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7 Questions with Shane Emmons
7 Questions with Shane Emmons
Name: Shane Emmons
Current title: CTO
Current organisation: TeamSnap
Shane is a pioneer in cultivating distributed companies.
His purpose is to foster environments within companies where people can bring their whole selves every day. He fundamentally believes that when people are not hiding their truth, they can be their most effective and impactful. He is a leader who inspires people to bring their whole selves to work every day. By encouraging people to be fully present, he grows results that exceed expectations.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
Focus. Being able to get everyone behind one or two objectives is tremendously difficult. There is a constant stream of opportunities presented to us, and it takes discipline to stay focused on the bets we have already made.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I joined TeamSnap as an early engineer—number three-ish. I was able to take my decade of experience and solidify our foundation, which gave me opportunities to help steer the company. From there, I kept moving upward as we grew from Principal Architect to Director of Engineering, to CTO. Bottom line, luck, hard work, and taking advantage of each opportunity presented.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I believe we should listen more to our bodies' rhythms and use them to be more happy and effective. To those ends, I wake up when I wake up and sleep when my body is tired. I have the privilege of working for a company that understands the difference between remote and distributed work, allowing all employees to be their most effective.
Now, once I am awake, I take a shower, brew a few shots of espresso, read a few daily newsletters, empty my inbox, review my schedule, and set on my task list. I drive my daily work from a living task list using Todoist. This keeps me focused and moving forward, whether in meetings for 10 hours or having dedicated days of focus time.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The platinum rule. If you grew up in a western culture, you likely had the golden rule drilled into you, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is good advice but is terrible for leadership. For leadership, we need to stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking of others first. The platinum rule is essentially, "do unto others as they prefer." This can be simple things like communication mediums, meeting times, and bigger issues like how to tackle projects, make decisions, et cetera.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Probably, Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders. It is a tale of taking command of a ship that a lead has no experience with and how they changed the crew from asking permission to a group who shares intent. A close runner up would be, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. It started me down the Stoicism road and being less attached to how things "should be."
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Go slow to go fast. You need to lift people, give them time to fail and learn, and ultimately surprise and surpass you. Despite what the industry says, hiring people who were successful elsewhere is not a guarantee of success.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
One of my favorite moments was around decision making. I absolutely hate having to give recommendations and have some supposedly superior person in the hierarchy sign-off. It is inefficient and perpetuates the patriarchy. So, I was so happy when my team would often ask for my decision under the guise of getting my opinion, created their own decision framework and left me out of it. I was simply to "be informed" unless the decision could not be reversed. I am so happy for the team coming to that methodology themselves.