With Honor, Seth Sternberg and team hope to redefine how we care for our elders
After selling his first company, Meebo, to Google in 2012, Seth Sternberg was actively on the hunt for a new idea. Meebo was fun — it helped publishers engage readers through chat and advertising — but Sternberg and his co-founders wanted to have a larger impact with their second company. They came up with three criteria: First, the company had to make people’s lives fundamentally better. Second, the company had to be really hard to build, but address a real market need (as opposed to creating a new need, like Facebook did). And third, the company had to be have the chance to be really big — like $100 billion big.
These were the questions turning over in Sternberg’s mind as he visited his mother several years ago. Almost immediately, he noticed she was having trouble driving, and realized she’d need help if she was going to stay in her own home back in Connecticut. Sternberg had built a life and a career on the other side of the country, in Silicon Valley — he couldn’t be around to care for his mother every day. Who could he trust to help?
Mike was one of my best employees. His projects were on time and well tested before going to QA. He worked well with other teams, and with our team members. He took direction well, and sought out guidance on his career. He was communicative, and years after I left the company where we worked together, he continued to advance his career and moved in the direction he had wanted to go, into management.
I hired Dominic twice. The first time it was a recommendation, the second I dragged him across 2 states to get him to work for me. Dominic was always dedicated, constantly working to improve his skills and knowledge. He would ask for help when he needed it, and pushed me to be a better leader by always challenging me.
We compare business to war so often, we hardly notice. “Battlefield promotion.” “Let’s go on a retreat.” “More wood behind fewer arrows.” “Captains of industry.” “Alliances.” Even the origin of the word “company” is military. People read The Art of War and think about the insurance company division they manage as if it’s the same as sending armies off to die.
It’s tempting to compare work to war. It takes our daily toil and elevates the stakes, makes us feel that victory is glorious, our work matters. Seeing others as enemies may unite us. Hearts speed, adrenaline flows.
I remember how that nagging feeling just underneath the surface of my thoughts turned into a full blown problem. At first it was just some white noise in the back of my head that followed me from meeting to meeting. Then the issue graduated into conscious thought. “I really need to figure that out,” I would think but then do nothing about it. Finally, it began keeping me up at night, invading my thoughts during family time, and generally occupying every available space in my mind. It was now a problem I could no longer ignore.
I spent some time in the problem space, exploring options and tinkering with possible solutions. I talked to a few of my peers on the management team. It turns out they had been seeing the same issues and feeling the same way. We got together and compared notes, riffed on ideas, and came up with an action plan. It was going to be a big change for our company, but it was a good plan and we were actually getting kind of excited about it. My anxiety had turned to optimism. I might have even felt a little bit of, ahem, pride.
One day, I was having my weekly 1:1 meeting with my boss, Andrew Bosworth. We were going through the regular updates about my team, things going on at Facebook more generally, yada yada. Then he asked me a somewhat startling question….
“So, Margaret, what’s going off the rails on your team?”
We’re pleased to bring you the NewCo Shift Dialogs, where we talk to the people on the front lines of the biggest shift in business since the industrial revolution. We’ve just released twelve in-depth interviews that comprise Season 1, with Season 2 well underway. Join us weekly for discussions with guests like Lori Goler, VP of People at Facebook, Seth Sternberg, CEO of Honor and Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland. (And, be the first to get the interviews to your in-box with the NewCo Weekly newsletter.)
NewCo Shift Dialogs, Season 2
Episode 2 (21 mon): After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. He’s leaving soon, but his legacy is just getting started. Read the interview.
Recently, organizations large and small have radically rethought company design by embracing human-favorable policies including establishing livable wages, developing creative equity plans, offering paid parental leave policies, and even pulling out of an entire state in protest of discrimination. In addition to sending a strong signal that people come first, these organizations are also making an economic argument to investors that these policies pay dividends in reduced turnover and improved business outcome.
For 10 of the last 12 years, I served on the executive teams at TaskRabbit, Say Media and Dogster, Inc. While these teams have been extremely different, in some interesting ways they are very similar.
You’ve just been promoted to the Executive Team at your startup. Congratulations! I’m certain you deserved it. But hang on, there’s something you should know.
You Are Entering the Sausage-Making Factory
Being promoted to the Executive Team is an exciting milestone in anyone’s career, however it can also be somewhat shocking if you haven’t been in that position before. Here is how it usually plays out. After plenty of the congratulatory slaps on the back, you find yourself sitting in a room with a handful of other execs, the Executive Meeting. Pastries and coffee appear. Small talk and chit chat fades and the meeting starts. For the first 60 seconds of reviewing the agenda all seems good. However, as the meeting continues an ominous shadow of doubt darkens your psyche as you begin to think, these people have no idea what they are doing.