“You might be hurting the team by not spending more time fostering people’s careers and improving communication.”
In this episode
In episode #10, Vlad Magdalin talks about the founding philosophies of Webflow and the surprising rationale behind the company’s dual mission.
He also shares a template to run effective and inclusive company-wide meetings and best practices to make the hybrid remote model work for your organization.
Vlad is the CEO of Webflow, a software company empowering people to create websites without the need to code and a vocal proponent of the no-code movement. Webflow has raised over $72 Million in financing and has over 200 employees distributed globally at the time of this recording.
Tune in to hear all about Vlad’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!
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Vlad’s morning routine.
Vlad’s first time becoming a manager + the dilemmas involved with scaling a team.
Why management is not a promotion but a career change.
Webflow’s dual mission: empowering people to build software without having to write code, and building a company where each team member can live a fulfilling and impactful life.
Fostering a culture where managers can go back to being individual contributors.
How did Webflow get the idea to have a dual mission?
What “living a fulfilling life” can mean for different people.
How Webflow has made the hybrid working model work for them.
Webflow’s company-wide meetings.
Topics covered in Vlad’s weekly emails.
Webflow’s core behaviours + why they are different from core values.
What “moving uncomfortably fast” means and how Webflow puts it into practice.
Why Webflow renamed “move uncomfortably fast” to “move intentionally fast”.
Webflow’s “practice extraordinary kindness” core behaviour and why everything (including values) needs to be reconsidered as the company scales.
Vlad Magdalin’s parting advice for managers and leaders.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 2:34
Vlad, welcome to the show.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 3:38
Hey, Aydin, good to be here.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 2:40
I know we were supposed to do this in person actually, a few months ago. But I guess the dominant mode now is, the world has drastically changed in the last little while so we obviously are in different locations. And you are obviously in California, three hours time difference. I know. We’re recording this at 7:30am your time. That’s really early for me, I have to ask you what your day actually looks like? What time do you get up and start doing things?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 3:14
I was never like an early riser. I hated getting up early in the morning but just out of necessity because our office is in San Francisco and I live in South Bay which is about an hour drive in traffic.
I started waking up around 5:00 am probably four years ago just out of necessity right to beat traffic, so I could be on the road for 30 minutes instead of an hour or sometimes an hour and a half. And then just kind of got used to it. I would naturally wake up around 5:00am.
Now with COVID and with my kids being in school and no commute happening, it’s kind of been awesome, and my body’s kind of used to that. So I get up around that time anyway and just have time to catch up and get some work in before the rest of the world wakes up.
But I don’t have a structure. You know, some people say they have like this super structured: you get up, you meditate, you do a workout, you go for a jog, you read like 17 business books, and whatever. It’s just at this point, I kind of give myself permission to go with the flow and not really have anything structured.
I used to have something called MIT time: most important task time. And I still roughly follow that guidance of like in the morning, when there are no other personal things,I just work on the thing that’s hardest for me. And the thing that requires the most sort of mental bandwidth.But it’s not the set in stone thing. I don’t feel bad when I skip it, or I get into some urgent things.
Go to bed early. My kids make fun of me. There have been times where I’m like, it’s 9pm and I’m heading to bed. Although usually it’s around 10.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 5:12
Yeah, totally makes sense. There’s so much that I want to talk to you about like Webflow -the company fascinates me and a lot of your background. I know that you basically started out just in freelance, doing a lot of work for other folks and companies before you actually started Webflow. I’m curious, When was the first time that you personally started to manage or lead the team? Was it at Webflow? Was it somewhere else?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 5:42
It was at Webflow. It was actually several years. So I started Webflow four different times. It was this last fourth time that it actually stuck. And I think it was probably at least a year after we launched that we started hiring people. And that’s kind of where my management journey began.
But initially I didn’t think of it as management, it was sort of like bringing in another developer and we just worked together to build this thing. I think earnestly when I started thinking of myself as a manager was probably three years into Webflow. And that was like this whole dilemma started is like, do I keep coding? Do I, you know, started growing and scaling the team. So definitely this is my one and only management journey.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 6:34
So I have to ask you, What would you say was like your sort of biggest realization? Was it that pivot point of deciding whether you should continue to code or to stop to code?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 6:47
It was when multiple team members that I cared about and then they cared about me told me “hey, actually you might be hurting the team by not spending more time in fostering people’s careers and looking at improving communication as a team”.
Classical sort of management tests versus individual contribution, technical coding, things that I felt a lot of pride and actually identified. You know, a lot of my identity was wrapped up in that. My worth to the company is in the code that I write, and this application that I created, but when multiple people said hey, when you go heads down into coding for a week, but then all this other stuff falls apart.
Like how we’re hiring, how just other company-building things start to fall apart or people aren’t aware or not reminded of Webflow’s mission because I’m heads down coding. And we’re not running team meetings, because you know, I’m busy writing code. That’s when I knew that I wasn’t serving my team well. I was reverting to the easy, to things that I was comfortable with, and kind of avoiding the things I found a lot harder.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 8:15
It’s interesting, because almost all folks start out as individual contributors, and then they move into this management role. And I think, for a lot of people in history, we have learned that we have decided to look at it as a promotion, but in fact, it is a complete change of job function.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 8:41
Absolutely. It’s one of those things where I’ve had some friends, we’ve had some people at Webflow who sort of before we had very clear tracks that equally reward individual contributors and managers, or at least people can feel that their individual contribution
track is not kept by this requirement to manage people.
We had a lot of people think that “oh, this is for me!”, and then actually try it out and come to the realization that it’s a completely different skill, it’s a completely different set of motivations, it’s completely different. It’s a whole other order of magnitude difference, I would say, like emotional load, and what you have to care about.
So I can’t think of two more different kind of skills than engineering and engineering management, for example.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 9:45
I’m curious. At the company, have you had people, that like you said, tried something out and said “Actually, no, I do want to go back to where I was”? And that’s an encouraged thing. And you guys have fostered culture where that’s not deemed to be a failure.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 10:03
No. Actually, we have two missions at Webflow. One is kind of -and what is not surprising to a lot of people- is to empower people to build software that we’re having to write code.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 10:19
The big no-code movement, I mean, definitely when I think no code I imagine your face, you’re very vocal on Twitter. In this movement.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 10:25
I should get a tattoo. But the other one is to build a kind of company where each individual team member can lead a fulfilling and impactful life, whatever that means to them. And that’s a much harder one, right? And for someone to have to feel a sense of impact, they’re making a difference, they’re bringing value to the team members to the world or customers.
And a sense of fulfillment, like I’m actually fulfilled by the work that I’m doing, or by what I’m bringing to other people. That’s an ever changing and shifting landscape. We have people who are managers that then decide not only to go back to individual contribution work, but go to individual contribution in a totally different discipline. Which is a kind of a hard thing to manage. But we have to have that conversation and try to make as much space as possible for those kinds of things.
We take a long term perspective on people, where we want to make sure that it’s not just like, okay, here’s what the organization needs. Here’s this very tightly defined role description, and stay in your lane. We want to make sure that the people have the ability to identify what’s important to them and work towards that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 11:50
I think there is a lot there to impact I mean, just the concept and I want to emphasize is the concept of like every company obviously has this mission- yours is to drive the no code movement.
But then even just like the notion of having a separate mission, which is to help people live impactful lives, where does that even come from? Like, how did you get the idea to have like a dual mission in that way? Because that’s certainly unique and not something that you see in most companies.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 12:21
I think we saw a couple companies that have done that, that were inspired by Patreon, I think is one of them. And honestly, it was a selfish thing. I want the kind of company where I feel fulfillment and impact, right? I don’t want to have to leave this company.
If I still care about the mission, if for some reason in the future, I want to focus on something different than being CEO, for example, I want to work at a company where people are there not just to make a paycheck, which is totally fine if that’s your main motivation. But I want to make sure people feel a sense of belonging and fulfillment.
There’s sort of like the business perspective on that it makes the work better, right? When people are motivated and really inspired and feel heard and they feel understood, and if you like the rest of the team cares about them and about their needs, etc. They’re just going to do better work. But that wasn’t the main motivator, it was what feels like the right thing. I want to spend the next 50 years of my life not primarily being motivated by making a ton of money, or having some public company, or being on some top 50 list or whatever. I want to look back on 50 years of building Webflow and say “Hey, I worked with amazing people who all cared about each other, and cared about each other’s individual motivations and perspectives.”
That’s a lot more meaningful to me. Right? I would rather switch the mission of the company to something that’s completely not no code related and keep the second part of it. Because the team that’s really, really cohesive, and hopefully cares more about other people than themselves, can operate in almost any environment, do great work and achieve anything that they put their minds to.
I guess that’s the area where I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to be known for creating a company where it was just about the business result. It’s just about some financial outcome or just to that dent in the universe or whatever. I’d rather have a type of people-first perspective. That’s why we wanted to enshrine that on the same level as our first mission.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 15:15
That’s interesting. And you kind of hinted at this concept of people may get into a management role and then go back, or they may completely switch the roles at the company. It seems that you’re saying that “you’re part of this team, and we’re gonna help you get fulfillment out of the work that you do”. What other things do you do to live in accordance with that mission?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 15:45
So, by the way, caveat on that first part is that it’s not always possible, right? We’ve tried to make as much room as possible for those kinds of luck shifts, but sometimes it requires a lot of work on the part of the individual to go learn that new skill, while performing the job that they signed up for.
But in terms of other things that we do to live up to our second mission, that’s honestly the hardest one to consistently live up to, because it’s the one that can have the most meaning, the most divergent meaning to the most people, right? So, for someone ‘fulfilment’ might be teaching people how to enter the tech industry. That requires a ton of time that it’s hard to find emotional energy outside of their normal day job. So we try to work in programs that give permission for people to explore things that are important to them. For example, we have this program called 10% time, where up to four hours a week people are encouraged to spend however they want to better themselves, or better our product or the company. But it doesn’t have to be related to their day job.
One challenge with that, though, is that it almost always feels like not 10% time but 110% time, right? So we have to keep encouraging people to take that time and defend that time and managers to encourage their reports to remember about that time and really keep it protected.
We are right now experimenting with having the entire team to take that time at the same time. So having like a biblique or self improvement week later in August, where it’s like work on things that really matter to you, work on things that promote your beliefs and your principles. I already know some people are preparing to work on anti-racism initiatives. Some people are excited about working on some product improvements, some people are excited about building some new product prototype that might not be related to web flow at all, but it’s somehow tangential to our mission.
There’s things like that, and there’s also practical things, right? Just the way that we create our benefit programs, the way that we create our pay time off policies, the way that we treat employees across different disciplines. So for example, a lot of companies have a standard practice of “we’re going to have a set benchmark for how we pay engineers. And we’re gonna have a different benchmark for like, lower tiers of labor.” And they’ll say “we target 75th percentile for engineering roles, because those are competitive but we’re gonna target a much lower percentile of pay for other roles like non tech roles”. We take a perspective that when we figure out our compensation programs, we treat all of our roles the same. When when we design, or the way that we talk about remote versus non remote versus in office versus executive versus non executive, like all of our programs are designed to be, to treat everyone fairly, whether they’re an executive, or an individual contributor, or an apprentice where we don’t have no special privileges for executives, we don’t have special rules based on seniority we don’t have things that kind of elevate other people over others just because of historical…
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 19:55
So nothing like senior director and above when you travel overseas, you get to go first class but then nobody else does?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 20:00
.Nope, nothing like that.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)
That’s a real thing, folks, by the way.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow)
I mean, I understand why those policies exist. But we try to shy away from them.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 20:25
Got it. So, you mentioned remote. Obviously, this is all the rage today. And what’s interesting is you guys have been I think is it 70% remote? Is that correct?
I would classify that as hybrid like, definitely leaning towards remote. But there’s this whole view now, where certainly I’ve been watching a lot of companies say it’s optional for you to go back to work and go back to an office and creating some flexibility there.
And I think there was a Twitter thread from the CEO of Gitlab who was talking about well actually hybrid doesn’t really work that well. And a lot of these companies will realize that they’ll have to go all remote or go back to the office. I mean, but you guys have been doing hybrid for a long time. What are your thoughts on that? Like, can hybrid work?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 21:22
I mean, maybe it’s survivorship bias, but it’s working for us. In some ways, we have to have an office because of the quality that we want in certain parts of our offerings. For example, our education team has a studio and it’s really important that we have a physical space to record all those videos. And it’s not really possible to do at one person’s home, right? It’s not just like one person on camera, etc. That’s just one example.
But we have a lot of folks that just enjoy the, I wouldn’t even say collaboration just like the human life overlap that you might have when you cross paths in an office, and we like doing a lot of Team offsites in our office or somewhere together in another location, like seeing each other face to face. It’s just one of those things that I think a lot of humans crave. So there’s no way that you can, I would want to run a fully remote company without some sort of, you know, occasional in person presence, whether that’s a retreat or quarterly offsites or things like that.
But for us having an office is something that right now it’s a lot more questionable because of COVID. And if we have an office sitting there and nobody’s in it. Well, we would still keep paying for it, which is kind of, obviously annoying, and not something anybody really planned for. But I just don’t see it as this big deal breaker that if you have an office like your company’s doomed for failure, one thing I do agree on is that you have to treat everything as a remote first type of practice.
So for example, when we do our weekly calls with the entire team, everyone does this -even before COVID- everyone does it in front of their own computer, right? Everyone has the same experience as everyone else. So you don’t have like this 70% of the company on zoom screens, and then one big room with a camera where you hear like laughter among people because you can hear your jokes, and kind of track eye movements because you’re in person and that does have this feeling of like sort of bothering if you’re on the other side. And we’ve been really intentional about that, like the way that we create and how our teams collaborate.
It’s more like document and long form writing focus where you can share information asynchronously. You do end up having quite a few meetings to spend like FaceTime and get on the same page. So there is some benefit to having closer timezone overlap rather than like huge timezone gaps which does make collaboration quite a bit harder. But for us it’s been a pretty huge benefit to have this kind of like split or hybrid model. There are of course drawbacks with all remote and all in office.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 24:49
So the rule is that if you have a meeting and some of those people are not in the office, you are not allowed to have three of those, like say it’s like a 5 person team, you’re not allowed to have three people in the office in a meeting room, they also have to dial in to make it equal for the other two.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) [25:20]
So we haven’t made it that hardline of a rule except for all team meetings. So when we have a large team meeting, everyone’s required to be in their kind of individual screen or whatever.
For much smaller meetings where you might have like two people in a meeting room in San Francisco and like two people remote, or like one person remote, just due to space constraints, we still had some meetings where we just don’t have enough spaces, where without disrupting everyone else in an open office, to be able to like dial in without like noise issues. But in small environments like that, that’s kind of a lot more, you don’t have some of the same dynamics of like a large room of 30 people, plus a 100 people on zoom. Where you have this dynamic of “Okay, the 30 people are having a drastically different experience than the 100. So we don’t have like a hardline rule that you always have to dial in from your video. We still have some video conferencing kind of setups and some small meeting rooms and things like that.
But for the most part, when we have large team meetings, everyone is on their own screen.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 26:24
Got it. So how big is the team now?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 26:27
I think it’s a little over -approaching 200. So it’s in, like the 180 range.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)
Cool. And it seems to be a big part of your culture, just having these company wide meetings and all hands, how often do you do them?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 26:45
We do them weekly. We call them Webflow weekly, or All Team. We used to call them all hands, but we’ve got a lot of feedback that it’s kind of an ableist term, so that’s something that we’ve started to walk away from. But we have them weekly for probably the last four years. And it’s sort of paired with I also send out weekly kind of CEO updates that are paired with those weekly meetings.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 27:19
So how does that work? What happens in one of these meetings? And do you present it all of them or are there different people? Is it more AMA style?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 27:30
So the structure now it’s just shifted and evolved over time as we see what works, what doesn’t. The structure is usually we introduce new team members, we celebrate promotions, we celebrate anniversaries, so people who have been with the company a certain number of years, then it’s a whole open kind of block of either like marketing updates or financial updates or things that are Top of Mind or, news of the day like when COVID was happening, our kind of response plan, how we’re responding, programs that we’re initiating.
So that’s just kind of a big block open for things that truly matter right now, whether it’s business planning or whatever, then the announcements of various kinds that we believe are appropriate for the entire company. And then we have questions that come in. They have to be asked ahead of time. So we have the ability to ask questions, whether it’s like with a name attached or completely anonymously, and we cover those questions. And then we have a section called props, which we kind of just share gratitude for various things of various people that happened during that week.
So it’s largely kind of that structure where that middle thing can be any, sometimes we have a deep dive on a product that we ship, sometimes we have a deep dive on our marketing strategies. Sometimes we have a team presenting, we recently had our design team present on a maker day that they did have, what they created and the major outcomes that they came out of that day. So it could really be anything but that’s the general structure.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 29:34
You said that you pair this with a CEO update. What do you typically communicate in versus what is what gets talked about at these all teams?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 29:40
Yeah, the weekly emails that I sent are kind of all over the place like in times of crisis, they’re more like letter format, like when we’re going through COVID. And now with a lot of conversations about racial injustice and a lot of the national conversation we’re having, it could either be really focused on one of those topics.
When it’s more times of normalcy I would say, although I don’t know if that’s the thing anymore, there’s kind of a breakdown of some of the things that are top of mind that that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Things that you shouldn’t miss, things that are coming up this week or the next week that are really important, because even all team meetings, we have people across, I don’t know something like 16 time zones now, where when we actually do this meeting at 10am Pacific time, there are a lot of people in for example, Southeast Asia that can’t call in, or in Australia or New Zealand that can’t call in and they have to watch it on video or whatever. So the weekly emails are another way to reinforce some of the announcements.
Then we also cover kind of how the company is performing just like key metrics. How much cash we have in the bank, things like that. And that kind of team member milestones, promotions, new people joining, just to remind folks, team members they can reach out to and congratulate etc. And there’s always some sort of call for feedback. That’s one of my ways that I get a lot of engagement from everyone in the company. Just to kind of discuss things that I talked about over that email. And by the way, this email goes out to not just our company, but also to key partners, investors, my personal coach, the kind of support network of people that care about Webflow’s mission, so everyone’s kind of informed on the same thing. And it keeps that cadence going.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 32:03
Speaking of Webflow’s mission, and also diving a little bit into some of the cultural aspects and some of the values that you have set. I mean, there’s all of them that sound really interesting. And I would love to dive into a bunch of them. I think you call them actually core behaviors.
I’m curious to know if that’s different than core values? But also, I wanted to dive into one of them, which is ‘move uncomfortably fast’. What does that mean?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 32:40
So they are different than core values, because you could say you value something, right. But how you actually act really proves that you value that thing. So we look more on how people actually behave, and that’s what we want to celebrate and reinforce good feedback on. So that was an intentional, kind of not just nomenclature. Like that was an intentional act of saying like “Hey, we actually care a lot less about what you say we care a lot more about what you do.”
Move uncomfortably fast. It’s kind of a funny one because we just renamed it. And yeah, that was one of the most controversial ones, but it was rooted in when Webflow was first getting started this last iteration, we were part of Y Combinator, which is a tech accelerator. And the three founders, me, Brian and Sergi, we were very hesitant to launch sooner because we thought we needed a CMS because we thought nobody would pay for Webflow when it was such a limited product.
When Webflow first launched and we started charging, we didn’t even have the ability to create a second page, right? You can only create a landing, you couldn’t even create like an About Us page. You couldn’t have to create a form to take a contact us type of submission. So it was very, very limited. And our intuition was like, who would possibly pay for that?And no way we would start charging people until we have multiple pages and all this all these components you can build with, and a content management system. Because that’s when we can compete with WordPress. But one of the partners at YC was like “if you guys don’t launch in the next couple weeks before Demo Day, we’re gonna have a much harder conversation like you should not be part of this program”. If you’re not going to take this process seriously, you have to launch and you have to charge. And when we did, we were just surprised, we were very uncomfortable with pushing out and charging for what we actually had. We were deeply embarrassed by just the quality and what we thought we needed to have, but people started paying for it and people were like raving about the value that that provides for. It wasn’t everyone, but a big enough chunk of users who were very happy with what we had then and it made their lives easier, etc.
So what that taught us was that it was very uncomfortable to launch that product. And it’s what we felt was an incomplete state. But the value that we brought to the world was surprising, right? So that was the root of that core behavior of like we have to move at a pace that might not feel comfortable for us, like not everything is 100%, buttoned up and polished. But what we’re actually doing by not moving that fast, by waiting until we’re fully comfortable is actually stealing value from people who could benefit from it sooner. And that’s what was rooted in.
The reason we renamed it recently is because it was being used as a I don’t want to say as a weapon, but sometimes it was like we would have like a super buggy feature that we’re about to ship. And people just say just ship it uncomfortably fast, right? But then that put the discomfort into the hands of our users. And that was like the opposite of what we wanted, right?
Because another one of our core behaviors is starting with our customers. We actually renamed it to move intentionally fast. So it still has this concept of moving fast, but being really intentional about what we consider at that speed. So it’s not just for the sake of speed and constantly being uncomfortable. It’s really putting a lot of thought into what will bring value and what will bring value in the fastest possible way that balances these two things of bounces sort of perfection and speed. And I think that has resonated really well. So far. It’s a relatively recent change, like I’m probably in the last month or so.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 37:00
I feel privileged to know about it so early. I have to just tack on a question to that, which is you’re at a different scale today. I mean, not just from a people perspective, but just like the amount of people in the world that get impacted by the work that you do. Because people are creating web products, you can now build software type workflows with Webflow. And all the people who get to see that, so it’s very large impacts. I can see how something like this makes sense for where you are today. But my question is, with this renaming, I know it’s such a subtle thing. Would it have also been a good idea, say if you had this in year two, or year one?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 37:49
I struggle to answer that because almost almost everything that you know that we change or that we implement is kind of a product of the times or product of our current environment. So for example, one thing that is an active conversation on Webflow right now it’s so powerful, right? That when you onboard onto it, if you’re a designer or like an entrepreneur or something, it’s actually overwhelming. There’s so much power that you’re like “I don’t know where to start, it’s an empty canvas or whatever.”
So the conversation we’re having is like, should Webflow be easier to use and more intuitive? And the answers, obviously, yes. We have to try that. But historically, if I was to say the same thing to two years into Webflow, we probably made the right call in making or in kind of indexing more on the power side, because that’s what made us successful, rather than trying to make it like super easy in the beginning because we probably would have ended up with like another Wix or something like that. So in that question, I think early on, we needed that uncomfortable fast that asked mentality more, because we were so indexed on this perfection aspect.
Now I think we need intentionality more because especially as a company scales you have to consider so much more as a bigger product, right? Before we would be able to say “Okay, this feature is awesome, ship it. Or it’s like it doesn’t have this tiny bit of polish,ship it.” We needed to move uncomfortably fast.
Right now, we can’t make the same determination and ship something that, for example, is a lot less accessible for people who are now building sites not just for like a tiny set of small businesses, they’re not building things that are gonna be accessed by millions of people. So we have to be really intentional, even if that means slowing down in some areas, and thinking about a lot more implications than just is this a shiny new thing that adds more capability. We have to really look deeper.
So I think there are different times where that’s more appropriate. There’s another one of our core behaviors that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. The way it’s phrased is ‘practice extraordinary kindness’. And on a smaller team that you could have like those individual conversations to put that into context where you kind of separate niceness or politeness from kindness, right? Sometimes it’s like one of the kind of things that you can do is say “Hey, you have something stuck in your teeth or Hey, you are not performing to the expectations of your role”. Like sometimes that could feel like “oh, shoot, that’s an attack. Just because you have something hard to say doesn’t mean that it’s not kind.
But as we scale it’s a lot harder to have that kind of individual conversation or individual training where a lot of people might default to their kind of original understanding of kindness of like: Oh if I don’t have something nice to say, I’m just not going to say it at all. So as the team gets bigger, there are more and more layers between. The intent of something and the actual impact of it. I think everything needs to be kind of reconsidered as a company scales and as the team just gets kind of larger and larger and you get more layers of kind of translation or mis-translation or misinterpretation between what you intend.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 41:39
Yeah, no, that is a super valuable lesson there. So yeah, nothing is static, ever evolving. Vlad, we’re just coming up on time. So I just wanted to end with something that we always end on, which is for managers and leaders out there looking to get better at their craft.
You know, what is some advice you would have for them? Maybe it’s something that you tell people who become managers at Webflow. Or it’s a book, it’s a resource, it’s a tip, it’s a mentality they should adopt. What would you recommend to these folks?
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 42:12
I’ll just share my own personal thing that was the most transformative for me. It’s not some framework or set of tips or like here’s a guideline for how to be a good manager.
For me the biggest realization that made me more confident in serving people better was just feeling permission and feeling okay, living by my own values. Before I had this venture funded-professional company, I had this kind of mentality that if you don’t behave a certain way or if you are not like this picture perfect version of what a professional manager or leader has to be, then you’re kind of failing, right?
And then as a manager you should care about like business results first and foremost as a CEO you care about shareholder value first and foremost as a somebody that has
is leading a technical team, you should worry about, kind of technical architecture first and foremost, or whatever.
All these ideas I had in my head around like what excellence looks like, but I still felt some guilt around like “well, I actually think this is the right thing”. Like really sitting down and hearing out a team member in what they struggle with and what frustrates them and it feels like I should be making more space for that. But I feel bad that I am distracting from typical sort of leader things that investors might expect. So really for me the breakthrough was giving myself permission to really be myself and advocate for what I think is the right thing and make space for that. And like very, very openly defend that and not be like “sorry for that”. Not be apologetic for speaking what I believe is the right thing to do.
And it really came down to that perspective that helped me. It’s what led to our core behaviors. It’s what led to our second mission. And it’s what led to us taking a much longer term perspective and focusing on people where we say, look, we’re not actually solving for shareholder value we’re like slightly upsetting already rich people, based on not hitting some number is nowhere near as important as treating all your team members humanely.
As as a group of people that’s on a mission that’s wanting to do something important, and then that extended to feeling confident that being a force of good in the world and like society and for the planet and things that might look like they’re hurting the business, but are actually they feel like the right things to be doing. Like not feeling bad about that and not feeling shame that you’re not playing business enough or following some playbook on whatever the management books you pick up that everybody recommends, like, what’s the Andy Grove one? I have that management, yeah, high output management.. Like “oh, I’m not following that to a tee. Therefore, I must be a bad manager, right?”
Feeling that permission that my personal convictions, my personal values are just as valid if not more valid, then industry canon was what really helped me. Push for things that I feel are the right things and defend and serve my team better. I think, or I hope that that’s how they would categorize it too. And that made me personally feel more fulfilled, right to our second mission.
Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app) 46:22
I couldn’t agree more that really resonates with me, one of the values that we have is called “right the playbook” and everything that you just said, I feel like recording it and replaying it for everyone at the company and be like: This is why!
But this has been incredible. So many good insights. Thank you for doing this.
Vlad Magdalin (Webflow) 46:47
Of course. Happy to be here and thank you for listening.