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 company.
“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 atrophy.
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 week.
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.
Know what makes a good leader.The profile of people we hire are people who are not looking for a job. They’re looking for a passion.
I like to tell everyone I interview that we don’t offer a job to anyone. If a job is what you are looking for, we are not the right place. I describe it that way because we tend to operate at a pretty quick pace. It’s very fun and fulfilling, but you have to sign up for that.
We make sure that the talent we attract, that’s what they want, that’s what their current life situation will support, and we give them that passion and they bring that energy to the table. But as people join us, they want to grow their professional careers. That’s important to them.
We do everything we can to afford them professional development, and recognition is important, as well. Recognition comes in a variety of forms. Different roles tend to weight those things differently.
Good leaders have good judgment and make decisions that are aligned with our core values. They empower the people around them, they know how to attract and retain talent. They lead by example; they are risk-takers. We are a high-growth company, so leaders here have to be risk-takers — and not just risk-takers but risk-takers who are resilient because we don’t call every shot right the first time.
HOW TO REACH: Aprimo Inc., (317) 803-4300 or www.aprimo.com