Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony

By Oliver Smith 23 February 2017

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Bonny Hall to Cindy Gallop and Ela Darling, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Grant Langston, the chief executive officer of eHarmony, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

Grant Langston is a veteran eHarmony employee. He joined way back in 2000 as one of the first employees, when the business formed at the start of the 00s online dating boom.

Working his way up through the company’s communications and branding departments Langston became VP of brand marketing before getting promoted to CEO last year.

In his spare time Langston is still eHarmony mad. He co-hosts eHarmony’s dating podcast The Love Show, and even met his wife through eHarmony before marrying her in 2008.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Langston how he gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I’m up about 6am. I have two small children and I work hard to make the mornings about connecting with them and my wife.

Of course, touching base with the world is a necessary part of the morning routine. So I grab my phone and look at eHarmony’s numbers from the day before.

I always watch the local news for a weather update because I often ride my Vespa to work. I check my Twitter account for any unusual changes and then it’s off to shower and hit the road.

Of course, there’s lots of coffee involved in there as well.

What apps do you use to be more productive?

There are a few apps that form my toolbox:

Wunderlist: the best to-do list I’ve ever seen.

Evernote: I use this as a filing cabinet for personal items, but also as a work tool – speeches, presentations, thoughts, emails. I use this as my sketch pad because it follows me to every device.

iXpenseIt: I started using this about 5 years ago to track expenses and it has been a key contributor to better money management.

IFTTT: Another little tool for shortcuts. All my contacts get automatically added to a Google spreadsheet, my photos backup to Dropbox, my Facebook status updates are posted to Evernote. It’s an endless list of little functions that make my life work better.

CloudBeats: I’ve put my large music collection in Dropbox and CloudBeats lets me play it. No subscription service for me. I like owning my music.

SeatGuru: If you travel a lot, it’s a great way to avoid ending up in the quirky seat that will hurt your back.

What smartphone do you have?

I have an iPhone 7 Plus, 128GB in Silver.

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day?

This varies greatly. One of the things I like most about this role is the wide range of possibilities.

Some days I will meet with my core executive team members, and then wander the halls looking for random connections with staff. That’s a day with 10-15 “meetings”.

There are days when I speak publicly, meet with vendors, meet our customers, or address the entire company. Those days I meet with hundreds of people.

I have started to book out chunks of time where I’m just alone reading and thinking. The best contribution I can make to eHarmony is a well thought out perspective on the issues we face. That only happens when you tune out the word, get quiet, and listen to the voice in your own head.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. This is the book for the wartime CEO.

Not a list of platitudes and pep-talks. Ben writes about the pain and struggle with useful detail on how to manage it. Indispensable.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

The advice is always the same, no matter the industry. Find a place that’s doing the work you want to do, preferably a company that’s small and struggling, and reach out to them.

Tell them you love what they are doing and want to help. If they say “no thanks”, you move on to the next firm on the list. Eventually, someone will say “Sure, let’s talk.”

You show up hyper-prepared, full of enthusiasm, and willing to do what needs doing. Someone will eventually be desperate enough to hire you. Then you set about providing value that cannot be denied.

Will they notice? Will you advance? It doesn’t matter. You will learn and make friends.

If you keep providing thoughtful suggestions, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and a support of the team you will either be recognized or outgrow the place and move on to bigger and better things.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I do not subscribe to the ethos of constant work. When I hear CEOs bragging about answering emails at 11pm I wonder about his/her organizational skills, and his/her social life.

I work until I’m tired, because the work that needs doing never stops. That is usually between 5:30pm and 6pm. I am a firm believer in walking in the door and working with great purpose for 9 or so hours a day and then leaving mentally spent.

I do tend to send emails to my staff as ideas pop into my head, and that has been a big lesson for me. Dropping an email on Saturday afternoon can take me 4 minutes and an employee will work the entire weekend to deliver on my request.

I’ve learned to be sensitive to that.

I have come to love my hour commute home each day – in my car, poking along in traffic. I enter that car wound pretty tightly, and when I walk in the door to see my wife and kids I’ve shaken off most of my work worries.

I can listen to a podcast, make a call, smoke a cigar, and just unwind.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

So many idols. Musicians, Designers, Writers, Leaders.

If I only had one question I would pick someone who went through the most dire circumstance, Abraham Lincoln. The question would be, “What’s the best way to enjoy life and maintain perspective when the pressure is on and the chips are down?”

I see so many leaders consumed by their fight. They seem to be hating every minute of their work life. There’s a real skill to having fun when times are hard.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.