How to Motivate Employees According to Selim Bassoul

Tom Gardner: Selim, in your opinion, what’s the
easiest way to distinguish between a good company and a bad company? Selim Bassoul: Well, the difference between
a good and a bad company is not about who has the better offices or
better machinery, or even better perks. It’s about who has
a great corporate culture. Employees are vying for
empowerment, for a shared vision. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French writer,
said, “When you want to build a ship, don’t ask your men to gather wood, but tell them
about the yearning of the open seas and discovering new worlds out there.” Gardner: And a lot of companies,
when they try and get to that high-level purpose, their mission, their vision, they hire consultants,
they hire agencies to help them come up with the wording and figure out
how to communicate it. What’s the shortcut for a great leadership
team to really empower everyone that works in that organization behind a shared vision?
Bassoul: I think communication is the key. You want to motivate your employees. I would rather have motivated employees working
in a shack than a demotivated group of people working in a beautiful environment.
I always take motivated employees. And in order to communicate that message,
there’s only one question I ask every time: how would you do differently if
that company belonged to you? And I ask that question all the time.
It makes us all stakeholders. Gardner: You ask any employee that you’re
meeting with, “How would you manage this company differently if it was yours, if you
owned it, and you were running it?” Bassoul: Correct.

3 thoughts on “How to Motivate Employees According to Selim Bassoul”

  1. Chamath Palihapitiya says:
    “I had been exploring why, after the accumulation of all of these things — more companies invested in, more funds raised, more notoriety, more television appearances, more this, more that, more everything — why am I not more happy?” he said. “In fact, I’m less happy. And in fact, I think that I’ve actually really bastardized some core relationships in my life where I’ve created hyper-transactional relationships in many areas of my life.”

    I think people in Silicon Valley, in this point in time, are the most unhappy they’ve ever been personally. They’re the most, probably, detached. They’re the least civically engaged. They’re the least emotionally intimate. It’s all of these things that conflate to just making people really feel empty. That exists here in spades.

    How it manifests into businesses is that at some point you need to have a real emotional spark to do something really meaningful, at some point. I think that a lot of people play the kabuki theater, the charade, of a startup, but if you’re just so preoccupied with your own happiness there’s a general malaise that you bring into the office. I think as a result the things that one does at these offices aren’t as good, and so the companies themselves don’t end up being that meaningful. I think we’re in that wave right now. How do we address it?
    I think it’s because you have a lot of really really young people who grew up in front of phones who are completely disconnected from their real, tactile lives. They don’t know how to define happiness.

    My generation, we were pretty gung-ho, kind of like found ways to be happy. When I’m talking about my unhappiness before, it was a level of core emotional unhappiness that came after a long period of exploration, but at some point, you just got to be happy during the day. I just think that I don’t see that as much anymore.
    I wonder why there’s just so much ideological extremism, why there’s just so much vilification. It think at the root of it is deep dissatisfaction with oneself. That’s what comes out. You see the world as you live it, and so if you live it as someone who’s getting increasingly resentful and bitter, you lash out and you are increasingly resentful and bitter. If you see the world as trusting and happy, you kind of see the positive side of a world that is trusting and happy. You can take the same health care stat and one person will say, “My gosh, we’re all doomed,” and the other person says, “Look at the advancements that we have had, and thank god that this is happening.”

    I think if you look at the generations of the companies when you and I were first here, in the 2000s, why were we here? We were not here for Silicon Valley profiles on HBO, books, and all this stuff.
    KS: Yeah. It wasn’t cool.
    It was uncool to be here, and so you had to be happy to be here.
    KS: It was very exciting.
    It was very exciting. The lower-slung the building, the better. Right? The dorkier and dirtier and smellier the engineering pit, the better.
    KS: Yeah.
    Now, it’s like all this pristine gleam and shine, and it’s all packaged to look like something that should be in a movie. But underneath, to a lot of people it’s just a charade and a nightmare.
    I think people are coming … You need the people, but the people are fundamentally unhappy. Part of the reason why people are unhappy these days is that they’ve been fed a bill of goods that … they’re turning out to not actually help them. Meaning, you were prophylactically doing things in a way in which you thought would get you informed, more engaged, more understood, more sympathy, more empathy, and it’s the opposite. Those things are really sacred things to be playing with.
    Right now, you’re not playing with them in a one-on-one. Imagine how those things went up and down in a relationship you had in high school, and how devastating or exhilarating it was. You had two or three of those interactions, maybe, maximum in your life. Now, you have 50 to 100 of them a day. They’re much more small scale but they happen day over day, day over day.
    KS: Right.
    Take a step back and just ask yourself honestly, “Do you not think this stuff impacts your psyche and your definition of yourself, your core happiness? Don’t you think that that’s happening?” I will tell you that it happened to me. I tend to think if it happened to me, it’s going to happen to the rest of you.
    I think that there’s an entire suite of experiences, a whole suite of them that are combining in unforeseen ways to just rewrite the norms of society. I think that we haven’t done a good enough job in saying to ourselves that, as that happens, the mental health of me as an individual also matters.

    Now, if I said, “Well, there’s all of this information that I’m consuming that has positive and negative impacts on my mind, still not clearly well understood, so I’m going to prophylactically do something to help manage my mental health,” you sound like a crazy person.

    It’s always a game of hot potato around motivation and morale. As it transcends and filters into a company, that’s how you first focus on product-market fit. Then you focus on growth, then you focus on revenue. In these transitions to revenue, what has happened to all these companies is that they’ve done what they were supposed to do as a for-profit public company. Go and maximize revenue. Go and maximize profits.
    the reason why people get so angry is because, a, they don’t like what they are, nor do they like what anybody is that they see. I think step one would be to really fix who one is and try to make oneself a little bit happier around the things that they care about.

    I know AOC. You know why? I was her. I am her. I’m just a less angrier version than her.

    I think that the way that people express this now is people, in their dissatisfaction and disillusionment with this place, leave. So you’ll see better and more companies get built outside of the Valley.

    KS: A lot of people have left recently. Dan Rose went to Hawaii. A lot of people, you’re right, they leave.

    They’re unhappy, Kara. All the money in the world doesn’t make you happier.

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