Ep. 83 – Extraordinary Success Through Best Self-Management With 15five Co-Founder & Chief Culture Officer, Shane Metcalf

Performance is a result or an outcome, not something that can be managed directly. In this episode, Shane Metcalf, the Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer of 15five, joins Cameron Herold to talk about extraordinary results and company success through best-self management. Shane and Cameron discuss the power of simple questions and the importance of weekly check-ins to produce high-quality results. Diving into appreciation recognition and positivity ratio, get to know how Shane helps employees improve performance and find their best selves through correct management. Lastly, learn the importance of cohesion and alignment and creating a solid bedrock of your company’s culture.


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Shane Metcalf is a seasoned executive coach and speaker who is obsessed with building healthy organizations and creating the opportunity for people to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Driven by his deep belief in the potential for our species, Shane cofounded 15Five, an industry-leading performance management software that is unlocking the potential of the global workforce. As Chief Culture Officer, Shane understands what fundamentally motivates people, how to architect high performance, and which principles and rituals create self-organizing cultures. Along with his Cofounder, David Hassell, Shane has developed the Best-Self Management methodology which posits that by supporting people in learning, growing and becoming their best selves over time, the natural byproduct is uncommonly high performance and loyalty. Shane, welcome to the show. I’m looking forward to this.

It’s a real pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. It’s a great chance to get to chat with somebody that’s been such a longtime companion of 15Five.

I met David many years ago. We have spent a lot of time through the Entrepreneur’s Organization together. We have talked a lot on the phone. I’ve been an advisor to 15Five years ago. I’m a small investor in the company as well, and we’ve also hung out at Burning Man together a bunch of times. I was speaking at YPO in the Bay Area and I bumped into one of his friends, Gabe, who I’m sure you’ve known forever too.

Gabe is a great guy.

Why don’t you tell us a little bit about 15Five so we know what the company is and come to understand that before we dive into everything else?

We are a continuous performance management solution. If we can unpack that a little bit, you think about traditional performance management saying, “Once a year we’re going through a performance review and then we’re going to get a grade for each one of our employees. We’re going to do a thing like stack ranking and use that grade to determine whether we’re going to promote people or we’re going to fire people and distribute rewards through the company.” We have to remember this all came out of the industrial revolution mindset. Once a year is a frequent enough time to get a pulse on how people are doing and we determine where we go from there. It’s a massively inadequate model for this day and age.

If you think about it, most employees get more feedback about what they ate for breakfast than what was the work they did this past week, let alone the past three months, six months or past year. What we’re doing at 15Five is looking at how do we create generative feedback loops inside of a company where we can influence the employee and manager relationship in a positive direction. We have a lot of tools for the heads of people, heads of HR and for executives, so you can get a broad overview of everything that’s going on with your people, but the true north is positively influencing and improving the employee-manager dynamic. The stats are 70% of people leave their job not because of the company but because of their boss. If we can influence that, we’re going to have a profound effect inside a company’s performance, their retention and the overall culture. We think that if you ask better questions, you’re going to have better conversations, you’re going to see better results.

I want to ask you a couple of questions about the tool itself. I was going to start somewhere else because I know the company a little bit more intimately than I would normally know on an interview, but I want to lead off some of what you said. This tool itself is a complex tool but you’ve kept it lean. How do you introduce these methodologies to companies or systems to companies when they’re not used to operating this way because you’re getting them to change a little bit of the way that they operate for the better? How do you get them to do that?

We do provide a broad overview of the different solutions. We have an asynchronous weekly check-in. We have one-on-one agendas, which are informed by the asynchronous check-in. We have OKRs or goal-setting Objectives and Key Results, a platform that’s also flexible enough to accommodate most other goal-setting methodologies like Rocks and things like that. We also have performance reviews that we called best-self reviews. Our belief is that a quarterly or bi-annual performance review should be geared towards helping somebody improve in ways that are meaningful to them and meaningful to the business, but not so much about getting a grade. The research shows that ratings increase a fixed mindset and decrease performance. The way that we’ve taken this, which is all backed by the cutting-edge social science, creates more of a growth mindset. It helps people think about, “Who do I want to become? What are the ways that I want to grow and develop? What are the ways that I want to impact the company? How do I want to use my strengths in a more significant capacity? Am I fulfilled by the work that I’m doing? Could there be a better role for me?”

I love that you talked about the rankings hurt performance. I did a quick video on LinkedIn and I was saying that the leaders’ job is to do four things. Number one is to make sure their team is working on the right stuff so we get the highest ROI. Secondly, to make sure their team has the skills to do the stuff that they’re working on. The third is to make sure that they’ve got the confidence and they’re excited about working on what they’re working on. Fourth is to make sure they feel loved, accepted and valued inside of this group that they’re in. If you do all those four things, you’re going to get the results.

They’re great. We could do a whole podcast on each one of those topics. How do you engineer a company that increases their likelihood that people feel loved and accepted and that deep sense of belonging? How do you make sure people are intrinsically motivated to do their work?

There are lots to cover there for sure. As a company, 15Five has evolved over the years. When you first started, you’d have the asynchronous check-ins. 15Five was that much at the beginning. It was a report that takes your employees fifteen minutes to fill out. It takes you five minutes to read it. You check in weekly. That was how you started and then you evolved and built in the goal-setting and then you built in the best self-reviews. Is that accurate?

It’s interesting because the product has grown quite a bit. On the outside, OKRs are simple. For the end-user, you still do the check-in and you set your OKRs, your goals at the beginning of the quarter, but then that’s all integrated into the weekly check-in. One of our core values is to keep it simple, which is a hard value to keep simple. Simplicity can be enormously complex. You think of the iPhone and how simple it is, but how much complex engineering goes into keeping it simple. Engineers, when they join our company, they think, “It seems like a simple product.” They get into the code base and they’re like, “This is massive.”

There’s a lot of work to keep it simple.

The heartbeat of the product still is the weekly check-in and there’s a lot more to it and there’s a lot more to come, some interesting areas that we’re excited about on the roadmap, but it still does come back to that weekly check-in. It’s a habit of engaging in a little bit of self-reflection about how you’re doing, what’s going well, where you’re stuck and answering these simple questions that can lead to some extraordinary results.

How do you balance as a company listening to your customer, listening to the needs of the product and not building something that’s more and more complicated? You think about Microsoft Excel with thousands and thousands of features that nobody uses, there are twelve that we all use. How do you balance out building out that insanely great product, keeping it simple, listen to your customers but not overbuilding?

I’m happy that I don’t have to be the one that solves that problem because it’s a ball of yarn. We have to be responsive to our customers. Why I say that is we have incredible product leaders that are much smarter about how to balance all of these things. Certainly, it is a mix of being responsive to customers. As we sell to larger and larger organizations, the needs of different sizes of organizations are vastly different. A 3,000-person company has a lot of different needs than a 30-person company. It’s about being able to build solutions that can work for the larger companies but also don’t overwhelm the smaller companies.

Our stated vision is to help unlock the potential of every member of the global workforce. We want to participate in the sea change of how we think about our people, how we create companies, how we manage our work. In order to do that, we need to build a product that is going to be available and accessible to a multitude of different sized companies. It’s a little bit of the Steve Jobs approach of building things that our customers don’t even know they want. Having the vision of where this whole world of work is going and being able to build features that are a little ahead of that curve. Also, being responsive to people saying, “I need a specific type of reporting available for when I run my best-self reviews and I need to be able to extract this data from it and have these insights generated for the specific teams.” We say, “Let’s balance that out. Is this feature going to generate universal value for the majority of our customer base?” One of the worst things that can happen to a company like ours is you get into custom engineering for individual clients. They’re throwing $1 million at us. Let’s build this one-off thing and it all goes out from there.

SIC 83 | Best Self Management

Best Self Management: 70% of people leave their job not because of the company but because of their boss.


It’s dangerous to follow that track and it also isn’t teaching the salespeople to sell what we have. They’re always coming back in, but if we had these three things, I could get a yes. If you learned how to handle the objections, you could get a yes. Do you use all the features and functionality that 15Five has internally at the company?

Yes. I run our instance of 15Five for the most part. I’m the one that’s in there tweaking, modifying and coming up with the question on a regular basis. I use probably 90% of it. There are a couple of things that we could utilize a little bit more. We have some cool stuff. In a way, I’m almost a victim of if you’re used to using a product in a certain way and it grows in the time that you’re using it, you stay within the bounds of your own comfort zone. You’re like, “This is how I know to use it so this is how I use it.”

New customers that are coming on and they’re participating in our thorough implementation process where we have implementation specialists and customer success managers training the whole company on how to use everything. I almost feel like we shouldn’t have an implementation specialist for our own instance of 15Five. One of the areas that we could utilize more is in the personal profiles where you can have every single person in the company write out their aspirational job titles, as well as listing out their strengths.

What’s interesting, this is coming directly from the research that Adam Grant has done on job crafting. If you give people some of the autonomy to start thinking about what are their strengths, passions and how does that match up with our skills, you start to do a little bit more of a customized job description. You start moving people towards what we like to call zone of genius. You get people operating in their zone of genius doing the things that give them energy and are contributing value to the company. That’s when you unlock high performance. There are ways we could utilize that a little bit more and there are also ways that I’m waiting for the product to catch up so that it’s a little bit more in the natural flow of using everything.

How do you sell into the big organizations or the mid-sized organizations where you’re trying to get your product adopted? You would love all the employees to use it but clearly, if you got the marketing group, that would be a big win because then you can grow. First, how do you get in the doors and secondly, how do you grow virally inside of the organization?

One of the advantages that we have over our competitors is that we have self-service. Any manager in the English-speaking world can sign up for a self-serve trial with 15Five and roll it out to their team and be up and running within a week. Let’s say you’re in a larger organization and you have a team of 50 people, you can launch 15Five with those 50 people and we see this happen all the time. We get a foothold, they start getting that traction with those 50 people, start seeing some interesting results and then there are two things. One, we’ll be paying attention to that. We’ll send in an account manager and having those conversations. We start exploring what are the possibilities and get introductions upstream from them. Also, what happens is people start hearing about it inside the organization and say, “That seems interesting. I want to try that out with my team.” Maybe we’ll get a couple of small teams inside of a larger organization and then we’ll send in a sales rep and start talking to the CPO or somebody to say, “You already have four teams using this. Let’s look at what’s possible if we were to get everybody in the company using it.”

15Five is almost like Metcalfe’s Law, which is great since I am a Metcalf. The value of a network is squared by the number of its users or something like that. It was created with the telephone. The more people are using a telephone, the more valuable telephones become. Inside the company, the more people in a company that are using 15Five, the more useful 15Five becomes. I can tag somebody in another department on a problem that my direct report is having and then they’re looped into that conversation immediately and we can begin problem-solving rather than waiting.

In the early days when you were starting, I was trying to get David to consider some way to create this viral nature to the product. Where occasionally you had to either send a report to another business area or tag someone another business area or ask another business area about something and they’d be like, “What’s this 15Five thing?” It’s not necessarily to make them download the app and use it but they had to be exposed to it. Do you do that at all to get you into the other business area and has that been effective?

We’re certainly seeing some organic ways that that happens and high fives, which is our pure appreciation recognition tool. Some quick notes on appreciation, we’re seeing ridiculous numbers where if somebody feels appreciated and recognized at work, their performance goes up 80%. Part of what the new science of human thriving is understanding is that humans have needs. We have these fundamental needs that if met lead us towards self-actualization like Maslow’s hierarchy. There’s belonging and esteem. Appreciation goes right to the heart of belonging and esteem. If somebody is recognizing you, thanking you for the specific behaviors and results that you’re generating, you’re going to feel appreciated. It’s going to increase the psychological safety. It’s going to create an entire oxytocin and dopamine cocktail in your brain which your brain drips that and it changes your biology. It changes your nervous system and primes your nervous system for success.

There’s another cool concept in positive psychology around the positivity ratio, which is the number of positive emotional experiences and interactions to negative emotional experiences/interactions that you have in any relationship. If you take this to the company-wide level, most companies are appreciation deficient. If you get that ratio a little more balanced, some people say 5 to 1, some people say 3 to 1, there’s some debate around what it is. It’s probably between 3 and 8 positive interactions to every one negative interaction. What high fives does is it immediately starts to increase the positivity ratio inside of an organization. The viral loop on that is that I had a cross-collaboration with somebody, I want to be able to give them a high five. If they’re not on 15Five, they’ll still receive the high five. I can type in any email, I can type in my mom’s email and give my mom a high five.

Will she know that it came from 15Five though?

Yes. It will come in at 15Five email and it will say, “Mom, thank you for being the best mom ever. The way that you cared for me and loved me as a child and the way that you continue to listen to me and have deep and meaningful conversations about our lives makes me appreciative. I’m grateful. Thank you for being my friend.” She gets that in the email and she’s going to love getting that and she’ll be like, “That’s cool.” She’ll see everything else that is associated with 15Five and creates a little bit of an invitation into the 15Five ecosystem.

That’s how Hotmail launched their entire company many years ago. At the bottom of every email, it said, “Get your free Hotmail address.” That’s all they did. Every single outward touch they had from people outside of the loop got infected with that virus. All of a sudden, everybody wanted a Hotmail address. I don’t know whatever happened to them.

It makes me have some fond memories of my old Hotmail account.

It sure grew like crazy. I had somebody send me an email from an AOL account, I’m like, “You’ve got to lose that. That’s crazy.”

It’s amazing how much we judge somebody when they send this. Occasionally, we’ll see people sign up for 15Five with a Hotmail or an AOL account and I’m like, “You will never get a job.”

I don’t even know If you would go to check that, it’s incredible. Talk to me about some of the PR that you’ve received. You have got a lot of press coverage as an organization. Why do you think that is?

SIC 83 | Best Self Management

Best Self Management: The needs of different sizes of organizations are vastly different. A 3,000-person company has a lot of different needs than a 30-person company.


Certainly, you’ve been advising us for a long time to maximize PR and it’s great. We hired our first internal PR manager. I had a one-on-one with her. She’s coming from an agency side, four years of a fairly cutthroat PR agency. She’s walking around our culture and dazed like, “I can’t believe this is real. What? People care about you?” It was fun hearing some of her war stories of what it’s like working in a hardcore PR agency. You’ve been advising this for a long time and I was telling her that it was a fun timing for me to have the one-on-one since you were saying, “Hire a PR person internally, all day trying get us press.” We’ve worked with some great agencies over the years that have also played a big role in helping us get some good PR. I feel like we’re starting to find the things that resonate in a big way. There’s a fun story that puts us on the map in a big way. We’ll back up a little bit. We have something internally that we call the best-self academy and this is a resource library of both resources and experiences that we pay for our employees to have access to.

There are a couple of different workshops that will pay for people to go to if they want to all voluntary. We don’t force people to do anything. It made significant changes and create a transformation but they have a nice life and we said, “Why wouldn’t we want everyone to have access to this? Most people don’t even know they exist.” We were thinking about it and we were saying, “What are some of the other impactful experiences that we’ve had that we think would benefit the majority of people?” We immediately are like, “Burning Man.”

I’ve been going for many years. David has gone. Me and David have had some of our best one-on-ones at Burning Man. Real heart-to-heart key moments of struggle and breakthrough in the company have happened at Burning Man for us personally. We decided, “Anybody at 15Five, we will buy your first ticket to Burning Man.” That was fun because it’s personally meaningful for me to be at a point where we can do that and I can say, “We’ve got 170 people and we’ll buy 160 tickets to Burning Man. If every person wants to go to Burning Man, we’ll buy every single person a ticket to Burning Man.”

Your gift bag of magic mushrooms and a t-shirt.

Having fun and maybe I’ll see you on the other side.

The reason you’ve received so much PR as a company is less about my systems. It’s more about the fact that you have been a heart-centered company and focused on culture which is not about the perks. You’re open and vulnerable. The media has treated you kindly because they trust and believe you. A lot of your media has been about your customer successes as well and how the products are changing companies and lives. It’s been less about, “Look at us.”

That’s the real interesting story, how do we rehumanize business? How can we build our companies where we get to bring our full selves to work? We get to become better people through the experience of work. We spend much of our time at work. It’s a generative upward spiral, where we grow in our relational skills. We grow in our ability to empathize, listen, understand people, get curious and get feedback with kindness and curiosity that’s going to radiate into all areas of our life. We’re going to have better relationships with our family and loved ones. We’re going to have better friendships, more depth. It has been one of the primary goals of us in building this company. It’s great to see the amazing timing as well that the rest of the world is starting to understand that these things are important.

You’re being too nice to yourself. I don’t think it has much to do with timing at all. You started in this company many years ago. It takes a long time to get to the night before you become an overnight success story. We’re going to talk about the fact that you raised $35-ish million.

We raised $31 million in Series B and right before that, we raised $8 million in Series A.

I want to go prior to the $8 million. You were on vapor. David was going through a divorce, quite an amicable one with his ex, Casey. They’re heart-centered focused on their little boy. It’s wonderful that they were able to go through it as friends which is great, but struggling hard emotionally. Struggling on cash, you didn’t have any cash and you were running along. You’d add four customers and lose two and you’d add three and lose one. It was like, “I don’t know when this is ever going to become a company.” It’s cute and I like the tool, but how did you get through that?

We have a different perspective. It’s quite interesting because when we had hundreds of thousands, not tens of millions in the bank, there are ways that we felt secure because we were cashflow positive. We have 3, 4 years of being cashflow positive. We had vapor in the bank but we knew we were default alive.

You were growing and it was okay and you weren’t burning, but how do you go through that as a company, especially you’re based in the Bay Area? You’re based in this center of like, “Raise and grow.” How did you work through that with your teams? How did you work through that psychologically? What did you focus on when you can’t just go and spend your way to success?

Our perspective was that VC money is not to figure the crap out of me. VC money isn’t like we think we have product-market fit. We don’t really know but we’re going to say we do and we’re going to raise millions of dollars and try to brute force our way into product-market fit. We said, “We probably could have raised an A way before we did, but we wanted to figure out repeatable and scalable lead generation and sales systems before we put all the money into it because that would be having a jet engine that we weren’t confident in and then burn a bunch of money through it to see if we could get lift-off.” Instead, we took an approach where we said, “Let’s grow slow and steady.” We were growing. Jason Calacanis called us the ultra-marathon runners of his portfolio, slow and steady running along.

What we did in that time, and it was a real blessing that we got to continue to refine our culture. We got to continue to refine our philosophical perspective on how to treat people internally. We kept a strong shared powerful context that the purpose of our company is to unlock the potential of every member of the global workforce. We use that as the true north, the magnetizing element that would create cohesion and alignment. We continue to get to know each other. We were a sub 30 people for most of that time. We got to develop such solid bedrock of our culture. We’ve had five people voluntarily leave the company. One of those people might come back and then it’s down to four. It’s virtually zero turnover. We got to continue to invest in people’s own personal development. We have all of these cultural rituals and practices and group habits that we do that default move us towards more connection, more vulnerability and more trust.

What do you think you can do better as a team? What do you think you can improve in that area?

Occasionally every other year, I run Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team assessment with the leadership team. One of the areas that we’ve not been as strong on is accountability. We get high marks on trust and conflict and commitment and results, but accountability is usually the lower one on the totem pole. If you know David as you do, David is somewhat conflict-averse. He’s a nine Enneagram and it’s like, “Let’s make peace. Let’s not necessarily do things like holding people accountable in ways that make them uncomfortable.” We’ve grown a lot in that in the last few years. Our CRO, Brad McGinity is strong on that line of development. He’s brought in some great energy into the team. Brad has been a phenomenal contribution to the whole company and helping us create scalable sales processes.

We’re moving into higher and higher stakes games. We aren’t just default alive. We can keep running as long as we want regardless of our growth rate. We raised $39 million and there are some expectations that have come along with that money. It’s about how do we create extremely high levels of psychological safety while also holding people accountable to extraordinary levels of performance? Competitions are heating up, the space is getting much recognition, and we’re signing up for continued massive growth. That does require a high degree of accountability on everyone’s part.

What is changing now that you’ve got this cash? Where do you have to change? I know you’re not pivoting in terms of the product or service, but where are you starting to focus your time that maybe you didn’t before?

SIC 83 | Best Self Management

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

We’ve historically been underinvested in the product. We had a lean product team and we did incredible things with few people. One of the main reasons why we decided to raise Series B was to be able to be over-invested in the product. Over invested means compensate and catch up a little bit and be able to accelerate our product development, because there are many cool things that we want to do and we need to do in the product. Once a year we have a company-wide retreat. We bring everybody together in person for three and a half, four-day transformational business retreat. I take elements from Burning Man and Landmark Forum and all these different transformational experiences with some smattering of business strategy thrown in there and create these incredible experiences and that’s fun. We had 70 for the whole company. The product and engineering teams are meeting in Portugal for their own little meetup and that’s 70 people alone. It’s exciting because we’ve been in this mad hiring dash and we have, for the most part, solid engineering and product team that is already starting to move the needle fast on what we’re able to build and the quality of what we’re building.

What’s going to change with your leadership team and your management team now that you have this extra cash? Do you have to bring in the next layer of talent or do you have to keep focusing on growing the team you’ve got? What are you focusing on there?

The leadership team is definitely growing. We’ve got most of the bench filled for the most part. We are hiring a CFO and that’s going to be exciting. That’s going to be CFO operations. That’s going to be helpful on a number of fronts. We’ve used a third-party firm for finance and we have enough money moving through the business, but we need somebody full-time internally that understands all the nuance, sits in on all the leadership meetings and knows the flavors of everything that’s happening. Each one of us on the leadership team going and making our wish list on the third-party consulting firm and saying, “Yeah, sure.” Realizing all the puzzle pieces don’t fit together because there wasn’t one master architect sitting in the center of everything. We’re excited about that.

You and David cofounding this company, growing it from the earliest days, how do you divide and conquer? How do you split up your roles and responsibilities between the two of you?

First of all, I am grateful for David. David was one of the greatest blessings in my life. We’re closer and trust each other more than we did in the beginning. We’re more excited about the work that we’re doing as a company than we did when we started the company. What’s great is that we have a deep philosophical alignment around the purpose of the company and the impact we want to have on the people internally and on the world at large.

One of the great things as a Chief Culture Officer is I’m not in opposition to my CEO. I’m not fighting and trying to convince him, “People are important. We need to invest in our people. We need to maintain an extraordinary culture.” That’s a default and full alignment from the whole leadership team. David’s primary responsibilities in the company are to keep it funded. Make sure we always have cash in the bank and enough money, enough capital and access to capital to do whatever we need to do as opportunities arise. He sets some of the strategic level of where we’re going. David’s number one strength is futuristic. He’s constantly looking several steps ahead and creating the alignment and the strategy from there and then managing the leadership team and making sure that everyone is set up for success.

I am still figuring out what I’m doing every day. It’s like, “What am I doing here?” We have something special. We have a five-star rating on Glassdoor which is uncommon for our stage, for the number of people that we have. We almost have zero turnover internally. The people that we want to stay, almost every person stays. My job is to ensure to the best of our ability that we scale the magic that we have as a culture. I can no longer go around all of our offices and meet with every person in the company and do that through brute force. It’s about continuing to scale our systems and processes to ensure that everybody has a voice in the company, that our managers are the best managers on the planet.

One of my goal that I want to put on our website at 15Five is amongst the perks that we do have is you’re going to love your manager and if you don’t, we’re going to do something about it. Whether it’s getting you another manager or helping you have a breakthrough with that manager because it all goes back to the manager. I can have the most incredible 15Five global culture, but if you don’t like your manager, your manager doesn’t like you, you don’t have a good communication style together, it’s going to break down and you’re going to leave the company.

When we were building 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, one of the business areas I grew was the PR team. At one point, I had up to about six full-time in-house PR people that were cranking out stories. We landed 5,200 stories about the company in six years. At one point, we needed them to have someone to report to. We were also going to build a national account sales team. We wanted to hire a VP of sales. We let the six PR managers interview, select, and hire their VP that they would report to. You talked about loving the person that you’re going to report to, you got to pick them. They couldn’t complain about their boss anymore, it was like, “You picked the guy.”

It’s about giving people some of that autonomy, some of that control. People want to have a sense that they have some say on their destiny. If you just top-down, “This is your new boss, love them or leave,” that alone sets somebody up to probably not like their boss because they don’t have a voice. They don’t have an opinion that’s listened to. It’s not that we need to run everything like a democracy and everyone gets an equal vote that can also be a troublesome model. In general, including people in the decision-making process is a valuable way to help people feel valued.

What do you think the biggest insights are that you’ve learned about operations and leadership from your customers using 15Five?

Everybody uses the tool in slightly different ways. A couple of years ago, I ran a report and we had over 10,000 unique questions asked through the platform every week. There are a lot of different priorities in companies. There are some real universals around improving employee-manager conversation is always going to win. Companies are at different stages of growth and development and have different needs at those different stages. If you can find the right questions, you can solve whatever the problem is that you’re facing at that level of growth and development as a company.

In StrengthsFinder, one of the strengths is called individualization which understands that everybody is an individual. If you understand what uniquely motivates them, then you’re going to help unlock their potential. Understanding that every company is also an individual and every company is unique. That’s where our CSMs come in play. It’s helping companies understand the right strategy, the right questions to ask, the right things to be paying attention to, the right conversations to start having as a collective. That is how you’re going to navigate the individual complexities of that company.

If you were to think about the last ten years for you, where have you had to continually work on yourself and your strengths as a COO or second in command?

One of the interesting things that have been in the last couple of years is leaning into more of my public speaking. We were at one of our company retreats and David asked the question, “What would have to happen in the next year for you to know that it was a breakthrough year for you?” I sheepishly said, “I’d speak at one business conference,” and immediately regretted saying that because David weeks later passes me over an opportunity to speak at a conference, I’m like, “Damn you, David.”

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with public speaking. I did one talk that year. I did 40 and I’ve done not only 60 or 70. I’ve said yes to a variety of webinars, stages, keynotes, full gamut meetups and any opportunity I could get in front of an audience and open my mouth. It’s cool because it’s the journey of public speaking and you probably know this as a speaker, being able to get up on stage and speak authentically. It’s a hero’s journey through your own deepest insecurities to be able to get good at speaking or at least it was me. That has been one of the most transformative. It has also been one of the most rewarding for me personally.

I’ve always told people that we’ve always been good at speaking. We’ve been speaking since we were one year old. What we’re bad at is speaking from a stage. If we can somehow go on stage and speak to the audience like we speak to our friends, it resonates. As soon as we try to be a speaker, then it all breaks down because you’re in your head the whole time. If you were to think back to when you were 21 years old, you were embarking on your business career, what word of advice would you give yourself back then that you now know to be true but you wish you’d known a lot younger?

Twenty-one is an interesting age for me. I would say, “Follow the path.” Trust you taking the path less traveled because essentially I dropped out of the business world in my twenties. I pursued all kinds of crazy personal development paths and lived in strange intentional communities in the Bay Area and went much more on the inner personal development path. I took every transformational course I can find in the Bay Area which is endless and it was cool. I was definitely in this period of, “I am broke.” I have a giant gap in my resume. It’s a hard one to explain because I was doing crap that wasn’t conventionally respected as a professional career. What is interesting is that it was all of those experiences, everything that I picked up, who I became in those experiences, and the tools I’ve gained that I’ve used to build 15Five. It is directly correlated to the culture that we have. I would tell my 21-year-old self like, “Have faith. Follow your own path. Don’t conform. Go against the grain. Do the things that nobody else is doing and trust that it’s going to lead you somewhere that is beyond your wildest imagination.”

If you trust that journey and you’re following some passion, it’s going to continue and you’re going to pick up all the learnings along the way. Shane Metcalf, the Cofounder and Chief Culture Officer for 15Five, thanks for sharing with us. I appreciate it.

Thanks, Cameron.

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About Shane Metcalf 

SIC 83 | Best Self ManagementShane Metcalf is a seasoned executive coach and speaker who is obsessed with building healthy organizations and creating the opportunity for people to have meaningful work and meaningful relationships. 

Driven by his deep belief in the potential of our species, Shane co-founded 15Five, industry-leading performance management software that is unlocking the potential of the global workforce. As Chief Culture Officer, Shane understands what fundamentally motivates people, how to architect high performance, and which principles and rituals create “self-organizing cultures”. Along with his co-founder, David Hassell, Shane has developed the Best-Self Management methodology which posits that by supporting people in learning, growing, and becoming their best selves over time, the natural byproduct is uncommonly high performance and loyalty. 


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