Always Thank Your Star Players, Chegg’s C.E.O. Says

Q. You just started at Chegg this year. What was your first-day speech to the staff?

A. I articulated why I came. What’s the opportunity we see? How do we want to define success? What’s the bigger dream? Many people work really hard every day, but they’re incrementalists. When you are in a growth company, you have to really open people’s eyes to the bigger possibilities, so they think differently. Once they understand how to define success and what their role is in success, they make better decisions and you can push decision-making down.

Stylistically, I try very hard to be descriptive about how we want to define success and not necessarily prescriptive on telling them exactly how we want to do it — because, frankly, many of them are a lot smarter than me at what they do.

Q. So how did you define success with the group?

A. One of the things you just have to appreciate is that nobody has all of the answers to anything, particularly in a growth company that’s breaking new ground. I think having a lot of humility is important in a C.E.O. role. You have to have confidence, but also humility. You have to know that you can pull off what you say you are going to do, but you really need to solicit opinions from inside the company and, frankly, from outside the company.

Inside the company, we spent the first month with the management team and we asked every one of them to come in with the 10 most important priorities that they thought that the company should have and order them in terms of importance.

It took about a month to debate these points, to articulate these points, to have people have their say. What I did was coach them to communicate them clearly, as opposed to saying we should do this, this or this.

These sessions go three or four hours once a week, and people come back and then you assign an order toward the end. Then you define success and reportable metrics, put…

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