My worst meeting

It still haunts me.

One of the most important components about being the CEO of a startup is composure. Your team needs to know that you can do the job under tremendous pressure. This does not mean the burden is all yours but the lions share falls on your shoulders and you need to be able to handle it in a humane way.

My breaking point at the time was during our weekly senior team meeting. Sales, marketing, product and finance would meet every Monday morning to pace the week. This particular Monday morning was at a critical point for our company but the banter in the room was anything but focused.

People were late. Tasks weren’t complete. Focus was airy. At that moment, my mood was set and it was not good.

I do believe in a good balance between jovial and serious — it is often me lightening the mood with a dumb joke or poke at myself to lessen the tension — but, for some reason, that morning the meeting was off.

To be a leader you need to be able to absorb what’s happening around and to you. You need to be able to check your ego. You need to be able to calm your heart rate. You need to be able to control your emotions. You also need to be able to express your frustrations in a mature way.

I did none of that.

By the middle of the marketing overview something tweaked me and pushed me over the emotional edge. Bubbling with frustration I had 3 choices. I could let the person finish and we could have a tough but good conversation in private after the meeting. I could ask the right questions to lead the conversation in the right direction. I could let the team hold them accountable.

I did none of them.

I simply closed my notepad, picked myself up and promptly left the room without saying a word.

I picked up my ball and went home.

My thinking at the time was that the next words out of my mouth were going to hurt someone so I did what I thought was the “mature” thing and I left. The leader just stood up and walked out on the team, mid-sentence.

As you can imagine, in that one swift motion, my actions diminished the value of the person speaking and eroded the confidence my senior team had in me as their leader. One selfish, childish move undid 3 years of building.

I remember feeling like an idiot as I walked to my office. All eyes in that glass boardroom staring at me as I slowly made my way. I knew immediately the damage I had done.

It wasn’t long before that marketing person who I interrupted was gone, what else could they have done?

This happened over 15 years ago and it still sits with me. I’ve made every mistake in the book but this one selfish act at a critical point in the business and all our careers is something that I regret to this day.