“We want to build the best human empire in the history of time.”
That’s how my boss and friend, Gary Vaynerchuk, explained my new position as Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia at our all-hands meeting.
How do you begin to pick up that gauntlet after it’s thrown down by the founder and CEO of your company?
For me, it starts with purpose. Mine has always been to be of joyful service in everything I do, including my corporate work. I write that without an ounce of cynicism. I’m genuinely fulfilled when I create spaces in which people can thrive.
It’s a purpose that mirrors both the essence of who Gary is and the ethos on which VaynerMedia was founded: “people first.” Gary abides by that belief as deeply as others might hold personal faiths. It’s a testament to his tenacity and will that he has managed to be the keeper of our cultural flame for nearly seven years, still sitting down with each new employee and making himself available to all for meetings on any and every topic, be it employees’ future goals at VaynerMedia, personal matters impacting their lives, or passion projects they’d like to turn into long-term careers.
Due to the company’s tremendous growth (not the worst problem to have), it’s now necessary for him to scale his day-to-day involvement. He has done so by giving me the honor to come aboard as VaynerMedia’s first Chief Heart Officer. “Heart?”, you might be scratching your head. “Why not simply Chief Talent Officer or Chief of Human Capital?”
The answer to that lays in understanding Gary’s philosophy about work culture:
“Three or four years ago, Steve Jobs’ narrative influenced many leaders in our space to become meaner to the people who worked for them, thinking that it would elicit Apple-like results. My passion, though, has never changed: to build an organization that makes billions of dollars — but in a nice way. Honey over vinegar.”
Gary terms it “the honey economy” — and I agree with him. It works only when you treat every individual as a beating heart. Not an asset, not a commodity, not a good.
Trade secrets, platform relationships, revenue…they’re all inarguably critical to success, yet none of them are possible without the people who show up for you — literally and figuratively — each morning at 8:45 a.m. As Chief Heart Officer, it’s my responsibility to ensure we uphold that covenant, one which clinical terms like “human capital” and “talent” can’t ever aptly convey.
Back to that gauntlet.
People derive joy from any number of successes; my own joy comes from unlocking growth on a person-to-person level, which is the achievement I’m proudest of in my career. Just imagine, Gary said a few months ago, what you can do if you apply that on a macro level. So, here I am.
Maya Angelou’s salvo that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” is a personal North Star. I’d add to it that people will selflessly give you their hearts when you acknowledge, nurture, and inspire theirs in return.
Hi, I’m Claude Silver. Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia.
I wouldn’t phrase it any other way.