Friday, November 1, 2013

unCon 2013 Session: Mindful and Authentic Leadership at Work

Moderator: Matt Bellows, CEO, Yesware and Jim Rosen, Executive Coach 

Authenticity and transparency are company culture buzzwords these days, so it wasn’t a surprise to see this corner session quickly fill up with people wanting to hear tips and tricks on being a mindful leader. The interesting part was that the conversation quickly shifted towards assembling an incredible team.
Here are some of the key points, I gathered from the conversation.

Hire the right people. Whether your company is 40 people or 400,000 people, trying to enforce culture from the top down and posting up a set of values on the wall, won’t help much if you don’t have the right people who already embody some of that culture. How do you bring the right people on board? Be honest during the interviews. Jen Falasca from Smart Bear related hiring to dating. Everyone shows up to the first date with that perfect outfit and all the right things to say, but what about the third date? Be real about expectations and hours, but also toe the line. You don’t want to scare away a great candidate!

Ask if anyone has questions, and mean it. Have you ever rushed to another slide and then backtracked, "Oh, did anyone have any questions about that last point?", then waited half a second before continuing on? Make sure when you ask for questions, you are ready and willing to answer them. What if people aren't asking questions? Scan the room. Call on people that look concerned or who you know are directly affected by what you're talking about. Make sure you’re talking TO your team, not at them.

Speak the same language. As one of the participants noted, it's easy to be authentic when everyone's getting along and there's no disagreement. What he does at the beginning of each project, is define a lexicon and way to handle issues when they come up. That way there’s some ground rules that allow people to be themselves when tackling problems.

Empower your team. It’s easy for a team to look to the CEO to make all the decisions, but that’s when a bottleneck forms. Ben Carcio, CEO of Promoboxx, says that’s why you need to have a team that feels empowered to run on their own. Next time someone says, “wouldn’t it be nice if we did this”, don’t take on that task. Tell them to run with it on their own. Offer help, but let them own the project.

Show vulnerability. Great leaders show that they're not perfect. I love when a leader admits that they’re not the smartest person in the room, or tells a story of a mistake and how they rebounded from it. Acknowledge team members that have better expertise in areas that you don’t.

Ask how you can help. Show your team you’ve got their back. Josh Bob, from Experian, shared that he knows what his entire team wants to do in 15 years. How? He asks them. What do you want to do in 15 years? 10? What will you do in the next 5 years to get to there? How about in the next 2? Let your team know that you’re invested in them not only as team members, but as people.

 - By Trish Fontanilla, @trishofthetrade

VP of Community & Customer Experience, Vsnap

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