Setting the example

To Bill Godfrey, good leaders
don’t just lead; good leaders teach others how to lead.

The chairman and CEO of
Aprimo Inc., a marketing software
company that posted 2007 revenue
of $58 million, calls himself a competitive, entrepreneurial leader, and
he wants to develop the same qualities in employees throughout the

“Fundamentally, I believe that
people do what people see, and
because of that, I try to lead by
example and use good judgment,”
says Godfrey, who co-founded the company with Robert McLaughlin
in 1998.

Leading by example means communicating — and doing so in person whenever possible. It begins at
Aprimo soon after a new employee
walks in the door and is introduced
to the company’s mission, vision
and core values, and it continues
through frequent meetings with
management and team projects.

Communication can be formal or
informal, structured or spontaneous, but whichever style you
choose, the most important thing
is that it happens or you’ll never set
the standard that you expect your
employees to reach.

Smart Business spoke with
Godfrey about how to effectively
communicate and why communication is integral to enabling
employees to lead.

Set the pace. You are what you
read — just like you are what
you eat. In an organizational
setting, people do what they
see their leaders do. It’s implicit, and leading by example and
applying sound judgment that
is aligned with my core values
and our company’s core values
is a very fundamental part of
being a good leader.

Before we ever launched our
first product at Aprimo, our
small team sat down and
defined the vision for the company and what we wanted the
company to become. At the
heart of that vision, we defined
our core values.

I believe that if you begin
with the end in mind, everything else will fall in line much
easier. So leading by example is
in large part making decisions
and representing myself and
our company in accordance
with those core values.

The fact that we sat down
and defined what the vision
and core values are was a starting point. We put them into
action in our daily and weekly
operations. Perhaps most
importantly, when we attract
new talent to join our company,
they understand our vision and
core values, and we ask them
right upfront to opt into that.

If you don’t do that, you have
a company that lacks purpose,
passion, the loyalty of employees, and the company begins to

We are a business-to-business
software company, and our
business is really a people business. With that understanding
in mind, communication — and
in particular, face-to-face communication — is very important. We are in a fast-moving
industry, a high-growth company, and communications are
key. Given the nature of our business, we need to have
trustworthy relationships with
our peers and within our
organization. Nothing gets
done here through the effort of
one person. It’s always a cross-functional team.

Stay on the message. You have to
plan ahead, because if you
wake up one morning saying
you’d like to have these conversations or communications, it
doesn’t happen. So I work with
my assistant and plan them out
weeks in advance.

It’s part of my routine, and I
schedule everything else around
it. Of course, avoiding distractions is difficult, but it’s part of
business and you manage it.

Every quarter, we have a
worldwide company meeting.
We bring all of our remote team
members online, and that is a
key opportunity for all of our
members to communicate with
all of our employees. For both
myself and my management
team, our standard operating
procedure is to have weekly
staff meetings, and I personally
meet one on one, face to face,
with each member of the senior
leadership team. I do that, if not
every week, then every other

I also, on a routine basis,
week in and week out, schedule
and have one-on-one meetings
with other key contributors
throughout the organization as
a way to stay in touch with and
get to know the next generation
of leaders [and] also to emphasize the vision and direction of
the company.