I hope your Thursday is going well. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and interview him on various topics, ranging from what is going on in the news, to career advice for students & entrepreneurs.
Today, I wanted to talk about leading by example. As Ash has lead WatchMojo for the past 15 years, it’s clear that his leadership has played a role in making it one of the biggest media & entertainment brands in the world. I wanted to get his take on how he leads his team, and how he believes leaders should set examples for their business.
What example do you set for your team? How do you think leaders should set examples for their company?
Context matters and good leaders recognize that different times call for different tactics. Early on, when a company is embryonic, you really are in the trenches together. Your teammates see your every move, so if you show up, play with intensity and finish your plays, you are leading by example. If you don’t finish your play, you’re out of position and your teammate that was counting on the proverbial pass is also exposed… so as the leader, you want to be paying attention to the little details of execution and not just being a big idea kind of person.
As a company grows, individuals don’t really see others on a daily basis, let alone on each play, so as a company grows in size, scope, and scale, it’s more about a) accountability, b) consistency, and c) transparency. I have always taken the time to explain decisions and put things into context to create precedents that are consistent and help us in future predicaments we find ourselves.
WatchMojo is a very unique company, I bootstrapped it and literally poured every single penny I had in the company. In that sense, I didn’t really have to prove my commitment to the team and I think when early employees recognized the sacrifice, it wasn’t hard for them to feel like they had an obligation to the team to show up every day, so to speak. But, as an organization grows, newer employees could care less about the challenges early on. As a leader, you may not like that, but it’s a reality… and reasonable: why would employee # 123,124 at Google care about what happened to the company in 1999? They want their free buffet and Lava lamps! Same concept, to some extent.
A more successful entrepreneur & investor I was chatting with recently said something that really isn’t politically correct, but there’s some truth to it, and that is in life, you will be surrounded by “average people.” It’s not PC but by definition it’s accurate: some are above average, some below… and that means average in a number of ways: be it skill level, ambition, etc. so how do you get everyone to block shots and leave everything on the field?
I’ve alluded to this many times, but the key in motivation, leading by example is recognizing that entrepreneurs/founders are [to quote Steve Jobs] “crazy misfits” who are so driven and maniacal to succeed that they cannot expect others to match that. It’s impossible. It’s not sustainable. Thus, as the leader, you have to set the pace for everyone to grow in tandem and harmony. You have to find a way to recruit people and deploy them in a way that the whole unit is strongest. This means managing egos, emotions, feelings, insecurities, etc… and why perhaps WatchMojo is a well-run company, but a medium-sized one when said and done. That is why I write about balance, but call balance a destination you never reach but more about seeking for equilibrium between (either) – work, life, play – personal vs professional goals – stakeholder goals: employees will not be fully aligned with shareholders, shareholders won’t be fully aligned with the community, – etc. You have to find that middle ground and there’s a give and take.
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