The Leadership Lattice presents: Art Zeile, CEO – Being a Successful CEO Entrepreneur

1.  How would you differentiate between what it takes to be a great leader in a start-up vs. an established, large company?  

I’ve been involved in both large companies and now 3 start-ups.  The entrepreneur CEO has to be passionate about sales and their product. You are the chief sales person. You also have to have risk tolerance.  A 50K decision in a start-up can have very significant implications where in a large company, it can be just a drop in the bucket.  The entrepreneur has to be comfortable in their ability to make those risk filled decisions
and ultimately has to make good decisions each and every time.  There isn’t much margin for error.

2.  How has building been different from building Inflow? 

We built Inflow in my basement, organically; it was a pure start up.  At we are acquiring companies to build a national platform quickly.  It has taken us 2.5 years to reach the point that took 7 years at Inflow. With that has come a different set of issues.  First and foremost, culture. At inflow, we hired everyone, so building culture was easier.  We could hire people for culture and  value fit.  At Hosting, we spend a  great deal of time merging and combining the DNA of all of the companies.

3.  What’s your approach to leadership?

I view myself as the Chief Talent Officer of the company.  I spend my time making sure I have surrounded myself with people who are more talented than I am in each functional area.  Joel Daly, my COO, and I have a goal of building 50 C level executives over the course of our careers.  We constantly look to give our people more responsibility and through that are constantly forcing them up a learning curve.   Joel and I believe that this company exists as a team. Joel and I share and office and always have.  We visibly show people that all functions have to work together seamlessly.

4.  What were some important leadership lessons for you?

Through the downturns we have learned that we need to build in a safe harbor where we are self reliant and can continue to run the company through those times. The second lesson has been that people want to work for you because they believe in your values. They want to work for a team that they can trust. Values transcend the business model.

5.  How did the Air Force help you prepare for your career today?

The Air Force taught me about honesty and that has become a key differentiator.  In the Air Force Academy, the honor code was ingrained in us as Cadets. When I left the Academy, and entered active duty in the Air Force, that honor code remained intact. .  But once I made it to the commercial sector it was not necessarily intact. We have been able to maintain that same value system of honesty and integrity in our companies. Our clients trust us to be honest and be responsible and forthright with both our success and failures and this has served us well.

6.  Tell me about an important mentor?

My boss in the Air Force, a Brigadier General, could tell me that I hadn’t done my best work but could also build and maintain a bond of friendship.  Positive accountability is a unique skill.

7.  How do you motivate your team?

We seek out people who are looking for more responsibility and want to grow in their careers.  We offer the environment where people can make mistakes and learn without fear. We also focus on them as people and their families.  We want to make this a place where people want to come to work.

8.  How do you hire?

We subscribe to a philosophy of top grading.  Top Grading is a book written by Colorado author Brad Smart.  We ask people to get detailed about their career path, the decisions they made, how they would grade their own performance and how they think their supervisor would grade them.  We want a holistic view of the entire person.  Beyond that, I focus on people’s strengths. I want to be sure to put people into a role that takes advantage of those strengths.  

9.  What other qualities are you trying to get at in the  interview?

We look for passion, intellect and if a candidate was a point person on an accomplishment rather than an innocent bystander and lastly how they work within a team.

The Leadership Lattice– an interview series conducted by Ann Spoor, CEO of Executive Lattice. These interviews are designed to cultivate
conversation about building strong leadership in the public and private sector.

You can view the video of this interview by going to and going to The Leadership Lattice.


The Leadership Lattice presents: Bruce Dines, Vice President and Managing Director of Technology Investments for Liberty Global Ventures.

The Leadership Lattice– an interview series conducted by Ann Spoor, CEO of Executive Lattice. These interviews are designed to cultivate conversation about  building strong leadership in the public and private sector. The Leadership Lattice presents: Bruce Dines, Vice President and Managing Director of Technology Investments for Liberty Global Ventures.

What is your approach to leadership?

Many leaders get confused between their sphere of influence and span of control. The great leaders all understand that sphere of influence is much more important.  Span of control leaders are concerned about the size of their organization.  It’s also much more important as a leader to engage your teams than it is to attempt to control their direction. People want to be given the freedom to exercise their own brain power and develop their own projects. People who are challenged will always perform better and provide more energy and effort to an initiative than if you’ve given them an assignment and demanded completion. It’s about ownership. The art of leadership is helping people discover what needs to be done and how their skill sets can most benefit the business and the company. It comes down to ensuring that every single individual that reports to you feels as though they’re respected, that they’re valued, and that they’re heard.

How does your role differ, depending upon your internal role at Liberty versus the role that you may take on at your portfolio companies?

This concept of sphere of influence versus span of control is directly relevant to my role in Liberty. I have one direct report at Liberty.  It’s a company of 20,000 employees.  But, my sphere of influence is considerable.  First because of the successes that we’ve had within the technology investments we’ve made in new and disruptive technology companies. And second, because of the Office of Innovation that I lead at Liberty. This is our idea incubator – a portal that not only enables but encourages anybody in the company to submit an idea that they think will save the company money, will drive revenue for the company or will engage better teamwork or cross-function development. You can see that my role within Liberty shows the real juxtaposition between span of control which is very limited and sphere of influence which is really global and broad.

As far as the portfolio of companies that we’ve invested in, in most cases I have a Board position in the company, either a non-voting or voting position.  In all the companies where I’ve got a voting position I’m also on a sub-committee.  I actively work with our entrepreneurs in developing the company’s strategic direction and helping the executive team avoid the kind of mistakes I made when I was a young entrepreneur.

What were some important leadership lessons for you in your career?

A lot of young, bright college graduates who are identified for executive roles get identified because they’ve got native intelligence coupled with very strong attention to detail and very good analytical skills. And it’s almost an oxymoron, because people who have those qualities, when they move into a supervisory or executive role tend to micromanage.  That’s what they know how to do.  I took my detail orientation and my analytical skills and immediately thought the best way for me to add value as a leader was to show everybody how they needed to be more detail oriented and analytical, and I learned that this was not the best way to lead people.

Did you have a mentor early in your career?

I had a number of mentors along the way.  The first one that I recall was a really gifted leader, everything that I’ve spoken about.  He was a great listener; he was well prepared; he had a very strong understanding of the business; he valued and respected people. He was the kind of guy who could actually tell you that you were not performing at your best level and rather than go away angry, I’d go away motivated.  It’s so much about how feedback is communicated and ensuring that the underlying message is not one of “do this or else”; it’s “I want to get the best I can from you and I know you want to get the best out of yourself.  How do we work together to realize this potential?”  He had the ability to energize people and get the most out of them and that ties back to this whole concept of Art of Leadership.  He was one of the best overall leaders I’ve ever worked for.

How do you hire and what qualities to you generally look for in a person?

I use what I call the ‘hang out factor’ in addition to the typical Q&A. I meet with people several times.  I want to get to know them.  Would I want to sit next to them on a 9 hour flight to Amsterdam?  Time helps me understand their personality and cultural fit within the organization. I’m always looking for native intelligence.  I’m always looking for people who are thinkers and can articulate their thoughts well.  I look for creativity because I don’t think that business today puts enough of a premium on creative thought. I’m not at all shy about hiring people outside of traditional business realms.  In regards to interviewing, I ask very open ended questions.  Who, what, how, when, where.  I like to get specific examples and so when someone represents to me that they’ve accomplished something, I’m always going to ask them for the specific example and result.

When you’re looking at a potential investment, what qualities do you look for in the management team?

We may invest in a very early stage company where we know we’re going to add people to the management team. This company will have very promising technology and a strong technologist and a strong visionary behind how that technology can become commercialized. We also invest in later stage companies and in that case, I’m looking for a reasonable amount of synchronicity among the managing team. Before we invest we’ll spend time with managing team members.  But mostly what I look for is the leadership qualities I’ve talked about in the CEO. I would rather invest in a company that has a mediocre business plan and a great management team, than a great business plan and a mediocre management team.  They will always outperform.  Ideally, I look for both.

The Leadership Lattice presents: Leadership = Versatility. Part 3 of 3 with Joe Assell, CEO of Golftec.

Finding the Right Mentor can Mean the Difference Between Success and Failure

Body Language and Interviewing

I recently read a series of comments on a blog that mentioned how important a handshake is in terms of making a good first impression. What was really shocking to me was how a few readers were total denial about the importance of body language. One reader was very defensive and felt that his handshake should have nothing to do with getting hired. It should all have been about his skills. I wanted to reach through cyberspace and shake him; tell him to wake up.

There are some things that, whether you like it or not, are quite simply, reality.

Here are 8 FACTS-

1. First impressions have a big impact on the entire interview and outcome of that interview.

2. A warm, firm handshake makes a great first impression.

3. A warm, genuine smile makes a great lasting impression.

4. Good eye contact is imperative.

5. Sit forward in your chair. The impression is that you are interested in what the person interviewing you has to say.

6. Don’t fidget or use your hands too much when talking. It’s distracting.

7. Keep both feet on the ground. Don’t cross your legs.

8. A warm, firm handshake when you are done and leaving closes the interview with a good impression.

My Top Ten Interview Tips

  1. Research and Preparation – really, don’t wing it.  Just because a friend works there and you think you know enough about the company, doesn’t count as research.  Read the website.  Read all of the latest news.  Understand what they do.  It’s not hard!  Not doing the research is a total turn-off and shows an utter lack of respect for the person who is meeting you.
  2. Know exactly where you are going because – If you are early, you’re on-time.  If you are on-time, you’re late, AND If you are late, You are NOT hired!!!   Traffic doesn’t cut it.  Got lost- lame!  If you are flying in and they booked your travel giving you just enough time but your flight was delayed, ok, call and let them know. But really, there are very few valid excuses.
  3. Dress.  Now I get this question all the time.  And, the answer is not as simple as it used to be.  The pendulum goes back and forth.  In the dot com days, a casual company expected an interviewee to dress casually or they just didn’t fit in.  And, vice versa.  Now, it helps to know something about the dress style of the company and dress a bit nicer.  A suit is almost always acceptable.  A suit for a guy without the tie is good for a business casual atmosphere.  Casual is never ok in today’s atmosphere.  Just because you are coming from work and you currently work in a casual company, there is no excuse for not throwing a jacket in your car and putting it on before you walk in.  Use some common sense.  If you don’t have any common sense, ask a professional for some advice.  Here’s a tip for guys- wear socks- always.  I never in a million years expected to have to say this.  Lesson learned. 
  4. Bring extra copies of your resume.  You are making the job of the interviewer easier.
  5. The first 30 seconds are critical. Smile, look your interviewer in the eye, have a warm, friendly, firm handshake.  The limp handshake is a total turn off.  If you are not sure about your handshake, practice with a friend who will be honest with you.
  6. Based on your research, you need to have some good questions prepared.  Demonstrate your curiosity and prove you did your homework. 
  7. If you are doing several interviews in one trip and you feel your energy waning, ask for a 5 minute break and for a cup of coffee or a Coke.  No one will take this as a negative.  And, if they do, that’s a big red flag for you. 
  8. Some interviewers might not be as experienced at interviewing.  Don’t be put off.  Don’t get critical and start feeling offended.  Just gently take some control.  Start asking more questions.  Have that person tell you about themselves, get them engaged.  Maybe they are as nervous as you are.  Have some empathy.  It’s a major turn off when I talk to a candidate who feels that they are somehow superior to the interviewer. 
  9. Thank you notes.  YES.  It’s a simple way to stand out.  An email is perfectly sufficient.  Handwritten is a nice touch but often, there isn’t time. 
  10. Follow-up.  YES.  Don’t be a stalker and call every day.  If you haven’t heard back after your prompt (same day) thank you note within 48 hours, call the hiring manager or recruiter to follow-up.  If there isn’t a decision, ask that person when you should follow-up again just in case you haven’t heard. You have just gotten permission.  Then, put it on your calendar.  No news is not necessarily bad news despite what you are thinking.  Patient persistence can win the day.
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