Transformation tours offer employees a chance to take on a challenge that will further their development and provide a strategic benefit to the business. Learn about Matt Cohler and a transformational tour he took on while employed at LinkedIn.
- The primary kind of tour of duty that we focus on is the transformational tour of duty. The reason we call it transformational is because that's the goal of the tour of duty. It's to transform the business of the company and to transform the career of the individual employee. The transformational tour of duty is highly personalized. This is something that's designed around the specific values and aspirations of the individual and the key mission and business objectives of the company. The transformational tour of duty is designed to make a phase change happen.
So, if you're the company, you may be pursuing a new project, launching a new product, opening a new market. That's something that's going to transform your business. For the individual, it may be the first time they launch a product, or the first time they're in that particular market, or it's the first time they have an opportunity to lead a major project. That also is going to transform the individual's career. Ultimately the goal of the transformational tour of duty is to provide adaptability to the company, in a sense of being able to change the business and to provide a career boost to the employee, by making them more valuable in the market, and more valuable to the company that they work for.
While the transformational tour of duty doesn't have a set time period, most of these transformational tours last between two to five years. The fact is it's very difficult to accomplish something of substance in just three months. It's going to take some time, especially if it's a difficult challenge and most of these transformational tours represent a difficult challenge. It's no surprise that in Silicon Valley, the typical startup employment contract has stock that vests over four years. It's because we know that in order to launch a new product, in order to build a company, it just takes time.
That four year time frame reflects the reality that a transformational tour will often last multiple years. That being said, there are exceptions. A transformational tour that is super impactful for the company and the employee might only last six months, or it might stretch out six or seven years. Ultimately the transformational tour of duty is defined by the successful accomplishment of the mission, not by a specific period of time. One example of a transformational tour of duty is the tour of duty that Matt Cohler served with Reid Hoffman at LinkedIn.
- Matt was working as an analyst at Mackenzie. He had decided that he wanted to work as a venture capitalist, and he started talking to his friends about who would give him the best possible information and was introduced to me. In conversation, we discussed what kinds of venture capital jobs there are. It was perfectly possible for him to move from where he was to a reasonable venture capitalist job. The real thing you're looking for, and the real thing Matt was looking for was a great venture capitalist job. As we talked about it, he realized that the right way to do that, was to go through a great company.
And actually work at an early stage and be transformative to a company at an early stage. I was really interested in Matt coming on for tour of duty, so I was like, look, we can be that company and Matt said, well, actually building a relationship with me, because, you know, back then, I was not really well known in the valley, was to essentially say let me do this and let's make this alliance. He came for tour of duty at LinkedIn. During that tour of duty, a little earlier than either of us would like, Matt got an offer from Facebook.
So, he came to me and he said, okay, I've got this offer, what should I do? Now, we'd already done nearly three years, and it was a little early, but not quite, and he'd been transformational to LinkedIn. So the conversation was well, actually, in fact, for your career trajectory, heading towards venture capital, which is still your goal, because it was still Matt's goal, the right thing would be to go take that job. Then you'll have two great companies and that trajectory will lead you into the best possible chance of a great venture capital job.
So he went and he was a very early employee at Facebook, and as a result of that, he ended up being a general partner at Benchmark, which is one of the premier Silicon Valley venture firms. That is a canonical case of how a transformational tour of duty works. Open an honest conversations, a real impact in a company you're working on, a trajectory to where you're heading, and the mutual alliance that works between the manager and the employee to make that happen.
Matt and I still coordinate on a large number of things today because we've built a lifetime relationship. - One of the common misconceptions about transformational tours of duty is that the transformation means a new job title. We used to talk about both big T transformation and little T transformation. Big T transformation can come with a new job title. You're now the product manager for this new product, or the office manager for this new office. But transformation can also take the form of little T transformation.
It doesn't result in a change in job title, but does result in new skills and does result in your career being advanced forward. One of the benefits of the tour of duty approach is that as a transformational tour of duty draws to a close, you have an opportunity to steer that employee to a new tour of duty. A great example of the concrete impact this can have is Cisco's Talent Connections Program. Cisco is a major network equipment manufacturer, here in Silicon Valley and they set up their Talent Connections Program to encourage employees who had finished tour of duty within Cisco to find a new tour of duty within Cisco.
The participants in Cisco's Talent Connections Program were 20% more satisfied with their career development than the average Cisco employee. That's the kind of concrete impact that setting up tours of duty and following up with subsequent tours of duty can have.
Reid and Chris share specific insights from their own experiences with companies like PayPal, Kapost, and LinkedIn, and more.
- Defining a rotational, transformational, or foundational tour of duty
- How to identify each employee's values and aspirations
- Aligning employee, manager, and company goals
- Establishing and leveraging alumni networks