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Twilio COO George Hu on what makes an employee great and not just good

Abstract:George Hu told Business Insider what separates great employees from good ones, and how he encourages young executives to broaden their horizons

  George Hu is the COO of multinational cloud communications provider Twilio, and the former COO of Salesforce.He joined Salesforce as an intern and was personally mentored by CEO Marc Benioff all the way up to the company's top team.In Hu's view, there's one key attribute that separates great employees from good ones.Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.George Hu is COO of Twilio, the cloud communications provider whose customers include Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. The 43-year-old told Business Insider over the weekend how his life changed forever when, as a young intern at Salesforce, he emailed CEO Marc Benioff with the solution to a problem.Salesforce didn't have a full understanding of its customers. The young Hu promptly analysed its customer base, and found most of its new users were coming in through word-of-mouth and referrals, rather than advertising. As a result, Salesforce pulled print advertising and bolstered its sales reps team.Benioff was so impressed that he began to mentor Hu, handing him a broad range of leadership roles in different areas of the company and paving his way to the C-suite.What Hu looks for in great employeesThe fact that a young Hu took it upon himself to solve such a major problem may strike you as exceptionally proactive. But it's illustrative of what Hu describes as the difference between good employees and great ones.“Good employees solve problems. Great employees solve problems you didn't even know you had,” he tells Business Insider.“To be a great employee, it's not just about doing your job. It's about having the spirit of an entrepreneur. It's about having passion and grit.”Read more: This high-flying tech executive's life changed when he sent Marc Benioff an email during an internship at SalesforceHu's view has echoes of a comment made by the late Steve Jobs, Apple's former CEO. In Walter Isaacson's biography, Jobs is quoted as saying “when you have really good people, you don't have to baby them.”“The best advice I can give to an aspiring COO is to take responsibility for business outcomes,” Hu continues. “I always tell aspiring executives to take responsibility for business outcomes, and put yourself on the line.Hu encourages Twilio executives to broaden their horizonsHu adds that young executives often ”go with the flow“ in a way that can stop them from identifying novel problems.”The biggest thing I see consistently with young executives is that they don't know what's possible; they don't know what's out there. [As a young executive], it's very easy to go with the flow. That's what Marc Benioff helped me to avoid, and that's what I try to do for others around me.“In addition to his COO role at Twilio, Hu actively mentors aspiring executives at the company — encouraging them to step into roles they wouldn't have otherwise considered.”Here at Twilio, I put one of our lead analysts in charge of sales accounts even though she's never done sales before,“ he says. ”She just won one of our internal employee awards.

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