October 20th, 2014
What Happens When Our CEO Says “Ask Me Anything”?
Author: Jill Maffeo
Recently, Robert Keane held an “Ask Me Anything” meeting with the Lexington team. It happened to be on a day I was going to take off, but I reconsidered because I was not going to miss it. There was no obligation to go to this meeting; it’s just that I absolutely cannot resist the opportunity to ask questions. I love questions. There’s nothing like a solid and well thought out question where everyone wants to know the answer, and I had high hopes that this meeting would have plenty of those.
Let me back up for a moment. Who is Robert Keane, and why is it so awesome he set aside time in his schedule to answer questions? Robert is the founder, President, and CEO of Vistaprint. Our company spans 20+ locations and employs over 5,000 people—so you could imagine he’s a tad busy. In the past, he would spend time at each of Vistaprint’s locations on his annual “Roadshow”, discussing our corporate strategy and meeting team members. This year instead of the Roadshow, he introduced a Q&A series called “Ask Me Anything”. The new format gives all of us–across all locations–the opportunity to submit questions in advance (and live in the session if you attend) using pollevent.com, a really neat Q&A system we’ve been using regularly for this purpose.
Knowing that I wanted to make the most of this opportunity I grabbed a front row seat. Right on time, Robert walked in and stepped onto the small stage. The atmosphere was relaxed and once everyone settled down, the questions started flowing. The pre-submitted questions covered everything from our vision and strategy, to what it takes to be leader, to newly implemented decision and project management frameworks. Another theme centered on Robert outside-of-work; he commented on his excitement to be spending more time in Boston and his family’s favorite televisions shows. Who knew the CEO is a fan of Breaking Bad and Desperate Housewives?
The very last question of the session was, for me, one of the most impactful. Robert was asked: which leadership skill is the most important. As an employee, I found his answer to be encouraging, especially given the ever-evolving organizational structure of Vistaprint. Robert emphatically explained that a key for any leader is to attract and retain great talent. This firmly held belief will no doubt contribute to the level of importance placed on the development of our global team.
That Robert spent this time with us, as well as with other locations, just goes to show that he values face time with his team. This opportunity doesn’t happen everywhere. Having worked in larger companies where someone at my level would be lucky to even see the CEO, let alone ask that person a question directly and get it answered, I appreciated the opportunity and took full advantage.
I personally can’t wait for next time, and, as always, I’ll be ready for the next chance to raise my hand.