leadership, Startup Advice

How one unassuming coder taught this chief executive to never underestimate your employees

Dominic Powell /

“Seasoned business guy” and startup chief executive Matt Given believes pushing your employees out of their comfort zone and into the limelight can lead to unexpected results and reveal things you never knew about the most unassuming workers.

Sharing his story on Inc, Given discussed his role as the head of Colorado-based video sales startup Intelivideo, and his interactions with his in-house development team, specifically one coder named Dan.

Read more: Here’s three ways to prevent your best employees from quitting their job

Describing himself as the “bridge between” the development team and the company’s customer-facing team, Given regularly dropped in on the devlopment team, educating them about the goings on of the business and its role.

The youngest member of the development team is a man named Dan, who Given describes as “fitting the stereotype”: “twenty-something, flannels, a stocking cap, a fuzzy face, and low-hanging jeans are his uniform of choice”.

“Dan has always been a little awkward in our let’s-talk-about-marketing-stuff sessions. A little unsure of himself. But, he’s also the kind of character I sometimes oddly relate to,” Given explained.

“I take my CEO role as mentor to the next generation seriously. As I’ve spent more time with Dan, I’ve been able to pry away some of the layers.”

As part of the layer-prying process, Given took Dan to an executive lunch, something he says would be an “easy exercise” for sales and marketing types, but a potentially daunting experience for coding types such as Dan.

Wanting to push one of his “less seasoned” employees out of their comfort zone, Given and Dan arrived at the executive lunch, which Given described as “choked with C-level types”. Sitting down at the table, Dan was surrounded by networking executives, one of which asked him about his company with “just the slightest tinge of condescension”.

Dan then proceeded to deliver “best explanation about our little startup I’ve ever heard”, said Given.

“It was certainly better than any I’ve done. It was simple and direct. He was understandable and engaging.”

“I sat back and witnessed a conversation between a group of high-on-themselves executives and a lone wolf. In the end, they all would have signed up for our thing on the spot.”

Praising Dan after the two left the lunch, Given relayed the surprising experience as an essential part of the “entrepreneurial journey”.

“That’s what the entrepreneurial journey is all about: becoming comfortable with being surprised. And learning new things. The sometimes-painful sessions where I force tech folks out of their comfort zone? They’re worth it,” he said.

“And, don’t underestimate Dan.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is a journalist at SmartCompany and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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