Henry Albrecht is founder and CEO of Limeade, an online wellness company focused on building happy, healthy, high-performance workforces. Before founding Limeade, he was a vice president of product management at an enterprise software company and a product and marketing leader at Intuit.
Describe your leadership philosophy
- Leaders are (enthusiastically) followed. I know — it’s overly reductive, circular logic — but anywhere you see rabid followers, you’ll uncover a leader. I haven’t found a leadership how-to-guide that passes my B.S. meter, and that works across personalities and situations. I sense leadership wherever I see people passionately engaged in their missions, quests and adventures.
- Leaders don’t hear “No.” They might hear “Not now,” “Not in your lifetime” or even “Not within the known laws of physics.” But those are just temporal and logistical challenges. Whether you call it hope, optimism or self-efficacy, it’s infectious. Relentless, resilient, results-focused people love the challenge inherent in ‘No.’
- Leaders ask. Why? How important is this? How urgent? How will it make customers feel? A day is successful if I ask and listen five times more than I talk. (Not every day is successful). I have a quote on my desk that says “Saying I didn’t know = saying I suck at my job, you should fire me.” I would never have written it that way, or maybe even thought it that way. But it’s funny and true. Which proves the point.
- Leaders laugh.
When did you first become someone’s boss?
My first proper boss role came in about 2000, at Intuit. I had evangelized an opportunity that required dedicated attention, preferably from someone better than me in many ways. Shockingly, we are still friends, and he is a superstar vice president of product management at a large software company. (Thanks ‘G’ for making me look good).
When you’re looking to hire, how do you decide if someone is right for your team?
They have to make their teammates’ jobs easier. And that’s a hard — but not impossible — thing to screen for. It’s a blend of talent, attitude and as we say at Limeade “getting stuff done.” (We don’t say stuff.)
People form lasting opinions based on nonverbal cues within a few seconds. We assess attention to detail, style — even overall well-being. But in interviews, I try to un-do my “blink” responses, to probe into the tiniest possible details. I want to let people surprise me with how they’ve solved challenges or spotted opportunities. I look for a diversity of ideas, and for evidence of energy, insight, preparation, communication skill — or something else amazing I didn’t expect.
What is the biggest challenge your business is facing this year?
Managing growth. At Limeade, we want to build the same kind of happy, healthy, high-performance company we want our customers to have. To do so, we have to invest in keeping our nimble, mission-driven DNA after being “called up to the majors” from a business point of view. Exceeding expectations, delighting customers and hiring badass people requires intense effort, focus, process and prioritization. It’s going great — but we’ve had to take a few vacations and happy hours to stay refreshed.
Describe your approach to innovation.
Great innovation happens when most of the time we take a process-oriented and “common sense” mindset — but the process makes clear space for an “outside of process” and “passion” mindset. In business, in relationships, in life — we need both, and in the right doses. Our customers and prospects and friends and wives tell us what those doses are.
One of our company values is “We make things for customers.” Customers need to feel safe; they need trains to run on time. But customers buy, and evangelize, for emotional reasons. And you only elicit strong emotions when your common-sense process delivers passion-spawned innovations.
Outside of your own industry, whose work do you admire most?
Easy. The World Champion 1979 Seattle SuperSonics. Teamwork, hustle and diversity shocking the world — at least my world at age 10.
(In software, I admire Intuit’s Scott Cook — a great listener with a passion for customer delight.)
If a recent college graduate came to you and said he wanted to start his own business, what advice would you give him?
Make it the highest-performance company you can. Pay attention to your well-being. You’ll need vast stores of positive energy. Ask a lot of questions and trust your gut on which answers to ignore. Accelerate the fail-fix cycle. And get ready for a lot of fun.