Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage A Team, With Mark Gally, the CEO of Zaius

I had the pleasure to interview Mark Gally, the CEO of Zaius

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I had the pleasure to interview Mark Gally, the CEO of Zaius

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

I’ve been in the technology space for the last 20 years. Growing up with a dad who was a founder and CEO, entrepreneurship was always part of my path, though it wasn’t a conscious choice to follow in his footsteps. My father immigrated from Europe after World War 2. He came to the United States as a high-school student who didn’t know English. But he built a successful business in the 70s and 80s, which went on to become the second-largest employer in city in which I grew up.

Looking back, I was talking stocks with him when I was 10 years old, so it’s only fitting that my 9-year-old son came to me and said he wanted to buy a share of Amazon stock. It’s not a conscious choice to be an entrepreneur, but it does feel very normal.

During the late 1990s, I took a job with Microstrategy, a data analytics software company. After a few years there, I went back to school for my MBA, then joined Siebel Systems, a customer relationship management software tool. Since then I helped manage three start ups before joining Zaius in 2015.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Our company has a science fiction background, as Zaius was named after Dr. Zaius, the keeper of the truth in the original “The Planet of the Apes” movie. We thought that was fitting, not just because of our love of all things sci-fi, but because Zaius offers marketers a single source of truth by bringing together a company’s customer data with their campaign execution into a single platform. All of our conference rooms play homage to our sci-fi obsession — some are named after “Star Wars” places or characters, some are references to “Star Trek” or “The Martian.” In jest, our Leesburg, Va. office named its conference rooms after “Spaceballs” characters and references, including Druidia and Plaid. Yes, they’re making fun of our obsession!

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

As a leader, you have to make yourself vulnerable and human. I am always the first one to make fun of myself. But at the same time, we do hold each other accountable. In meetings when we are driving toward a particular goal, that goal is clear, but you also have to make it simple.

What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?

We are headquartered in Boston and have an office in Leesburg, Va. The biggest challenge is that we work hard to ensure that our engineering team in Virginia doesn’t feel like a satellite office. We try to keep them as connected as possible. We have quarterly meetings where the Leesburg employees, who are mainly engineers, come up to Boston so they’re connected with the go-to-market activities. All of our conference rooms have video screens for Google Hangouts so we can be face-to-face with team members who are not in the office.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees thrive?

When you are faced with a problem, focus on solving it versus dwelling on why it happened. There’s a time and a place in private to take a retrospective look, but when an issue is brought to your attention, figure out how you’re going to work together with your team to solve it.

Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers.” What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?

We, as a company, have a culture that rewards failure. In other words, we will experiment hard. I value time as our most precious resource, so I want us to experiment and fail fast. It’s important to make sure people feel safe enough to take those chances, so they can admit when things don’t work, identify learnings and move on. If you build a culture like that, employees will stay because they will grow more than they would anywhere else.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

When my wife and I talk about raising our son, the one gift we really want to give him — and the one gift I’d want to give to any employee — is the gift of having choices. By that, I mean that no one should feel like they are stuck in a job, career or anything else. If they want to do something different they should feel empowered to pursue it.

I’ve worked hard and as a result, had the privilege to try new things throughout my career, and I think if I can empower people to have confidence to say “I’m not happy doing what I’m doing, I’m going to find something better” — that’s the biggest gift I can give someone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” I thought it was a Winston Churchill quote, but it turns out that it was actually Jerry Rice who said it. My wife and I have a similar saying at home that we share with our son, which is to “eat the frog” first thing in the morning, because then your day can only get better.

Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Successfully Manage a Team.”

  1. Trust your leaders. You often hear leaders talking about “hiring the best people,” then getting out of the way. I firmly believe that. If you you put a good manager or leader in place, you need to give them the latitude to sink or swim. As uncomfortable as it is for some CEOs, you really shouldn’t be a micro-manager.
  2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  3. Build a great culture.
  4. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and reward experiments, fast failure and taking chances.
  5. Communicate effectively and frequently. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind for every meeting to help everyone stay on track, focused and accountable.

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