Matt Cain is the CEO of Couchbase, a data management platform based in Mountain View, California. He read Michael Smerklo’s E2E post on time management and used it to construct an exercise for his leadership team during his company’s most recent offsite. Michael’s piece focused on using an Eisenhower Matrix to help CEOs learn to manage their time more wisely. Matt walks us through how he turned this thought leadership piece into actual company change.
How do you approach thought leadership exercises with your team?
How did you use Michael’s thought leadership piece to create an actual team-building exercise?
What was something that surprised you about the exercise?
What really jumped out at me was the nuance behind the areas of perceived disconnect. As an example, during our initial review, several members told me that they thought I was good at networking, where I had it on my dislike list. I strive to build and maintain authentic relationships and connect with and help people, but do not enjoy networking for networking’s sake. My team assumed I enjoyed it because they perceived me to be good at it. In another example, one member of my team said to me that he thought I was really good at micromanaging, which he thought was an important skill, but yet another thing I don’t particularly enjoy. Even the term initially bothered me. We realized that I can be effective at diving into a function or issue in the organization and quickly get at the detail that matters to drive to resolution, which I agree is important. But we also realized I need to be encouraged to do so by my team because it isn’t the my first impulse. My natural instinct might not be aligned to what’s needed in a particular situation, so I have to rely on my team for help. But they need to first understand what those natural instincts are. No one can fix problems they don’t know about. We went on to explore triggers, histories, personality traits, and several other factors that brought us closer together.
What was something both you and members of your team agreed you struggled with?
“You can only enforce that type of dialogue by demonstrating a true willingness to take feedback and get better.”
How do you make these findings actionable in the office?
What advice would you give rising CEOs about interesting thought leadership content they come across or advice they receive?
I’ve been studying leadership and team dynamics – and managing self-awareness for constant improvement – for as long as I can remember. Rooms in my house are covered in leadership and culture books from people I admire. My feedback on leadership is to follow your passion and to constantly be in pursuit of self-improvement. The best performers in the world, regardless of their profession (music, sports, business, etc.) tend to have the most coaches and are the ones that are always looking to get better. The way I pick up resources to help with self-improvement varies a lot over time: sometimes I’m into a book, sometimes I’m into retreats, other times I’m on a long-haul flight and get some direct insights just from being unplugged for hours. There’s no one model; do what works for you, just like working out. Find your recipe, stay committed, and follow your passion.
“My feedback on leadership is to follow your passion and to constantly be in pursuit of self-improvement.”