Why I Stream My Entire Workday
Founding a business is hard. Anybody who has done this even once can tell you. As I discussed in Lessons Learned Starting My Own Business, neither I nor my co-founder have any relevant tech experience and had a vision to start a tech company. We needed tech people badly. Getting started in Tampa felt difficult since it’s not exactly a hotbed of tech activity. This is likely only a perceived barrier, but, nonetheless, we expanded our search nationwide using Angel.co, LinkedIn, and our personal networks. After months of searching and interviewing we had a really great team spread across all relevant disciplines. However, the team was distributed all over the place – Florida, California, Georgia, and Texas. For the record, I have lived in every one of those states. Since we hired great people, there was (and still is) no real worry that they weren’t holding up their end of the bargain.
But I noticed something acutely the other day: nobody was able to hold me accountable, and I wasn’t doing a good job of it myself. Prior to this venture, my “professional” experience was limited to high-level athletics and the military. Both of these have intense built in accountability systems from your superiors and peers. Now that’s gone. Today, nobody tells me what to do. In that vacuum of direction, I occasionally let myself wander away from productivity and accountability. As they will, the little things became big things. I was focusing less and less on my startup. I had to inject accountability back into my work.
My initial thoughts were analog – sit next to someone at the incubator to ensure they can see my screen all the time, give regular progress reports to anybody interested in what we’re working on, etc. I didn’t find these ideas terribly effective. I didn’t feel the need to be accountable to them in the first place, and they had no incentive to hold me accountable. The people I’m accountable to are my distributed partners (yes, partners, not employees – we’re in this together) and myself. Then I realized there was a digital solution to my problem – streaming. I can literally let anyone watch what I’m doing at any time. I set up a Twitch account (because I’m already familiar with the platform), and went live. Now, no matter where they are in the world, the people I work with can drop-in on me whenever to see whether or not I’m matching their input.
This is the ultimate “open-door” policy. Ever think your boss was sitting in his office watching YouTube videos, scrolling Facebook, trolling on Reddit, etc.? He/she might be (probably not, but still). Ultimately, I suppose, that’s their prerogative. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of absentee leadership. When I caught myself peering down the hole, I yanked myself back. Why shouldn’t my partners know what I’m doing at work? If I’m holding up my end of the bargain, I shouldn’t be worried about what they’d see.
For all the BS people throw around about the millennial generation, we’re driven by merit more than you might think. When the people above us are there by merit, earn that position on a daily basis through what they bring to the table, match our effort output, and do everything they can to make sure we have the tools and freedom we need to create / work there’s a feeling of solidarity that is extremely motivating.
The “Generation Why” thing may be true. I’ve asked that question my entire life. “Why are we doing this?” I’ll let you imagine how that came off in the military. But, for me, that question comes just as much from a place of “What are you doing while I do this?” as anything else. We want to know that our leaders are working just as hard as we are, which is why I believe so strongly in leading from the front. But I wasn’t, so I fixed it. Now, not only can my partners talk to me whenever they want, they can watch exactly what I’m doing if they feel like it.
This is a new experiment. I find it motivating. My partners seem to think it’s a good idea. I’m going with it. As the experiment progresses, I’ll update this section with how it’s going. What do you guys think? I’m especially interested in other people in a similar situation – startup founders managing a distributed team. Any of you willing to try it?
If you want to drop in and say hi, you can find me here.
P.S. – I’m under no illusion about this being interesting to a viewer. I’m not trying to build a Twitch audience. I’m not an “in-the-know” Truman Burbank. Cheers.