What Happens When the CEO Says: ‘Ask Me Anything’?

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CEO of Teamwork.com Peter Coppinger discusses how he keeps communication open and transparent with his team — and the questions he received after inviting everyone to ask him questions anonymously in an “Ask Me Anything” format.

After our second eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) survey at Teamwork.com, I decided that in order to get more authentic feedback from the team, I needed to open up the lines of communication beyond a one- or two-question survey.

To do this, I introduced a new initiative earlier this year called Feed the CEO Monkey–a Google Form where I take questions and give genuine answers. Every month, I answer all the questions that come my way through Feed the CEO Monkey and publish them on our internal blog. It’s another experiment I’m running here at Teamwork.com–because hey, we’re making this up as we go along.

I don’t think it gets more honest than that at any company! Embrace a test-and-learn approach and run experiments–you can’t improve by doing what you’ve always done. I promised the team that no matter how hard or uncomfortable the questions were, I would answer every question honestly for the entire team.

Some Q&A, Straight from Teamwork.com’s Internal Blog

Q. “Time Logging – I feel like I’m wasting time tracking time. Is there really a need for it?”

This is something we’ve flipped back and forth on. Personally, I struggle with it also. I agree that it shouldn’t be this difficult and I’m starting to think that while logging time on individual tasks works well for a lot of companies it might not be the right fit for our company. I wrote up a whole block of text here but I’ve decided that this warrants a full blog post. I’ll talk about a few new ideas with Dan and Billy and follow up with the blog post in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for being honest!

Q. How do I get my focus back when working? How can I overcome stress and distractions? Lately, work has started feeling like work, it’s not as fun as before. Productivity drops and I feel like it’s letting my team down.

So I think you’re saying that interruptions happen and you find it hard to get back to where you left off. And that this is a big cause of stress.

  • First, we don’t want anybody stressed at work, and we’ll do our best to streamline meetings and interruptions to make work as stress free as possible.

  • Regarding interruptions: We all need uninterrupted blocks of time to do our best work. For developers that means closing your door to signal that you should be left alone. If you have a closed door and are still interrupted constantly, bring that to your team lead and we’ll sort it out. For people in open plan, let’s think about a system that makes it obvious you are trying to get work done. Also feel free to wander away to the breakout areas – at the moment they are first come, first served.

  • Chat – I do think that banter can take over in Chat at times and it can become a bit of a distraction. So honestly, I feel that it’s okay to only check it a few times a day. Personally, I only check Chat and email a few times – any more than that is not optimal. Another thing I’ll add is that it should never be assumed that all Chat messages will be read so if the message is really important put it in a Teamwork Projects message.

  • Getting back to work after a distraction is to just take the first step. Whatever the next big daunting task is – do the first step, open the editor, the tools, write the title etc. There’s no easy answer.

  • Email – I highly recommend you don’t keep your email open all day. Check it in the morning, afternoon and evening. Do activities like emails and Chat in blocks and you’ll find yourself less stressed.

  • Everybody here needs to be keenly aware that they may be distracting other people and causing them stress (me also). Use Tasks to assign jobs to people and ask for more information if necessary.

Bottom Line: I feel it’s part of management’s job to help eliminate distractions. If you feel you are being distracted from your work too much, that’s a problem you either need to discuss with your Team Lead, Dan or me. We’ll sort it and again we really don’t want you stressed!

As you can see, some questions require complete complicated answers, and some are pretty quick and simple. The topics range pretty widely, and I always make sure I take the time to read, sort, and answer all of them.

Other “Ask Me Anything” Questions

Over the course of our Feed the CEO Monkey experiment, I’ve also answered questions on many other topics, including the ones below.

  • Inefficiencies with time tracking methods

  • Rewarding great performance

  • Suggestions on making a weekly TEDx-like Talk as a show-and-tell for teams

  • The possibility of Teamwork.com funding educational opportunities which could help employees and the company

The process of reviewing and answering the questions that come my way through Feed the CEO Monkey helps me to stay in tune with general concerns so I can catch problems before they turn into a crisis. If you’d like to see my responses to any of these questions, leave a note in the comments, and we’ll feature it in a future post.

Small Actions Matter

When a company is growing so rapidly, it can be difficult to stay in touch with your team’s reality–even when it’s a top priority.

It’s good to remember that small actions matter. Answering these questions only takes me a few hours per month, but it’s clear that this level of communication lets team members know that I care about their concerns. I’m not just tucked away in an office somewhere.

Growing a business isn’t always smooth. As we’ve added more team members and kept the business on track while we moved to a new building, I know that letting my team Ask Me Anything has helped me as much as it’s helped them. There’s no guesswork–I get to hear the real, daily challenges straight from the people who are facing them. And they get a sincere answer from me.

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