Billionaire Daniel Lubetzky shares his No. 1 tip for Success

Daniel Lubetzky, billionaire founder of Kind Snacks, attributes his success to a simple decision: surrounding himself with people who feel comfortable giving him honest, raw feedback.

 

 

Nobody can be a perfect leader, Lubetzky says. In his case, he often gets things wrong, and can be impulsive and easily blinded by passion — but his friends and colleagues call him out when he’s about to make a mistake, he adds.

 

 

“If you don’t surround yourself with those people, then it is so much harder to [achieve success] because you can go in to ‘I’m amazing’ mode, and not realize when you are screwing up,” Lubetzky tells CNBC Make It.

 

 

Lubetzky founded Kind Snacks in 2004, initially running it on a shoestring budget before accepting roughly $16 million of outside funding in 2008. Just over a decade later, Kind was acquired by food giant Mars for a reported $5 billion in 2020. Lubetzky sold a controlling stake in the deal, retaining a “meaningful” portion of the company, a spokesperson says.

 

 

Lubetzky’s personal net worth sits at $2.1 billion, according to Forbes.

 

 

His advice isn’t necessarily uncommon — but it’s easier said than done. “Environments that discourage hearty debate are shockingly common,” Lubetzky says. “Particularly successful and impressive CEOs end up developing a following of sycophants that are just too afraid to challenge them, and it really can destroy us.”

 

 

Here’s his advice for finding those people who will challenge you and healthily encouraging their pushback.

 

 

Find the correct people

 

If you’re aiming for fruitful debate and helpful feedback, not nonstop talk for the sake of talking, you’ll need to consult friends or hire coworkers who are self-reflective, says Lubetzky. They should have some amount of subject matter expertise and high emotional intelligence too, he notes.

 

 

You should also prioritize people who are “kind” over people who are “nice,” Lubetzky says.

 

 

“Nice doesn’t require much. You can be passive and be nice. But kind requires the strength of being earnest,” he explains. “There are some cases where people are absolute jerks, but there are far more cases where people are too meek and too afraid to share feedback and they cause far more damage because of how common it is.”

 

 

Kind people can communicate their feelings “constructively,” Lubetzky adds. That’ll make it easier for you to receive their feedback — but you’ll still need to work to keep yourself from getting offended by someone else’s criticism.

 

 

Nice people, by comparison, may struggle to give honest negative feedback because they’d rather spare your feelings. Rick Nucci, CEO of enterprise software startup Guru, refers to this concept as “ruinous empathy” — something he learned the hard way, when he caught himself practicing it.

 

 

“You care about the person, but you’re actually not challenging them directly, right? You’re almost coddling them … [It’s] death by 1,000 smiles,” Nucci told Make It in July.

 

 

Create an environment that fosters ‘hearty debate’

 

Once you find the right people, encourage them to get real with you. In the workplace, Lubetzky encourages even junior employees to “feel like they have not just the right but the responsibility to talk it out with me,” he says.

 

 

When someone brings something to his attention, he acknowledges the question and thinks through it with them, he says. Occasionally, he’ll try to promote further debate by playing Devil’s Advocate.

 

 

He also makes a point of thanking the person, to increase the odds that they’ll do it again. It’s an intentional tactic: Kim Scott, an ex-Google executive, told Make It in 2017 that she witnessed Google co-founder Larry Page doing something similar during a meeting.

 

 

“Not only did he permit [the colleague] challenging him, he seemed to relish it,” Scott said.

 

 

Above all else, you need to make sure that everyone around you has a positive intent behind each piece of feedback, says Lubetzky.

 

 

“There are just no shortcuts for that, you just need to show that you are there for each other over time,” he says. “Transparency, truthfulness, open communications, thinking of others and putting your shared enterprise ahead of any individual ego, all of those things are what’s going to create the environment of trust.”

 

 

This story has been updated to reflect that Lubetzky sold a controlling stake of Kind Snacks when it was acquired by Mars, according to a spokesperson.

 

 

Source: CNBC – Ece Yildirim

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