Beers with Brad

Beers with Brad (Photo credit: nep)

I have written about how I take Brad Feld as one of my virtual mentors, and I am so excited to have gotten him to come to Iceland. I have been reading and re-reading the book written by Brad and David Cohen – “Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup”. Haukur reminded me of a rule that I had forgotten. It is the Screw Me Once rule… I am going to institutionalize this in my everyday working. For those who have not read the book I highly recommend it, here is the excerpt –

I live my life by a simple rule that I call the ‘Screw Me Once’ rule. I permit everyone I work with to screw me over once. When this happens, I confront them, forgive them, and move on. However, if they screw me over a second time, then I’m done with them forever. While the definition of screw me is vague, I put it in the category of deceitful or immoral behavior. The phrase ‘screw me’ is deliberately aggressive and hostile in this context; behavior that qualifies is also deliberately aggressive and hostile. 

I don’t consider someone letting me down, not following through on a commitment, or failing at something to fall into this category. Failure is a fundamental part of entrepreneurship and I embrace it as part of the process. I fail often and I expect people whom I work with to fail also-either dramatically, or in lesser ways such as not following through on commitments.

Systemic behavior that doesn’t correct, such as an inability to get closure on things, or a regular mismatch between the expectations that one sets and what one delivers, becomes a problem, but is not in the Screw Me category. Instead, this will decrease my desire to work with the person, lower my expectations about what will be accomplished, and make me cautious about my own engagement with them. But it won’t cause me to be done with them.

If you lie to me, deceive me, purposefully hurt me (or someone I care about), do something I consider immoral, or do something that is illegal, that’s one strike. However, I view addressing this as my responsibility because many people don’t realize they’ve done this, or don’t realize the potential impact and implications of their behavior. I try to be emotionally clear in my reaction – dispassionate, but not passive; direct, but not hostile; specific, yet not accusatory.

Occasionally, this approach simply doesn’t work. In these cases, I just disengage and assume I’m not going to be able to develop a substantive relationship with that person. In my experience, however, a deep and thoughtful conversation usually ensues, which also serves to build a much stronger relationship or at least the potential for one.

Once the confrontation is resolved, I’m in a happy place again and don’t ever think twice about whatever issue caused it. However, like a yellow card in soccer, you only get to trigger the Screw Me rule once. If it happens again, we’re done. Forever.

I’ve handed out plenty of yellow cards and received a few. In a number of cases, my strongest relationships are with people who have gotten yellow cards. Fortunately, the list of people who have gotten the equivalent of a red card from me is very short.

enough said… Brad is a wise man!