Hi There!

Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I ask WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan questions on various topics, ranging from what is going on in the news, to career advice for students and entrepreneurs.

Today, I wanted to focus on teamwork. Teamwork is essential for any business to make sure that the company’s trajectory remains positive. Although I have been with WatchMojo for a short period of time, I have seen nothing but positivity and other interns and full-time employees being a positive influence on each other. Having thought about this, I wanted to ask Ash about his opinions on teamwork.

  1. Do all problems go through you, or is it encouraged for the team to solve the problem first?

Oh hell no! That would be a very bad idea, a non-scalable way to proceed. Ineffective and inefficient. 

At the risk of sounding philosophical, I’m a big believer in teaching people how to build clocks instead of just giving them the time. Ultimately you want as the leader of an organization to set the values, principles, and framework through which the organization and its individuals discuss matters, deliberate, and make decisions… meaning that even if you are not in the room, then others can figure out how an optimal decision should be reached. 

What I love about entrepreneurship is you’re not just a player or a coach, you’re a player/coach. My job is to help others In making the best decisions to create value over time. Now that does not mean that I am not available if people want to run their problem by me, and propose their solutions to me… I can then could support them to ensure that they’re not overlooking any perspectives’, or details. Ultimately I don’t expect individuals to have as much of a panoramic perspective as I do, that’s my responsibility so the only time when I feel like I should be involved is really just to ensure that all stakeholders’ needs, concerns, and wants are taken into consideration.

2. As you are the “chief problem-solver” how do you give feedback to employees on various tasks, good or bad?

So the reality is I take my job and responsibility very seriously but I don’t take myself that seriously. I think I have a great perspective to see the privilege that I – and we – have. At the end of the day, we are in the business of “informing and entertaining” and we do so through pop-culture programming, so it’s important to not lose sight of the forest through the trees. That being said, yes we do have our decisions create spillovers, so sometimes I do need to more or less articulate how a given decision can affect others and that means possibly upsetting people, which isn’t my goal. But, my goal is akin to that of a coach or teacher, not to be liked, but ultimately help people improve to be the best version of themselves… 

To that end, it’s important for people to know that you’re never actually criticizing them individually or personally, you really are just giving them feedback to become better decision-makers. I never yell at people, I don’t have the heart…. but I definitely raise my voice and become more intense if I feel people are driving off a cliff and about to crash… like a warning system, i.e. “if we do this, we’re gonna get killed by the competition.” 

But truth be told, I also grew more comfortable in giving feedback. As an immigrant born in Iran, a born-Muslim in post 9/11, I overcame a lot more discrimination and prejudice… I don’t doubt that my team faces challenges and adversity, but sometimes in hindsight when I hear some team members not reacting well to constructive criticism, I think it says more about them than me, more about their sense of entitlement and lack of awareness and appreciation. I view the core, the original team as a family, but indeed, as the company grew, newer employees would never see me as a friend or family, but their employer… and frankly, they were right. I am not here to be the friend who says what you want to hear, but the leader who will make you better and stronger – over time. And that takes some tough love sometimes. The great news is this isn’t North Korea, if you don’t want to be part of this team, there are many other teams out there. 

I’ve already alluded to the rules of engagement in my “force meets finesse” article, which basically says that if you’re talking about people then you do need to be a bit more diplomatic, whereas when you were talking about processes, you should take no prisoners.

3. How do you help people learn new things?

People make better decisions when they have more information, more perspectives, more details… so sometimes it’s really just a matter of asking the right questions to find out how they came to a given conclusion. Sometimes you need to find out what hypothesis people made in making decisions and how they came to a given conclusion. What I usually do is I ask questions to find out the thought process whereby somebody makes a recommendation. When you do that you’re really just encouraging people to think things through, build the confidence to question their own biases and prejudice. In the end, it just takes a lot of repetition for people to see that if they make a mistake there’s no real punishment or negative conditioning… hence our #LiveAndLearn mantra and modus operandi.

Lastly, if you want to submit questions to Ash directly, you can do so by clicking the link here: https://watchmojo.com/suggest/AskMojo%20-%20WatchMojo’s%20founder%20Ash