How We Elevate and Operationalize Focus

The Gated Team
December 5, 2022

In this episode, Gated’s executive team sits down for a quick discussion about focus - and we'll share it with you.  Listen to how CEO Andy Mowat, CTO Allen Hartwig, and CMO Melissa Moody think about focus for their company, their team, and themselves. 

“It is challenging to be a leader or key stakeholder where you need to protect your own time, but still enable and unblock your teams so they can run fast.”

You’ll hear about: 

  • why focus is one of Gated's clearly-stated core values
  • tactics that enable the Gated team to stay focused
  • the recognition of how everyone has unique, personal ways to focus - that work for them
  • other companies that are thinking about focus and attention deeply - as we are

Focus is one of Gated’s clearly-stated core values. 

Having come from other companies and seen the tendency to lose focus, the team wanted to clearly place focus as a core value - even to hold their own feet to the fire. By stating the value out loud, it helps hold everyone more responsible for constantly striving toward focus as a goal and more likely to keep it top of mind.  As we’re also seeking to build a company based on curiosity and innovative thinking, focus comes into play as a key balancing factor… so we don’t go off the rails.  

“We are very ambitious, lofty goals we want to accomplish… at the same time as an early stage startup, we’re very resource constrained and scrappy. So we need to be very selective.”
“It’s not about good ideas - we have a ton of ideas - it’s what are the best ideas and how do we best utilize the limited capacity we have to ensure those have the best chance of success.”

When the good ideas are flowing fast… there are a few actionable tactics that have enabled us to stay focused. 

Andy explains the core of Gated’s strategic framework and how the most important think about it is exposing that and sharing that transparently with the full company.  Allen follows on that thinking by talking about how a good framework will ensure that all ideas can be heard, captured, and prioritized - so everyone has a stake in what gets done.  Working out loud, when done right, should help people get all the right inputs, but not distract them from their priorities.  

“Things won’t go well if the executives are saying ‘do this’ but you don’t understand the why. So it’s critically important to make that process visible for the whole team.”

Asynchronous work should enable teams to get information in the right way, instead of resulting “a little bit of everything, all of the time” overload. 

The Gated team is constantly working to ensure async communications (mostly Slack) are moving projects along and making status clear… so that meetings can be more effective.  Meetings without an agenda or meetings just to catch up will slow things down dramatically. 

The small techniques that help people focus can be very unique to each person on the team. 

Slack can be an overwhelming distractor for Andy, so he’s created personal ways of reducing that in his day. Allen, as Engineering and Product leader, works to gather his meetings on one primary day to open up the rest of his schedule for moving work along.  The cost of context-switching can be high and individuals have a variety of ways to make space for deep work.  

“I really appreciate the cost of context switching - especially on the product and engineering side.”

We know we’re on the right track, because we see other companies who are thinking deeply about protecting your attention as well.  

Andy points to the wealth of tech companies building improvements in calendaring, such as  Chili Piper, Calendly, and Clockwise.  Allen notes that even the big tech companies like Apple are building in features specific to protecting your attention and increasing focus.  And Melissa admires the human-centric approach of mental health software such as Calm and Headspace.  

“It’s encouraging to see the big companies embracing these ideas and see others bringing solutions in the same problem space we are.”

The Gated execs finish by each giving a “hot take” on focus today. 

Melissa reminds us that the human brain actually needs distraction and we can’t be focused all the time.  

“You can’t be focused all the time - and there is a need for unfocused time as well.”

Andy stresses that to date, the burden of protecting your time and attention has been on YOU - and Gated believes that it should be on others to deserve and earn your valuable attention.  

“All of these systems and tools have put the burden the individual to stay focused. What Gated’s doing is that we’re trying to force the people interrupting you to think - and helping our users share how they expect to be treated.

Allen reinforces the belief that we should each have control over our own attention and it’s time we took that power back. 

“We have so many companies out there trying to hijack your attention - so we (Gated) are working hard on how do we give power back to the individual.”

Links & Shout-outs: 

  • Transcend the bullshit tshirt
  • About the team page on website

Full Episode: