Chief Executive Ometrian – My User Guide

by Ivan Mazour

A few weeks ago our People Director and I were having a chat at the coffee machine in our office, and she mentioned a blog post she recently read, and loved. The blog post was about a CEO who wrote a user guide for working with him, and ensuring a happy and successful professional relationship. I was fascinated by the concept, as my blog has sometimes been described as a user guide to me, so I was so inspired by the idea that I decided to write one myself, and share it with the people who report to me at Ometria. Below, reproduced in full, is my user guide.

Chief Executive Ometrian – My User Guide:

One of our core values at Ometria is self-awareness. I have dedicated myself to being aware of my strengths and my weaknesses, and hopefully have developed that ability to a good level. I’ve also analysed what has made my previous working relationships, both successful and unsuccessful. The following is a user guide for working with me. It’s written so that you know what to expect, and know how to optimise our working relationship to reach the best possible outcome for the company and for both of us.

Each of the points matters, so please read it in detail, and if you have any questions please ask.

1. Communication

  • Most times something goes wrong in a work environment, it’s because of communication. Communication that is badly handled, or insufficient. It’s vital that we communicate well and often, and this section describes what I mean by this.
  • Do not worry about over-communicating. It is impossible to over-communicate with me. I may, as I often do, one day realise that this grand statement is totally wrong. But so far this has certainly been the case. To clarify, by communicating I mean providing me with useful information. If you’re wondering whether to send me an FYI, or whether to copy me into a conversation, just do it. I will never say “I wish you didn’t send me so many emails.” But I will get frustrated if I didn’t have visibility into something important.
  • Please read my blog post on my communication protocol, and my blog post on my notification protocol. They are old so the technologies listed there are now out of date, but they are still conceptually true, and they will ensure that you can send me an almost unlimited amount of information, without disturbing me or negatively impacting my ability to process it. In summary, please use email as the main channel to communicate with me, and use Slack for something which can be answered in a few words, and is genuinely urgent. But please do read the posts.
  • I will always make myself available if you need me. I will answer any question you send me by email. And if you need to find some 1:1 time over and above what we’ve already got scheduled, please just ask me by email and I will suggest a time.
  • I want to understand how you think, and the reasons why you believe what you believe. We all have different ways of processing information. I want to understand the logical process you use, so please share it with me, especially in the early days while we’re building trust. Point to previous experience, to other examples of successes, or to your ground up logic. Let me understand how you’ve come to your conclusions. Include me in that thought process so that we can align ourselves.
  • I will sometimes be very direct with my messages, either on email or on Slack. This may come across as aggressive. It is not. I am simply at that moment trying to handle a situation, and either require your input or your help, or you have asked me for input or help. These kinds of responses will only happen when time is precious. It is not a sign that I am angry at you – you will soon get to know me and see that this absolutely never happens in person. Someone who has reported to me for three years recently said that in that entire time he’s never seen me get angry or frustrated. So this is just me being brief and direct in written communication. Please keep this in mind, and think back to it when you receive a direct email or message of this sort. You’ll see that my usual communication style is much softer and much more detailed, but on the relatively rare occasions that something simply needs to be done and quickly, I will be much more short and direct.
  • I typically make decisions and send responses quickly. If you are someone who likes to think and process things before responding, just let me know – I want to work in way that gets the best out of you as much as I want you to work with me in the way that gets the best out of me.
  • I can get sucked into an email thread, either one to one, or with multiple people at the same time. If you see this happening, please point it out to me directly, as it is always better to have a conversation in person and reach a solution than wasting time sending dozens of emails. I will be grateful for you pulling me out of that mode. Do not be afraid to do it.
  • I do a lot of emails while travelling in and out of work, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You will likely receive a barrage of emails on Saturday mornings as that’s when I clear the week’s backlog. It may happen on Christmas Day, Or Easter Sunday (I’m writing this at 8am on Easter Sunday in fact..) I do not expect you to respond, but am happy if you do, and will likely start a conversation. I do however expect you to not get yourself into a situation where you do respond, spend most of your weekend working just because I do, and then get frustrated and annoyed with me. It is your responsibility to set boundaries based on what will make you happiest and most productive. What I won’t do is send you Slack messages on weekends unless it really is important and urgent – Slack creates an expectation of a response in a way that email doesn’t.
  • When I am in meetings, I do not have my laptop or phone out, and I do not check my emails. I expect the same courtesy from everyone I work with. If there is something that you absolutely must do, or keep your eye on, then please raise it at the start of the meeting with all the participants. Otherwise, please be present, and be fully focused on whoever is speaking. Active listening and positive communication is a core foundation for successful professional relationships.
  • It is impossible to call me at any time (see protocols above). I will check my messages as soon as I am out of any meeting I am in, which means it will be a maximum of 1-3 hours before I will see anything urgent. However it is entirely possible that it will only be the evening when I will respond to emails.
  • If you need something from me, whether information, or a decision, or an action, please phrase your question clearly, in a way that is structured, and includes all the information that I need to have to give you what you need. Do not forward an email thread and expect me to work out what you need. Adopt this same approach in all your communication to everyone – it is much more efficient for the sender to think through and structure the request, than for the receiver to have to work it out and potentially get it wrong.
  • When you go on vacation, please provide a clear written handover, letting me know how I can help or what could go wrong. When I go on holiday, I will work, and will be unlikely to be able to relax if I am kept out of the loop, so continue overcommunicating. I will probably not respond, but I will be happy to know what’s going on.
  • I expect you to be constructive, positive and non-toxic in all communication, whether verbal in a meeting, or over email. We should be able to have a conversation about anything to do with Ometria, even if there is disagreement. Emotions, both positive and negative, are a vital part of what makes us human. But you will be aware of them, of how they make you behave, and how that behaviour impacts others around you. You (and I) will make it a priority to ensure that if you do have an emotional reaction, it doesn’t make it less awesome for others to be here, whether that’s each other, or other people on the team. We have a mission, and it is a hard one. There will be constant challenges to overcome. We have chosen this life because we enjoy overcoming them. Negativity will not help us achieve this. Being aware of our emotions, and using them to drive us forward will.
  • I like to be friends with the people I work with. It is my nature. I am trusting, and I get excited about people who are smart and hard-working. That means we will almost certainly have two different contexts of communication and sets of roles. One will be where I am your boss. There I expect you to be professional, and to appreciate the fact that I am the CEO. The second will be where we are friends, and will likely be an ongoing thread of intellectual banter. If we are talking about something work-related and important, but find ourselves communicating in the second context, I will point this out and ask you to switch to the first. I’ll expect you to be comfortable switching between these quickly and easily without being affected or upset.

2. Ramping up

  • My goal over the first six months will be to build up maximal trust between us. The following will help with this:
  • Keep asking questions. If you stop asking questions, I will get concerned. Information and knowledge needs to flow from me (and others) to you for the first couple weeks and months, but this process won’t be completely structured, and I will need you to direct your learning as I won’t know what hasn’t yet been explained and what context you need that we didn’t provide.
  • Our industry, our prospects and our product are all complex and I can be most useful to you if you are proactive, direct, and clear with your learning goals. I want to help you learn our industry and business. I also want to learn about the function you lead, and what exceptional looks like. Over time, we’ll learn from and teach each other based on our respective knowledge and skills. The main reason I started this company was to be surrounded by people who are smarter than I am. So I want to get to a point where that kind of knowledge flows freely back and forth.
  • If I see that you don’t feel you need me to do your job well for the first 6 months, we will quickly become misaligned. I’ll assume you aren’t working to grasp the context, or to take on all of my knowledge, or are doing things based on how you’ve done them before. With my help you will better be able to identify what’s important, and get aligned with the rest of the company’s objectives. On top of that, we will learn how each of us thinks, our proclivities, where and how we disagree, and how we collaborate. It’s important we do as much of this as we can early on.
  • Share your plans with me, across all timelines. Your long-term plan, your medium-term plan, what you’re planning to achieve this week. For example, though you’ll have quarterly OKRs, share with me real-time wins and learnings. I want to celebrate them with you.
  • Show me what you’re learning and what you still have to learn. Share your moments of discovery, and all the questions you’ve still got unanswered. The more in-depth your questions, the more excited I’ll be to see that you’re progressing. I will never get angry or annoyed that you are asking me about something new that you want to understand.

3. Reporting and visibility

  • Create a regular, systematic, clearly framed written process by which you share with me your progress against plan. Collaborate with me on this, bring me into the process and make sure we are both bought into it. However while this is a collaboration, it’s ultimately your responsibility to ensure that I have the necessary visibility into your department. Please check with me that the visibility we do have is sufficient, and if not, please keep improving it until we get there.
  • Make it as quantitative as possible. Provide a data-driven analysis that demonstrates that you have total visibility and clarity over what is happening in your department, and what needs to be done to improve performance. Make the connection between this, your department’s OKRs, and the company’s goals clear.
  • Share this update with me at least monthly, but if you share it weekly I will feel much more comfortable that our mindsets are aligned.
  • Share also your evaluation of both current issues we face, and potential future risks, as well as what we are doing to mitigate them. I want to understand your thinking, and I want to help where I can. Use the monthly reports as an opportunity to do this, but don’t wait until then if a risk comes up.
  • Own this process. Do not make it my responsibility to chase you, or tell you what to report, or to tell you that you are not reporting enough or giving me enough visibility. Ask, regularly, whether I feel like I have everything I need to be able to judge you and your department’s performance, and if I tell you I don’t, then identify a way of giving me more.

4. 1:1s and appraisals

  • We’ll maintain a shared Google Doc that we collaborate on. Fill it in all through the week to make sure we have an agenda to discuss, rather than us ending up simply talking about the last thing we discussed before the 1:1. 1:1s are mostly your time and agenda so take ownership of them.
  • 1:1s are a time to check-in on how you’re doing, what you need from me, team issues, broad strategy questions that we can discuss, other aspects such as professional development, discussing concerns from what you shared in your written progress reports or gaps in the reporting, me providing any missing context from the rest of the SMT or the board, and of course most importantly bi-directional feedback. Reviews of results against plan should be in writing and other forums (e.g. Product Meeting, Pipeline Meeting, Customer Team Meeting, etc) as I’m likely one of many stakeholders that’s invested in the performance of your function, and it’s key to build peer accountability and transparency with those who are affected by your results.
  • Twice a year, we will formally document performance through an appraisal against your job spec and against the objectives which we have agreed. This is an opportunity to identify areas for improvement, and to provide clarity for both of us about how things are going. I am always open to feedback, and make it easy for others to give it to me. I trust that everyone I work with has this approach as well.

5. Hiring and managing your team and department

  • Collaborate with me closely on your org structure design. Make me part of its creation, don’t just present it.
  • Collaborate with me on your new hires, particularly those directly under you. The Authentication (our cultural interview – you’ll be trained on this) is there to provide a separate cultural assessment, and holds total veto power for any new hire in any department, but it does not cover competence, so for the most important hires, bring me into your decision making process. I will want more involvement in your first hire, than your second, etc. One of your most important jobs, if not the most important, is to recruit incredibly high quality talent, particularly in your own management team. These people should be better than you at the function for which you’re hiring them and in the same way I want to hire people that I would work for, it works best when you aspire for the same from your direct reports.
  • Share with me your team management system – how you communicate the vision, set goals, create alignment, foster high engagement, and cultural nuances, recruiting practices, performance review processes that are unique to your team.
  • I’ll push you to identify people who do not match our values, or are not exceptional in terms of competence, and help them find a company that is a better fit. I’ll get frustrated if I feel that you do not have the same bar. Be fair with terminations and follow ACAS guidelines entirely – we do not deviate or bend the rules when it comes to this. We care about ensuring that every team member has a chance to be heard, and to improve. Take responsibility that you, me or your predecessor made a mistake hiring them, and don’t surprise your employees that they are being let go.
  • Recognize and support your top performers lavishly. Help me help you recognize your top performers.
  • Don’t surprise me with employee departures. We should know about these well before they happen.
  • Pay median compensation, have a good pulse on market compensation, learn how to communicate the value of equity at offer if we offer it for the role.
  • Know the tech talent ecosystem and where the best talent resides. Don’t rely solely on our Talent team to hit your hiring goals – the responsibility is yours, not theirs.
  • When interviewing new hires, or appraising existing team members, put emphasis on our values as well as on competence. There’s no need to put through people who are competent, but very likely to fail the Authentication.
  • I expect you to get things done and make changes that lead to positive impact confidently, both immediately and ongoing. I want to see that you have a vision for where you want to take the department, and that you want to make it the very best. I want to see progress driven by your personal passion and energy. I will not feel that things are going well if everything is staying the same, or if I feel like I need to push you to make progress. My expectations here are high, because I have seen what exceptional executives are capable of. What a normal person will do in a year, I know will be done by an exceptional executive in a month. Be that person.

6. Feedback from you to me

  • Commit to providing me direct feedback when I’m blocking your or the company’s success, or when you notice something I can improve on personally.
  • I am aware of my flaws. I can be direct in emails. I can let my excitement get ahead of me, leap to conclusions, rally people around it, and then potentially realise that another way is better. I make fast decisions. Most of them are good. But not all. I can send blog posts that I read and got really excited about, suggesting we implement what’s in them. I can be annoyingly optimistic. That seems to have worked out so far, but I know it annoys people who want to take a more balanced approach. Often. I will work all the time. And at odd hours. Especially Saturday mornings. If I haven’t had a perfect night’s sleep I’ll be operating at a significantly decreased effectiveness, which will annoy me deeply on a personal level.
  • I beat myself up about mistakes I make, or things I could have done better. They stay in my head for a long time. I seek continual self-improvement. I need my team to help make me even better. I respond well to feedback. After we establish a healthy trusting relationship, things will continually improve if you give me feedback on how I can better support you and the company. Our relationship will get better if you do this well.
  • I encourage you to be clear with me on how I can best work for you. Consider writing a user guide like this for yourself as I will fit into it, or tell you when I can’t. Through our relationship, I will work to understand your style and how you’re best supported, and fit around it as best I can. I would be insincere if I didn’t admit that if our friction is sizable, it’s likely that you’ll need to adjust to my style more than I’ll adjust to yours. That said, I recognize this is the first time I’m a CEO of an organisation of this size, and I am working hard to be better and to constantly be ahead of the competence level that’s required of me. I have a CEO coach for this reason, and I always welcome input into what I can improve as an executive.
  • If I’m the reason for your unhappiness and you don’t sense that I’m unhappy with you, then please tell me and give me a chance to improve.
  • I want an open, constant, conversation about your happiness in your role. Do this instead of surprise quitting or letting your discontent fester and turn into toxic behaviour.

7. Feedback from me to you

  • I commit to providing direct feedback. Please make this easy for me by being open to it.
  • I will measure your success by the business impact you make, and your ability to push that impact through with your ability and energy, without negatively affecting other departments, areas of the business, or people in the company. The second is as important as the first.
  • If you’re not sure how your role or work output contributes to business impact and / or if it’s not clear how to measure it, do not proceed until we are aligned.
  • If I tell you that you are doing well, then I mean it. I may not phrase it in the professionally structured best way for feedback (i.e. that you very specifically did X, and that this led to an outcome of Y which was very positive), but I won’t tell you you’re doing a great job unless I genuinely mean it.
  • On the flipside, I will have strong opinions, and will disagree with you if I believe that you are incorrect. I will not expect you to simply do something because I tell you so, and will expect you to also disagree with me, and have a clear, calm and rational conversation until we reach a decision. These discussions will allow us to build trust, and once we have built it then they will be one of the most enjoyable parts of us working together, as they will be a game of mental chess between two people who respect each other’s intelligence. I do however reserve the right to make that final decision if we reach a deadlock in our opinions.

8. When things go wrong

  • I’m aware this is a long section. But it is so important to me that things don’t go wrong between us, I wanted to spend significant time identifying how to prevent it.
  • There are certain things that make me look unfavourably on my colleagues. I want to be clear with you about what they are, and I will also point them out if they start happening, and if you do something that I felt was incomplete, inadequate, or otherwise didn’t meet my expectations. When that happens, I am happy to have a discussion about why I feel that way, and to ensure that I did not misunderstand. If I had the facts wrong, then I’ll apologise and we’ll move on. If the facts were correct then I will expect that you will acknowledge, mitigate and resolve the situation swiftly.
  • I do not require a holding response, i.e. “got it”, or emails for the sake of politeness e.g. “thanks” – that simply wastes time on both sides. But the reason I don’t need those is that I do expect that anything I send you is processed and acted on, and never disappears into a black hole. I promise you the same in return. Once I’ve “passed something on”, I no longer hold it in my head or in my personal processing and organisational system. That means that at that point I fully trust you to solve that problem, or to put it back on me. Please do not let things slip out of this loop. I will get extremely frustrated when I have to chase, or I have to ask about something twice, or I start to worry that if I pass something on to you it may not get done. This is the fastest way for us to lose trust.
  • Try to take things that are in your function off my plate and into your management / organization / prioritization system that you create transparency around. If you are not doing this, or I have to push you to do this, it is likely that we are going to lose trust. I am trying to gain leverage by hiring exceptional people who report to me. That should lead to me having fewer responsibilities, and less things to own, not more.
  • Grit is one of my most important characteristics. I love when you demonstrate creativity, resilience, and tenacity when confronting adversity, and simply refuse to give up. The challenges we face now are nothing compared to what we will face in future.
  • I love when you can clearly organise your priorities and demonstrate that everything you do is helping achieve the company’s goals. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter, or on things that you feel like doing, rather than the things that have been prioritised and agreed. If I see that you are spending your time on things that don’t help us take significant steps forward, I will become concerned that you are not able to prioritise or delegate, and therefore will not be able to scale with the company.
  • I will get very frustrated if you aren’t fostering collaboration and a positive, upbeat environment. I love when you bring optimism, humility, and most importantly, self-awareness to your groups. Know your strengths and weaknesses, understand different social styles, and show empathy, compassion, assumed benevolence, humanity, emotional intelligence, and mastery over positive communication.
  • I will get frustrated if you are shirking responsibility and not acting like an owner. If it’s aligned with our agreed objectives, then push change through and do so fearlessly. It’s ok to take calculated risks and fail. It’s vital to speak your mind when something is broken, as long as you’ve brought a suggested solution for how we can fix it.
  • If you aren’t engaging in your own learning and teaching, constantly, then I will be concerned. A thread that binds us together is curiosity — about our industry, business, customers, function, and perhaps most importantly, about ourselves.
  • I will be concerned if you aren’t showing enough leadership or investment in engaging your team. Internalize our company mission and connect it to your team’s, communicate and evangelise it often, always make recruiting exceptional talent your top priority, build morale, give your team clear progression plans, deliver clear feedback, design your org to scale for 12-18 months, attack conflict swiftly, and be proactive with resolution. Leadership comes from you, not from me or from your direct reports. Being realistic is sometimes necessary during strategic discussions, but as a senior member of the company, your key role is getting your team to follow you, whatever happens, however hard things get. There’s only so much one person can do. An engaged and inspired team can do anything.
  • I will be frustrated if you aren’t demonstrating that you are relentless in your pursuit of mastery, that you are not constantly improving the operational effectiveness of your team, preparing to scale further, or that you do not care about the management and development of the people who work for you.
  • If you are disengaged in meetings, e.g. you have your laptop up in front of you, you check your phone, or you simply aren’t very clearly actively listening, I will be disappointed. I expect you to either make it clear that you do not believe your contribution is necessary, and leave a meeting, or to participate fully and make very clear efforts to listen actively and be very engaged, helping whoever is speaking feel listened to and cared about.
  • I expect that your relationship with your direct colleagues will be as important as your relationship with me. If you are arguing with them, prioritising yourself and your department over them, or unable to have the emotional intelligence and professional skills to be able to build bonds and reach consensus with them, I will start to lose trust in you.
  • While many of these may be resolvable, one issue which will be almost certainly impossible for me to come back from is if you attempt to push through an agenda which has not been agreed with me by influencing other individuals in the organisation. We are here to agree a unified plan, and then execute against it. If, after a discussion and a decision, you still disagree with it, then I need you to commit to it and execute against it nevertheless. If you cannot commit to it, bring it up during our 1:1 so that we can discuss a resolution that may require you transitioning out.
  • If you do one of the above, I’ll raise it with you. Hopefully I will have the skill to share my observation of your action, the effect it had on me, ask for your opinion, and then clarify the feedback, but if I do it in a less structured way then I apologise in advance. I’ll do this either immediately if nobody else is there, after the meeting, or during our weekly 1:1.
  • If you have done parts of the above list multiple times, I will start to lose trust in you. If we’re here, I’ll nitpick, double check everything, start finding issues with everything you do, and it will be unpleasant for both of us. My frustration will be exacerbated because I’ll know it’s my fault, not yours. You are likely reading this at a point where we both made what we felt was an excellent decision with the information we collected during our interviews and made the determination that you, in this role, in this company, in this industry was great for both of us. I did reference checks, evaluated your track record, and know for a fact that you are talented and a highly capable executive. You did the same in your evaluation of us. If after all that, we get to a place of loss of trust, and nitpicking, it’s because we’re not a good match. I’ll take responsibility and we’ll either look for a more suitable match or we’ll work on your exit.
  • I am hands-on until I trust you. A big part of this is because I’ve done practically every role in the company myself at the start, and so have strong knowledge of them. Once I trust you, I’m hands-off and we’ll collaborate as you need me or when I bring you ideas for us to work through together. Our relationship will feel more like a partnership or me supporting you than boss-employee if we’re successful at building trust, though I will be in the manager role when needed, and will sometimes make decisions that I believe are right.
  • From there, if I start to get hands-on again and micromanage, in a broad way rather than in one small specific matter, it’s because I’m losing trust in you or don’t feel like we are making adequate progress on a given topic. This is almost certainly because you are not satisfying my need for communication, reporting, or are doing elements of the list above. If you spot that I am starting to micro-manage, then assess whether any of these elements are missing. If they aren’t then bring this up at a 1-to-1 so that we can discuss it openly. This is how we ensure that we catch this early, and that our trust is not lost.
  • My goal is to be in a position where I can simply get updates, and contribute to discussions, but that the company is run successfully by the executive team, allowing me to focus on the multi-year strategy rather than the operational delivery of our goals. That means I am striving to be less hands-on with every day that passes. If things go to plan, there will be a significant reduction in my involvement in your department by the time we are six months in.

9. Me as a resource to you

  • I am here to make you successful. As per the point above – you being successful is what will make me successful at my goal.
  • Please be clear what you need from me for your success. Role, comp, org change, more feedback, more context, etc.
  • Be clear when you need the company’s resources. Be data-driven about why you need it, gather alignment from the pertinent stakeholders, and show that you’re being cost conscious. Remember that we are still a startup, and that every pound counts.
  • I love to work through problems together if that’s useful to you. Just ask.
  • I try very hard to hire leaders that I would like to work for myself and are meaningfully better than me at the function you lead. As a result, it’s unlikely I will be a mentor to you in your role. My biggest value to you is to be a strong vocal advocate for your success, get you the resources you need to be successful, empower you to make impact without friction, remove any blockers to your success, lead and foster collaboration amongst the leadership team to align on a strategy that maximizes your impact, and surround you with a team of peers that inspire you.
  • I have always been a self-learner, and as a result am used to being mostly self sufficient when it comes to professional development. I will do my best to help, and commit to supporting you. It will benefit us both greatly if you can be clear about your professional development goals up front, and ensure that we make a joint plan that allows you to achieve these.
  • I can also give you transparency into my role if you endeavor to become a CEO / founder, help connect you with people at other companies that are leaders in your function, change your role to help you change/increase your scope of responsibility/influence if you are performing and that is your goal, and create an environment where you can perform and feel fulfilled.
  • I commit to doing all of these and expect you to hold me accountable if you don’t feel sufficiently supported. I will feel like I have failed if during your time here you do not develop significantly in a personal and professional capacity – even though it’s unlikely I’ll be leading that personally, I absolutely am responsible for creating the environment that leads to it, so keep me accountable for it.

This user guide should give you a lot of clarity about what I’m like and how we can work well together. Hopefully this will let us avoid some mistakes we may have made, and ensure a fantastic working relationship. We are all learning, and evolving, so if you discover new elements or aspects about me that you think it would be valuable for me to add to this manual, please let me know. It will help me work better not only with you, but also with our other colleagues, and future ones too. We are all works in progress. It’s only through self-awareness and feedback that we can become better.

P.S. This user guide is very heavily influenced by the original idea and the original post, both in terms of structure, and content. It has however taken me over ten re-writes and dozens of hours to ensure that it truly matches what I personally believe. I am confident that it does.


Find out more on the about Ivan Mazour page.
And watch Ivan Mazour's TEDx Talk - "Why we shouldn't be scared of sharing our personal data".

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