happen in your company’s trajectory that are just amazing, and are an example of the human spirit in its absolute best form. And over time, the story gets told, and it becomes more and more kind of heroic and amazing over time. And the story of Tyler Vincent is is, is really simple. But it’s amazing in its simplicity is that TV, we call him TV internally, had just taken on a management role. And this role was specifically the web devs. And this function used to exist in marketing, we pulled it out of marketing and put it in engineering and product because they had better resources to go and tackle it. And we had this massive push around a new website, deadline, TV had to make the final deploy as in review the code and press the button, and his internet went down. And everybody had been rallying so hard behind this thing, only to be let down at the last minute. They’d been up all night, you know, busting this project door, he’d been supporting them. So around 2am he went to the local timmies and sat in his car outside using the Wi Fi to push the new site to production. And the funny thing about this story is he started streaming the process on Periscope. That’s so funny. And again, the whole team had been up for so long working on this and so they could tune in to this process of him sitting at Tim Hortons. And he said random local nearby joining the stream and he told them what was going on. And so they started cheering him on hanging around his car and then eventually what it’s important and and he was getting nervous. About the staff looking at him because he’d been there for like hours. And now it’s probably, you know, four or 5am he thought he’s gonna get kicked out. So he kept eating cream cheese bagels, and he said he had like six cream cheese bagels through the night. So it’s this, it’s the stories where something amazing happen, but there’s these funny nuances like the cream cheese bagels and, and sitting at Tim Hortons, which is like the ultimate Canadian all nighter thing to do, that just amplify the impact of the story. And that captures in our culture, you know, this concept of, you know, we’re gonna get it done. And of course, you know, I don’t condone all nighters, and I don’t condone Tyler, you know, staying up till 6am, and then going to sleep for two hours and getting into his job, obviously, he took the next day off. But in these moments where there’s this critical juncture that needs to be delivered, to expose our values and help our customers succeed with video, the team rises to the occasion. And I think when that happens, those stories get told, because they should be told, and they should be celebrated. And that’s what makes a startup such an amazing place to be because people rally and, and get outside their comfort zone and do these amazing things. And that story will stick with him personally and the people that work for him for the rest of their careers. So how powerful is that?

Aydin Mirzaee  36:17  

I love that story. And and a very, very good note to sort of end on. My final question, Mike is for all the managers and leaders out there looking to uplevel their skills or craft to be better leaders? What parting advice would you have for them?

Michael Litt  36:36  

Yeah, I think for me, you know, I had this realization, I always felt confident in my ability to lead. But there’s a difference between leading and managing. And I think, you know, leading is inspiring and driving purpose managing is ensuring the accountability to go and achieve those results. And that’s where I was weak. And I started to realize, you know, I am in a way, as with every manager, as with every employee, kind of like an athlete, and I kind of hate that analogy, because it gets overused. But athletes spend a ton of time practicing and developing new skills, and their mind is open to that. But for some reason, in business, sometimes we close ourselves off to this idea of learning. And it’s, it’s really wild. And so I’m a big fan of Formula One and a gentleman named Toto Wolf, who’s the CEO of the AMG Mercedes team, which has won now six championships in a row and just dominating the sport. And, and you know, he’s got a $500 million annual operating budget 1400 people on the team, like, how is he doing this and, and his big thing was this concept of continuous learning, and investing in sleep, and investing in coaching and development and schedule management and prioritization. And so the first step to becoming a super manager, if you will, is recognizing that you might never be that. And so in the pursuit of getting, you know, 1% better every single day, over your career, you’re going to be super valuable to not only the people that work for you, but also the ecosystem that builds around you naturally, because you can provide that support. And so I think, you know, you’re an athlete, act like one, invest in yourself, find these good coaches, find these peers, help get these coaches to help you understand where you’re strong, but more importantly, where you’re weak and then develop the frameworks and process to improve in those areas. 

Aydin Mirzaee  38:30  

That was incredible. Thank you, Mike, for doing this.

Michael Litt  38:33  

Thank you, and I appreciate your time.

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