I was doing some thinking recently about how I assess members of my team, and what makes someone a fit.  I came up with a framework that’s been working well for me as of late – both as I’ve reviewed existing team members, as well when I’ve interviewed for open positions on my team.  Check it out, and let me know what you think.

The “FIT” Assessment


Character “FIT”

FIT from a character/personal perspective = F – Fortitude, I – Initiative, T – Talent

These are things that are more or less character/personal traits, and less about work output or specific contributions or performance.

FortitudeDo they get rattled when things get tough?  How do they perform under pressure?  Do they have the strength of mind to execute and make the right decisions when things are difficult?

InitiativeDo they wait around waiting for you to  tell them what to do?  Do they come to you with ideas, and not just ideas – but fleshed out plans or the results of experiments/tests?  Do they step up and take on more, and chose important, impactful things to jump into?

TalentWhat are their innate talents?  Are those talents particularly valuable to the team?  Do they leverage their talents effectively?


Contribution FIT

FIT from a contribution/productivity perspective = F – Failures, I – Impact, T – Teamwork/Team Dynamics

FailuresWhat have the failed at?  Have they had big, substantial failures?  How have they responded to those failures?  Do they “fail forward”?

ImpactWhat kind of impact have they had on the team?  What kind of impact have they made on the organization?  Are things noticeably different because of them?  Would they be noticeably different without them?

Team DynamicsHow do they work with the rest of the team?  Are they respected?  Do they show respect?  Do they drive others to do better, or do they drag people down?  Are they setting an example?
I’d love to hear what you think.

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Lately, I’ve had the great pleasure of being able to work with startups from the Microsoft BizSpark program that are leveraging SaaSGrid to bring their SaaS apps to market.  It’s really been a blast, and it’s great to see the success they’re having and the enthusiasm about our product and what it’s doing for their business.

One of the topics that has come up lately in discussions has been the concept of a “Private Beta”.  Having been responsible for the go to market strategies and successful launches of software products in the past, I’ve been fortunate to have learned a number of things along the way.  One hidden gem that I think many times is overlooked during a software company’s private beta phase is:



Gaining an understanding of the SPECIFIC thought process of how users evaluate the product.

Everyone wants users to tell them how great their product is and what could improve.  But what if rather than just going to market with a slightly better product, you could also go to market with a keen awareness of how your target market will be evaluating your offering? This isn’t the easiest thing to do, and in order to do it, your private beta needs to be structured with this objective in mind.  It can’t just be “use it and tell us what you think”.  You should have a set timeline for the private beta, with well defined milestones and feedback loops, just like any other project.

Here are 3 major things to consider that should help you on your way:

1) You want to understand what the private beta users expectations are going in, before you provide them with access. You want to understand what they hope your product will do for them, what they think it will do for them (based on your website, the information you’ve given them in the past, etc), and why they are interested.

2) Next, you want to understand their immediate first impression. When they initially are provided access, what did they think? What questions did they have immediately? What impressed them right away.

3) Further on, you want to understand the reasons that these users find value in the offering

Capture this information, document it, analyze it…etc.

Ultimately, you want to understand what you can do to keep your future customers engaged and extremely successful at every point of their relationship with you.   When they initially contact you, when they are evaluating your solution, when they sign on and begin using your product, AND hopefully when they are evangelizing your product to others.


Here’s an example of a first step and email to kick things off:

Send a precursor email or call (depedning on your participant numbers) that tells them that you are preparing to open up access to them in the coming week, but that first you would like them to tell you why they are interested and what they hope your product will do for them.  Ask them to simply respond, so that you have some real data about their personal expectations and hopes for your product.


Hello _______,

Thank you again for your interest in <INSERT YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE>.

We are excited to inform you that next week we will be providing you access to <INSERT YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE> in response to your interest in our Private Beta.  Before that time we would like you to simply respond to this email and tell us why you are interested in particpating, and what you hope <INSERT YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE> will do for you.  We are collecting this data now, before you see <INSERT YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE>, so that we have an understanding of what your personal expectations and hopes for our product are.

Our goal is to make our customers/users wildly successful. Understanding your expectations prior to your initial impressions will help us to better hone our messaging, so that we can communicate the value of our offering most effectively.

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to respond with this information and we look forward to working with you.

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Thank You Autotask

Posted By on Nov 5, 2008

Starting tomorrow, November 6th, I will no longer be Autotask’s Community Evangelist.  I’m extremely excited to be joining Apprenda as Director of Business Development. The work that Apprenda is doing is game changing, and there is no place I’d rather be at this point in my career.

I’ve been with Autotask for 2.5 years now, and it’s been an awesome ride.

Just over a year ago we launched the Autotask CommunITy, which originated as a “skunkworks” project of mine.   From the initial idea, to its conception and continued improvement, the Autotask CommunITy has been my full time responsibility at Autotask for the last year.   In that time, it has grown incredibly into a thriving community of over 13,000 members and has radically impacted the way Autotask as a company operates.  To cap it off, last night we were awarded a coveted ITSMA Marketing Excellence Award, specifically for the work we’ve done with the Autotask CommunITy.  That honor is just as much the claim of the thousands of brilliant IT professionals that make up the Autotask CommunITy, as it is any of ours.

In addition to the Autotask CommunITy, I was also able to help Autotask launch its product on the global market back in 2006 (my first project).  Then in early 2007, I was able to help introduce Autotask’s first mobile solution (Autotask LiveMobile).  I’m extremely thankful for the work I’ve been able to do with Autotask over the course of the last 2.5 years.  It’s been challenging, fulfilling and rewarding.  As their 65th employee back in 2006, they’ve now grown to over 130 people, and last week were awarded the New York Capital Region’s Best Places To Work award for the 5th straight year!  No other company has ever received the award so many years in a row, and it’s really a testament to the great people that I’ve had the pleasure of working with there for the past 2.5 years.

I want to thank all of my co-workers at Autotask, and all of the members of the Autotask CommunITy for such a wonderful experience.  I could name names and go on for pages thanking individuals, but I’ve made it a point to personally speak with many of you already.

Thank you all, and best wishes for continued success.

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As someone who’s always been fascinated by the human mind and how we think and make decisions, I was very interested in the concept of multiple mental models, outlined by Charles Munger in Poor Charlie’s Almanac. Back in May, I was introduced to, and conversed with Dean Isaji, author of the ThinkMentalModels compilation.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Dean and I ask him a few questions about the multiple mental models concept, and his work.

Dean’s Background

A bit of a background on Dean before we jump into the questions. Dean is a graduate from Cambridge, England and first worked in South Africa, for Eskom (the utility company). After completing his MBA at the University of Cape Town and then, after a spell in Hong Kong, he began working in the strategy and planning department at British Airways, in London. Presently Dean is pursuing some entrepreneurial ventures in America, through his own holding company.


1) How long have you been interested in the concept of multiple mental models?

I have been reading and thinking about the mental model concept for about 9 years. In the main this has consisted of reading – a lot – and making copious notes. The initial idea of trying to think better came from reading Tony Buzan’s Mind Map book.

2) What motivated you to compile the Think Mental Models collection?

At first, I wanted it for my own reference – thinking it would be handy to have it accessible on a PDA via the internet. But after reviewing the initial idea with some friends, I thought there would be real value to others. Hence I have complied an affordable PDF available for purchase.

3) Of the 130+ models contained in the collection, are there 10 or so that you find are used the most?

The most used  is the ‘disconfirming evidence’ model. I have then broken the others up into various categories – more specialized than the broader website categories – and use a memory system in order to apply them to a given issue. I cannot really say that there are therefore 10 most useful models.

4) What is the greatest benefit that you have reaped from using the multiple mental models approach to decision making/problem solving?

I have found that I’m able to think with more speed and rigor when confronting an issue. There is the added advantage of ‘confidence’. This is a little harder to quantify, but – paraphrasing Charlie Munger – the confidence comes from almost always being able to provide useful inputs in a group setting, often with people much smarter than myself.

5) Do you have suggestions for study tactics and ways to retain the mental models outlined in the collection?

I do use an extensive memory system and I practice the models on a daily basis. At this point I don’t really want to get too much into execution as I may develop it into an online course.

6) Any additional suggestions or information you’d like to share.

What I have found surprising is that many people cannot immediately see the benefits of thinking broadly across disciplines. But even considering my own education, at no point was I taught to ‘think about how I think’. This is probably true for others and may be one of the explanations for why people tend to shy away from an active mental model process. The other reason may be much simpler. In ‘Men and Rubber’, by Harvey Firestone, the author recalls a Thomas Edison quote – “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking“.

You can view a number of the mental models on Dean’s website.  However, I HIGHLY recommend the ThinkMentalModels compilation PDF.  At $4.45, it’s easily worth at least 10 times that.

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What do you do, Jesse Kliza?

Posted By on Sep 17, 2008

Chris Brogan posted a question this morning, looking for feedback regarding what people felt new marketers and new media marketing agencies should be doing. As always, Chris’ post and the related comments are well worth the time to read in their entirety.

So what do you do Jesse?

I’ve thought about what I do, and I think it can be boiled down to this:

I help organizations explode the traps of traditional thinking about business, and realize the value of every individual.

Every individual that has any form of relationship with your organization (employee, customer, partner, prospect, etc) has value beyond what’s on the surface. Anyone can be an evangelist for your organization, anyone can bring you the “next big thing”, anyone can help you fix a business problem. It’s your job to let them, engage them and nurture them.

What is “new marketing” specifically?

As someone who’s been in marketing for almost 5 years now, having had no formal training, my thinking about business and marketing is almost exclusively shaped by my experience and personal character. I love people, and am a firm believer in the value of every individual.  From a marketing perspective, this means I believe that organizations need to be as closely connected and engaged with their customers and market as possible. Marketing is a conversation. It’s not just about what YOU do as a company. It’s about what the INDIVIDUALS IN YOUR MARKET tell you you’ve done/do, what they tell OTHERS you’ve done/do, what they tell you they need and how YOU respond.

What about all the cool new tools?

New marketing isn’t just about the new tools, the new mediums, the messaging… it’s about changing an organization’s mindset and approach to how they operate and interact with their market.

Enough about what I think, what do you think?

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Oh wow, you’re the CEO!?  SENIOR Vice President, you must be really important!


Titles Influence Actions

Think about this. If you automatically attribute certain rights and privileges to a certain “class” of titles, your interactions with those people are artificially influenced right out of the gate. In addition, if you attribute a level of superiority with certain titles and YOU have one of those titles, that can influence the way you interact with other people as well.

I was talking with someone recently about an issue at their company.  They said that they thought that they had a fine solution, but they didn’t feel comfortable sharing it because they’re not “a director”.  Please!!!  That kind of stuff drives me nuts. As I shared with him my feelings about that kind of thinking, it became clear that he had gotten the “who are you to suggest something to me?” treatment from people in his company before, which sadly prevents him now from speaking up.

Knowing that certain kinds of titles influence the way people act, why do we still insist on having those types of titles within our organizations?  Don’t we want every person within our organization to feel like they can disagree with anyone, and that their ideas are as important as anyone else’s? Don’t we want people to gain respect and admiration based solely on their contributions and character, not an artificial label?

So what’s your title? Do you think people would address you differently if your title were something “less important”?

Time For A New Approach

Why not revisit the way you assign titles?  Do you need them at all?  Maybe each person in your company can make up their own title?  Maybe your title is based on the department you work in, and is the same as everyone else in the department?  Maybe a title has clear objective accomplishments that need to be met in order to attain it, yet it’s not tied to any rigid management hierarchy?

In the end, it comes down to the culture and management structure of your organization.  Unfortunately, some companies want titles to keep people in a box.  Other companies have traditional titles, but they have such a strong culture of equality and value for each individual that titles may not have much of an effect on the way people treat one another.  In the end, titles alone will obviously not solve the problem of overly hierarchical and bureaucratic management, but they can play a role in breaking down those barriers.

Only you can judge the effects of titles in your organization.  It’s worth considering.

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