Welcome to our interview with Nick Hughes. Nick is the creator of Founders Live with business achievements in social media, digital payments, and e-commerce. He excels at interpersonal leadership, communication, business and product development.
In addition to creating the global entrepreneur network Founders Live, Nick stays busy as an advisor to numerous startups and occasionally takes positions in sales or biz dev roles if needed. Previously he founded the mobile payment startup Seconds as well as helping start Coinme, a company built around expanding bitcoin and digital transactions into the physical realm via Bitcoin ATM’s. As a sought-after adviser, entrepreneurial speaker and writer with guest appearances on popular technology and media outlets, Nick enjoys helping others discover their unique entrepreneurial path.
Welcome to this forum Nick, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0.
Q1: How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
It starts from valuing transparency and communication within the organization. If you think about the basis of your question, it’s frankly around, do people feel their voice matters? That definitely comes from the leadership that institutes values that are baked into what it means to be an employee of that organization.
It also revolves around the DNA of the organization. From leadership down, what it means to be a member of that organization? How does their voice matter and are they heard? I think communication and the methods of communication implemented throughout the organization are very important.
For example, weekly touch point and all-hands meetings. Even large tech companies still do town hall or all-hands meetings that may be viewed or listened to virtually. But people are gathering where the CEO and/or leaders are open to addressing and answering questions in a very honest, open, and authentic way. Those are just some examples of how you can bake those types of experiences into the organization providing a mechanism to recognize voices.
What’s interesting is when having an open idea forum fosters innovation within the organization. Let’s say a junior employee brings ideas to the table that end up being implemented and become a revenue-generating new feature or product. If we recognize them as the original idea generator for this new feature that now publicly known, then recognizing people for something like that goes a long way in having voices heard.
Q2: What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
It’s funny you ask that question because if you think about the scenario I described, which is when people have new ideas and bring an idea to the table, the worst thing is to have the leadership or others take that idea get credit for it.
Public recognition goes a long way. When people see others recognized based on their production or their great quality of work, it inspires others to do the same thing. Public recognition for the betterment of the company is what I’ve experienced as a very strong indicator of getting the most out of your employees.
Leadership is a lot about human psychology. When you get into human psychology and thinking about what is inspirational and gets the best out of people, a lot of that is intrinsic. You need to understand psychologically what do they desire? Often people desire public recognition and status. If someone does something great, you publicly acknowledge it and attribute it to them. That reinforces the positive activity versus not recognizing it. Letting a great quality action go unrecognized is a lost opportunity to reinforce activities and habits of your employees. Baking into the company the habits of leadership that recognizes quality work and celebrate these individuals inspires them to continue to do more of that activity.
Q3: What to people really lack and long for at work?
There are many things but probably it comes down to purpose and impact. If people are longing for something or have a sense of a lacking in their company; it’s what’s my purpose here? Why is my work impactful and meaningful in the world? If you feel you’re doing meaningful work improving people’s lives, whether that’s through technology or through social impact, or quality of life living whatever the case may be, then that’s what I’ve noticed with many people. They want to know what they’re doing and how it’s a part of this larger entity. Where does it actually make an impact? The more granular you can make it the better.
We see larger technology companies that do stories profiling customers using their products or services. An engineer sitting in Seattle, Washington or New York or whatever sees that their work is impacting a human being possibly on the other side of the world. That seems to tie things together to help make sense of the impact they’re making and the meaningfulness.
If I’m doing this every day, it needs to make sense, have an impact, and matter. Human beings want to do things that matter and impact other human beings. You’re doing good work if you can tie those together.
Q4: What is the most important question leaders should be asking employees?
The most important question is, how can I empower you? How can I help you? If leaders can ask, how can I help you be more successful? That’s a great question. Leadership is there literally to impact someone’s life positively and help them be more successful because if we can do that, then we are more successful. That’s how the pieces fit together in the right way. As a leader, you are helping others achieve their goals and be more successful. That’s what you need to do. Help those individuals achieve their goals rather than, “You’re here to serve me and make me better.” No, that’s not the right way for leadership.
If a leader can ask the employee, how can I best serve you and help you be successful then the equation is better. It works better because if that employee is more successful that leader it will be successful.
Q5: What is the most important question employees should be asking leaders?
How can I help you? Not only how can I help you, but what are your expectations for me? As an employee looking towards your leadership, you need to know what’s expected. Two, how am I being evaluated? And three, what is success?
If you can ask those questions and get clear answers, you’re going to at least know the path ahead and how you will be judged or evaluated to determine if you’re being successful in your position. It’s unfortunate ⏤ and it happens more often than I think we know ⏤ that an individual doesn’t know what’s expected of them and/or how they’re being evaluated. How are you supposed to go about your job and do a good job when you don’t even know what the criteria is? It would make most sense to ask the questions of what’s expected of me? What does success look like? How am I being evaluated? How do we get there? Those are good questions to ask your leadership.
Q6: What is the most important question we should be asking ourselves?
The most important question we should ask ourselves is, is this the right path? What path am I on? What impact am I trying to make? I think all these questions fall into the category of, am I driving towards my purpose? What is my purpose and how can I continually manifest that and make a positive impact?
Just to make this more personal, I am the CEO and founder of Founders Live. We are a global platform for entrepreneurship. We inspire, educate, and entertain entrepreneurs globally. I recently started on a year-long world tour to be on the road to visit local Founders Live groups around the world. We have events in 30 cities globally and we’re growing. I had to ask myself, where am I at on this path? What do I need to improve? What steps do I need to take to get further into this vision?
I needed to go on the road and to go to these communities and cities. We are in eight countries right now and that’s growing. That’s what I did. So I think constantly asking ourselves, what’s the vision? What’s the purpose? Where am I at in the journey and how can I improve that? That changes on a monthly and yearly basis. So that’s a question that should always ask of ourselves, What feels right right now? What do I need to move forward with and what risks do I need to take to make that happen?
For me personally, I’m now on the road for the entire year of 2019, maybe longer to go to these communities globally to meet our team. Work with our team to be a part of the event and to grow the mission of entrepreneurship and Founders Live around the world. So that’s me asking that question, and I’m now on the road.
Q7: In the past two years, you’ve created a global community for entrepreneurs that has attracted over 10,000 members and a network of over 40 local groups worldwide. What is it about Founders Live that has allowed it to flourish when so many other entrepreneurial groups exist already?
Founders Live is a community that is both an online Internet community and a local event. It’s also a global system and platform for entrepreneurship. What seems to be attractive are our core values and the things we baked in to it that makes it meaningful. So you’re right, there are many startup entrepreneurial communities, but I don’t see many that so openly speak about their core values. I don’t even see they have them.
The first core value is respectful authenticity. In actuality, it’s really about inclusion and respecting each person as an individual. Not only are you there as your authentic self but you also respect everyone else. This is also about inclusion and accepting all people because entrepreneurship is about everyone. It doesn’t look like a certain skin color or gender. Unfortunately, many communities don’t act that way. Our first core value is about respectful authenticity, embracing the uniqueness of everyone, and including people of all genders, races and background. That’s why people are very much interested in Founders Live. It’s our core number one value.
The second core value is storytelling. As an entrepreneur, you need to craft a compelling story about what you’re building or creating. What problem are you solving? What’s your solution? What product are you bringing to the market? Why is it important? Crafting a story that inspires people to follow you and use your product ⏤ that’s hugely important. Successful companies have figured out a way to market and tell a story that brings people together. Storytelling is our second core value. It’s about how to embrace storytelling in a unique way.
The third value is open the door. That’s about doing great things for people without expecting a return. It’s about helping others without expecting to get paid because it will come back to you. When you help someone else, it will come back to you in an unexpected way. It’s that energetic yin and yang. You’re in a great community when people do that for each other.
The last one core value is what we call no name tags. It’s an analogy for how we strive to create a fun, enjoyable atmosphere without the awkwardness. If you’ve been to any business networking events, they can be awkward. We’ve placed a value on keeping things fun and fresh recognizing there are certain things you include in an event that keeps them loose and enjoyable.
People find Founders Live attractive because there’s a purpose behind it. What I’ve learned is that building a community is putting meaningfulness and purpose behind it. With the right core values, you attract the right people and you probably repel some people. It makes sense.
Q8: In a recent interview here, Jon Mertz introduced the idea of workplaces as communities. As the founder of successful worldwide community, how does that idea translate into the workplace from your point of view?
As Founders Live internal organization and operating team grow, we’ll bring a lot of that thinking into our organization. I believe what he’s saying is that the basis of community is the commonality of values that people either outwardly or inwardly accept. Communities can be identified by their values.
If you go the opposite direction and proclaim these are our rules, it’s a very stern environment. A community is more about shared values, communication, and openness. How does the leadership relate towards everyone else? What’s the communication style? How are we respecting everyone? How is our voice valued? That’s all community-based.