From Theory to Action: Leveraging Talent Density for Business Impact

Research has indicated that top performers are up to 800% more productive than adequate performers and underperformers in any given role. By optimizing the concentration of exceptional talent within your organization, you can tap into a wellspring of untapped potential.
In this episode:
  • Why you need an intentional talent density program today
  • How to enhance talent density using existing people programs
  • How to build a business case for talent density to your CEO

About the speakers

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Alright. Hello, hello, everyone. Delided as always to have you join us today. I'm your host, GC.

People science leader at mesh dot ai and someone who considers himself extremely blessed to have worked with and learned from hundreds of people and culture leaders over the last decade and a half. When it comes to solving for business outcomes through people practices, modern companies find themselves pretty much rebuilding the plane as they're flying it today. With that said, the future's here, it's just unequally distributed. And that's where the performance spousal comes in. A show where people and culture leaders from around the world volunteer their experiences as well as actionable playbooks to help you navigate the intersection of people's strategy and business outcomes.

Joining us today are two absolute powerhouses I literally have a fanboy moment right now. I'm pinching myself. I can't believe it that these two experts and authorities and themselves have agreed to join us today on our show.

Both of them share a deep passion and have a rich legacy of building thriving organizations with people in culture practices that very quickly became the envy of competition.

It's amazing how both of them now spend a majority of their time giving back from their experiences and insights to the community ever so actively.

Two leaders who genuinely need no introduction whatsoever, but I am going to go out on a limb and do my job.

Most of us will consider ourselves lucky if we leave a legacy behind that one or maybe two organizations, but Marty has done it at four.

And she continues to be a board member and an active contributor to many progressive companies and communities not to mention, she's been on the top, the top fifty women in tech list multiple times in her career. Thanks so much for joining us today. Welcome to the show, Marty.

Thank you. What a nice introduction. Thank you. I'm happy to be here.


On next expert is Steve, who's a best selling author with his absolute cracker of a book workweek.

Today travels the world advising business and leadership teams around the world. And in the past was instrumental in scaling Linden from four hundred thousand to four thousand in headcount.

And through that period, delivering what is still considered one of the most successful tech IPOs with a young leadership team who had never done it before. So talk about delivering talent density from within. Welcome to the show's team.

Great to be here, GC.

All right.

We actually, on our show, before we get into business, love to have our audience, try and get to know a little bit about the person behind the professional or the expert. Gonna put you on the spot a little bit, and let's start with you, Steve. Could you tell us one fun fact about yourself, which folks won't find on your LinkedIn profile?

That I spent a majority of my childhood growing up in South Africa.

That's super interesting.

How about you, Mati?

Wow, you always think you have a fun fact, and then the other person goes first and you don't feel so fun.

I am a bit of a music groupie, and you wouldn't know it, but I have traveled with one of my favorite bands to Vietnam and then to Italy.

They're kind of getting sick of me, but very much a music groupie, and I had wonderful experiences with them.

Thank you so much for sharing that ever so honestly, both of you. All right, before we get into the agenda for the show, folks in the audience We're here for you. Now is a good time for you to check out three cool features on the NAV bar on the bottom of your screen. The chat, where I'd encourage you to share your thoughts, comments, and reactions, as you listen into the insights of our expert speakers, the poll section where you'll be able to consume the results from our live polls, And last but not the least, the questions section, where you can pose questions as they come to mind when our speakers are sharing their experiences.

As the moderator, I'll try my best to weave in these questions to the right part of the conversation, no pressure whatsoever. So let's get our audience warmed up As I jump into the agenda for the show,



I'd love for you to share in the chat window the first time that you actually heard about the concept of talent density.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to quickly share my screen and run everyone through the standard format of the show folks, we're going to go through three steps. First up, the discover piece, which is why are companies solving for this particular concept which is leveraging talent density for business outcomes today.

Second, we'll segue into understanding from Stephen Marty, what do emerging playbooks around this concept especially from market leading and differentiated organizations look like. And last but not the least, it's one thing to have the perfect design in place. It's an totally different thing to actually scale that across your organization. So we are going to lean in and understand from Stephen Marty's expert insights about how to get that buy in and how to scale that change within your organization as well.

All right.

I think a great first question that comes to mind is in one line and Marty since


What does talent density mean to you?

The first question went to Steve and he kind of stole your thunder from the fun fact perspective let's start with you otherwise you'll hate on me.

What's in one line, what does talent density mean to you?

There's formula that goes with it, there's a book that prompted it, but moving out of that, this is not one line, but moving out of that, It's how do you think about the talent for your team? How do you think about every function and the talent that will be necessary for that team, the level of talent that will be necessary for that team.

Got it, got it, that makes a lot of sense. I'm gonna segue into that, but steam about you? What does talent density mean to you?

I would say a pool of qualified quality people.

When I think of talent density, that's how I think about it.

Wonderful. And I think the natural next question that comes to mind is


Why is talent density important today? The common misconceptions.

why is talent density important for companies to solve for today? And what are the common misconceptions around concept that are holding them back from really, really doing a good job at it.

Steve, happy to start with you first.

Sure. You know, I spend time with leaders in every geography, every industry around the world today, and the biggest challenge is I can't find the people I need with the skills and experiences, that I want, and when I do, they don't stay.

And I think the reason this topic is top of mind for everyone is because so much of the talent landscape is shifting in such dramatic fashion that we've never seen before that it's really got a lot of organizations on their heels. Most talent strategies were not built for the dynamism that we're facing today. They're not built for high turnover. They're not built for people staying short periods of time. They're not built for skills changing as fast as they are. And so this is you know, it's a great time for us to have this kind of discussion because there's so many things that are that were built for talent. That were really framed for a slower pace of business and change.

And a lot of our strategies that we use today stay here a long time, build a career just don't fit a world where industries are changing, skills are changing, jobs are changing faster than organizations are really capable of addressing.

So it's a it's a really interesting challenge I think for business leaders because all the architecture wasn't built for what we're facing right now.

Well, let me just kind of unpack that and attempt at kind of paraphrasing what you just said Steve before I turn to you, Marty, the pace of change and disruption, we used to call it Vuca five years ago, we're calling it Bani these days. Now even Vukhas been disrupted by Bani So the speed of change is extremely high and that velocity is constantly increasing. Our internal machinery and processes were largely built to compete on efficiency and control rather than speed and innovation. And I think two other things that you mentioned sleep very tactically speaking, that qualified talent pool is getting shorter and shorter and the demand for it is getting higher and higher.

And All processes were built for a reasonable tenure of growing your talent and extracting their ROI, but tenures are getting shorter, so you really have a much shorter ramp up time to actually get that ROI from the tenant. Did I get the rightful handles from what you just said, Steve? Well, you're take you're moving to what we all do, which is you're moving to solve from the problem to solve, which is therefore we need to ramp up people But yeah, I'm sure we'll cover a lot of territory. All right, guilty of start steam.

Marty board of that resonates with you and what are the unique insights around why this topic is so relevant that you'd like to share with the audience?

Yeah, lots of that resonates with me. I think we're also facing, we continue to face issues and concerns that other generations that we faced before Everybody wants to attract strong talent, because strong talent attracts strong talent. So, that's consistent.

You always wanna be thinking about succession planning. I don't think there's anything new there.

There's a bit of a mixed message around talent scarcity when you hear about layoffs.

But there are still numerous is where there is much more demand than supply.

So, I know it sounds a little like an oxymoron sometimes when you're listening to all of the layoffs that have been going on, especially in twenty twenty three. But there still is a demand for particular skill sets.

And because of that too, we're definitely in a period where people are charged, companies are charged with doing more with less. So, that's pushing the dynamics right now as well. But ultimately, as Steve said, the environment has changed The way we work has changed.

The type of work has changed, from full time to independent contractor, to gig project managers coming in and out, that hasn't been typical in past. And then I would throw in just demographically there's always a new demographic in the workforce, and along comes Gen Z.

The older gen zs are now mid 20s, and it's just a different environment for them. They're digital natives. They were born with a smartphone in their hand. So, different expectations, Stronger connection to technology. We all learned it, but they're born into it. It's just the way that they're their learning and growing up and going to school that was very different from generations before.

The need for instant communication and kind of informal communication.

Email isn't cool, you know, we need to text and that's very, it's just a different way of working.

Coupled with that, and of course I'm talking broadly about generations and there's differences within.

But there seems to be a more entrepreneurial spirit with the new generation.

And I think they're looking to be able to to carry this entrepreneurial or practice this entrepreneurial spirit internally in companies, and or starting their own businesses, and I'm saying, plural businesses, it seems to be very much part of the Gen Z. So I would just add in the generational component as well.

Loads and loads to unpack there, but I think common scene that I heard from both of you is that the world at work has changed, the very definition of talent is changing, the way organizations look at defining performances changing, it's all geared towards legacy processes.

I'm curious to know from both of you, what are some of the things that organizations and leaders need to unlearn in


What do organizations need to unlearn to drive talent density?

order to deliver a thriving and high performance dense organization in today's world.

How much time do we have? We can go We can go pretty sure our audience won't complain. Let's see the both of you for the next couple of Steve? I mean, is someone probably who would be at front of the line of things that I need to unlearn?

I'm not here to point fingers at all. I think one of the first things is is to recognize that long tenure is not a necessary ingredient to thrive in today's world of of work. You don't need to have a huge organization in every industry and every business of people who've been around forever.

And the best example for me practically is Tesla. So here's a company that is competing against hundred century year old for businesses that have been in the automobile industry for a hundred years that is worth more than Ford Honda, Toyota, and General Motors combined.

Their median tenure is around two years, their competitor's tenure is around five, and investors are betting that the people who've been the industry less, who have fewer paradigms, fewer models that they have to unlearn, can out create and out innovate people who've been doing it a hundred years.

And they're run by a part time CEO. What's his name? Tony Stark, who is you know, breaking every rule of how you're supposed to lead. And I love that example when I go into whether it's insurance or banking or mining or construction. And they said, well, Steve, you don't really know our industry. And I said, I don't need to know your industry. Look at what what's happening in the automobile industry.

The firm that has the smallest market share, the least amount of profit, the highest turnover, the fewest people who have experience in the automobile industry is destroying that industry.

And so, you know, whether you like it or not or whether you're a fan of tests or not, and it's an over it's definitely an over benchmark company the same way Google is That's interesting. That is really fascinating that the investors who, by the way, do not subscribe to the talent philosophies of Tesla. No goldman Stacks, JPMorgan, like get in the office. If you're not here, you're not hustling.

None of them subscribe to it, but their money is on the company that's doing it differently. That's really interesting to me. And when we look at what's possible, you know, the I don't think test is making a promise. Hey.

We've got, you know, twenty five year employee anniversary dinner. No. We don't even have that because the company hasn't been around twenty five years. You know?

That's interesting.


Marty, few things that you encourage leaders to unlearn in order to solve for this today. Yeah, that's really interesting. It's such a great macro example, and then there's, how do we do that?

How do we start to change those paradis, so there's real things that you can do.

And I like Steve, I have to unlearn and had to unlearn things.

I'll give you one example, which is what we're talking about, which is talent density.

When I was coming up and definitely not a leader.

There was sort of a bell curve, right? So there was sort of ten percent of population is going to be on this side, about, you know, seventy, seventy five in the middle, maybe your top performers are ten percent to fifteen percent there's talent density. That was the approach to talent density.

When I was coming out, I was like, well, that makes sense. I bought in, but is that really how you drive an incredibly innovative creative, collaborative company?

So, that whole model, if it's embedded in these different companies that Steve has been talking about, needs to be rethought. And, you know, really step back and think about what should that upper side be? And how do we support that?

Attempting to engage, just on a tactical end, attempting to engage our talent with poorly executed performance management process.

There's one. I mean, we all have good intentions, but many of them just don't, they don't engage talent. They might manage talent if that's what we wanna do.

But that whole approach, and maybe we'll talk about that more broadly, but That whole approach needs to change in probably many years ago, you know, five five to ten years ago, maybe.

And having talent come in and just sort of do their thing, hiring them, have them come in, do their thing. I think those days are gone as well for so many reasons, just our environment, our work environment, having talent come in and really diving and investing and making sure that they're successful fast.

That's also how you change some of those paradigms. And that takes money, that takes time, that takes dedication.

That means you are going to take people who are superstars off of their work and teach them other talent. Are you ready to do that?

That's an investment.

Cross functional collaboration. I know, you want me to stop there. We could go on. Cross functional collaboration for And the thing I always think about and I'd love to know Steve's thoughts on this is, here's an example, right? There's always the age old debate, does does TA get separated from HR?

You know, that's a perfect, you know, conversation to have. What are the pros, what are the cons, But just how do you set those things up for success, for investing in the company, and maybe TA doesn't report HR, maybe it does.

Maybe TA reports to marketing, because it's all about branding. Maybe that's the collaboration.

So, I think there's lots of ways that you can break through some of the things that we've been doing in past. I'm starting now.

One of the things I think is interesting on on this topic, Marty and and GC is I was interviewed by a journalist right before we jumped on here, and they asked me a question.

Do you think business leaders will less focus on industry experience in the future.

So I don't know about you all, but I've had many times in my career where I'm in an interview and they say, well, you haven't done semiconductors.

You haven't done, you know, social networking or, you know and I think about that question today where industry lack of industry experience could be seen as a competitive advantage.

That you're not encumbered by all this because you know the jobs are changing. You know the skill needs are changing. You know the industry is changing, and it's your capacity to adapt. That's your competitive advantage.

It's not your capacity to know how it's always been done. And I would say, you know, having been going through the hyper gross scenario at LinkedIn. That was probably a massive advantage to us that as as you hinted in my introduction, G. C, no one on my leadership team had ever taken a company public, including the CFO, which is definitely against the rule.

No. No. No. You definitely need a CFO who's done this before. They'd been second share at a company that had gone IP, but they'd never done it.

But you see that lack of experience created a hunger that is really hard to measure how powerful that energy is when you haven't done something before. And so many businesses are facing this uncomfortable decision point of The lack of experience isn't in that pool. The density of experience is just not there. People are switching careers, switching industries, at a pace we've never seen before.

College students are majoring in different majors than we've ever seen before, and people are not going to school at a rate we've never seen before at the at the university level. And so what I'm trying to do is build confidence in leaders who are facing this lack of predictable pool of talent, and I'm trying to say, listen, you you try growing a business in the shadow of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, when they're out paying you, out benefiting you, out perking you out, work environmenting you, which we did at LinkedIn. And what we offered was the to do something they'd never done before at a scale they've never done, and the energy that that unlocks is palpable.

It almost I almost believe that it outweighs the experience that people have. And I've had this debate with many people. They say, Steve, there's no such things as talent acquisition. We're doing experience acquisition.

That's what we're doing. We're looking for people with experience. We're not looking for people for talent. With talent.

We're not measuring that. And that I think is the big talk about TA's big challenge is I think we're facing the point and stop me if I'm going too far a field here. I believe in the next five to ten years, we're gonna see more people hired based on what they can learn than what they know.

Drop my Okay. And that's a that's a mind blower right there.

I love it. I would just add to to Steve's. I was down the street at a couple of companies from you, Steve, at LinkedIn. Were you trying to be higher against me? We were. We can definitely.

But I was always at the teardown, right? So, I was at NetSuite wasn't Oracle.

I was at Fitbit, it wasn't Google. Right? I was at Twilio, wasn't whatever.

But, so we have the same kind of, how do we how do we attract talent and how we get really good and how do we sell talent to them? Or positions to them. And Steve talked about doing something new. We also talked about doing a lot more. You could be at Facebook working on the thumb, or you can come to Google, or sorry, you can come to Fitbit, and you can design a watch for us. How about that?

So, I think it's the opportunity as well, but I agree, it's a really interesting time. Yeah. And I think, Arvin, that's probably why we're having this conversation with you. When you face that extreme competition for talent in Silicon Valley and you're trying to hire people who have a candy store of choice -- Yep.

-- and a just a treasure of I didn't I don't think I hired a single engineer the last ten years of my career that didn't have three to five offers. Yeah. Not one.

And so you better be really clear on why and this is a a message for anyone who's listening at any level of the talent game. You better be really clear on why someone would wanna work for you. And it should not include because we're nice, because we have beer, Fridays, because we have we really care about people here, We got great investors. We got great products, and we're gonna make a lot of money.

Because everyone says that. What do you really have? Like, I love what Marty said. Like, we did the same thing that that you did.

We said, come here and put your fingerprints on building something instead of being engineer number seventeen thousand working on some unknown project at Google. Or, you know, or come here and help build the dream jobs of your children and and build a transparency to to work, which is the problem we're solving that's never been solved before, or go to Facebook and help kids develop their short attention span capability and learn how not to do their homework and proliferate fake news. I don't know. It's up to you.

What do you wanna do? Right? And we were really clear. You gotta be. And that and that's really it's so important right now that you haven't answered the question.

Why would someone wanna work here? That doesn't include the same narrative everyone else has.

I just wanna jump in on one point that Steve made about hiring for not necessarily experience and past, and you made me think about this, while just in these last two minutes, Your LinkedIn team was not particularly experienced in bringing a company through an exit.

I was at two companies that had the same, and you made me think about how amazing it was, because we didn't know what we were doing. So that meant we did our homework more so. Like, we were so prepared that nothing went wrong.

And I think that's an advantage, because you're almost frightened into, oh my god, what don't we know? And you went and learned it. We learned everything. By the time we were ready for our exit, I can't say that nothing went wrong, but it was smooth. It went well. We had learned so much.

And then did it again at another company, CEO that CTO had never done this before, our CFO had. But that was it, he was pulled away, and the rest of us were just, learning it, and there's such an eagerness.

So I think you're onto something. Yeah. And I think let's expand that out a little bit. You know, I have a chance to go to so many cities in the world.

I feel so fortunate where they wanna be the next Silicon Valley. And to which I say, why are you aiming so low? And they're not expecting me to say that. I'm like, why don't you be better, you know, than than that?

There's it's not a perfect world. But I don't think it's an accident that the most creative density of talent, the most innovative dense, you know, market is one where people are leaving jobs faster than any geography in the world. Mhmm. And this is where I'm trying to get people comfortable with.

I know you're afraid of people leaving, but look at Cilicon Valley. It has thrived because people have great networks. People know other people in other organizations. The time for scaling is a lot shorter because people know where to go and who to seek out.

Mhmm. And there's a reason. And, yes, sure, there's other advantages that, you know, a lot of investment money here, a lot of angels, a lot of the way the tax structures worked. It's a little bit different, and it's not a perfect world.

But that's one of the things where it's the speed of networks that's really there and the excitement of solving something new. And that's the other thing. More people are solving something that's never been solved before, billion industry that there's no treasure of experience in, and that's unlocking talent. The way, this is the subject of my next book, Marty.

So I I need to pull you in on this one because I love you know, that we've overvalued experience and undervalued talent and underappreciated the energy of doing something new. And there's there's a TED talk out there by this guy Tim Harford Harford, where he talks about When you put someone in a position where they're and this is the message of hope to everyone who's listening right now around, it feels really complicated and impossible right now. But here's the message of hope. When you're faced with the situation you've never saw before, like, let's take the pandemic.

We've had the greatest leadership, you know, course opportunity of our lifetime where we had to think differently. We had to really get intense. We had to really tap into, okay, slow things down, and the amount of creativity that's happened, and and Tim talks about this in his TED talk.

In great times of stress and strain is when some of the greatest innovations and creative moments arrive. And it feels you know, counterintuitive.

But, truly, I think those moments when you're like, whoa. You know, we really better it it it brings something out in in us that I don't think we appreciate enough. And that's why I do have hope for the moment that we're in right now that we can use it to create a better future to solve problems that are worth solving in this whole talent, you know, puzzle, if you will.

Performance of those profits, especially when you're spoiled for choice in terms of being an extremely fungible talent. I think a few things that really resonated and obviously talent acquisition alone in itself is like a conversation for multiple hours separately in general. But a few things that really hit home with with me personally and what we've been hearing from the community as well is you don't know from a business perspective where your competition's coming from. I mean, we've all known that in the next ten years, forty percent of the market leaders will be replaced by organizations that don't exist today. So that's pretty much if you're facing that from a business perspective, that's pretty much the learning you need to apply when you're looking at learning agility or passion over let's say past experience.

And I think the second thing is really re engineering the way we are organized as organizations.

Steve you mentioned how tenuous are reducing, how people are spoiled for choice. And when you look at really the future of a network of teams and when we do kind of come to see the real boundaryless organization come about, people are going to work for organizations.

We would solve problems that they experience themselves. That's literally a writing of the world. So yes, I think that's a great segue once we've kind of touched upon what organizations need to unlearn from a hiring talent perspective.

I think this is where the business end is.

We're going to jump into the design section of the show now. And with your permission, Steven Marty, we are good can we look at the entire touch points of employee life cycle, obviously, as team would tell our audience, the tenure and the time you have to actually deliver an exceptional experience across these touch points or enhanced performance across these touch points is getting shorter and shorter. But I'm gonna move in and look at each of these touch points because what I also learned from both of you listening to you is that talent density certainly doesn't require another sub


Who drives talent density?

function within human resources.

Certainly cannot operate as a silo. It needs to kind of leverage existing people programs and processes. So the next segue, and I think I jumped the gun earlier in the show Steve, but thanks for keeping me in check. Now is the right time to ask both of you that particular question.

You managed to hire the right people. You've hired for problem solving and learning agility. Before, let's say, you've solved for kind of experience. You've got what seems like really high quality talent on board.

You've got the constraint of a reduced tenure and then being spoiled for choice to other choices, what are market leaders doing differently in accelerating the time to peak performance from when high quality talent does come on board.

Happy to start with UC.

What I'm seeing is they're getting new hires who've accepted an offer into Slack channels. They're getting in on WhatsApp trains. They're bringing their it's beginning the onboarding process almost when the interview start, so people can get a feel for what the culture, what the, you know, the mojo is like, what the feel is. So that's one thing that I'm seeing.

They are re engineering, and this is not happening at the scale that I think it needs to, but they're re engineering work so it doesn't take someone six to nine months to learn how to do something. They're reducing it to two or three. And that is I think a very smart strategy because I do believe expecting someone to go is more important than trying to keep someone longer. So if I know you're probably gonna stay two years, I'm gonna make sure that I optimize your time to productivity, but I'm also going to you know, back to your chart.

I wanna challenge your chart a little bit, GC, in that I don't think we should look at exit as the end in any relationship with anyone today. It's you're on to your next adventure, and we should like to have you back. And if you're at someone other other place, Would you prefer people here? Would you give us advice on new products?

Let's keep that ecosystem still alive even if you're not quote, an employee, and that is another broken model that, you know, when we talk about unlearning things. In a world with greater talent fluidity, You have more alumni than you've ever had. And when I go into most organizations, they have taken the Tony Soprano School of HR, which is you quit. You're dead to me.

Which is so limiting and so short sighted, and I feel really fortunate, and it wasn't because of me, but it was because of the culture at LinkedIn.

I reach I get reached out to by LinkedIn two or three times a month, about a lunch, about a breakfast, about a speaker, about advice on a new product that they're doing, I wanna help that company. And and that and they they give me all kinds of extra, you know, fancy LinkedIn features for the rest of my life for free. And that makes me wanna feel part of their actively helping that ecosystem.

And that's where, you know, when I think about how we should rethink reimagine rule of talent is reengineer work so that it's not doesn't you know, any job takes someone two years to learn, that's on you if they leave after two and a half years. Oh, no. We just trained you. You're leaving.

Well, why did you have a job that takes two years to teach someone? That's that's not in sync. Now listen. This doesn't work for like, if we're solving getting someone on the moon, obviously, we're gonna need to have people stay a little bit longer.

But in technology, most jobs I mean, gosh, if if it takes that long to learn, then I I think you're gonna be in behind April because people are gonna leave.

No. That really resonates with me. In fact, externships are now getting so increasingly popular as part of leadership development initiatives in organizations as well. And definitely getting back your alumni or at least learning from their experiences through as many touch points sounds like keeping your business competitive per se.

Marty, how about time to peak performance?

What are the new best practices that you've seen that?

Just on the alumni piece, I think a lot of us and companies have been doing an alumni program for years, right? But I think that meant posting positions to alumni, right? And just, hey, do you know anybody? And this is much more active, you know, the things that Steve talked about, that's not posting a position. That's on alumni program of the past. You know, really using that talent, bringing them in, keeping them in, maybe rehiring them, maybe bringing them in for a project is sort of a gig thing. That's very different than alumni programs of the past.

Steve talked about reworking, re engineering work.

How, then if you dive into that, how do you do that?

What are some actual methodologies of doing that? And, again, I'm going to talk about something that we've all probably, I think we had this in NetSuite, which is a million years ago for me, which was a buddy program.

And a buddy program was, you go to lunch with somebody on their first day and that sort of thing. But actually having a buddy program where you meet with that person, especially in the environments now or near remote, your hybrid, whatever you are, you meet with that buddy every single day. You cover something technical every single day. And you have to sort of figure out there's this whole cultural element.

Maybe every second day we're only dedicated to culture. Maybe we have a separate buddy that is your cultural buddy. Here we talk, technically, here we talk culturally, so that you can really bring that person in. Here are the things that are important to x company.

Here's some trip ups. I tripped up here myself. I want to extend that to you. Here are some things that are really sort of sacred in this company.

I want to extend that to you and I want you to learn about them. If you didn't learn about them through the talent acquisition program or process, So, the whole buddy system has become something really, really effective if you invest in it. But also really important. You wanna talk about accelerating somebody's economy's optimization, their knowledge, and especially the cultural milieu, I think it's really, really important.

Yeah, and I think as organizations, when I hear say that Marty, as organizations are moving away from those siloed pyramids to those network of team structures, and you're starting to hire talent which wants be a lot more cross functional that has high learning agility, they're able to challenge themselves with newer skills.

You need to start enabling the fact that they rub shoulders with folks outside of, let's say, the same spots and stripes that they would otherwise have from a function or a subject matter expertise silo. I think What's you've accelerated the onboarding piece, the natural next question is performance management.

I for one can confess that


Performance management & talent density

We've got centuries of experience in getting a really strong angle on measuring and rating performance, but does that really do anything today to accelerate or enhance your talent density. Marty, let's start with you this time.

Yeah, I'm gonna go with no, if that's question.

Next question.

Yes. The next question is what should organizations I'm gonna take no for two hundred, Bob. Mhmm. Yep.

But having had the opportunities that I loved all of them, but doing this a fairly long time.

I've tried so many different flavors of this. Really, like the, you know, the pendulums swung from ratings to no ratings.

When we were Fitbit, we did the no rating thing. You were either fit or unfit. And it didn't mean physically, and then this is a place that you should be, or it's not, and we should talk about getting you to the place that you should be. We you know, I've done it all.

That didn't work at Twilio. We did something else at Twilio. Very engineering oriented. You're at four point five.

No, you're at four point three five.

So, you know, been through the gamut of that.

I actually start to cringe a little bit at the combination of the word performance and management. Because I just think we haven't done it justice, and everybody cringes, like, why do you even want to set up something where nobody wants to participate?

So, I think you have to really, really rethink that. Maybe you call it your feedback cycle, maybe you call it your coaching cycle. Maybe you don't have to call it anything, because it's going on, constantly.

And I think, if you go underneath that level, the supporting premise there is invest in your managers.

Your managers are your future.

So, have them understand how to have concrete conversations all the time.

So you don't have to have this, even a quarterly. I thought quarterly was great, right?

Even quarterly, It should be weekly, it should be constant, it should be, hey, we finished that meeting. Let me give you some feedback. This was amazing.

Did you see the room respond to that? Or, hey, this was a little bit bristly, and I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why you bumped up against that, like, in the moment, in that time. So, I think having really, really solid managers, which will take us down a whole other path.

But investing in those frontline managers, even I'm going to talk about emerging managers.

GCU and I talked about this program that we had at NetSuite, which was so you think you want to be a manager.

And we put inspiring Ring that new straight.

We put aspiring managers through this program. It was eleven months, once a month, we got them together. We stayed away from year end because of why bother. So we didn't do it in December, but once a month, different topics, people who are interested, some people were tapped, like, what do you think about this? But what was really interesting to me was we had this bench that we're ready to go when we needed them.

They were fired up, they felt like they were prepared, great. There was another group that came to me and said, I never ever want to be a manager.

Like, good for you, you didn't waste time, heartache, you didn't mess up a bunch of people on your team, good for us.

And it's ten or fifteen years later, and at least two women come to mind, they still reach out to me. Their vice president's been an individual contributor of their whole career. But they still reach out to me and say, Oh, my God, I am so glad I didn't waste another calorie on trying to become a manager and it wasn't for me.

So, I'd spend a lot of time in just making your management, emerging manager, senior manager's executive, investing in that whole arc.

I've personally gone through many years almost a decade of trying to define what the right cadence for a performance conversation is, and personally I've come to the conclusion, it's not annual, it's not quarterly, it's not monthly, it's not weekly, it's timely and it's very personalized.

I might need a conversation on my goals. Someone else might need a conversation on where their careers headed. And certainly the second other thing I heard from you which resonated with me is getting out of people's way. They don't want to be managed.

They want to be coached and enabled. So that really resonates with me, Marty. Steve, I know having had the benefit of meeting you and speaking to you about performance management, that you feel very, very strongly about what we've been doing wrong there and what we, much rather, should be doing there today, to share your thoughts with the audience. You sure you wanna poke the bear on this one?

I already did. I already did.

The performance management was the the one moment in my career that everything changed for the better said no executive ever. You know? And and and I think listen. I I've been accused many times over my career of being that HR NAG, you know, get your review done.

But I I if I had a dollar for every time a manager came and said, we need to fire so and so. And I would say, why is that? Because they're horrible. I said, did you tell them they're horrible?

And they'll the manager said, oh, they know. They absolutely know. Well, how have you told them they're so performing so poorly they could lose their job? Well, no.

Why would I do that? They would get they would they would make them all upset. I said, so you want me to endorse you firing them, which we call HR, a drive by termination.

You want to endorse us doing that. And so I could do it to you. I could just let you go without telling you in advance that you're performing so poorly, they go, oh, yeah. And so the reason I think these things can be healthy these conversations is because if we didn't hold measures to the feet to the fire to give the feedback, I think sometimes they would just assume not do it. Now that's not true all the time, but I think a lot of people feel uncomfortable giving constructive feedback, which is I think a necessary component to great performance. This is why I have another allergic reaction when I hear people say we want a happy culture.

Because happy culture, I think, demotivates constructive tough conversations, which are really necessary for growth.

Oh, I can't be, you know, too aggressive with my point of view because it's gonna sort of go against our happy culture norm. Right? Yep. But listen, I I do think that a great place for any organization, if you one of the great things about my first you know, venture into the, you know, startup world was my first day at LinkedIn where I said, so what's our performance management philosophy framework? And they're like, what are you talking about? We don't have one.

And and that led us to sort of say, why are we doing it? What's the point we're trying to achieve with performance management? Is high performance.

So a performance review doesn't necessarily mean high performance will be realized.

And there's no one right way to do this. But I do think feedback to help people focus and to get alignment is really important. And what that looks like can take a million different shades, you know? And I think the most important thing is all the leaders, you're never gonna get everyone to agree, but generally support whatever the approach is that you're taking. And then it's not some sort of forced cod liver oil that you're shoving down the throats of your of your leaders.

Right? But building the capacity to give, you know who who do you respect more? Someone that always says, way to go, Marty, you're awesome. You're great.

All the time or someone says, hey, Marty, you know, I think you lost the room in that last meeting. You know, did you see that you didn't have you talked over several people And I want you to win, and I want you to succeed, but your self awareness needs a little bit of work. So let's let's work together to make that great. You know?

And and that's part of what, you know, we I think we want to achieve. But to believe that performance reviews are absolutely critical and necessary for high performance I think is a big step and not necessarily true.

When I hear you say that, Steve, I think what comes to mind is we've gone through this phase where we wanted to build a culture within an organization that's like a family, but we're entering a phase where organizations are realizing I'd much rather have a culture of sports team. And that's really where I think my next question heads because I heard you say this, which is


Managing underperformance

if you have this timely cadence of honest bite sized check ins, higher the probability for you to counsel out certain people who possibly aren't being able, even though they are talented, they're not being able to perform on your platform. So, which side of this particular host's psychosis, or is that a big no no?

You mentioned Steve you had very strong thoughts about the exit side, But I do see even though organizations wanting to take the leap from being a family kind of a culture to a sports team kind of a culture, still being very torn about hey, am I actively counseling out super talented folks who might not be the best fit for my purpose, my mission, my platform?

Or do you think even with everything that we've discussed right now, that continues to be a bit of a no no. Would love to hear both of your thoughts on that.

I'll jump in. I think that the in a world where it's increasingly hard to hire great people, that and also having sat on boards where they wanna know how many people did you fire this quarter, you know, these low performance or you're really doing your job HR.

I think when you're doing your job really well, you've built a high performance culture where the people who are not delivering self select out. Mhmm. And to me, that's the that's the I think that's the best way for this to play because then you don't have brand hit to a termination. You don't have the devastation of a manager having to counsel someone out, which is really, really hard even for the good ones.

And you don't have someone who's potentially wanting to lawyer up, which we're so good at in the United States. Mhmm. So I think, you know, if you can have the conversations that that gives someone the clear recognition that this is not probably gonna play out the way you would like it to or the way that you want it to. So you may have may start needing to work on your plan b.

That that's a that's a, I think, a better strategy than having to counsel someone out. Sometimes you're gonna have to do that, but we did a research project years ago at Cisco was really fascinating.

They looked at every single case where someone got a performance warning. K? And they looked at what happened, the people who cured it, the people who were let go. And they found of all the cures, the people who got off the morning and got to quote a better place.

Ninety five percent of the time they left within a year. Mhmm. So and what we would do in many cases after that, we had that data as we say, listen. We've got a cup you know, it's not working out, and here's why, and here's the options, performance improvement plan, or door number two, which is let's mutually separate right now because all the research shows -- Yeah.

-- now that we've had this conversation, it's really hard for people in your situation to ever forget it and get over it. So how do you want this to play? Right?

And so, I mean, every jurisdiction has different labor protections and or you know, challenges to deal with. So this I'm thinking more of a US labor market when I'm talking about this. Canada, it's it's it's definitely different having practice HR there for four years or so.

So but but I think that that, you know, someone put it in the chat here Echo did the, you know, this notion of radical candor, I think it's helpful, you know, to to to help you arrive at. I think better options for both parties.

I'm going to turn to Marty and build on what Steve just said for my next question before I love it back to you Steve.

Easy to say that rank and yank both asking those questions, easy for us to kind of put managers and their feet to the fire saying, hey, you need to cancel out talent, but much before that, along with the continuous check ins that we were talking about the timely conversations, there is a big responsibility around learning and development around really providing your talent with the ability to be able to grow into their full potential.

I think traditionally, Mario organizations have invested big box in learning content and then next came the advent of this personalized delivery of this content, But do you see organizations doing something differently around their learning and development programs to actually accelerate on the job performance?


L&D programs to accelerate performance

Yeah, some of the things that I've talked about having a buddy, that's learning in development, right? That's setting somebody up for success.

Investing in your leaders so that they know how to teach their team members, and especially their new team members. I think there's a lot of different ways that you can provide learning and development. There's the standard, LinkedIn learning, sorry, Steve or or whatever online courses, and people learn differently, right? So you have to think about that.

We had a learning program, and we started to sort of, it was great learning, because we started to sort of assign people to the delivery option based on almost their demographic. If you're a little older, you're going to want to go in the live version, with a gamification version.

And I at some point, I just stick with the team. Why don't we just let people sign up? This could be an experiment. Like, see where they go.

But good for us that we offer different mediums for this, and we were very, very surprised by the outcome. Just ask people, ask people how they best learn, even if it's in a one on one situation.

Back to managers, they need to be able to ask those questions all the time. Are you learning? What did you learn this week? What did you learn from that project?

What is it that you'd love to learn? And how can I get you involved in that? Do you wanna be involved in that? I had someone who was my right arm at Twilio.

I said, like, what's next for you? She's amazing. What's next for you? She wanted to be a CPO. What are we missing?

Kind of the board, the public company, managing the compensation committee, that sort of thing. Great.

So I wrote to the comp committee end of the board, and I said, Look, I'd love to bring this person in.

First, it's gonna sit and watch and learn, Pretty soon she'll be pairing data for us and presentations, and then I'm gonna move her into some of my spots, I'm going to move over and she can deliver. So, that was, you know, for this person, high performer, just asking the question, what's next? What would you really love? What are the possible or chances that she would be in that boardroom if we didn't have that conversation?

Probably zero.

So, I think there's a lot of ways to tap into this, conventional, but again, it's just gonna come back to those, regular conversations, and learning has to be part of it.

One of the things that I think I was at Twilio, actually, we did a, I think GCU and I talked about this, but we did an internal career fair.

So, we had all Tulia was growing rapidly. Like, at some quarters, it was twelve hundred people a quarter we were hiring.

So, people didn't even know what functions did what, like it was just getting enormous. So, we brought everybody in and had representation from where they worked, in the company. And it was sort of like going through an internal career fair, and people were asking other colleagues, what's your group actually do? And it was amazing how much they learned about the company. And the conversations that that, it was an afternoon. I think that afternoon spawned for those individuals and their managers.

So, there's a ton of different ways you can think about it, but you have to get creative.

Well, across the life cycle, lots and lots of actionable inputs, unlearning, and great examples for our audience to kind of start designing their playbook.

I'm gonna move into the third section


Pitching talent density to your CEO

of this particular agenda.

This is really where the rubber meets the road, isn't it?

I've got a strong handle on the best kind of interventions across my employee life cycle, I'm clear about how I'm gonna attract to deliver higher talent density. I'm clear about how I'm gonna ramp up time to perform. I'm clear about really how to unlearn and rethink performance management, certainly learning and development. And I think it's true that one common theme that I heard from both of you is in terms of the very culture from families to sports teams, to providing much more than pay through these personalized career tracks, learning agility, so on and so forth. I'm very clear about this. Now, I need to go out to my CEO and get buy in to make these changes.

Steve, let's start with you. What are some tips and tricks or the type of the content of the conversation that I should be taking to my CEO to get by and around something of this sort.

Well, I'd like to step back and say, I have after many different organizations that I've worked in as an employee and also as an advisor.

Come to the point where I will no longer take on a CEO that doesn't automatically already have. A recognition that talent is the most important priority. I'm I'm tired of having to explain why people are important, cultures important, Nope. If you don't get it, I don't have time for you. I'm not interested. So if, you know, if that isn't in place, don't I wouldn't even try to if you have to argue for some of this stuff, then you're in the wrong organization.

I would say, you know.

I found myself and this is, you know, I'm I'm happy to say this on air.

Working at LinkedIn, I had a moment where we were getting absolutely crudged with our own recruiting and we're a recruiting company, selling recruiting product, and we're failing at our own recruiting capacity internally.

And the LinkedIn product, and it's, you know, in its early days was really focused around passive recruiting that you should be recruiting all the time even if you don't have a specific opening. So I went to my CEO and said, I'm gonna need some more recruiters because we're not generating enough pipeline in a very, very competitive market. We're facing, you know, Google, and Facebook were in a war with million dollar retention and signing bonuses, and it was really, really hard.

And he he looked at me and I'm not joking said, well, I'm not sure we have a lot of requisitions to justify more recruiters.

To which I said to myself, Do you know what business we're in? We're in the passive recruiting business. So I literally and this is to a sort of a a long winded way of answering your question, I had to get my head of sales.

Okay? The LinkedIn Head of Sales, to go to my CEO, to tell him what business we were in, that he's the CEO of, that his past recruiting, that our ratio, what just wasn't what we're selling our customers to optimize with.

Right? And how many licenses you need based on the size of organization based on your headcount growth plan. And so that one of the bits of advice that I have is if you are feeling falling that you're falling short on your capacity to influence your CEO, find the people that your CEO listens to. And if it's not you find the people that it is, see if they're gonna get on your side and try to build a business case. What every CEO has is and this has been true in my entire career. Several other CEOs or companies that they just they're on the shortlist of companies they admire.

And I used to go into my CEO at LinkedIn and he would what's Salesforce doing? What's Facebook doing? So I would After two or three times, I would go and say, hey, did you know that Facebook and Salesforce are doing this and wished and and he was like, oh, yeah. Sure. So understand, you know, how But if you if you find yourself in a constant uphill battle on that, it may be time for you to consider, you know, a change of scenery.

That's my base. Well, I'm so glad you said that, Steve, I was thinking, am I just old and cranky at this point, but I think the same thing, like how can we, I saw your question GC and I'm like, how can we be talking about this at this point? Like honestly, Now, having said that, realistically, I'm sure there are people that are still pushing that rock uphill, and I did too, and I used Steve's strategies, not listening to me, who would he listen to?

And head of sales, it's a good one. Right? So head of sales, head of product, the always good ones. It's that's a good that's a good strategy for sure.

But how unfortunate that we're actually still talking about this. One I got a few wins under my belt. Like, you build up your own credibility too, which I think is something, like, in your spare time, you know, you're trying to you're trying to push this, but just bring just bring solutions, just make things go away, make things easier, you know, make the CEO look at you and go, wow, they're adding value. And then my voice was a little stronger on some of these things. So, there's always that continuous, just hang in there and bring some value to the team.

I did have another point that I can't remember, but anyway, I think it's very, very unfortunate that we're still having that conversation.

Yeah. I I would just go on and amplify what what you're saying, Marty, which is I believe human resources is essentially about two key things, credibility and judgment. If you're not credible, no one cares about your judgment, and if you don't have good judgment, you're definitely not gonna be credible. And the way that I've tried to every time I've gone into a new organization, the way you shortcut building those things is how people observe you handling really hard stuff.

Like, are can we trust you? Are you gonna run and tell a CEO? Like, are you gonna block my creative approach with this or that?

And so welcome those difficult moments because people are gonna see what you're made of and know whether you're really someone worth listening to. And it's a really weird profession. I mean, there's no accreditation.

There is no sort of clear cut. You have to, you know, check these boxes to become a CHRO.

And there's such such wide diversity, and it's highly relationship dependent. I mean, if you don't have good rapport with the CEO, CFO and if you're a big company, the general counsel, it's gonna be an uphill it's gonna be an uphill battle. And I agree with you. LinkedIn of all the companies I work for is the only one who made talent the number one priority.

And as a professional network, it seems like a no brainer in retrospect that, of course, talent should have been the number one But I'm talking about every meeting we had. That was the first thing. Are we building a world class team? Are we?

How are we doing with recruiting? How are we doing with development? How are we doing with you know, filling internal leadership roles internally versus externally, all these things, not new products, not sales strategy, not our acquisition plan, not some new engineering feature. Are we building world class team?

The first thing we talked about in almost every meeting. And I don't think it's, you know, an accident that that culture even today is seen as one of the, you know, highest performing cultures out there. And I'd never seen before. I worked in every company and said, oh, yeah.

People number one here. Oh, sorry. We didn't get to succession planning in this month's board meeting. Let's push it out to next quarter.

Oh, yeah. But we really care about people here. Okay.

You know? And so and that's easier said than done, you know. And that means it's q four, your sales team's behind in their numbers. You've got a lot of reps open in sales.

Sells leaderships close in candidates. That's what talent first means. You know, playing for the playing for the long haul. Mhmm.

I did remember the one thought that I had once you built up the credibility. One of the questions I used to ask in different forms was hey, CEO. What are your top one, two, three burning issues?

What's really important to you?

And in a knowledge capacity, it was always, we have to have a geographic expansion. We have to build new product. We have to get this release out. Like, whatever it is. Who's gonna do that?

The answer is always people.

Right? And whatever question I ask them, how are we getting that done? People. Okay, then, can you talk with me on our people programs?

Like, every time they pulled out and got focused on something else, hey, what are your top pre Like, let's focus on those. Who's getting them done? Are we investing there? In the people?

And I do remember, I guess, I could tell you the company, but we were at an off-site, and we were putting our, there's always top six, top eight, corporate goals on the wall or whatever, and it's amazing where HR, the people's initiative has been.

It's been number three, sometimes it's been number eight, and that's suite of eight, and we pushed it up.

It's been off the list and assumed, right? Oh, yeah, yeah, of course, we're gonna take care of our people, but we've got all these things to do. Wasn't even on the list. And I was probably three days into a CPO role at a public company.

And we were doing this together, and I was just really just kind of a voyeur, like I'm three days in. And they're putting up all of these these lists and people was number three. I'm like, okay, it's on there. It's in a top three.

But still, I couldn't I couldn't let it go. Like, I I couldn't be happy with that. And I'm three days into the company. And they're calling out these different things, and just this voice in the background that nobody knew because I'm so new, but I just I said, so who's gonna do that?

Who's gonna do that one? Yeah. And people started to turn around and go, yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. We gotta move up the people thing.

Yeah. And let me amplify this and and also to reinforce what you're doing, GC, and mesh. I asked a question like this, Marty. So I often get invited.

I don't know how they let me in the to conferences where there are only non HR people, okay, executives. And I asked just what you do. I said, how do you guys create value in your organization? They go people.

I said people. Okay. So can I assume then that the highest performing most invested in systems in your company are the people systems?

Or was it your actually, your ERP, your accounting system, and then there's a CRM.

And the people system, if you have one, was bought by the CFO.

Why why aren't the systems the greatest systems in your company unlocking the magic that is hard to find of making sure you got the right people on the right teams, on the right roles, in the right environments that are unlocking the greatest potential that they have. And I think you're right. They it's oh, it's just assumed. Why why should we have to put it up there just like when we're building a culture in LinkedIn, why should we really put humor up there?

That's kind of lame. Of course, we want a humorous But if it's not up there sometimes, people take that stuff literally. And so, you know, I think that that it's rare that I found a company where oh, yeah. People are definitely number one, and we it.

We put it on the top of the every agenda item and every operating plan.

And I say, you know, people isn't the number one you know, people priorities and one business priority. And if it's not for you, good luck today, just good luck. You know?

I think we've come out to the end of the


Connecting to business outcomes

time, but I'd be remiss if I let you go without asking this one follow-up question to what both of you said. I personally love the fact about, I think to sell as human. If you need to sell a change to anyone, you need to learn about how to communicate with them, what resonates with them, I think that's a very tactical tip for all people and culture practitioners, get to know your CEO's reading list, get to know the companies that they admire and try and kind of share how they approach it. But just to the point that you made Steve, which is the sales leader will be able to get big bucks for the CRM.

The COO will be able to get Big Box to the ERP, but as people in culture practitioners, traditionally, we haven't been able to communicate with CFO in the CFO's language, which is why rather than looking at investing in talent as an asset, I personally found many, many people in culture teams kind of living with a year on year budget, which kind of caps they spend. So in your experience, how do we kind of walk halfway as people and culture practitioners and start exhibiting some left brain ROI to our CEOs and CFOs, because at the end of the day, we do need to speak their language to convince them as well and the onus is on us.

Alright. I'm gonna answer first in a very tough love, very uncomfortable response and then I'm getting Marty to do something much more positive.

Many organizations have hired people to not deliver an HR. They've got people there that are not gonna call their bluff, that are not gonna call them out and say, that is not how we wanna roll, that is not acceptable culture. We are not gonna do that. We are not gonna accept that cultural kryptonite person over there because they're a superstar and just overlook all their bad behavior.

A lot of organizations don't want HR, that's gonna call them out. And that's why we find ourselves, I think, in some places where People are like, oh, we don't have a seat at the table. I'm like, well, because they don't want you to have a seat at the table. That's why you don't have a seat at the table.

And you can fill, you know, whether it's Uber, look at the early early phase of Uber. They did not want HR doing what HR should do. They hired that. And so when I hear people say, oh, HR is so lame over there.

I said, Well, look at the leadership that put them in, that thinks that's okay. That's the issue. It's not HR. Leadership made that call.

So I'm gonna hand the mic over to Marty because it now you've really poked the bear.

Why do you think I saved that question with a better entity?

Yeah. Fun poking the bear. I'm enjoying that.

The question is, what do you want your HR team to be doing? What value do you want out of your HR team? And if you wanna hire a whole operations team that is performing like an HRIS, we can do that. Here's what it'll cost us. Here's the price of an HRIS.

Wouldn't you rather high I would rather for this company and for our team I would rather invest in partners, in partners for the organization, in people that are gonna actually build your leadership team with you.

In people that are going to build your workforce strategy with you, I think there's so much more value there. However, if you wanna hire some data entry folks. And this is a one time investment. Yeah, there's annual recurring costs and that sort of thing.

But here's what it will unlock in my budget. This is how I see it, how do you see it. But just having those, and sometimes I've shown up with a spreadsheet, here's what it'll cost, here's what it'll cost. Here's what these people will be doing, here's what these people will be doing. What do you prefer? Let's talk about what HR does here.

Alright, that's a lot to consume, and I'm pretty sure we'll be able to kind of solve a lot of problems with our community on some of these slightly controversial, but very fast changing concepts around driving column density.

Thank you so much, Marty and Steve for taking time out, and being so honest wonderful and definitely insightful over the past sixty to seventy odd minutes that I've absolutely enjoyed spending with both of you.

See have a safe flight down to LA, we should get you the very best for the basketball game at Marty.

Pretty sure you're taking a flight with your music group very, very soon to travel the world.

But hope to keep in touch and speak to both of you soon. Very excited to you learning, and thank you so much for joining us today. Thanks for having us. All right. Take care. Bye bye.

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