The Six Habits of a Talent Magnet

By Tsun-yan Hsieh with Anthony Tjan

(Tsun-yan Hsieh is working with Anthony Tjan and Richard Harrington on a book about entrepreneurship and building businesses. He is chairman of LinHart Group, a firm specialized in CEO leadership, and is a member of Cue Ball’s advisory group, the Cue Ball Collective.)

Talent is the make-or-break issue for business success. Few great entrepreneurs and CEOs of our acquaintance would contest that statement. If you are a leader who’s serious about improving your capacity to attract the best talent, you need to develop the habits of a true talent magnet. From our research and experience with numerous CEOs and entrepreneurs, we’ve identified six:

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Cult Creation

The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster

Business is noisy.

Business is full of people worrying loudly about projects, process, and other people. These people have opinions and they share them all over the place — all the time. This collective chatter is part of the daily regimen of a healthy business, but this chatter will bury the individual voice unless someone pays attention.

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The Right Way to Lay People Off

Shortly after we sold Opsware to Hewlett-Packard, I had a conversation with the legendary venture capitalist Doug Leone of Sequoia Capital. He wanted to hear the story of how we went from doomed in the eyes of the world to a $1.6B outcome with no recapitalization. After I took him through the details including several near bankruptcies, a stock price of $0.35/share, unlimited bad press and 3 separate layoffs where we lost a total 400 employees, he was most amazed by the layoffs. He said that during his over 20 years in the venture capital business, he’d never seen a company recover from consecutive layoffs and achieve a billion dollar plus outcome. He said that he’d bet against that every time and wanted to know how I did it. Since my only experience was the great exception, I needed more information. I asked him why all the other startups failed. He replied that the layoffs inevitably broke the company’s culture. After seeing their friends laid off, employees were no longer willing to make the requisite sacrifices needed to build a company. He said that although it was possible to survive an isolated layoff, it was hugely unlikely that a company would experience great success. He added that building a highly valuable business after 3 consecutive giant lay offs accompanied by horrible prominent press coverage (we got taken apart with cover stories in both the Wall Street Journal and Business Week) was a complete violation of the laws of venture capital physics. Naturally, he wanted to know how we did it. After thinking about it for the last couple of years, here’s my answer Doug.

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Scaling startups

The Scaling Startups panel I was on last week at Supernova generated a little coverage, but I wanted to go into a lot more detail than what I saw there, so it seems like a good time to jump back into blogging full-force. The panel abstract read:

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How Will You Measure Your Life? – Harvard Business Review

High Ground Maneuver

Analyzing Financial Statements

This topic could be and is a full semester course at some business schools. It is a deep and rich topic that I can’t cover in one single blog post. But it is also a relatively narrow skill set at its most developed levels. If you are going to be a public equity analyst, you need to understand this stuff cold and this post will not get you there.

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The Shirky Principle

Don’t be a Grin Fucker

Corporate ExecutiveOK, this will be a test of whether using real curse words in your title or post gets all of your stuff blocked by spam filters or from appearing on HackerNews or the like.  I thought about trying to spell it differently (like Guy Kawasaki always says Bull Shitake (as in the mushroom, but slightly misspelled) but somehow it lost the same effect that this saying has always had for me.  So I’m willing to suffer from less readership on this one and go with the saying. Plus, everyone on Twitter egged me on and then some. Unsurprisingly, this one way best ;-)

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