Home | Miscellany

Archives For Miscellany

A little over a year ago, I joined HotPads.com as their online marketing manager. I was the first marketer at HotPads in a while, hence the team was me and I was doing everything (though nothing super well). One year later, I have a team of eight marketers (including myself) spanning SEO, email, and content. We’re soon to add a few more positions too.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned creating and growing a marketing team over the past year.

But first, here’s how I feel about my leadership experience over the last year:

hard

Lead Don’t Dictate

As an individual contributor, I never had issues with motivating myself to learn new skills or challenging myself to try new things where I might fail. As a leader, this can work well if you harness it correctly, because then you can show your team that what you are proposing could actually be a) feasible and b) helpful to your goals.

The challenge comes in communication. One lesson I learned the hard way was that I was failing to communicate to my team *why* I was doing something. They took it as me doing their job and not trusting them, when really I trusted them completely but wasn’t sure myself if an idea would actually be a good idea.

A large part of leadership that I previously did not understand is communicating why something should be done, and what the end goal is. If you fail to get someone on board to do something, you’ve failed to inspire and you’ve failed to lead. At this point you’re a dictator. I especially have to be careful of this because my personality type is ENTJ, which I share with Napoleon, Stalin, Steve Jobs, and others. Yikes!

culture8

Hire for Culture, Not “Culture”

In San Francisco where I live, and in tech culture more broadly, people talk about “hiring for culture” frequently. When I started thinking about hiring, at first I thought culture was similar interests, a fun attitude, etc. Those are nice things to have in a coworker, but what about things like work culture, humility, how they solve problems, and other things like this that affect the day to day?

culture

culture2

culture3

Make Your Team Look Good

The last feedback you ever want to hear as a manager is that your team feels like you are taking credit for their work. Part of your job as manager is to amplify their amazing work to your boss. If you’re leading well by making them decision makers (next section), this should be easy to do because they’ll be the ones sending the update emails and you can either a) make sure that your boss is CCd on them or b) you can forward it directly to your boss.

culture6

Make Them Decision Makers

You’re probably not the right person to make tactical decisions in areas that you are not a specialist. The person actually doing the work is the right person to make that decision, so why do we try to make the decision when we are the senior employee? I recently read The Decision Maker after the team at Buffer wrote about it, and it changed my perspective on leading a team. Now, instead of making a decision when asked for one, I respond with a question and get them to think through the answer. I’m always the support (and rarely will push back, and only when I think it’s the wrong decision or they haven’t gathered enough information), but the channel owner makes the decision.

I’m actually actively trying to give away as much decision making as possible, and it’s been amazing for the last month.

culture7

 

Some Final Words

I love the HotPads marketing team. I love leading the HotPads marketing team and inspiring them to do great work. This last year has been the hardest of my professional career, but the lessons learned have been invaluable.

Here is what I’ve decided are what I care about on my team:

culture4

And how I feel about leadership:
culture9

culture10

I wrote this post as part of our bi-annual Hackweek. Yes, we do hackweeks twice per year, and yes, we are always hiring.

I’m Not A Good Employee

John Doherty —  August 5, 2014

Have you ever heard someone say “I’m just not an employee” or “After working for myself, I can’t imagine ever working for someone again”. I’ve often felt this way, even though I don’t work for myself (well, there were those two weeks).

When I started my job at HotPads back in October, I told my then-boss “I have to be honest with you – I’m not a good employee”. What I meant by this is that I hate to be managed by others. I want to explore this a bit more, because not everyone who hates to be managed can work for themselves. Sometimes, we must learn how to succeed as we are, where we are. Continue Reading…

Many of you don’t know this, but I’ve burnt myself out a few times. I hustle really hard for a long amount of time, then I hit a point where I cannot go any further. I’ve recently come across some awesome quotes that I want to share to encourage you to take time and space as you need it, and your work will be better for it. Personally, I plan to do this more in San Francisco by riding my bike, going skiing in Tahoe and climbing in Yosemite, and being outside as much as possible and off the Internet on weekends. Continue Reading…

In 2011, I created a playlist called “Brooklyn” in Spotify. This was because I had just moved to Brooklyn to join Distilled and songs like “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, “Brooklyn Bound” by The Black Keys, and “Brooklyn Go Hard” by Jay Z felt like they defined my life. On my first day of work at Distilled, I listened to “Empire State of Mind” as I walked into the building. And yesterday, September 3rd, I created a playlist called “SF”.

You see, I didn’t think I’d be writing this post for quite a while. Since I moved to New York two years ago and joined Distilled, I’ve been very vocal about my love for Distilled, for New York, and for the life that I’ve been able to have here. It’s been an amazing adventure, but at some point all great things come to an end and we realize that it’s time to let some things go in order to embrace the future. Therefore, I have to announce that:

I’m leaving Distilled in New York City at the end of September and have accepted the position of Online Marketing Manager for HotPads, the fully owned rentals subsidiary of Zillow based in San Francisco, California.

This is a big announcement, and let me tell you that no one is more surprised than myself. Let me explain why I’ve made this decision. Continue Reading…

If you’re reading this post, you should know the following ways to tag <a href=””></a> links on your website:

  • _blank – opens in new tab
  • _self – opens in same frame (default, can also just be left out)
  • _parent – opens link in new parent frame
  • _top – opens link in the full body of the window

One of the features (or lack thereof) that has irked me about HackerNews is that when I click on a link, it opens in the same window thus taking me away from HackerNews, which is where I went in the first place. Let’s say I click on the first link:

hackernews

It takes me directly to the page (watch the tab at the top):

hackernews2

But then I have to hit the Back button. Who hits the back button on the Internet anymore, especially techies like myself who live off of keyboard shortcuts? Why make me go from using my keyboard to using my mouse or trackpad just to go back? No one uses the Delete key to go back, let’s be honest.

What HackerNews should do, though, is take you to a new tab, like so (notice the tabs at the top):

hackernews3

Proposition

I propose a test. Dear admins of HackerNews, I would like you to implement a test for 24 hours.

Implement target=”_blank” on HackerNews
Track the time on site and number of votes over the course of that day
Report on it, and then make an informed decision.

It won’t be that hard to implement:

<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-while“>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>

Becomes:

<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-whiletarget=”_blank”>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>

This is how Inbound.org works:

<a href=”http://contentharmony.com/inbound-2012/” target=”_blank” id=”click-30712″>Inbound.org: 2012 By The Numbers</a>

Well HackerNews, what say you? I dare you to increase your traffic and engagement.

How’s The Ebook Coming?

John Doherty —  January 4, 2013

TL;dr – As many of you know, I announced a few months ago that I am working on an ebook about blog marketing. If you didn’t know, you should sign up to hear about when it launches after you’ve finished reading this post.

I’m also looking for 10 people to provide me feedback on what I’ve written so far. If interested, sign up now (and for more details about what’s involved, read the bottom of the post) – Continue Reading…

Find Balance

John Doherty —  December 21, 2012

Before you read this post (which is publishing as I am on the plane to Costa Rica), let me suggest that you read two other posts:

Rand’s post – http://moz.com/rand/there-is-no-worklife-balance/
Jerry Colonna’s post (language not mom-friendly) – http://www.themonsterinyourhead.com/2011/05/05/work-life-balance-is-bullshit/

These words especially resonate:

“I’m scared,” I’d told my Buddhist teacher on Monday. “I find myself doing more and more…the calls and inquires for coaching are so much more than I can handle.” He smiled in that way that says, “I’m not going to say anything. You have to keep going.”
“I’m afraid I’ll lose myself…again. I’ll find myself overweight, sickly, disconnected from my body, my family, and back at the point where the subway tracks seem like the right answer.”
“It is different now,” he said. I waited for more and then realized I wasn’t getting any more.

It’s different now, said my teacher, because right livelihood. What I’m working towards now is less about my own ego aggrandizement (although that temptation is always there) and more about helping.

Both of those posts express well the thoughts that come when you are overworking and stressed out.

Continue Reading…

I’m Not Leaving SEO

John Doherty —  August 28, 2012

A bit of a personal post today folks.

Let’s be honest. The last few months have been ROUGH on SEO. We’ve had Penguin to deal with, the iAcquire deal seemed to polarize the industry in unforeseen ways, and there’s been some seeming ill-will around the industry blogs. There’s been a shift towards content marketing and of course we’ve had the “SEO is dead” posts that won’t seem to…die. Pardon me, I couldn’t resist.

Through all of this, I’ve had some good friends who have declared that they are leaving SEO. First it was my (now old) boss Tom Critchlow, who left Distilled in favor of greener pastures at the Google Creative Lab. I’m happy for him, but his departure leaves a void in the SEO thought leadership space. Continue Reading…

I live in New York City, the greatest city in the world. And because it’s the greatest city in the world, it’s the place that people of all types flock to. And many of these people are absolutely amazing at what they do, and get snapped up quickly. But guess what? Not only do they get snapped up quickly, but they get recruited heavily as well. And New York recruiters are fierce and devious. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been duped by a recruiter who has posed as someone in my industry and added me on LinkedIn, only to message me right after I accept and try to get me to talk about a job! I’ve also had them call me at work (AT WORK) numerous times and try to have a chat with me. Really? You think I’m going to chat with you while I’m at MY JOB??

You might not be able to pay what the big agencies can pay, and you’re most likely not Apple or Google that pay an INSANE amount of money to their employees (and especially developers). So, you have to beat this big guys at their own game.

How? By making your employees rockstars, whatever that means to them. Continue Reading…

Some people in the marketing community complain that Google has no right to police the web, that the Internet is an open place where anything goes. People complain that Google is ruining their lives when an algorithm change goes live that wipes out their network of spam blogs. But that’s not the topic of this post.

I want to highlight something I saw today that angered me, and make a bid for all of us to be good Internet citizens and police the places that we see that deserve to be kept clean. Just like it is – I think – our responsibility to pick up trash around our neighborhoods and not put gum underneath chairs for others to put their fingers in, it is also our responsibility to clear out spam when we see it so that the Internet stays, for the most part, an inviting place to be.

Let me show you an example. Continue Reading…