Dennis Crowley (Foursquare) in “The Corner Office”

Posted on: July 29th, 2012 by bobmorris

Photo Credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times

Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Dennis Crowley, co-founder and chief executive of Foursquare, the location-based social networking site. He says its employees — himself included — occasionally change seats so that they can get to know one another better.

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

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Bryant:What are some leadership lessons you’ve learned since you started Foursquare?Crowley: I learned early on not to feel badly about reaching out for help, and not to feel embarrassed about saying that you’re in over your head. We have a fantastic group of investors, and I’ve always felt comfortable asking for guidance. Early on, everyone in the organization became really comfortable with the idea that if there’s something you can’t do, just talk to someone about it or find someone to help you.Bryant: Other things you’ve learned?

Crowley: The importance of overcommunicating. We’ve been working in this space for a long time, and it’s taken me a while to realize that just because I understand things doesn’t mean that everyone else understands them. In our company meetings, I’ll say things that sound repetitive, but you have to do that. You have to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

As the company has grown, I can sometimes start to feel disconnected, and I’ll decide to randomly meet with one person a day, and we’ll go out for a half-hour coffee. You do that for six weeks or so, and then all the channels of communication are open again. People feel like they can come and talk to me. I learn about the things that are troubling them or challenging them, or questions they might have.

I always ask them for feedback, too. “Is there anything that I can do better to make your job easier? Is there anything I can do to make the company better?”

Bryant: How do you make sure you get honest feedback?

Crowley: We’ve taught people that it’s O.K. to be critical. We try to air all that stuff in public at company meetings, and I think it creates a really healthy environment so that people aren’t running off to a conference room and saying, “I can’t believe we’re doing this.” If you want to talk about that, talk about it in public. That’s one of the things that have made it easier for us to be 120 people and still feel relatively small.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.

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