A Quote on Difficult Entrepreneurs

I came across a great quote from Donald Valentine, a founder of Sequoia Capital, via Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures.

When one of the younger partners in the firm started, Don took him aside and drew a four square quadrant. Along one axis, he put “easy to get along with” on one end and “hard to get along with” on the other end. One the other axis, he put “normal” on one end and “brilliant” on the other end.

He then said, “sometimes we make money with brilliant people who are easy to get along with, most often we make money with brilliant people who are hard to get along with, but we rarely make money with normal people who are easy to get along with.”

The entire blog post from Fred is here.

Blackstone, BlackRock and 360 Degree Reviews

I’m back from New York after meeting with executives at a lot of top Wall Street firms, both sellside and buyside.  During my meeting with Tim Coleman, Head of Blackstone’s Restructuring & Reorganization Group (and also a fellow Gaucho!), he cited the strength of Blackstone’s culture as a key asset, an asset cultivated, in part, by an annual 360 review among Blackstone employees. According to Tim, the 360 review process prevents coworkers from unfairly “dumping” work on others. Wouldn’t you think twice before unreasonably working someone until 4AM if you knew that person would have the chance to air the dirty laundry at the end of the year?  In Tim’s world (i.e. Wall Street), a 360 review seems like a great check for what sometimes can be a brutal culture.

This morning I ran across 360 reviews again while reading a great article about the rise of BlackRock.  360 reviews are an aside at the end of the article, but the mention of their use at another great firm began to make me think further about their use. Should companies include a 360 review in their annual review process? (more…)

Management Communication: Key Takeaways

My first business school course was Management Communication for Leaders. I was interested in the class for three reasons: 1) I can’t over emphasize the importance of good communication skills in the workplace, so any chance to improve is welcomed, 2) good public speaking skills are invaluable, but hard to acquire, and 3) feedback via a 360 review from subordinates, colleagues and bosses enhances self-awareness. This class did exactly that. Here are the key takeaways in the three categories cited above. (more…)