Sue me, please!

November 09, 2021

If you need help, then just say “Sue me, please!”

Let me explain.

I spoke to a council member recently, we’ll call her Sue, who had just taken a new role at a high growth start-up that had some of the best economics I’ve heard in a long time, but also some of the worst politics.

Sue’s main problem is that the CEO is mercurial and prone to firing direct reports like her. In fact, she was hired because the previous person in her role had just been fired after only a few months. 

If Sue, however, finds a way to stay, and navigate these tough politics, the rewards are huge. 

The service is so valuable to customers, and the company makes so much money per customer with a total addressable market that is so big that they can do a lot wrong and still go public. 

In fact, it’s not too hard to imagine that Sue could create generational wealth for her family in just a few years.

But like her predecessor, she could be gone in a few months.

Fortunately, Sue has one advantage that her predecessor did not have. 

She knows the power of asking for help. 

That’s why we were on the phone. 

The first thing I did was thank her.

As many of you know, if you initiate asking for help I go out of my way to say thank you and show my deep appreciation.

I do that because I’m deeply serious about this asking for help thing. 

If you learn how to do it, it can really change your life. 

As we then talked and I learned more about her situation, we decided to bring this community to her aid in several ways:

  • Set up a first 90 days Peer Coaching Call (PCC) with other COOs and Presidents 
  • Set up a second PCC with CPOs to get advice on how to effectively run a large product organization along with everything else she’s responsible for
  • Set up 1:1 coaching with me so I can help her develop a positive politics campaign that will guide her actions over the next three years
  • Explore moving her to a new council with peers that reflect her new cross-functional responsibilities

​We also discussed some personal items including the possibility of starting therapy, perhaps with her spouse, so they can work together on the emotional toll this job may take on their relationship. And we talked through her personal health and fitness regimen and how to keep that going during these turbulent next years.

Sue is going to need all the help she can get from every source: this community, her colleagues, her family, trainers, nutritionists, therapists, etc.

What is true for Sue, however, is also true for *all* of you and me too. 

We all need all the help we can get.

So, how about you?

What do you think?

If you are an active council member and need help, please reach out.

We’ll happily leverage the full resources of this community to help you the same way we did for Sue. 

In fact, just say “Sue me, please!” and we’ll know exactly what to do.

With love,


Fall Keynotes

  • The Hows and Whys of Hybrid Work – Thu, Nov 11 @4pm ET
    Jaime Teevan, Chief Scientist for Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices
    with moderator Ron Pessner, Vice President of Product Microsoft Office

    To registerClick here to email Britany Chism (register your teams to join too!)

    Jaime Teevan, Chief Scientist for Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices, is charged with creating the future of productivity at Microsoft and for its customers. As part of that effort, she helps lead the New Future of Work: the largest research initiative in Microsoft’s history with hundreds of researchers from across Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub. Their task is simple (and very hard): make this new future of work – in office, remote, and especially hybrid – possible and productive. Jaime Teevan, and moderator Ron Pessner, will provide an overview of what Microsoft has learned and will offer tips for effective and inclusive hybrid work.
    Jaime Teevan is Chief Scientist for Microsoft’s Experiences and Devices, where she is responsible for driving research-backed innovation in the company’s core products. Previously she was the Technical Advisor to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, where she led the Productivity team. Dr. Teevan uses AI to help people accomplish their goals, developing the first personalized search algorithm used by Bing and introducing microproductivity into Office. Her groundbreaking research has earned her numerous awards, including the Technology Review TR35 Young Innovator and Karen Spärck Jones awards. She holds a Ph.D. from MIT and a B.S. from Yale, and is an affiliate professor at the University of Washington.
    Ron Pessner, a longtime CG Councils member, is in charge of collaboration across the Microsoft 365 collaboration suite (that span across Word, Excel, PPT, etc). He has spent 18 years at Microsoft and has done a number of things including GM for Games for Windows, senior role at Xbox, led Windows 10 for Window Phone, and multiple roles in the Office organization. Prior to Microsoft he worked with a number of startups in the early days of the web and mobile internet. 

Winter Series

  • Elder Fraud, Financial Mistakes and Caregiving  – Thu, Dec 2 @3pm ET
    Howard Tischler, Co-Founder and CEO, and Liz Loewy, Co-Founder and COO, EverSafe

    To registerClick here to email Britany Chism (register your teams to join too!)
     Financial exploitation is the most common forms of “abuse” in later life. One in five over the age of 65 are victims; the average loss is over $120K, and caregivers lose over $36K.  In addition, self-neglect and financial mistakes are a tremendous threat to a lifetime of savings.  This impacts the older individual and their families, and working while caring brings tremendous stress to the workplace and the employer.  Come hear Liz Loewy and Howard Tischler, the co-founders of EverSafe, a technology company addressing these issues, speak about their experiences.  Before joining EverSafe, Liz was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the founder of the Office’s first Elder Abuse Unit, where 800 elder abuse cases were prosecuted annually.  In 2009, Liz served as trial counsel in the prosecution involving the late philanthropist, Brooke Astor, against her only son, Anthony Marshall, and his attorney. In addition, Liz has served as a caregiver for her parents and grandparents.Howard co-founded EverSafe after his mother was financially exploited and she lost her life savings.  Little did he know that the loss of financial capacity can begin before there are any signs of dementia. Howard will discuss what happened to his mother and how he managed his joint corporate and caregiving responsibilities. Howard was a Group President and the Lead Director in public companies. Caregiving is hard, even on the good days when it brings joy and fulfillment.  It requires dedication, determination, and time.  Situations change quickly from one day to another.  It may be a fall or other illness; it may be the realization of cognitive decline; or it may be the discovery that a loved one has lost most, if not all, of their life’s savings.  Being a caregiver can be exhausting and complex, and there is no “caregiver-in-training” course.  Financial exploitation, self-neglect and financial mistakes only serve to exacerbate the situation.  Liz and Howard’s experiences and stories can help you prepare for what may lie ahead for you, your employer, and your employees.  There will be a robust Q&A session.  Come ready with your own stories or stories from your workforce – they are always interesting and relevant.

First Two Fall Keynotes

  • Heartwood: The Art of Living With the End in Mind
    Barbara Becker, Author

    To access recording (Council members only)Click here to email Britany Chism
     For our second Fall Meeting keynote, Barbara Becker, author of Heartwood invites us into a conversation about the art of living.Members of our Councils are facing difficult life moments now, as they have in the past and as we each will in the future. With this talk, we help deepen the trust and safe space needed for members to be vulnerable, find support and connection, and, of course, ask for help throughout the meetings and beyond.We also hope to reveal, for your own reflection, the individuals and events in your life that shaped who you have become as a person. In work, and in our daily lives, we aren’t often granted the opportunity to name and to process the people we love, the challenges we face, and the difficulties that become part of us – that become our own Heartwood.Bio: 
    Barbara Becker is an ordained interfaith minister and has sat with hundreds of people at the end of their lives. Barbara speaks on a wide range of topics, including deepening our sense of meaning and spirituality and mid-career pivots.  She has dedicated more than twenty-five years to partnering with human-rights advocates around the world in pursuit of peace and interreligious understanding. She has worked with the United Nations, Human Rights First, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, and teaches at Columbia University.
  • The What & Why of Continuous Discovery
    Teresa Torres, Author, Speaker, and Product Discovery Coach

    Most product teams are starting to adopt discovery best practices (e.g. interviewing customers, usability testing, experimenting). However, many of us are still stuck in a project world. We do research to kick off a project, we usability test right before we hand off to engineers, and our primary means for experimenting is a/b testing. These methods are better than nothing, but the best product teams are shifting from a project mindset to a continuous mindset. In this talk, we’ll explore the key differences between project-based discovery and continuous discovery and give your team a clear benchmark to aspire to.

    Bio: Teresa Torres is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker, coach, and longtime friend of the Councils (she was a moderator of one of our Product Councils at one point). She’s coached hundreds of teams at companies of all sizes, from early-stage start-ups to global enterprises, in a variety of industries and has taught more than 7,000 through her Product Talk Academy. She’s the author of the recently published book, Continuous Discovery Habits, and blogs at

Previous 2021 Talks

  • Clubhouse and the Audio Revolution (not recorded)
    Jonathan Ehrlich, Partner, Foundation Capital
     Two things to know about Jonathan Ehrlich:
    1) he co-led the seed round in Clubhouse and was thus the first venture capitalist to spot its potential;
    2) he’s a Councils alum with an interesting career arc.We held an informal conversation with Jonathan about Clubhouse, the future of audio, and Jonathan’s career journey from a mostly offline retailer in Canada to relocating to Silicon Valley and reinventing himself.

    Jonathan Ehrlich is a Partner at Foundation Capital who invests in early early-stage consumer, marketplace, commerce, and SaaS startups and technologies. He joined Foundation Capital in 2013 as a partner after spending nine months with the firm as an entrepreneur-in-residence. Before joining Foundation Capital, Jonathan spent 17 years as an operator during which he founded three companies, built a $100M+ revenue business, and ran marketing for Facebook. He is the first institutional investor in Clubhouse and currently sits on the board of Bulletin and Chord. His Foundation and personal investments include Shelf Engine, Mainstreet, Truepill, Hooked, WayUp, League, Front, and Flexport. When not working, he can be found on his bike or chasing his four kids around.
  • JTBD in Large Distributed Environments
    Jay Haynes, Founder & CEO,

    Jobs To Be Done has proven to be an effective methodology for building much better holistic end-to-end products and customer experiences.

    *But* CG Council member companies with large distributed environments are finding it difficult to apply JTBD in effective ways.

    Jay Haynes, CEO of thrv, and a global expert on JTBD will come and speak to the Councils community on this specific challenge of using the methodology in large, complex technology environments.
  • Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products
    Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin, co-Authors of Groundwork

    Product leaders are all too familiar with the one to two-year period it typically takes to train and coach PMs. Product leaders hire smart people and then work with them individually, guiding them through how to think about product management, and watching them develop. Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin wanted a much faster way to help cultivate efficient and effective product managers that consistently create products that delight customers, regardless of the industry, the environment, and the development methodology that the team employed. They took years of experience as product executives and working with hundreds of teams as product coaches to create a framework to Get Better at Making Better Products.

    The design philosophy and methodology behind Groundwork was created to help product leaders be confident that their teams were committed to solving the right customer problems, minimizing costly rework by using individualized needs, and leveraging actionable personas in big and small product decisions. Vidya and Heather want Groundwork to help product teams have a much higher chance of success in the market—and help every product manager shine.

    Join Vidya and Heather as they share the background, principles, and methodology behind the Groundwork to help you, and your team, get better at making better products. 
  • Making the Case for Empowering Your People
    Marty Cagan, Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group
    Talk Type: Product, Leadership Development, Culture
    Audience/Roles: All Roles

    From Marty: “I have long been interested in the difference between how the best companies work, and the rest. Working with both types of organizations for so many years, there are many differences ranging from culture to process to staffing to roles to techniques. But at its core, strong product companies empower their people, and most of the rest do not. My focus over the past few years has been tackling this issue head-on, which means the product leadership. In this talk, we’ll discuss why this model consistently yields better results, and what’s necessary to transform to work like the best.”

    Marty’s Bio: Marty Cagan is the founding partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group, which he created to pursue his interests in helping others create successful products through his writing, speaking, advising and coaching. Before starting SVPG, Marty served as an executive responsible for defining and building products for some of the most successful companies in the world, including Hewlett-Packard, Netscape Communications, and eBay. As part of his work with SVPG, Marty advises tech companies of all sizes and stages, stretching far beyond Silicon Valley. Marty is the author of the industry-leading book for product teams, INSPIRED: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love, and the upcoming book EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products. Marty is an invited speaker at major conferences and top companies across the globe.
  • See talks from the last month and beyond here.​

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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