The Power of Support

Sarah (Moz’s COO) and I snuck in a quick 10 minute sitdown today in between some other meetings. We do this pretty regularly – informal, non-calendared check-ins to chat about the big and little things we’re both handling. Sarah’s working on a potential acquisition and getting ready for our annual audit. I’m keeping an eye on a big release planned for this Fall and doing some PR stuff to help us recruit. One part of our discussion today really stood out to me (I’ll paraphrase, but since it was only a few hours ago, hopefully this is fairly close):

Sarah: “I talked to <mozzer x> recently and they were really happy with all the support you’ve been showing.”

Rand: “Really? That’s cool. I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been there enough for <mozzer x>; that’s good to hear.”

Sarah: “I think you’ve been the best CEO I’ve ever seen you be in the last 30 days.”

Rand: “Wow. Thank you… You know what; I think I know why. It’s Brad. I’m feeling really supported and that probably reflects back.”

Sarah: “Yup. It’s pretty cool.”

Obviously, hearing that compliment was amazing and flattering. I actually disagree, and kinda feel like I’ve been slacking lately, but it’s terrific that Sarah’s feeling good (and if she is, hopefully others are, too). The realization that having support behind me, even just over email a few times each week, means so much that it’s likely affecting my work – that’s remarkable and something I’ve never considered before.

For years, I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about how “un-fundable” our company has been, and how we’ve had to traverse a challenging road with incredibly small amounts of funding and the lack of a broader tech ecosystem profile than most of our similarly-sized compatriots in the tech startup world. That chip probably affected my management and leadership style. It’s probably affected decision making and how I interact inside the company as well as outside it. And since Brad & Foundry backed us (and Ignition re-upped), that lifted weight has changed my behavior again.

It reminded me of a similar experience in my personal life – specifically my relationship with my wife. We dated for a long time – 7 years – before getting married. In the first few years we were young, prone to drama and had our share of fights, including a few really rough ones. In later years, things settled down and we both became more confident, more forgiving and more empathetic towards each other. Geraldine and I tried to analyze this at an anniversary dinner in Ashland two years ago. I speculated that as we both became more secure that the relationship had legs, would last and could turn into something serious, our day-to-day insecurities melted away.

Since proposing and getting married, both of us would agree wholeheartedly that our relationship has improved even more, and I’m pretty convinced that the increased security and confidence provided by a long-term commitment plays the major role.

Finding that support – in your personal and professional life – is something I can’t recommend enough. And if you’re finding yourself with doubts, conflict and frustrations (whether at work or at home), be sure to investigate lack of emotional, committed support as a potential cause.