Crisis Leadership: Top 12 “Best Of”

April 27, 2020 § Leave a comment

As we step back and review the last 60 days of Covid and the last 30-45 day of sheltering in place (yes, it’s only been those number of days), many people have been thrust into crisis leadership.

Uniquely, during this crisis event, we’ve had to lead remotely and deliver such leadership on Zoom, Slack, Email, or even social media.

As I reflect deeply on what’s been working, what isn’t working, and what to never forget for the next leadership crisis, I began writing down my personal “Best Of’s” as I seek to memorialize and pattern match the leadership lessons I/we are all learning once again.

Always pass on what you have learned. (Yoda)

Learn the past, watch the present, create the future (Jess Conrad)

My Top 12 Crisis Leadership Lessons:

#1 Safety First: Both Physical and Mental. Closer to the Heart. Fear and fear of the unknown is one of the most powerful human emotions. Leaders must first address physical and mental safety the best they possibly can by addressing the unknown and communicating what is being done for physical safety and communicating “what is known”, “what remains unknown”, and “when we are likely to know more” to begin to address and acknowledge mental safety.

And those that hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the hear

Geddy Lee (Rush)

#2 Relationships Second. I’ve written about this before. Transparency is Required especially in times of crisis. Silence and “hiding the ball” breeds more fear. Transparency establishes and reinforces Trust. Relationships require Trust. During crisis events, we find ourselves in simultaneous states of being required to both Give and Receive. In order to do either, I’m arguing a relationship must first be established or if already established, reinforced and relied upon. Lead your relationship with transparency. Trust will follow.

I created this for one of my Leadership Presentations to 100’s of CFO’s over the course of the last 30 days. My premise? Relationships are the foundation.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care

Theodore Roosevelt

#3 Lead With Why. Once safety is addressed, and relationships are established or re-established, now it’s time to lean in and engage everyone. Lead with Why. During fear cycles, we all hear a lot of fear based questions that start with “What are you Doing!?” Instead, lead with ‘Why We Are Doing This”.

#4 Authenticity and Vulnerability Required.   Being Authentic Requires Being Vulnerable.  Being Vulnerable starts with explaining “Why”, saying “I Don’t Know” followed by “What Do You Think?”. “Why” is all about each other’s reasoning and seeking shared understandings on why decisions were made. Vulnerability is the ultimate Leadership Strength. It identifies the gap trying to be filled and encourages others to help/engage to fill the gap. It’s a super powerful to say “I/We Don’t Know” And “Here’s How We Are Thinking About It” and “How We Believe We’ll Figure This Out and When”. If you let people in, you can build a Relationship of (see #2 – Transparency and Trust)

A great example of a recent communication incorporating authenticity and vulnerability was recently published by Carta’s CEO Henry Ward with regards to layoffs the company recently announced.

#5 Find New Ways To Communicate. I’m struck by the multiple great leaders and communicators who have expressed the new lessons they are learning on Zoom communications and their surprise quality and intensity of communications remotely (over video). These leaders believed there communications would be much worse and harder. They are realizing in many cases Zoom (or Teams, or Meet, or other) is a better, more focused medium. I encourage us to continue to explore “Why” this is possible? We’ve learned these lessons in the “age of TV” and the power of the visual and verbal connection that “one at a time seeing and talking” to masses of people provides with only a screen trying to connect everyone. Great “movies” can be powerful mediums as well for the same reasons. Thinking about how to communicate differently and with all the resources you have is the lesson here. While leading on Zoom, I’ve found the need to be even more observant, to “read the room/screen” for body language or raised hands. I’ve learned to use the Chat sidebar as an advantage. To ensure all participants (or as many as possible or are comfortable) to engage. It requires an understanding of the audience, the medium you are communicating through and the strengths weaknesses of that medium.

#6 Build a Knowledge CenterA Data Center. Crowdsource the Best. In every crisis, a small set of regularly reported news and data feeds emerge. Whether it’s Elad Gil or Tomas Pueyo or 1point3acres or the Crowdsourced Public List of Complete Information, learn this lesson and establish it deeply for your next leadership routine (crisis or not). The point being that “Data and Facts Win” and “The Best Ideas Win”. Don’t just communicate “What You Know”, “What You Don’t Know”, and “When You Expect to Know” as a leader (#1 Safety) , write it down and publish it in an easily accessible, publicly shareable place (the web, public Google Doc, internal Company Wiki). Keep collecting the data as it comes in to this location. Keep sharing it. Ask everyone to comment, share what they know, and add to it. The power of a trusted data/knowledge center and the power crowdsourced engagement is the lesson here.

#7 Drive Decisions Based on the Data. Let the Knowledge/Data Center drive your decisions. Sometimes you need to act without all the required data using a leadership point of view or even your leadership opinion based on the data you have. That’s ok too. But the great news about documenting your decisions and assumptions based on what data/opinions you do have, is that you can test the assumptions/opinions as the events unfold, collect more data, and then course correct as required. This circular loop of Assumptions>Data>Decisions>Course Correct

#8 Understand that Misinformation is Rampant during Crisis Events. It’s either naive/ignorant or worse purposefully exploited to drive Fear. Fear drives bad decisions. See points #6 and #1.

#9 Engage to Win. Ask for help from everyone. Especially your family, friends, employees, investors. “What Do You Think?”, “How Can I Help?”, and “How Can You Help” are 3 very powerful questions in times of crisis.

#10 Availability>Communication>Conversation>Engagement>Trust Open doors lead to conversation. Conversation leads to Engagement. Engagement done the right way (Transparently, Authentically, and Leading with Why) establishes Trust. We’ve proven we can even do this remotely and over Zoom. We are building new muscle here.

#11 Empathy, Dignity, Integrity. I’ve found myself using Doug Leone’s (Sequoia) quote that I heard from a recent Sequoia leadership session. Reminds me so much of my personal years with Bill Campbell and the same lessons of “It’s the People” and “People will never forget how you treat them or how you made them feel”.

Be As Generous As You Can With the Constraints That You Have

Doug Leone – Sequoia

#12 There Are No Clear Playbooks during a Crisis but Plays Must Be Called. Leadership is required. Leadership requires actions/decisions. Take actions based on either data or clear points of view (opinion). # 5 and #6 on the list above. Focus on “What You/Your Team Can Control” and explicitly “What You Can’t Control”.

“And if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”

Neil Peart (Rush)
  • Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear. “As fast as you possibly can with the data you have”
  • Develop clear IF/THEN Contingency/Action Plans with clear steps (Oxygen mask first, life vest 2nd, brace for impact 3rd, then find the Exit)
  • One Size Does Not Fit All. The same ideas don’t work for everyone. Your particular situation/position could be safer or more dangerous than others situations/positions. Don’t make the fatal mistake of making your safer position more dangerous by “Doing What Everyone Else is Doing”. Don’t make your dangerous position more dangerous by not moving quickly to a more safe position by sitting still and hoping the danger passes.

The above bullets and more were from a presentation I gave to dozens of CFO’s on Zoom in multiple sessions over the last 30 days that I embedded here for easier access.

Today’s Blog post and “Best Of” list was developed as I woke up a few days ago trying to encapsulate the lessons we are learning during this crisis. I’ve routinely collected “Best Ofs” over 30+ yrs in Silicon Valley and over 3+ similar macro-economic crisis cycles and dozens of micro-crisis cycles where I sat in various Leadership positions.    Clearly, I’ve been also taking the opportunity during these WFH weeks to listen to my “Best Of” background music (Rush) and the song lyrics influence may have contributed.

Many of my colleagues and current and former teammates, friends and family who are reading this were with me during these events and I encourage each of you to comment, add your own “Best Of” that I missed, and to certainly engage so collectively we can….

“Transmit Our Knowledge to those that Follow….Greater than it was Transmitted to Us”

(modified from Phi Delta Theta motto; also adapted as “Pay It Forward”)

Strategic Financial Leadership During Crisis

April 4, 2020 § Leave a comment

A Zoom preso I created and moderated to several groups over the last 7 days. Time to share it more broadly

PTEP – Extending Stock Option Exercise Periods

April 20, 2019 § Leave a comment

There is a fast growing movement underway in Silicon Valley changing an ancient stock option practice (ancient in Silicon Valley terms) which originally helped build VC backed startups but is now so outdated and misaligned with modern day private company times that Mgt teams/Boards across the Valley are mostly quietly changing the exercise periods of stock options board meeting by Board meeting.

The acronym is PTEP or Post Termination Exercise Period for Stock Option holders (primarily employees of private VC backed companies.

The issue is a forced 90 day exercise period once an employee decides to leave their company. If an employee can’t afford to pay the Stock Option exercise price + the taxes on any gains, the option which has been vested and earned by the employee is forfeited.

The crisis at hand is the unarguable facts that private companies are staying private much longer and valuations are soaring creating a huge economic disadvantage that greatly misaligns the original intentions of stock options as well as the meritocracy value systems that most leaders espouse.

In essence, we have a situation where the wealthy who can afford to exercise these options after 90 days have the opportunity to get more wealthy and vice versa.

I’ve been personally involved in much of this discussion from Board rooms to Panel Talks to private COO and CFO web/email groups.

I’ve recently posted my views to a few of these groups and have received such overwhelming agreement from peer CEOs, COOs, CFOs that it’s time to publish here as well to ensure the strong chorus is amplified.

Bottom Line: Stock Option times are a changing and it’s time to change with the times and be part of the leadership of creating a healthier economic reality for employees.

Here’s my post to those other groups that I’m sharing more publicly here:


The private markets are catching up to ancient and outdated stock option practices.  Huge misalignment of fair compensation practices with regards to stock options.

Providing stock options to employees is a 30+ yr practice in which the underlying terms and practices have never changed/been updated.   4 yr cliff vesting, 10 yr option expiration, 90 days to exercise, only the 1st $100K of ISO’s can be exercised in any given year.  Only cliff vesting has been addressed in 30 yrs (it used to be annual cliffs)

The Problems in these stale practices are clear.   The Avg Private company is now staying private for 12 yrs (latest data).  30 years ago, the average was 4 yrs.   $100K ISO Exercise Limit has not changed with Inflation….should be in the $300-$400K range in today’s dollars.    Stock Option exercise prices used to be pennies or tens of cents.

Finally, the topic here, 90 days to exercise is so MISALIGNED, it remains the only form of compensation that can effectively be TAKEN BACK by those in power and with much deeper pockets.

We are dealing with a severe conflict of interest and “compensation strategy misalignment” and “fair dealings with total compensation” every time I hear a VC or a Board proclaim a “disadvantage to the company or to other shareholders” and the argument of having to expand the cap table because of the underlying Option Pool,

To set the facts straight, when the discussion is about extending the stock option exercise period, we are dealing ONLY with Vested Stock Options.     Stepping back and asking “What’s the Right Thing To Do Here?”, there is generally a failure to recognize that Vested Stock Options are “Earned Compensation”.    The employee worked “Sweat Equity” and typically took lower cash pay as part of their overall comp package.

And yet, how can it be that “Earned Compensation” can be swiftly taken back within 90 Days?   The party with the power says there’s a catch!    You are required to pay me a large % of the value of what you’ve earned (30-50% taxes) before I pay you your earnings?  You don’t have the cash to pay me before I pay you?    Too bad, I get to put those earnings back into my pocket?

Can anyone imaging treating other forms of earned compensation this way?  Your annual bonus?  Your annual commission?  Imagine being forced to pay the taxes on your annual bonus or commission upfront before the company pays you the actual bonus cash?  To add insult, imagine a company or board saying “If you can’t pay the taxes, you lose your bonus” and that gives us the opportunity to pay higher bonuses to others?  As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s exactly the practice that’s going on with stock options.

When framed this way, people should be up in arms about this practice especially with the complete lack of changes in the private marketplace now that companies are staying private longer, stock option prices (409a valuations) are the competition for attracting and retaining talent has never been higher.

So, in classic market condition corrections, there are now nearly 100 brand name private VC backed companies that have been proactive and have changed these ancient practices.  

The rest of the Private markets will follow sooner or later once they realize this is actually both a new retention tool and an alignment of interests tool.

Extending exercise periods once a valuable employee hits 2 or 3 yrs and then extends a year for every year of service thereafter up to say 7 years is another retention tool not much different than “Refresh Grants”.

In the end, company’s, Boards, VC’s should never argue that they are “giving something” to these employees.  These employees EARNED this value by providing their valuable services to the company.   An employee shouldn’t have to be wealthy to acquire the value they’ve earned and certainly shouldn’t have this value taken away due to lack of affordability.

“The principle we’re operating under is one of fairness,” explains Pinterest co-founder Evan Sharp. “If you’ve made an important contribution to Pinterest, you should be able to keep that value. And that shouldn’t just be for people with enough cash to satisfy their tax liability.”

More Good Reading Here:

Forbes: top compensation attorney = author


Pinterest in 2015:…years/

Steve Blank

NEXT STEPS: For those involved in a position to change your companies practices here, so your homework.

1) Read these links and others.

2) Talk to your legal counsel

3) Draft and propose the proper changes for your company to your Board.

This is long overdue…’s time to show leadership again in this very important compensation area.

Best of Mozilla

June 30, 2018 § 1 Comment

As I depart Mozilla in 2018, I arrive at yet another inflection point in Mozilla’s history.

Mozilla is an incredible success story. From $0 in revenue and cash 15 years ago to $500M in both revenue and assets in the latest published annual report(s). From Mitchell’s Vision and Manifesto in the early 2000’s to the launch of Firefox 1.0 in November, 2004,  Firefox and everything Mozilla stands for has made an impact on the world.

We “Took Back the Web” in 2005 with only a few thousand square feet of space and now have multiple international Mozilla offices with over 1,100 employed Mozillians and thousands of additional open source contributors.

It’s been a privilege to have played a part in scaling Mozilla from this 18 person startup to the multi-national, top brand organization we are today. We made an impact on the industry and we continue to be a powerful voice for the web, the technology industry, and operating as a developer community.

Mozilla is one of those rare special places where you simultaneously seek to change the world and, by doing so, Mozilla changes you.

Mozilla taught me the true meaning of “Open” and how to lead powerfully with both Trust and Transparency. I’ve done my very best to coach/teach other Mozillians these key learning’s and to continuously design these key principles into Mozilla’s “internal operating systems”.

There are too many friends and teammates and Mozillians worldwide to thank who won’t see me as often in the offices but who I’ll still be hanging out with on the web and social media sites.

In the end, the only thing that matters is we connected with each other, learned from each other, and we made a difference. We learned to trust each other by operating transparently and in turn we learned how a small army of awesome Mozillians could leverage and compete with tech giants.

There are so too many stories and so many memories with so many people. The best I can do to convey my experience is to offer a sampling of my “Best Of” in the form of  what everyone loves these days “Videos on the Web”!

In no particular order and with 100% certainty I’ve missed some important “moments in time”, I offer you my take on “Mozilla’s Best of Vdieos” along with some historical and important blogposts from Mozilla leaders in an attempt to capture and share Mozilla’s amazing history over the last 10+ yrs.

There’s a lot below and it may all be tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) for you.  If that’s you, then at least BOOKMARK these links in Firefox or for bonus points SAVE the links to Pocket and Share!
Thank you Mozilla and all Mozillians!

MOZILLA’s BEST OF (Greatest Hits)

History of Mozilla

Chris Beard’s Mozilla Firefox Brand Manifesto:  We Answer To No One But You!: 

Quick Mozilla Firefox Videos:



THE WEB WE WANT:  An Open Letter

Seniors React to Firefox Data Privacy




Johnathan Nightingale on Firefox (2013)

BONUS CUT:  Making Espresso at Mozilla:

Creating the Firefox Monument: 2014

New Firefox Quantum:  (2017)


Mitchell Baker’s Blog: 

John Lilly: 

Denelle Dixon: Online Privacy  

Harvey Anderson: Health of the Web: 

Mark Surman:

Deb Cohen:

Laura Thomson:


Annual Report – State of Mozilla 2016:

IRL:  Internet in Real Life Podcast:

StoryTelling: Change Your Lens – Change Your Life

May 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

“Our Vision Controls Our Perception.  Our Perception Becomes Our Reality”

“There’s More Than One Right Answer”

“There’s Far More Right With the World Than What’s Wrong With It”

“Extraordinary Visions Release Passion”

“I Saw An Angel In The Stone and Carved To Set It Free” – MichelAngelo

Dewitt Jones is great.   A great storyteller with a great message and great photos!


p.s. – Don’t forget to bring your “juice camera”!


April 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

When you are 92 and you have life experiences like Brother David Steindl-Rast, I always listen.

A simple and wonderful message on a Sunday.

* “It is not happiness that makes us grateful…….it’s gratefulness that makes you happy”

* Stop, Look, Listen, GO!

If you liked that 2007 video, he updated it in 2017.

Same message but worth watching again!

Connection is the New Currency

March 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

In this post, the focus is on Trust, Transparency, Leadership, Storytelling, and how all these concepts interlink:

Trust and Permission

“We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses that delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way. And all of those behaviors are the acts of people, not machines. We embrace the humanity in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become less human and more cold.


“Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership

Leadership, though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No manual, no rule book, no überleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. If you ask someone for the rule  book on how to lead, you’re secretly wishing to be a manager.

Leaders are vulnerable, not controlling, and they are racing to the top, taking us to a new place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.”


“After trust is earned and your work is seen, only a fraction of it is magical enough to be worth spreading. Again, this magic is the work of the human artist, not the corporate machine. We’re no longer interested in average stuff for average people.”


“the people you seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the interesting frontier, these people want your humanity..”

This was all taken from the following:  I thought

A Long Article – Worth the Read

Code Poets – “Good People Working Together Create Big Things”

March 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

Ran across a remarkable video (Tedx talk) by Jim Zemlin – CEO of the Linux Foundation

For anyone wondering what Mozilla has been like over the years, this video explains a ton.   Very similar companies. Very similar cultures.

For anyone inside of Mozilla, this video will resonate strongly.

Mozilla Talks (Best Of): Minimum Viable Bureaucracy

January 28, 2014 § 4 Comments

Listen to Laura Thomson @lxt, Sr Web Engineering Mgr,  describe Mozilla’s “MVP”  Minimum Viable Bureaucracy.   We do this not only in Engineering but everywhere inside Mozilla (especially Finance and Operations).

Best of Quotes from this Minimum Viable Bureaucracy talk:

The basis of any self-organizing system = TRUST

Awesome communication processes require practice

Every project should have a URL

Let subject matter experts emerge (module owner or Benevolent Dictator For Life)

A 1 person = 2 day marathon Prototype + Momentum gets people motivated and makes the PATH clear

Iterate toward greatness

Ruthless murder scope creep   “Not in This Iteration”.   NO! ….. is a complete sentence.

There is no such thing as a structureless organization  (there is somebody at the end of the day organizing “stuff”)

Knowing how to work hard is a skill some people have never learned (especially if they are incredibly smart and have intellectually cruised through life)

In this talk, you’ll hear Laura reference several other current and former thought leaders at Mozilla.

This talk appeared at OSCON 2013 and the slide deck has garnered some attention, but the talk was not recorded, so as per requests, Laura re-delivers it on Air Mozilla as a brownbag.

For more of Laura: < you’ll find all her slide decks here.

Other talks referenced by Laura:    John O’Duinn’s “We Are All Remoties”  >

John Lilly’s Preso on Mozilla and Managing Chaos

Leave Your Legacy

August 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

Leave Your Legacy:  Pissed Off For Greatness

Wins and Losses – they are a dime a dozen

Nobody can judge effort
Effort is between YOU and YOU!

NOW…you have to show that you are a different creature than you were 5 minutes ago….

It means you are pissed off for greatness
Because if you aren’t pissed off for greatness
Then that means you are ok with being mediocre


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