What Happens When the CEO Says: 'Ask Me Anything'? (Part 2)

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Peter Coppinger, CEO of Teamwork.com, shares his answers to questions from his team on issues many growing companies are familiar with such as organizational structure, benefit packages and reducing workplace distractions.

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts over the last couple of months, you’ll know that we’ve been collecting employee feedback more regularly in order to maximize team happiness at Teamwork.com. If you missed the posts where I discussed our efforts to date, you can check them out here:

One of the initiatives I introduced earlier this year was Feed the CEO Monkey. This is a Google Form where I take questions from the whole team and publish my answers in our internal blog, called In The Works. I promised the team that regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable the questions were, I would answer every question honestly. Following on from this post where I shared the first Q&A that resulted from Feed the CEO Monkey, here’s some of the latest questions that I answered:

Question 1

It might be a nice idea to implement annual medical checkups. You can organize this where an insurance company will come in and take people for 10-15 minutes for a brief check-up. Usually it consists of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars, BMI, etc. It isn’t compulsory and people have to opt in, but for those who wish to do it, they get an individual medical report with the results. Might be a nice touch to keep in line with the gym membership options, staying healthy etc. Just a thought!

Not a bad idea at all. The well-being of every employee here is extremely important to us. No promises, but let us look into it. I’d say the cholesterol levels here could be scary 

Question 2

Please explain exactly what a Product Lead is and does and what responsibilities they have.

It’s simple really. A Product Lead is 100% in charge of the development of their product including bug maintenance, feature-development, team management and communication with staff and customers.

If you’d like to see exactly what the team lead job entails, check out the job description doc in our shared drive. If there are any clarification questions, please feel free to ask these in the comments.

Question 3

The open-plan layout on the third floor can be a nightmare when it gets so loud and busy. It’s not helped by the fact people walk up to your desk for conversations in the middle of your work. It is so distracting if you’re in the middle of something. If a developer’s door is shut, then you don’t disturb them. We also need a way of knowing when you shouldn’t disturb people working on the third floor! A basic “are you free for a chat” message first would do. Moving away to one of the breakout spaces isn’t always an option.

This came up again and again last quarter. When I had my last day in support, I noticed this first hand, as people were laughing and having-the-craic when I was trying to concentrate. I didn’t want to be a grump and say anything, but it was quite distracting. We even got in a recommended consultant to see if we could add dividers, but were told that little good could be done. We might take more advice on it. This is also why “It’s Oh So Quiet… Shh Shh (not)” was posted on the internal blog — we wanted to remind people to be considerate of colleagues who are trying to get work done. Again, let me remind everybody to be thoughtful about your colleagues – close your office door when yapping, use the breakout spaces if you can, be aware if you have a loud voice etc. Yes, I know I’ve brought tour groups cascading through the office in recent weeks so I’m as guilty as anyone, but that should be the end of it for a while. Anyhow, I’d like to think it’s gotten a little better. Has it? Let me know in the comments. Or maybe let us know if you have any suggestions.

Question 4

Firstly I just want to say working at Teamwork has been an unbelievable experience to date. The trust, generosity and openness from yourself and Dan is just amazing to see, so thank you. At the rate we’re growing, it won’t be long until all offices & open plan desks are full, so I’m just wondering would this mean moving certain teams out of Teamwork Campus One? Thank you.

Unfortunately, yes we are going to outgrow TC1. We still have a good few offices and can shuffle around the building, but ultimately we will have to expand to a temporary office until we build Teamwork Campus 2.

Question 5

Before Christmas, especially around the time of the town hall meeting, it was said again and again that we’re a flat company and that we don’t and won’t have managers. Your post below from In The Works uses the word “manager” multiple times and implies we now have managers. Does this mean leads are now managers? 

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a functional company that is truly flat. There has to be some sort of reporting structure or the whole thing falls apart. We are striving to be as flat as possible, which means:

  • Very few levels (like Google)

  • Minimal bureaucracy

  • Good ideas can come from anyone

  • Everybody is treated like a friend and with respect

We have always said and still strongly agree that we don’t want to turn our best developers (or marketing people, or sales people, etc.) into managers.

That said, Team Leads do have a certain amount of what could be described as management or leadership responsibilities:

That’s the minimum viable management performance that we expect from our Team Leads. We also want to keep teams small and fully autonomous as per our strategy. So I hope that answers it. In short, Dan and I will do our best to keep bureaucracy to a minimum for everyone so we can concentrate on what’s really important: making, marketing, selling and supporting world-beating products.

To conclude the post, I said the following to the team:

Your Call: Keep or Kill Feed the CEO Monkey?

Lastly, let me get your opinion on this: I’m thinking of killing the “Feed the CEO Monkey” form and sticking to Officevibe going forward. I don’t want to overdo it with the number of feedback channels we have and we seem to be getting more questions and better feedback there in general.

The caveat I’d add is that any questions you ask in Officevibe and tag with “#public,” I’ll make certain to also answer here on the blog.

Sound good?

After bringing this question to the team, the general consensus was that people wanted to continue with our Feed the CEO Monkey experiment and also use Officevibe to submit anonymous feedback. Stay tuned because I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a follow-up post to share my answers to some more questions. If you want the follow-up post delivered to your inbox, make sure to subscribe to our blog here. Otherwise, I’ll see you back here next Thursday!

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