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一个CEO的自我修养

Ben Horowitz 2012年10月22日

CEO是一项不符合人们天性的工作。CEO不是天生的,全凭后天造就。下面就是打造CEO的秘籍。

    她屁股大,所以我叫她大屁股。

    —饶舌歌手2 Chainz, Birthday Song

    前几天,有位朋友问我,CEO是天生的,还是后天造就的?我说:“这就像是问Jolly Ranchers糖是长出来的,还是造出来的。CEO是一项极端不符合人天性的工作。”说完这句话,看到他脸上惊诧的表情,我意识到这一点或许并没有像我想得那么显而易见。

    经过一番思考后,我意识到大多数人的想法正好相反,他们认为CEO是天生,而不是靠后天造就。我经常听到其他风投资本家和董事会成员对某位创始人迅速做出评估,得出结论:他/她不是“当CEO的料”。我不知道他们怎么能这么快就得出结论。公司创始人通常需要多年的时间来发展CEO技能,在我看来,成败难料。

    体育运动中有些项目可以相对较快地学会,比如短跑。因为跑步是一种本能,只需多加训练。但像拳击等其他运动就需要较长的时间来掌握,因为它们有很多有违本能的动作。比方说,在拳击运动中后退时,很重要的一点是要先抬起后面那只脚。如果一个人用本能的方式后退,先抬起前面那只脚,很可能会被打晕。学习这样有违本能的后退方式,直到习惯自如,必须要有大量的练习。如果当了CEO后,还是以自己感觉最习惯的方式行事,可能也会被打晕。

    做CEO,很多行事都会违背天生的倾向。从人类学角度,做事讨人喜欢符合人类的天性。因为它能增加一个人生存的机会。但要做好CEO,要赢得长期的推崇,必须做很多短期内会让人们失望的事情,不符合天性的事情。

    事实上,即便是一些最基本的CEO行事方式在一开始也会感觉不自然。如果你的搭档给你讲了一个好笑的故事,要对他/她的表现进行评估就会让人感觉有点怪。下面这么说完全不符合我们的天性:“天哪,我觉得这个故事太烂了。原本或许是个好故事,但你的铺垫一点都不吸引人,最后抖包袱时又搞砸了。我建议你回去重新编排,明天再给我讲一遍。”这么做太怪了,但对人们的表现进行评估、同时不断给予反馈正是一名CEO必须要做的事情。如果不这么做,那么一些更复杂的事情,比如写考核评语、划定范围、处理企业政治、确定薪酬和开除员工等工作就更不可能完成,或者即便完成,也做得很差。

    给出这样的反馈有违天性,但同样有违天性的管理技能正是建立于这样的基石上。一个人如何能掌握这些有违天性的技能?

三明治批评法

    对于新手,一种常用而有效的反馈技巧是资深经理们所谓的“三明治批评法”。这个技巧在经典管理书籍《一分钟经理》(The One Minute Manager)中有精彩的描述。它的基本理念是,如果你能在一开始先表扬(第一片面包),人们就会更容易接受你的反馈;接着给出令人不快的信息(批评);最后提醒他们你有多看重他们的优点(第二片面包)。三明治批评法的一大好处是反馈重在对事不对人,因为你在一开始就明确了一点,你很看重他/她。这是一个重要的反馈理念。

    三明治批评法对低级员工管用,但它也面临以下挑战:

    She got a big booty so I call her Big Booty.

    —2 Chainz, Birthday Song

    The other day, a friend of mine asked me whether CEOs were born or made. I said, "That's kind of like asking if Jolly Ranchers are grown or made. CEO is a very unnatural job." After saying it and seeing the surprised look on his face, I realized that perhaps it wasn't as obvious as I'd originally thought.

    After thinking further, I realized that most people actually assume the opposite—CEOs are born not made. I often listen as other Venture Capitalists and board members rapidly evaluate a founder and conclude that she's not "CEO material". I am not sure how they figure these things out so fast. It generally takes years for a founder to develop the CEO skill set and it is usually extremely difficult for me to tell whether or not she will make it.

    In athletics, some things like becoming a sprinter can be learned relatively quickly because they take a natural motion and refine it. Others, like boxing, take much longer to master, because they require lots of unnatural motions. For example, when going backwards in boxing, it's critically important to pick up your back foot first, because if you get hit while walking backwards the natural way—picking up your front foot first—often leads to getting knocked cold. Learning to make this unnatural motion feel natural takes a great deal of practice. If you do what feels most natural as a CEO, then you may also get knocked cold.

    Being CEO requires lots of unnatural motion. From an anthropological standpoint, it is natural to do things that make people like you. It enhances your chances for survival. Yet to be a good CEO, in order to be liked in the long run, you must do many things that will upset people in the short run. Unnatural things.

    In fact, even the most basic CEO building blocks will feel unnatural at first. If your buddy tells you a funny story, it would feel quite weird to evaluate her performance. It would be totally unnatural to say: "Gee, I thought that story really sucked. It had potential, but you were underwhelming on the build up then you totally flubbed the punch line. I suggest that you go back, rework it and present it to me again tomorrow." Doing so would be quite bizarre, but evaluating people's performances and constantly giving feedback is precisely what a CEO must do. If she doesn't, then the more complex motions such as writing reviews, taking away territory, handling politics, setting compensation and firing people will be either impossible or handled rather poorly.

    Giving feedback turns out to be the unnatural atomic building block atop which the unnatural skill set of the management gets built. But how does one master the unnatural?

The Shit Sandwich

    A popular and sometimes effective technique for feedback beginners is something that experienced managers call The Shit Sandwich. The technique is marvelously described in the classic management text, The One Minute Manager. The basic idea is that people open up to feedback far more if you start by complimenting them (slice of bread #1), then you give them the difficult message (the shit), then wrap up by reminding them how much you value their strengths (slice of bread #2). The shit sandwich also has the positive side effect of focusing the feedback on the behavior rather than the person, because you establish up front that you really value the person. This is a key concept in giving feedback.

    The shit sandwich can work well with junior employees, but has the following challenges:

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