I originally published this post on Linkedin
My first job out of college was working for Salesforce. (I know, I lucked out big time, but that’s another story) My boss’s boss was a VP named Bill Macaitis. Everyone working for him really respected and admired him. Every few weeks he would swing by my desk and ask me “What can I do to make you happier? Is there anything you need? How can I help?”. He is one of the most inspiring marketing executives I’ve worked for not just because he cared, but he also got the job done. He went on to be the CMO of Zendesk, then Slack.
I did not know how good I had it at the time. A few jobs later, I know now that it’s very hard to find people like that to work for. Luckily, there is one question you can ask in the interview process that will give you a really good idea of how inspirational an executive might be to work for.
The question is “does anyone work for this executive now that has worked for them in the past?”.
Inspirational leaders are followed. In Bill’s case, I know people that have worked for him for the past four companies in a row he has worked for. At my current company Zoom, when our founder Eric Yuan left Cisco Webex to start Zoom he had 40 engineers follow him. I’ve seen this play out over and over again, especially in Silicon Valley.
I’ve also seen executives who manage very large organizations, even hiring a lot of people, that never seemed to attract people that had worked with them previously. Now, I’m not saying that every executive that has never had a repeat employee is bound to be terrible. There are lots of reasons why that might be the case; being young in your career, staying at a company for a long time, relocating and a lot of other factors could impact the likelihood that an executive is followed from company to company. I can assure you though that if a leader has been followed by former employees to multiple companies, there is something special going on.
Life is too short to work for people that do not inspire us, I hope this question makes it a little easier for professionals to find leaders to work for that inspire them. Also, with enough sleuthing around LinkedIn, you can probably figure out if an executive has been followed without even having to ask.