From the very beginning at SailPoint, our founding team wanted to ensure that all the people on our team would be measured not by how much activity they generated, but by the impact of that activity on the company’s success. Many of us had been in larger organizations where there always seemed to be people who would run around generating large clouds of dust as they told everyone how “busy” they were, but would fail to make any real, positive impact on the company. We decided early on that we would do our best to ensure that everyone on the team knew exactly what success in their role should look like, and then our leadership team would try to stay out of the way, letting them apply their skills and experience to delivering a great result.
In the early days, most folks on the team had very broad responsibilities. To use one of our many nautical analogies, it was a bit of “all hands on deck”. As the company grew, we naturally began to get more specialized in various groups and departments, and roles became more focused. But, even as these things changed, it was still critical for everyone on our team to understand that we were holding them accountable for delivering real results, not just lots of activity. Fortunately, by our second or third year, this value was so well engrained that newer team members quickly came to understand how important it was to make a real impact. And, the corollary was that if an employee wasn’t sure what they needed to do to make an impact, it was up to them to get clear with their management team how they could do that.
However, we also began to see another aspect of this value. We needed to ensure that people weren’t so focused on hitting results that they became too conservative, or afraid to take risks to push the envelope. We needed to ensure that our team members could differentiate between the “failure” that comes from not focusing on the activities that lead to real results and the “failure” that comes when you’ve tried something new, and it just didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Over time, we’ve tried to ensure that newer members of our team understand the difference, and are encouraged to work closely with their leaders to make sure the “risks” we are taking are well-understood, so we can learn from our failures.
Because sometimes it is those very failures that encourage the learning and innovation we thrive on. It’s all part of the process of doing the things that will lead to real success.
Another aspect of staying focused on impact is in thinking about how we set goals for the organization. In the early days, we would sometimes set incredibly ambitious goals, because we knew that even if we got close to that goal, we’d be ecstatic with our success. Over time, we’ve learned to be a little more disciplined in how we think about goal-setting, but we still want to encourage our team to set “stretch” goals whenever they can. These stretch goals are not meant to discourage our people, but to gauge what is possible from our team. Sometimes we surprise ourselves by exceeding what we thought was a stretch. What we never want to see are easy wins across the board. It may seem counterintuitive, but we believe we shouldn’t be exceeding every goal we set. There should always be room for improvement so that goals don’t get stale and growth doesn’t get stagnant. What is important is what we take away from that missed stretch goal – what did we learn, what could we do better or differently, was that goal the wrong thing to strive for in the first place?
One final observation I’ll make is that as we encourage our employees to aim higher in goal setting, we want them to “stay hungry”. It’s not enough to move through the motions and meet goals in an A to Z format. Finding new routes to meeting goals, increasing efficiency in one area to clear up space for creativity in another, and seeking out the answers to the hardest questions are signs that our team is eager to grow and learn. Curiosity often leads to innovation, and with that, more hunger to expand our horizons on what is possible.
The impact our employees have on the organization can make or break not just the company, but the next steps in their careers. Because our team knows how much we truly value each of them, and the impact they have in setting and reaching goals, we’re rewarded with their best work every day. This is something that has not changed in our 11+ year history. The impact our employees have on each other, on our customers and partners, and on our company, is what allows us to continue to be the leader in our industry.