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August 1, 2023
Stephen Shortt

How to find the right Co-Founder for your startup?

How to find the right Co-Founder for your startup?

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Show Notes

Mudassir (00:02.774)

Hey Stephen, welcome to the show.

Stephen Shortt (00:05.41)

Hi, how are you?

Mudassir (00:06.783)

I'm doing great, how about you?

Stephen Shortt (00:09.478)

Fantastic. Busy, but it's better than the alternative.

Mudassir (00:14.774)

How's Dublin treating you?

Stephen Shortt (00:17.654)

Dublin is surprisingly warm and sunny at the moment, which is causing a lot of Irish people to kind of lose their minds and be walking around in shorts and t-shirts. And it's funny. So my wife is Spanish. And here it's like 19 degrees, which is shorts and t-shirt weather for everybody in Ireland. But all the Spanish and Italian students that are here are looking at the Irish going, guys, this is winter weather. You're still insane. It's 40 degrees in Spain right now. And that's when we're wearing.

shorts and t-shirts. It's all about perspective.

Mudassir (00:52.062)

Yeah, absolutely. You know, speaking of perspectives, let's start with the perspective of life that you have today and the context of whoever you are today. How did you become the Stephen that we know today?

Stephen Shortt (01:07.85)

Wow. I mean, there's a lot of to be who I am today is really an amalgamation of whatever experiences that I've had, the interactions that I've had, the quality of the people that I've been privileged to interact with who've had an impact on me. Right up from parents and family life to school, college, work, things that went wrong, things that went right, lucky breaks. And

learning and I mean, I'm not a huge reader, but I'm a huge devourer of information from people. So like podcasts, audio books, and especially meeting people having conversations with people and what I can glean from that. And that shapes an awful lot of my thinking, which then shapes my personality and my behavior. And that shapes where I am today.

Mudassir (02:01.458)

Awesome, great to know that. So I want to start us off right with the topic that we both want to talk about. So can you explain what psychometric assessments are and how can they actually help all the businesses and startups in particular?

Stephen Shortt (02:18.178)

Yeah, so psychometrics are anything really to do with testing anything around your personality, around your abilities, anything psycho to do with the brain, not psychotic. That's a different thing. But psyche and psycho are all to do with your personality, your abilities, your interests, anything that measures those traits are the blanket term of psychometric assessment.

Mudassir (02:46.142)

And how did you end up becoming a psychrometric analyst or a coach? How do you define yourself?

Stephen Shortt (02:55.47)

By accident I suppose. No, so my father's an occupational psychologist. My father's an occupational psychologist. I've grown up in two family businesses so we had another family business which was an English language school where we taught English to international students and we had this other business which was about career guidance and about selection for companies and helping teams to develop. For 20 years

Mudassir (02:58.402)

Tell us about that.

Stephen Shortt (03:21.474)

I was much more focused on the other business, but in the last kind of five or six years I've come over, I bought this business and I'm getting more involved now. So in order to really understand that I did a couple of courses, I did some, a lot of reading, a lot of research. Um, and I've done, um, there's the two big assessments that we sell now are Hogan assessments, which is about your personality, uh, and understanding the different facets of who you are as a person and your

how you are under pressure, what are your values, what are your motives, and how can we help people either to select the right people or to coach the people in a way that is gonna be meaningful for them. And then another one is the AEM Cube from Human Insights, which is about where your natural preferences are in terms of teams. So how well your teams are going to interact with each other, where their strengths lie, and where we can position them within the company. So if we put the two of those together, the analogy is...

Imagine you've got a football team, you need to know each player, where you're going to put them, where their natural contribution is going to be, whether they're a striker, a defender, a midfielder, a goalie, whatever. Then once you know where they're best situated in the team to be able to be successful, then we get into the personality to help them to grow in that position, to be able to be more effective.

Mudassir (04:39.15)

Okay, and how actually do you do that? Like is it more like you ask a couple of questions, you have some exercises, like what's the whole process looks like?

Stephen Shortt (04:48.454)

So for most psychometrics, they're extrinsic. So we have two ways of discovering people's personality or people's best attributes. And it's by observation and by talking, by chatting with them and going, OK, well, based on my experience, this person is extroverted. And based on my experience and what I've learned before, this person is probably going to be better under pressure. This person is going to be.

very good at forming relationships or actually this person's a little bit cold. Those are ways that we as non-psychologists, we make decisions about people and we assess people's personalities, we assess people's best contributions and things like that. The problem with that is, this phrase that I use a lot is, we judge ourselves by our intentions and we judge other people by their behavior.

So everything that we're looking at is through the lens of how we view the world. So two different people from two different perspectives could be looking at the same person and have two very different views on them. I don't know how many times you and your friend, you've been friends with somebody else and they can't stand them, for example. Like we're all looking at each other through our own lens. Then we have the completely objective, pure analytical, everybody does the same test.

then we see where they are in the norm group, where they are on the bell curve. And then the people who are here on the bell curve, they're generally seen as this. The people who are here in the bell curve are generally seen as this. Or when we get into teams, where are they on this grid that we use? Are they more relationship focused? Are they more content focused? Are they more optimizing? Or are they more exploratory? Like where are they naturally suited based on the ecosystem of the business? So what we do...

is we run people through the assessment. So we pick the right assessments to, there are hundreds of assessments that you can use, depending on what you're actually looking for. So we pick the right assessments to be able to go, okay, well, to measure this and to get an idea of this, these are the assessments that we should use. The candidates go down through the assessments, a couple of hundred questions, but it takes about 20 minutes to do each assessment. It's not that long. And then we get the reports and then we put everything together in the context of what.

the companies looking for. So, I mean, you mentioned startups, for example. We've done work with startups where the founding three members, for example, are highly ambitious, really gung ho, wanna drive the business, wanna get things going, but they're actually in a very service heavy industry. Like their team is very service orientated, very collaborative, very much interested in the community and everything else. Whereas...

the founders, while they have that interest, their personality is much more driving, driving. So we sat down with them. We said, look, you are gonna have to get a manager in between you and your team because you are gonna shoot every one of them because they're not moving fast enough for you because you're looking at things differently. But this is the type of person you need in this high touch service industry. And this is the type of person you need in the founding team to be able to drive it on. So understanding where those, I mean,

Some of this is unconscious biases. Some of it is just the perspective and how you're looking at the business and understanding that from an external point of view, what's the best way to get things aligned.

Mudassir (08:19.754)

Amazing. How accurate do you think these assessments are? Usually.

Stephen Shortt (08:28.459)

I know I'm biased because we use them all the time, but they are outrageously accurate. Statistically with Hogan, they say there's a 95% correlation between how you're seen and how other people are seen, so they have a really high accuracy rate. To be honest, the Hogan assessments have so many really, really smart PhDs. I've met loads of them. I've been in their office. I've been in their center, and I've met loads of the people who are involved in the data side of things.

they're way more intelligent than I am. And they can go through the statistical relevancy and in the presentations they talk about, oh, it's N is this and there's a 0.2% deviation or there's this, that and the other. For me, that is, I start to glaze over, it's not my personality. But when I'm using this with clients, every time there might be a...

The 27 scales between one and 100, and you go through that just on the personality alone, every maybe 10 people, somebody might say, oh, the way you describe it there, I thought I'd be a little bit further to the left on this one or a little bit further to the right on this one. But everything else, yeah, that's spot on. Or, oh my god, I just had an argument with my girlfriend about exactly this problem that you said that I'm likely to have last week. So the accuracy, and I find this from a practical point of view when I'm talking to people,

The accuracy is incredible.

Mudassir (09:53.618)

how I love that. Again, coming from the startup world, coming from that job related entrepreneurship background, how often do you see the founders or a group of founders, co-founders, and their mismatch? How often do you see that?

Mudassir (18:24.631)


Stephen Shortt (18:49.138)

being involved because we believe in the vision of the business. Like our whole business, our, this business is about matching the right people with the right careers. So we do selection, we do career guidance. We're helping people. We see ourselves as helping people to have more fulfilling lives. So I would want to continue doing that for as long as I'm physically able to do it. There are other, I mean, there are projects that I've been involved in and it's gone like, yeah, okay, let's build it up. But then once it gets to a point on

So the innovation curve, the S curve, once it gets to the point when it's all about optimizing, I'm not the right person for that. So let's sell that to somebody else because it's something that they're better suited to doing. I'm much more interested in the energy of the startup world. So neither is wrong, in my opinion. It just depends on what you're ultimately trying to do. Some friends who are very successful, serial entrepreneurs

They are, they get so ignited and passionate by the start of it, coming up with the idea, innovating, getting it ready to market. And then as it's going up the trajectory, as it's scaling up, they go, right, well, now we're getting into optimizing and we're getting into like minutiae changes. And yeah, I'm not really, I'm not excited by that, but it has the potential to make millions. So I'm going to sell it to a company, either a VC or another business or a competitor or something like that, who is

Their mentality is we want to take in businesses and optimize them to make them as profitable as possible. They're the right people to look after that season of the business. And then the person who founded it goes, right, now I have some cash, I can try an even bigger idea or try an even bigger project. So again, nothing wrong with any stage of that S curve.

Mudassir (20:40.878)

Speaking of founders and entrepreneurs and people that are getting into this habit of building one business after another business and another business. Yeah, exactly. So there has to be a certain type of these people. So in your psychometric evaluations, what do you think, what's the trade that all these people have in common? Or what's the type of personality they have? I mean, it's an undying.

Stephen Shortt (20:48.93)

Nut jobs, yeah.

Mudassir (21:09.414)

you can say a pursuit like, okay, I'm going to start something and I sell it off. And a lot of people will say, yeah, okay, you know, I just made a generational wealth or something. You probably made an exit. I don't know, 30 million, 50 million or like whatever. And then you're like, okay, I'm just retired for the rest of my life. A lot of people actually don't do that. What they start doing is like, okay, so this is thing number one. We're going to go try an even bigger thing, even bigger thing. So with no end in sight. Exactly. Exactly.

Stephen Shortt (21:09.543)


Stephen Shortt (21:18.846)


Stephen Shortt (21:23.535)


Stephen Shortt (21:31.558)

that or a smaller thing in a different market or whatever. So I would say to, for me, and in Hogan has this as well, there are broadly speaking, there are six different leadership styles and I think entrepreneurs fall into one of these leadership styles. Um, so there's the, the typical, the results leader, this is the one that everybody kind of recognizes as the go-getter results, KPIs at all costs, everything.

all competition, all dominating, all like the typical, what some people refer to as the A type personality, which I don't really agree that that's the ideal for, um, for an entrepreneur, but that's one leadership style and it works in certain cultures. So, um, Jeff Bezos might be seen as a results leader because it's all KPIs. It's all like, how can we push this and get more of this? And,

be able to push in this direction. But you've also got five other leadership styles. So you've got six leadership styles in total. There's a results leader, there's a process leader, data leader, people leader, social leader, and thought leader. These are all different leadership styles. So if you take a data leader, for example, very different type of organization that they're gonna build. And if you look at Sergey Brin, for example, the Google founders, the Alphabet founder, the heads of Alphabet, very data driven, not the...

gung-ho, let's go get stuff done and at all costs be in front of the camera and do everything else. They're looking at data and they're making decisions based on that and they're building their company around that, highly successful. Lots of startups who are in the data and the AI world are into this, they're not the gung-ho break things fast and keep moving. Then you have the process leaders. So process leaders are people who are building up and they're very risk averse, they wanna make sure that they have mitigated as many risks as possible.

and they have a process that they follow and other people follow. Um, if you think of, uh, you've heard of Zara, it's in Europe and America, the clothing brand. So Zara, um, Amancio Ortega, massive process leader. If you Google him, there's probably about three photographs online that are, that you can see what he looks like because he's very private, very reserved, not in the limelight at all. Huge company that's built on his processes and built on the processes that he and his team have built.

Then you come to things like a thought leader. Thought leader typically would have been somebody like Steve Jobs kind of coming up with stuff and the people who are thought leaders, they tend to really go to the creativity side of things and bringing a business forward and pushing it into what the realms of what's possible. Typically they are God awful at actually executing on stuff. So they need stuff. They need other people around them. Um, then you've got the social leaders, for example, social leaders have really big networks and

They're much more the people connections and, oh, I can introduce you to over here and I can do this. And, oh, you're looking for this. Yeah, we can provide that. And, oh, you're looking for that. We can provide that what they can. And they might be able to give us something in the future. So operating in that realm. And then you have the people leaders. So the leaders who are very much focused on the internal people in their organization and helping them to grow so as they reach their potential on behalf of the business. So I don't think genuine from the people that I've met, I've met some very.

So I don't know if I subscribed to the idea that you've got to be this gung-ho hyper-focused KPI leader because I think there are traits beyond that and there are personality drives and values and things that people want to grow. And I don't want to say traits, but there are habits that they have that they've developed that help them to become successful in whatever field that they're in.

Stephen Shortt (25:22.194)

Absolutely. So the 80-20 principle applies to this as well. Like 80% of people can do 80% of the jobs that exist. So there are some hyper, hyper specialized careers. Brain surgeon, for example, it takes a particular type of person to be able to be a brain surgeon. But you can be a hugely successful entrepreneur.

Mudassir (25:38.434)

So you think everybody can be successful if they develop the right habits and stuff like that, right?

Stephen Shortt (25:46.054)

I mean, we've seen in the States that 1-800 got junk guys, I mean, or the student painters, these types of businesses that started up, which are not bleeding edge artificial intelligence, SaaS, crypto, whatever, they're really solid businesses that are run by really solid people who have a drive who want to build their business. Then you have ultra successful, like the open AI, like bleeding edge technology that has lots of investment coming in. So I don't think that there is a one type.

this is the best type of entrepreneur. There are so many options out there that you gotta find what fits for you, what makes sense for you and how you can develop and how you can grow. And understanding who you are is the first step in actually in understanding what's the best way for you to grow and to move in.

Stephen Shortt (26:53.139)

people suck at this because we all have unconscious biases. We all have the, like, there's no getting around it. It's the way the human brain works. There's lots of talk, uh, like diversity, what is it? Diversity, equity, and inclusion. Like there's huge amount of talk about this, but the way the human brain works is we all have unconscious bias. We have labels that we have to put on people. Otherwise we would have to have so much cognitive power to be able to make decisions on a daily basis. It's impossible. Um, so people, when they're hiring,

Mudassir (26:55.486)

I totally agree to that. Speaking of finding the right fit, and building teams actually, so a lot of the times, and this is just based on personal observation, I think a lot of the time people are looking to hire, founders are looking to hire their first five hires, or whoever, probably when they're, they probably found the product market fit, or maybe the MVP is there, and then now they're starting to hire. A lot of people don't know who they need to hire. Like I personally,

Stephen Shortt (27:20.774)

they have horrendous judging character. I say, Oh my God, you like the same sports team as I do. You must be an amazing CFO. It's like, that is not how that works at all. So really the best way for founders, for entrepreneurs, for startups in particular, is you've got to come at this clinically. You've got to have a look and it's got to be what we call competency-based interviewing and competency-based selection.

Mudassir (27:25.162)

believe that a lot of people don't know who they need to hire. And the reason behind that is they do not, so they have certain expectations in their mind. So one is they're not able to deliver the same thing in job requirement. And two is they probably are not good enough of a, I don't wanna say judge of a character, but probably that's the right word for that. So yeah.

Stephen Shortt (28:15.846)

go through it, but actually I need to take on somebody who really understands this, who gets our, what we're trying to plug into it to be able to have this SaaS as automated as possible in three years time. That's how you need to be hiring. What are the steps? What are the things that person needs to be able to bring to the table? And then you have the personality of, well, they need to be, I need them to be a self-starter. I need them to be outgoing or I need them. I don't care if they're outgoing because I'm fine with them just putting the head down. I actually want somebody who puts the head down.

and make sure that they get through all the process. So that's when you can start looking at the personality side of things. But the first thing is, what ultimately is this person going to be doing from a competency-based point of view? Then what's the personality?

Stephen Shortt (29:08.404)


Stephen Shortt (29:13.316)


Stephen Shortt (29:27.133)


Stephen Shortt (29:46.821)


Stephen Shortt (30:04.018)

I mean, you hear this thing all the time of hire slow, fire fast. This is one of these tropes that's trucked out all the time. I think most businesses, most CEOs, because a business is ultimately just a collection of people that hopefully are rowing in the same direction towards the same vision. So when people get involved, stuff immediately gets far more complex. And it's easy. And I've been in the position where I've gone, oh, yeah.

Mudassir (30:31.614)

Yeah, 100% agree to that. One thing that I think is, which is maybe a prequel to that, is a founder needs to have self-awareness, like huge level of self-awareness in order to make the right decision, in order to figure out the right person to hire. And most people do not have that. So coming to that, like somebody made a bad hire or like whatever, one thing that I learned is a good CEO slash founder, so a person who are leading an organization, they are decision making machines.

Stephen Shortt (30:32.894)

They're not working out. They're not great. Just fire them and be done with it. But actually when you're in the trenches, you're day to day in it and you have relationships with these people and you know that there's some things that they do well possible for the karma of that person, but it has to be done. And it's, you, you've got to really be looking at it. And as the CEO, as the founder, where are we going? Is this person? Um, and I mean, I've had arguments, um, with people and not arguments, but uh,

Mudassir (31:00.79)

Like that's all they do. They come to the job, make the scene, come to the job, make the scene. But one thing that I've seen, a lot of people, again, making mistakes is they delay the fighting process so much that they kind of turn the whole thing into a toxic environment. The whole organization is like, toxicity is like everywhere, okay? So that person is talking behind leadership's back, leadership is backward, so all of that stuff.

Stephen Shortt (31:01.69)

let's say open and frank discussions with people about is this person a net negative or a net positive to your business? Because everybody has good and bad qualities. Everybody, no matter how amazing your A player is, there's some stuff that rubs people the wrong way. So everybody has net positive and net negative and it's the culture that is like, they could be a great salesperson, but they're toxic. We've all had that example.

Mudassir (31:28.898)

Question number one is, in your opinion, what do you think about that? And two is, how do you think people can actually avoid slash mitigate that?

Stephen Shortt (31:29.71)

Is that net positive, net negative? Are they a little bit toxic that you can kind of have a word to them and it might take you every month or two, you've got to take them out for dinner or something and go, look, remember, stop saying this and that. And that's, I know this, we're working on that. You're a key player. And then they roll back in or are they so negative all the time that it's actually affecting other people's sales? So their sales are high because other people's are low. Is that person a net positive or a net negative? If they're a net negative.

You're just, you're delaying the inevitable.

Stephen Shortt (32:16.902)

That is George Clooney in something about planes up the air, up in the air, I think. Yeah.

Stephen Shortt (32:31.706)

Absolutely. And so here's the thing on this particular personality scales, for example, which is called interpersonal sensitivity on Hogan, people off the right, really good at forming these quick connections really good at understanding people reading social cues, really good at engaging with people and they can be very, they can have great conversations with people. People over to the left can be seen as cold and blunt and not caring. But actually, the people of the right are great.

when times are good, but the people on the left are the ones that you want in your team when times are tough and you've just got to get stuff done. So there's no, the ideal is not necessarily to be on either end. There are different cultures and different contexts that require different people. That's why having these scales is so important. You might want a lot of your marketing people to be maybe not even too interpersonally sensitive because then they find it hard to ask for the sale because it's all about the relationship.

Whereas you might want your accountants way over to the left on this one because you want them to be cold and calculating about the numbers because that's the side of the business we need to go. So that's why the person.

Stephen Shortt (33:52.356)


Stephen Shortt (33:58.418)


Stephen Shortt (34:10.434)

I'd say it's probably people who just, they get their energy from the face to face, or they get their energy from, from seeing the other people that they might feel like when they were in school, it might've been, they were writing letters and they think, well, this is so impersonal. I can't, I can imagine that they're smiling on this, but I can't actually see them smile when I make this joke or when I write this thing. So, oh, this is, it's so cold and they view it as cold because they don't get to have that immediate feedback from people. Um,

Mudassir (34:18.186)

Is there a... yeah. It's not easy.

Mudassir (34:30.902)

I think there's a movie, forgot the name, and the whole movie's based on, there's this one guy, forgot the character as well, and he goes, consults with the companies, and he does like mass layouts for them. Like, okay, I'm the guy, I'm gonna fire you 500 people, or something like that, because that's a personality type. They are just like, probably have thick skin or something. George Clooney's, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly, yeah.

Stephen Shortt (34:39.814)

So I do a lot of keynote speaking, I do a lot of talks. And through COVID, obviously, everybody switched to online. And I found it a bit difficult to be, to gauge the reaction from people. Like I'd be talking and I'd be standing in the studio and like it would be like high quality production. But because you've all these little screens and everyone's on mute, you can't hear if people are like, that little sensory thing of somebody like cuts of, did anybody laugh at that joke?

Mudassir (34:57.79)

So he does that. And I was like, yeah, OK, so there has to be a certain type of personality where it's like, OK, so if I'm that kind of person, I can do that, right?

Stephen Shortt (35:08.006)

So there are people who they just find that lack of visual reinforcement to be a real killer for them. But sometimes maybe it's just having a conversation with them saying, Hey, it comes across a bit blunt. You're brilliant in person, but it comes across a bit blunt. Maybe you might be better off instead of sending short WhatsApp messages, send an audio on send a voice note so as we can hear the intonation of your voice or do a quick

FaceTime or Skype call or something because that can energize them and get that energy back up. Just a possible solution.

Stephen Shortt (36:03.66)


Stephen Shortt (36:09.574)

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Mudassir (36:14.09)

Yeah, one thing that I want to ask you, and again, very personal reason, probably a lot of people have experienced this. Maybe somebody has not experienced that, but again, personal experiences. So I think there are people who are great when you meet them in person. So was it a dinner? You're gonna just love them. You'll be like, okay, I can spend days talking to this guy. He's just so interesting. The stories and every single thing is like, they're amazing. And then comes the whole electronic communication thing. So-called brutal.

Stephen Shortt (36:23.41)


Stephen Shortt (36:30.813)


Mudassir (36:42.518)

when it comes to texting, when it comes to all of these things. No emotions at all. So is that common, or is that like people don't know how to convey the same type of emotions or stuff like that when it comes to online or electronic communication?

Stephen Shortt (36:50.066)

Um, does not.

Stephen Shortt (36:58.322)

The only thing which is consistent is the longer you wait, the harder it is. That's the only thing that's consistent. Everything else is up for debate. I mean, you've heard, I'm sure you've heard of the shit sandwich. I'm not sure if I can swear in your podcast or anything like that, but you've heard of that. Like good news, bad news, good news, which is so rubbish because I mean, at the simplest form, you're like, I like your, I like your tie. You're fired. Your shoes are nice too. I mean, that's, I mean, it just doesn't work. Um, really.

If you're highly empathetic, be empathetic, but make sure that you're empathetic about the other person. I mean, it feels, it feels terrible for you, but it feels 10 times worse for them because they're losing their job. They're losing their livelihood. Like you've lost sleep over it. It's not about your feeling on, Oh my God, you'd no idea how terrible I feel. It's like, well, I'm got to figure out how to feed my family next week. So I feel worse. Um, so understanding that and having that empathy. Um, so we actually have a program. We have a couple of webinars that we do.

Um, for redundancies, uh, called redundancy restart, where we have some packages for companies that are laying people off because it is for HR managers, it is a really hard part for, for big organizations, like the global things that are laying off hundreds of people. It is still a really horrendous way to spend your time. Um, and there's some support that, so we're going to have to let you go. Like it shouldn't come as a shock to people if it's performance.

If it's downsizing, yeah, it can come as a bit of a shock. If the company, if they don't know, they don't have, they don't have the visibility that the senior management have over, actually we've just lost a huge client, so we're gonna have to downsize by 10% or something in the general, across the board or whatever. It can be a real shock to people. So helping them through that helps them as well. And in those scenarios, that's where we have this solution for people to.

to be able to get career guidance and interview skills training online as part of that package because it helps for the people who are being let go. Okay, look, we're really sorry. Unfortunately, it's not going to be here at the moment. We're not saying that we wouldn't love to have you back when the company is able to grow a bit more, but here's some support that we want to be able to give you to help you on your career journey. And it can help with that process, but the longer you drag it out, it's always going to be worse.

Mudassir (38:52.702)

Yeah, I've experienced exactly the same thing. I was teaching a class, chemical engineering students, and then that was during the COVID days, teaching them entrepreneurship, and then the whole, and I was so excited about that. I was like, okay, it's gonna be fun. And then all of a sudden it's just like, no, the whole class is gonna be remote. I was like, okay, let's run. And then I come across Microsoft Teams. They actually need to fix this thing. So it's just like everybody's this initials. It's just like Stephen Short, SS, it's just like on the top corner.

I had like 50 students on the same class. Everybody just like initials like, like people are rude, like they just, they don't want to turn the cameras off, cameras on or something like that. But in reality, like they had the camera thing off, on, but you just cannot see anything right there. So, so yeah, it feels different. And the whole message, the whole thing was like, affected by that. Talking about, you know, firings and is there a framework in psychology that

Stephen Shortt (39:25.323)

Okay, I love that.

Mudassir (39:50.034)

you know, people can follow in order to let people go, especially the ones that are close to.

Or what's the... Because there's like no best practice out there and then it never gets easier. You can do it like 10 times, it's gonna be still the same pain in the ass.

Stephen Shortt (41:34.37)

I don't know. I don't know if I'd agree with they don't give a damn. I think most people do. But I think when you pile on too much, it can, it can force them to think, oh, I don't care about this as much as they did. So it's again, it's a result of the first two mindsets not being met.

Stephen Shortt (42:16.166)


Stephen Shortt (42:26.536)


Stephen Shortt (42:56.606)

Yeah, well, I don't know how many people with a baggage or trauma like that. I don't know how many people would want to come back for more of that. But that's yeah, it's understanding your own personality, understanding the personality those around you is really important. And understanding where your strengths are, where your blind spots are, where your derailers are is really important as a founder.

Mudassir (42:57.578)

Yeah, I'll tell you a very funny story. It's funny, but it's like some sort of dark humor, you know, humoristic sort of a story. Yeah, so okay. So I know a founder, he started this company and he built this thing, like, you know, 10 people, 12 people team, something like that, all remote, okay? And then he was like, thought leader, you know, in his own space. And he was like, from day one, he was like,

Focus on the culture thing, focus on the culture thing. They spend a whole lot of, not a lot of money, but actually some sort of money, okay, just building the culture and helping people each other and stuff like that. But funny thing is that they never actually get to a point where they can build a good culture, for whatever reason. Maybe their practice were wrong, whatever they were doing, they were spending money, they're taking steps, but the results was not there. And then, few.

Stephen Shortt (43:28.782)

Actually, it kind of reminds me of another startup that we did this for an investor. We did a markup on the three founders and we found that one of the founder, the technical founder, yep, perfect, great personality, great, like matches what they're looking for in the technical founder. But the other two founders, which were a couple, one was just huge ambition and huge...

Mudassir (43:54.33)

months down the road, probably like six months, eight months or something like that, they had to let one person go purely on the performance basis. But the problem was exactly the same that you mentioned. Every single quarterly review that you've done with that guy, you're a star, you're amazing, you are unbelievably good, but we're gonna let you go. Why? Is it because of downsizing? Yes and no, because like we're fine because we're hiring your

Stephen Shortt (43:56.974)

like not a lot of interpersonal skills, like real driving personality to get stuff done. And the partner was much higher on the interpersonal sensitivity, a bit higher on the sociability, a bit higher on the, all the interpersonal stuff, but she was the head of operations and he was the head of kind of external relations. So the first thing we did is, okay, you guys are swapping roles because your personalities are just not like, no, you're, you're doing this other thing. Um, and it worked. And it, like it really,

Mudassir (44:23.094)

So we're like not happy with you. Why didn't you tell me before? Or we tried telling you, we thought you're gonna pick up the piece or something like that. Anyway, they had to let that guy go and then the message across the leadership board was the way we let people go tells everything about us. Okay, so it's in our value that we're gonna treat people. People are like, wow, great guy. Okay, year down the road, he just let the whole team go. In his.

Stephen Shortt (44:26.682)

gave them the idea of, okay, we need to understand ourselves a little bit better where our strengths are. And just because we've been doing this because the two of them started, she was a bit shyer, so didn't want to be the face of the company, but actually she grown quite a bit in confidence in the two years that they've been working together, but they just had stayed in those roles instead of starting to overlap. We've done other ones. I did one recently.

Mudassir (44:52.298)

in his own problems. He was like, oh, people are not doing as much work as I'm doing. And then again, exactly when you start out, founders can't be grinders and they think it's normal to work 15 hours a day, but you just cannot expect the same thing from an employee to work 15 hours a day, because one, it's not their company, two, you're not paying them enough, three, they don't give a damn. They can just go find another job, right?

Stephen Shortt (44:52.346)

where the three co-founders and I mean, from a personality point of view and the way that they all interact with each other, it is just, it's, you couldn't have written it better. The way that their different scales interact with each other. And they compliment each other while also having similar values on where the company's going. And that, so they just got, I think their valuation now is something like five million. They just did another round recently.

Mudassir (45:17.886)

Okay, exactly. Yeah.

Stephen Shortt (45:22.858)

and they're growing really, really nicely with their team. And they've done a couple of assessments with us, with their team, which is great for us.

Mudassir (45:29.406)

Okay, yeah, okay, that's better. So that guy, so one of the person lost his father, the other person had some family problems, and like he had them, everybody sitting on the Zoom call or something like that, and that person went something like, started cracking jokes because he's hot, and now is a good time to crack jokes so he can make this conversation comfortable. And people are like watching him like that.

Stephen Shortt (45:46.598)

So it's funny, some investors, they don't want that. They just, they go, look, we've invested. We like the idea. We've met the team. We think they're fine. Let's go. But I mean, you said yourself in interviews and you have people, you meet them and they're great on paper. But then when you get into the weeds, yeah, there's actually, they're not that reliable or they don't actually check things that well or they're not quality oriented or whatever. So, I mean, I would always say,

Mudassir (45:58.186)

I mean, dude, are you serious? Like, you really kidding with us? Like, you're letting everybody go in like five minutes from now, and you're cracking jokes. You're asking about my health. You're asking about did I went to the gym or not? You're asking about what did I have for breakfast, something like that. And then that person ended up, you know, letting everybody go. So, from zero to 10, 12% down to zero or 1% again. And two months, two weeks actually.

Stephen Shortt (46:16.166)

VCs, like if you're putting in 100,000 in an investment into the company, you should be spending a couple of thousand of that, like not a huge amount, maybe two or three thousand to be able to get a really detailed psychometric assessment on the founding team and in them individually and where they are placed within the organization to be able to say, okay, I think we're kind of set or key to say, okay.

Mudassir (46:27.522)

after fighting everybody now is thinking of we should have hired everybody again on a contractual basis but we should hire everybody again.

Stephen Shortt (46:46.278)

These guys are good. We like these guys, but actually we can really see a gap right there in that side of the business that we can see very clearly now. So the first hire is actually to go in there, um, because it gives you such a, a deeper, more rounded view of what the team, they just want to put the money into the business to help scale the business. Even if it's scaling with the wrong team.

Mudassir (46:49.996)


Yeah. Yeah.

Mudassir (46:59.664)

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mudassir (47:04.787)

Yeah, that's a weird story. Actually, I don't know. Sometimes it tracks me up. Sometimes it doesn't.

Stephen Shortt (47:26.33)

Absolutely. So the assessments that we use, they measure your reputation. So it's not how you see yourself. The you that you know is hardly worth knowing. It's how others see you. So our identity is not important. It's our reputation. And these the assessments that we use for personality measure your reputation. Hogan assessments to measure how other people are likely to see you. So that gives you, first of all, a clearer idea of it's like a

a fake 360. It's not a real 360 whether we've actually gone and asked because that can be outrageously expensive. It's like a fake 360 that has been done on statistics and I can go through all of the data and show you how that works. But I know from experience and working with hundreds of clients, it is incredibly accurate. So it gives you a much clearer idea of not how you see yourself, but how other people see you. Because then when you're saying,

And there might be times when you're saying, yeah, that's, I'm, I'm pretty cool. I'm, I'm a rock star. I'm going to go the way I'm going. Fair enough off you go. You have an understanding of where you are, but there are other people. And usually what happens is people will say, yeah, I kind of, yeah, I do kind of go off on that. That is a derailer that has caused me problems in the past. How can I, how can I do less of that? And there's lots of stuff in the report to help you depending on what your derailer is, depending on what the scale is that you'd like to be.

more interpersonally sensitive, you'd like to be more ambitious, you'd like to be less prudent or whatever it is that you want to do to be able to have that conversation, then there are things that you can do on your day-to-day behaviors and habit loops to be able to bring you across either left or right on one of the scales which will also affect some of the other scales. So it can help you to develop to be a more effective leader and a better person.

Mudassir (49:10.014)

Yeah, yeah, that's good to hear. Speaking of venture capitalists, you guys work with them as well. So how can a venture capitalist utilize these assessments to ensure like they're investing in the right teams, they're investing in the right founders?

Stephen Shortt (49:20.593)

a lot of the time.

Stephen Shortt (49:24.198)

But it's not easy. I mean, it's not like people say, and it's a conversation that I get into a lot with people is what is personality? And from a non-psychologist point of view, your personality is really just your predictable behavior, how he likes to behave. And your behavior is shaped by your internal frame of reference, which includes things like your values, your values, your beliefs, your perspectives, and your habits.

So you can change any of those things and that will change your behavior and change your personality, but it's not easy. So when people say, oh, that's just my personality, that's the way I am, that's them giving them permission to say, well, I don't want to do the hard work to change and develop. But actually the only way that we grow is if we start changing some of the things in ourselves and we start adapting some of the routines that we want to help us on the trajectory of where we wanna go to.

And I say that as somebody who knows I should go to the gym, but I don't go to the gym. So it's hard to do.

Stephen Shortt (50:26.526)

Absolutely. So the, it's hard work. The easiest example, the most, the easiest to understand example I can give you is let's say that you go to a networking event, you walk into a networking event and you don't know anybody. And your habit is that you don't know anybody, your belief in everything else you're going to know. And you're a bit intimidated by this. I don't know. I don't feel I belong here. Maybe this isn't right for me. And your habit is you...

unconsciously take a half a step backwards. And then you take another step backwards as you're looking around, trying desperately to see a face you recognize. No, no, and you take another step back and you're against the wall. And then you're standing against the wall and you're going to choose, I look like a bit of a weirdo now. So you take out your phone, which then puts another blocker between you and other people to come up and talk to you. You're looking on your phone, you're looking around, and after five minutes you go, yeah, nobody here is very friendly. And you leave. If somebody has observed you,

Mudassir (51:21.071)

Okay, yeah, that's interesting. Do you think, or how can actually these assessment improve self, like an individual's self-awareness and contribute to your personal development? Do you think that these assessments can help people grow on their own? And how actually?

Stephen Shortt (51:22.002)

They would probably say that person's shy or an introvert or some of the other labels that we use to, to label people that we meet. That's how the human brain works. If you go to the next event and just before you take that half a step back, you force yourself to take a step forward and another step. And you just walk up to the first group of people and you go, hi, I'm Stephen. How are you? Like you're going to feel like such an idiot. Like the words are going to tumble out of your mouth. You're going to feel really awkward.

because your habit has changed. And you're going to walk away. People will forget you. You're going to feel stupid. Nobody else actually going to think you're stupid. They're going to forget you and you're going to move on. If you do that at every market, at every networking event for the next year, every month you go to this or whatever, you're going to get better at it. You're going to get more comfortable at it. You're going to get more confident. You're going to go to the next thing where you don't know anyone. You're just going to look around the room, walk up and start having a conversation with people and go, hi, I'm Steven. How are you? What do you guys do?

and somebody who observes you, who hasn't seen you before, or maybe the same person who saw you a year ago who's forgotten about you, go, he's very extrovert, he's very personable. And that's from changing your habits and your perspectives a little bit, and you change your personality. Now, it's not all as easy as that, but it is that fundamental idea.

Stephen Shortt (53:07.856)

Or she.

Stephen Shortt (53:14.642)

any personal information, it's all about what's the personality, what's the values of the person. This is one of the things which allows us to be as transparent as possible. Now, in the assessment world, there are questions that some people have, especially now with all the focus on DEI, there are some questions in some of these cohorts. So there's a, I can't remember, IPIP, I think, is the international, it's a list of thousands of...

Mudassir (53:35.238)


Stephen Shortt (53:42.602)

items that you can ask that lead to different personalities assessments. Most people use their own, but the idea that some of these might have undertones, just the way they're written might have undertones of, is this more biased towards white people or is this more biased towards men? So there's a bit of work that's going on in that. But broadly speaking, the assessments are all, um, free of any kind of bias because they don't ask any questions.

Stephen Shortt (54:10.206)

They don't use any of that data to form the reports. The bits, if you're saying, I want this, and this in the co-founder, and then they tick all those boxes, but they're not actually what I want, then the problem is not with the co-founder. The problem is what you said earlier. This is what I want, this is what I want, this is what I want. So again, it comes back to the competency-based interviewing and the competency-based ideas. What do I ideally want in a co-founder? Or what do I, as an investor, want in a founding team?

Mudassir (54:26.254)

So you're actually saying people can change their, yeah.

Mudassir (54:34.482)

So you're actually saying that people can change their personality types, right? But it's a hard work. Yeah.

Stephen Shortt (54:40.266)

And I go, I want this, and this. And they all scored really high, but they're actually not doing the things that I want. It's like, okay, well then your criteria was wrong because they matched your criteria on what you just decided that this is what I want these people to behave like. And they are behaving like that because that's what they've matched on that criteria, but they're not doing what I want to do. So it's actually not their fault. It's your fault from the criteria point of view, same as an interview piece.

Stephen Shortt (55:11.89)

So when we do selection for companies, for example, they'll more often than not, they'll send us a job spec, but they won't send us a person spec. So my default is I get on a call with them for like 20 minutes to go, okay, you've given me this, this and this, but actually you say, I want someone who's highly ambitious. Okay, what does that mean to you? Because ambition to one person is, I want my salesperson out there cutting deals, cutting throats, making deals, driving business in.

and just shoehorning everything you can get into the company. And somebody else is saying, actually, I want somebody who's going to be able to work with the team to grow everybody up so we can all go out and get that business together and everyone can have a share the pie. Two very different ends of the of the ambition scale. So understanding what you actually mean by the words that you're using, that's really important. And that's why sometimes having somebody like me or somebody else that can actually have that deeper understanding of when you say that, what do you actually mean?

to be able to translate that into an assessment, that can be really important.

Stephen Shortt (56:29.339)


Mudassir (56:48.978)

Agreed. Yeah. Yeah. It takes a lot of hard work and then, you know, takes time to build up that that particular habit. Coming to, you know, had a point early on in our conversation about hiding and stuff like that. Do you think relying on these assessments, psychometric analysis or like whatever you want to call them, is developing some sort of a bias? Like, okay, so if I want to find, I don't know, my next co-founder, he needs to have this particular...

Stephen Shortt (57:16.139)

So I would say you need to have some kind of knowledge of people coming in at junior levels, but any usually at the C-suite, like if you're a small team of 10 people, everybody has a dramatic impact on the culture of the business. If you go to 100 people, you still maybe have 20 to 30 people in senior to middle management that have the direct impact on the culture of the business. So those are the people that maybe because it can get expensive. Let's be honest.

Mudassir (57:18.094)

type of personality type. Oh, she, OK. Yeah, exactly. So I find that person. And then when I actually start working with them, they're not a great fit for me. But they actually check those assessment tests or whatever. Do you think that that develops a bias?

Stephen Shortt (57:39.806)

to spend a couple of hundred dollars on each of the people that are coming in, especially if you've hourly rate workers and people are coming in freelance part-time, maybe you don't want to, not that you don't want to invest in them, but it doesn't make financial sense for you to be spending that money for somebody who's going to be here for three months. But C-suite and above middle management and above. Yeah. You're looking for, like, if you have it to a certain point where everybody's understanding it, because

If everybody's done the assessment, let's say everyone's on Hogan and the example I gave you about ambition, everybody is using the same terminology to understand, say, oh yeah, I want that, that guy's a really high in ambition. He's going to clash with our culture because we're actually mid ambition here. And everyone understanding using the same terminology, the same labeling. So there's no bias. It's just, this is what we understand to be what we look for in this department. This is what we look for people in this department, because that's our overall culture.

his values, he's very high on altruism, so he's gonna be a good fit here, or he's very high on recognition, and we're not a recognition culture. So that's gonna be a split, that's not gonna go down well. So everybody understanding the same things makes it much easier to communicate, and much easier to understand people with shorthand. When you're a small team, as I said, everybody has impact on the culture. When you're a bigger team,

there are a smaller percentage of people who have impact on the culture. So I think it's important that those people get it. But also if you're doing it in your senior team and you're using it as a development tool, if you have 100 people and you have an internal HR person and maybe an internal learning and development person to be able to develop all these people, they can use these tools to actually get their senior teams and the people in those teams.

to be more effective, to be more productive, to be able to get more out of them, for them to grow as people within the organization. So if you were able to do that and increase your revenue or increase your profit margins by 1% or 2%, I mean, it's money well spent, especially the bigger you get. So having that understanding, I think, is really important. But at the same time, assessments is just a tool. It's not a, okay, you've done the assessments, now that's it, all of our answers are, all of our questions are answered. The same is in selection.

Mudassir (59:36.686)

Again, coming back to that self-awareness point of view, as a founder, you don't know what you're doing.

Stephen Shortt (01:00:24.851)


Stephen Shortt (01:00:44.85)

I mean, it is possible. I'm not saying it's possible with every CEO. I'm not saying it's possible for everybody. I mean, I have a big, I have a huge belief that people, everybody can grow into a role if they have the interest and the ability to do so, if they have the desire to grow into the role. There are some people who are like, nope, this is my level. I'm really happy at middle management. I'm really happy at senior leadership or I'm much more suited for an entrepreneurial kind of.

Mudassir (01:00:46.622)

Okay. So suppose somebody starting out a company, they're relying heavily on psychometric assessments, finding out great people after great people, and they're hiding those great people, and it's working just fine for them. So it's a whole different world when you go from zero to 10 people and then you go from 10 to 100 people. Like that's a whole different thing. So do you think, or like, yeah, do you think-

founders, leadership, whoever they are, they should be conducting these assessment, should be having these assessments done by all of their employees, regardless of if they are like a 10 people team or they're 100 people team. Or do you think, no, there has to be a point when there doesn't make any sense. Anybody can go to, I don't know, PNG, Procter & Gamble, they can hire anybody. On a junior role, it's not gonna matter, and they can actually train that people, formulate that habit, that it becomes a part of their culture, because they have such a strong cultural presence and values.

Stephen Shortt (01:01:14.342)

dynamic environment that I am for a corporate environment. So people understanding where their comfort is and where they want to rise to, or where they want to have their work-life balance. And again, comes down to personal development, personal understanding and self-awareness. But you could absolutely, I mean, we've seen it, how many countless times when companies scale up and the CEO stays on the same, because they've invested in themselves, they've grown with the business. But then there are times and...

I mean, I've done it. I sold a business because I knew that the next level, uh, to, we had a very entrepreneurial business and we needed to grow to a bigger scale, which was going to require us to become much more, uh, process driven and, uh, formulaic and opening centers in different places. That's not my thing. That's not what I'm built for. It's not what I enjoy doing. So I was like, right, I'm not the right person for this next stage of it. So I'm going to sell it to somebody who does have that capability and does have that.

Mudassir (01:01:42.931)

already installed in there. So what do you think about that?

Stephen Shortt (01:02:10.034)

part in the S curve that we were talking about early on, it's the optimizing part of the S curve. That's not where I'm comfortable. That's not, it's not where I'm comfortable. I could do it, but I just, I don't have any love for that area. So for me, you can grow, the CEO can grow, but it's not just, you can bring in as many trainers as you want, but if they have a closed mindset or a fixed mindset and they're going, no, I don't like this and we shouldn't be doing this, they're not gonna grow with the company. But if you get people who are going, this is amazing and the opportunities and the personal growth and the things that we can do for the world,

they can grow with the organization and they will be doing less and less operations that have more and more assistance in people around them. So it is absolutely possible for this to happen. It's just there's a lot of factors in it and the main factor is the CEO themselves, whether they have the capacity to do it or the interest in developing themselves to stretch them to do it.

Stephen Shortt (01:03:16.494)

Oh, so that was the question you asked me earlier on at the very beginning. Okay. Cause I was, okay. Cause I was wondering like that's okay. Okay. Cool.

Stephen Shortt (01:03:32.008)


Stephen Shortt (01:03:42.823)

Ha ha ha!

I'm writing two books at the moment. So I've written a short e-book that I'm looking to build into a bigger book called Your Next Career for people. And we talked about this with letting people go and being able to figure out what the next step is for people. So that's being reviewed at the moment. But I have another book that I am writing called Build a Killer Family Business Without Killing Your Family.

about succession planning and family businesses because I've grown up in two family businesses. So there are two books that I'm currently writing. So Your Next Career will be available on probably in the next two weeks as a free download. And then with the idea of building it into a much bigger book, going much deeper into all of the topics.

Mudassir (01:09:49.087)

Okay. Wow, that's a good one. I hope they have a good answer to that.

Yeah, all right, got it. All right, Stephen, thank you so much for that. Really appreciate it. And really love talking to you.

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