One of the things that we are always on the lookout for at The CP Journal are practical applications of topics that we teach in our courses that we hadn’t previously considered. As one of our company’s goals is to make the lessons in the Tactical Analysis program as relevant to our students as we can, having examples from a wide array of fields increases the likelihood that someone coming through our course is able to successfully transition the concepts from the classroom to their lives. In a NextView Ventures podcast that I was listening to last week, Kathryn Minshew, the CEO of The Muse, provided one such example when she explained how she uses Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to plan out meetings with her company’s investors and board members.
If you are unfamiliar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the theory is that people have predictable needs that they are motivated to fulfill throughout their lives. As I’ve written about in the past, these needs are grouped into five categories that are often visually displayed in the form of a pyramid, with a person’s most basic needs making up the bottom of the structure and their highest motivations located at the very top. The underlying premise is that because a person’s fundamental requirements are housed at the bottom of the pyramid, if the needs of a level below where a person is currently operating are no longer being fulfilled, a person is going to drop back down to the appropriate level of the pyramid to reestablish themselves before they can climb back up. Maslow’s Hierarchy is a topic that comes up in our Elite Program as we teach our clients how to apply behavioral analysis to deescalate situations with the goal of getting people to calm down.
As I listened to Kathryn Minshew explain to Jay Acunzo, the show’s host, how she uses Maslow’s Hierarchy to sequence the information she presents to her board of directors, I immediately saw how her application of the theory relates directly to the protectors who are operating with the goal of getting left of bang. First, let’s take a look at how she uses Maslow’s Hierarchy to categorize the needs of a business.
- Level 1: The bottom of the pyramid – the physiological needs. This is the cash that a company needs to survive. Early on in Minshew’s board meetings she talks about things like the cash on hand, provides the board with an updated balance sheet, discusses the monthly spend and the current runway for the company. Like food to eat, water to drink and air to breath, cash to pay the bills is the most basic need for a company.
- Level 2: The second layer of the pyramid – the safety needs. When Minshew transitions to this level, she provides an update to those she’s meeting with on the P&L statement, how much revenue is coming in, if the company is cash flow positive or not and provides updates about what competitors are doing. This level can include discussions about how they are performing in relation to their KPIs and other metrics. For the same reasons why we attempt to ensure our physical security so that we can continue living, these indicators reflect how well a company is performing and how those things will allow it to continue existing.
- Level 3: The third tier – belonging. Here, Minshew takes a look at how well the company is building their team. How is morale? How effective has recruiting been? What is the employee turnover rate? Has the leadership built a company that people want to belong to? The same way that people are driven to belong to a group once their base level needs have been met, a company needs to draw high quality people into the organization so that they can move on to the next level – leadership.
- Level 4: The fourth layer of the pyramid – esteem. Here, Minshew takes a look at how well and how effectively the company is building a sustainable business around their core product and market. What are the forecasted numbers? What is the growth rate? Much like the motivation to be a leader in your group, companies have a need to continue growing into a leader in their market.
- Level 5: The pinnacle of the needs for the company – self-actualization. Here, Minshew relates what she’s discussing to strategy. As the company strives to reach its fullest potential, what new products are going to be offered? What new markets is the company going to pursue? Being able to look towards the future once you truly understand the value that the company offers and building the strategic plan to do that better than anyone else is the top of pyramid.
By defining the needs of a company in the way that Minshew has as described above, it allows her to structure her meetings in a way that preempts unnecessary questions. If Minshew started her meetings by saying that she wants to hire a new engineer to support her product team, she would probably get interrupted and asked if the company had the money in the bank to cover the salary for the new hire. She would probably get asked if her product team was failing to meet the timelines established in the product roadmap and if the engineer was needed to get them back on track. She might be asked if a competitor had recently released a new feature in their product that she needed to add, and if the new engineer was going to be working on that as well. Before she can mention something like hiring a new engineer, she needs to ensure that she has already shown her board that the company’s lower level needs are being fulfilled. Otherwise, the meeting will probably get off track very early, investors will get frustrated at the apparent chaos and, more importantly, the CEO won’t be able to accomplish what she needs to during her limited time with the board. By building the plan for The Muse’s board meetings around a systematic presentation, beginning with the lowest level of needs and moving up the pyramid one tier at a time, she could accelerate past the predictable questions and issues that would be asked. This is Minshew getting left of bang.
As a board of directors can provide a company with an incredible benefit by leveraging their extensive experience building companies and executing strategy, that potential simply can’t be unlocked if they have any uncertainty over how well the company is satisfying their lower level needs. Think about how that relates to your job, whether you are a protector, a police officer or an operator. If you need a person to provide you with information, if you need a person or a group to calm down, or if you are simply trying to get people to be comfortable in your presence, think about where on the pyramid they fall at that moment in time. By putting yourself in their shoes, you can begin removing the different sources of uncertainty. By ensuring that any lower level needs have been met, you can reduce a person’s frustration. By understanding not only what the levels on Maslow’s pyramid represent, but also how other people have applied them in their lives, you can eliminate many situations that could lead to violence and get further and further left of bang.
If you are an entrepreneur, this podcast from NextView Ventures is one that you will want to listen to. Besides the explanation and application about Maslow’s Hierarchy, the podcast also primarily focused on the different tactics Minshew used to quickly grow The Muse’s audience when her company originally launched. Building an audience and raising awareness for a new venture, whether you are building a technology company or a new blog, is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. This podcast offers an extremely high concentration of lessons and takeaways for people looking to grow their following, making it a great use of your already limited time.