Leaders love feedback


Cory von WallensteinIntelligent.ly Exchange’s fifth cohort kicked off with a bang when our partner, Cory von Wallenstein arrived as our first guest speaker last week. Cory was an instrumental leader at Dyn for six years, and recently launched a new startup, Adored, a customer loyalty app that’s revolutionizing the mobile rewards experience. Cory’s aptitude for embracing failure as a learning experience has helped him to become a model leader. The sixty minutes we had with him flew by, so here’s his advice in a nutshell:

Enjoy failing, enjoy learning: Cory’s humility in spite of his success stems from his failures. Instead of shying away from his mistakes, Cory has embraced them, leveraging what he’s learned to become a stronger and more impactful leader. You may be wondering why this guy is so gung-ho about failure. The answer’s simple—feedback. After every conversation with his team, Cory requests feedback so he can become the best version of himself, both personally and professionally. Rather than playing the blame game, he points the finger inward and asks himself how he can do better by his organization and his team.

CVW Fireside ChatI’m too busy” is the ultimate fallacy: According to this HBR article, the majority of managers “squander their time in all sorts of ineffective activities.” Leading is all about the people, Cory says, so it is a leader’s job to engage the team—no matter how busy they are. This means being crystal clear about what the priorities are, understanding what motivates each team member and how they define success, and not allowing procrastination or distraction to get in the way. Aligning their team with high-priority goals and helping each person understand how their role connects to the shared vision is the most important role effective managers share. Cory urges leaders to make time to discuss with each person their version of success and concrete steps they can take to achieve their goals.

And his actionable advice that everyone can do tomorrow to be a more effective leader?: “Have an impromptu 1:1 conversation with a team member about what drives them and how they define success. Open the door to more dialogue.”

Why You Need a Personal
Board of Directors

Sydney Atkins MasonWhy we all need a Personal Board of Directors and how to develop one.

Strong leaders know better than anyone that no one achieves anything alone. A support system is instrumental to achieving team goals, propelling individual career growth, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining sanity.

At a recent Exchange fireside chat, Sydney Atkins Mason, Investment Advisor at Goldman Sachs, shared why her “Personal Board of Directors” has been the most priceless weapon in her professional arsenal. It can be tricky to assemble the right network when you’re not sure what to look for, but Sydney credits her wealth of success to her relationships with three major people – her mentor, sponsor, and coach:

Mentor: Your mentor is the John Keating to your Dead Poets Society, the Socrates to your Plato, the Hagrid to your Harry. A mentor will never dole out the same piece of advice to two different people because to your mentor, you are a beautiful and unique snowflake, with triumphs and challenges that distinguish you from other snowflakes. A mentor helps you to evolve over time. This relationship is frequently a two-way street; the mentor is a catalyst for mentee growth, and mentors get the “warm fuzzies” from helping someone out.

Sponsor: Unlike a mentor relationship, a sponsor relationship is linear; your sponsor will catapult your success–if you play your cards right. Your sponsor can help you move forward in your career by publicly vouching for you, endorsing your skills and strengths, or even open doors you didn’t know existed. This person does this purely because they believe in you and, often, there is no way to repay them. This should be someone you deeply respect and admire, who can become your ally as you evolve in your career. Your success is your sponsor’s success, but be sure you pay it forward and become a sponsor to someone else. Don’t get greedy. You don’t want to be that guy.

Coach: A coach is your sounding board for any seemingly “stupid (functional) question” you have. Need help using the company database? Ask your coach. Having trouble understanding some jargon? Ask your coach. With your coach, all your questions are valid concerns. Your coach is who you rely on for your most immediate and basic job-related concerns.

Look around at who you know today and whether there are people in your midst who might naturally fill these roles for you. Have an open conversation, letting them know why you appreciate their advice and what your ask is, but most importantly, invest the time in developing those relationships. Now go!

Intelligent.ly Insights: Ben Carcio

Intelligent.ly Insights

Ben Carcio

This week’s insights are brought to you by Ben Carcio, CEO of Promoboxx, a company that connects brand manufacturers with independent retailers to help retailers become better marketers. Since 2010, Ben and his team have expanded Promoboxx’s capabilities to help industry-leading Fortune 500 companies like, Chevrolet, Pepsi, and Timberland.  Ben lead by example to create alignment among his team, sharing his own experiences to support the continued development of each individual in the company.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you as a new manager?

Never mess with someone’s paycheck. Its sounds silly, but as leaders we sometimes forget that we’re providing our employees with a livelihood. When things are stable nobody thinks about it, but when there’s any hint of instability all other leadership tactics fly right out the window. For example, when I was running a 25 person painting company in college, I was a day late on making payroll and 6 of my best guys quit to join another “more stable” company. This lesson sticks with me every day.

As your team grows, how do you ensure that you remain aligned around a central vision?

Communicate the vision. Communicate the vision again. Then communicate the vision some more.

In your opinion, what’s a manager’s primary role?Promoboxx Team

Below average managers assign subtasks and authorize vacation time.  Amazing managers are leaders, and leaders empower their employees to do more by setting a clear vision, providing the right resources, and building a great support team around them.

What’s the biggest leadership challenge you’ve had to overcome? How did you do it?

Lack of experience. One of the best ways to lead is through the sharing of personal experience with employees. But with Promoboxx I’m hitting some new challenges that I’ve never experienced before. So, I’ve found the best way to overcome this is to borrow from the experience of others. You can do this by reading the hundreds of amazing leadership blogs out there, or even better, by reaching out to real live mentors for some 1:1 help over a coffee or beer.

Ben Carcio is a startup veteran with over 12 years of online brand marketing experience. He founded Promoboxx in 2010 and has been working hard ever since to provide retailers, like GE, Chevrolet, Pepsi, and Nestle, with the digital marketing tools they need to transform their brand. Ben has been known to share his insights with the startup community at the annual Boston Tech Co-Party, on the Promoboxx Blog, through Intelligent.ly, and beyond.

Want to learn leadership skills from more startup vets? Enroll in Intelligent.ly Exchange!

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist

8 Expert Leadership Resolutions to Steal for 2015

While Beyonce may be the rare exception, no one is perfect – we all have a bit of space in our lives for growth. Rather than focus on ambitious goals and heavy planning to fuel your New Year’s resolution, this year, we encourage you to start simple. Think about one thing you can do to improve as a leader- whether it be delegating projects, focusing on key tasks, or prioritizing work-life balance- and set aside time each week to reflect on the progress you’re making. And don’t beat yourself up – give yourself room to make mistakes and modify your approach. With that in mind, we asked exceptional Boston leaders to share their 2015 resolutions. Take a cue from the pros!

Kristen YerardiDavid BrownDebbie CavalierDan AllredBen Carcio Jennifer LumMike TroianoSarah Hodges

Interested in more  tips for achieving your 2015 leadership resolution? Check out Intelligent.ly Speaker Spotlights to learn from the best!  

Top 10 Leadership Posts of 2014

Effective leadership isn’t about who you know, or what your job title is. It’s about inspiring greatness by creating a clear vision and aligning your team to achieve results. Great leaders, by definition, take matters into their own hands to drive their success, and this means actively continuing to invest in self-improvement and personal growth.

We know you’re busy, and don’t have time to scour the Internet for the best leadership articles, so we did it for you. We searched high and low for great leadership reads and carved them down to our top 10, and wrapped them up with a big bow! This compilation of the ultimate leadership articles of 2014 is our gift to Boston’s incredible community of achievers, creators, and builders. Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in 2015!

1. The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2014: Fast Company

This one’s thrown into the mix to inspire you. As you wrap up 2014, think about who you want to become as you move on to 2015. This list of creative people in business includes founders, Fortune 500 presidents, Hollywood actresses, and everyone in between with motivating stories of success to learn from.

2. How Great Leaders Inspire Action: TED, Simon Sinek

In this TED Talk, author Simon Sinek communicates his model for inspirational leadership, all stemming from the question, “Why?” He uses real-world examples to help his audience become motivating, action-oriented leaders. At Intelligent.ly, we believe in the power of giving people a compelling reason to back up their actions,  and Simon generously shares this perspective in his electrifying talk.

3. 7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (But Mere Managers Always Fear): Inc.,    Bill Murphy, Jr.

This article reinforces the fact that managers and great leaders have different skillsets, both of which can be taught. Leaders value honesty and transparency, as well as building relationships with team members, seeing them as people rather than job titles. They understand that team dynamic is just as important as driving results.

4. Leading Your Team into the Unknown: Harvard Business Review, Nathan Furr & Jeffrey H. Dyer

As companies transform in size, location, and scope of services, it’s up to team leaders to provide a sense of stability. As a leader, you are the Indiana Jones of this operation, leading your team into the dark unknown and maintaining focus to come out the other side. Clarify a vision, set challenging yet attainable goals, and take risks.

5. This Unusual Startup Strategy Led to a $200 Million Acquisition by Microsoft in 18 Months: Inc., Larry Kim

MicrosoftIn this Inc. article, Wordstream founder and CTO Larry Kim interviews Acompli’s co-founders about their startup strategy that resulted in a crazy lucrative acquisition in record time. For them, it was as simple as defining the vision and focusing all of their priorities on achieving (and maintaining) that vision.

6. The Boring Trait Google Looks for in its Leaders: iDoneThis, Walter Chen

Nobody does leadership like Google. In recent years, Google has been focusing on developing Project Oxygen, their own analysis of what makes their managers successful. The verdict is in, and according to Google’s findings, predictability is among the traits most heavily associated with fantastic leaders. We never would’ve predicted that!

7. Proven Ways to Earn Your Employees’ Trust: Harvard Business Review, Carolyn O’Hara

When managing individuals, establishing trust should be one of your top priorities. In this Harvard Business Review article, Carolyn O’Hara maps out the do’s and don’ts of building relationships with the team. Spoiler alert: you don’t need to do trust falls in the breakroom to facilitate great working relationships.**

8. I Sold My Google-Backed Startup for $75 Million Yesterday– and I’m Scared to Death: Inc., Dave Balter

IDave Baltern this Inc. article, serial entrepreneur (and Intelligent.ly founder!) Dave Balter provides a candid look into the challenges that come with a rapidly expanding business and gives advice to leaders managing teams during these tumultuous times. For Dave, it was all about clarifying the vision and then driving it home. We think he’s an all-star genius…but we may be biased!

9. Being a Good Manager: Overcoming 5 Common Myths: Huffington Post,     Sara Hershfeld

According to Certified Behavior Analyst Sara Gershfeld, becoming a great leader is about catching yourself in the act of unproductive behaviors and correcting them. She provides guidance on how to handle leadership challenges in a way that promotes team success with just a few simple behavior modifications.

10. 10 Fastest Growing Companies in Boston: Inc., Anna Hensel

Boston is one of the most talented and rapidly expanding startup communities in the country and we’re honored to be a part of it. Growing by 3,860%? This list of 10 fastest growing companies is equally impressive as it bewildering.

** Intelligent.ly does not promote, facilitate, or otherwise endorse any office horseplay, including, but not limited to, trust falls.