As chairman of Coatue Ventures, Dan Rose leads one of the most respected venture capital funds in Silicon Valley. Coatue has invested in the likes of Doordash, Lyft, and Reddit, and its larger company, Coatue Management, makes investments in the private and public sectors with a total of $48 billion in assets under management.
Before Dan Rose joined Coatue, he spent 13 years as vice president of partnerships at Facebook. During that time, Rose experienced what he described as “the most difficult/pivotal moment” of his career. Rose shared the story, and the lessons he learned from it, in a Twitter thread.
Back in 2008, when Sheryl Sandberg first joined Facebook as COO, she decided to do a performance review of Rose in the hopes that he’d take on more responsibility at the company. The review involved input from several employees, and according to Rose, the feedback was “devastating.” Employees said he was political and untrustworthy, comments Rose wasn’t expecting.
“I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide, or announce to everyone that they were wrong about me,” he wrote.
But instead of hiding after the review, Rose set up one-on-one meetings with his team to discuss how he could improve. He settled on a strategy where employees would call him out on his comments on the spot, which led to some “very uncomfortable conversations.”
“It was slow at first, but eventually people started to respond with real-time feedback,” Rose wrote. “‘Remember that meeting yesterday when you said x to Tom? You could have said that differently.’ I heard example after example like this.”
"Around that time I had to deliver a tough review to someone. I started by telling them the story of my Sheryl review," he added. "They immediately dropped their defenses and listened to my feedback openly. It was a powerful and moving conversation that likely would have gone differently."
Over time, Rose noticed his standing at the company was improving. A handful of semi-annual reviews later, Sandberg said that Rose had rounded the corner. Whenever Rose had to deliver performance reviews to his staff, he found that relaying the story of his own experience made for a more open conversation. And whenever he’d share his story in larger company meetings, he would be met with positive feedback.
"Years later we took the FB management team to an offsite at Quantico marine officer training center," Rose wrote. "They showed us a 2x2 matrix: competence on one dimension, character on the other. 2 quadrants failed their test: low on both, and low character / high competence. Sheryl was right."
“I’ve told this story dozens of times now,” Rose concluded. “Every time I have a tough conversation with someone, I start with this story. I still sweat each time I tell it (I’m sweating right now). It’s hard to be vulnerable, but I’ve found it extremely powerful in building deep human connection.”