The Best Is Yet To Come

One year ago, I joined the Intelligent.ly team because I was excited to help build an organization that helps companies invest in their most important asset – their PEOPLE.

And in just over 12 months, we’re thrilled to have hit some serious milestones, witnessed just how meaningful it is for companies to show their employees they’re invested in their success, and discovered a real hunger for learning at all levels of of the startups we’ve served.

Here are just a few of our major wins from the last 365 days:

  • Enrolled 135 managers in Intelligent.ly Exchange, our program that helps new managers be great managers.
  • Helped 27 startups build a pipeline of talent with Exchange (see the full list here).
  • Created relationships with our venue hosts and fellow community builders: WeWork, MassChallenge, District Hall, and CIC Boston.
  • Hired a Content & Community Specialist to help us do more, faster.
  • Launched our Leadership + Libations event series to bring our community together to learn from some of our city’s best.

And, now…drumroll, please…

Please help me welcome Gabriela McManus, our new Director of Learning & Development!

AGabriela McManus New England native, Gabriela has focused her career on strategically building a leadership bench inside hyper-growth companies. Three years ago she entered the tech community by joining the inaugural people team at Infusionsoft (#13 Fortune Best Medium-sized Companies to Work For) to build their flagship Leadership Academy and much more in Arizona. She returned to the Northeast with her family in 2014 and is ready to drive Boston’s talent forward!

Gabriela knows what it takes to attract, retain, train and develop PEOPLE in high growth companies and is already hitting the ground running, ready to lead our seventh Exchange program in June. As we continue to grow, Gabriela will help identify and develop new program opportunities to help our partners win at every level.

Spoiler alert: stay tuned for more about EMERGE, a new one-day conference this July for individual contributors to learn ‘A-player’ leadership skills.

More to come about what’s on deck from Gabriela soon!

4 Ways Leaders Can Be Learners

SpeakerSpotlight

David Chang Image

You know you can improve as a leader, but you don’t know exactly what you should be doing differently. Sound familiar? David Chang popped into a recent Intelligent.ly Exchange session to share his advice around strategies leaders can adopt to invest in effective lifelong learning. .

Chang was the Chief Operating Officer of the PayPal Media Network, co-founder and VP of Marketing at Mobicious, and Director of Product Marketing at m-Qube, Inc. He has navigated the growth of rapidly scaling companies through acquisition to integration and beyond, and it’s safe to say he knows how to make team  members feel valued. Now, he’s laying the groundwork for his next challenge as an Entrepreneur & Angel Investor.

According to Chang, you should approach  developing your team as if they are replacing you, by empowering, coaching, and creating opportunities for them to grow into leaders in their own right. Beyond his success on paper, spending an hour with Chang leaves you with a strong sense of his style as an inspiring leader and mentor, and his authentic commitment to embracing feedback.

Know Your Team

As a manager, it’s essential to get the right people on your team. This requires you to not only understand how to identify people’s skills, but also see when a person has the will to learn skills that can be taught. Assembling the team is only the first step. To keep each team member engaged, challenged, and committed to your team, you must take the time to understand what motivates them individually.

Develop Your EQDavid Chang

A high level of emotional intelligence will help you objectively understand and harness feedback to your advantage by allowing you to separate your feelings from the comments you receive. Chang has worked hard to sharpen his EQ, and admits that although some opinions might sting a little, they will help you be more effective in the long run.

Here’s how:

  1. Ask for feedback
  2. Take time to objectively understand others’ perceptions of your behaviors
  3. Acknowledge your shortcomings, celebrate your strengths
  4. Say thank you
  5. Make plans for growth/improvement
  6. Repeat

Support Down, Share Up

Chang continues to learn as a leader by asking for feedback from his team, peers, and stakeholders at every level. Valuable feedback can come from teaching and supporting your direct reports’ success, as well as sharing with your managers how they can support you. Don’t be afraid to share what you need to be successful.

Take Action

When asked for a piece of actionable advice we can all put to use ASAP, Chang kept it simple: take a step back and open your eyes to others’ perceptions of your behaviors. Taking the blinders off can go a long way.

HubSpot’s Katie Burke on: Beyoncé, Pet Rocks, & Storytelling

Leadership + Libations: Katie Burke

Photo courtesy of @worldwidewolfe

Before making her way to PR, it only took six weeks for Katie Burke to realize that consulting wasn’t for her. A master of storytelling, Katie channeled her inner Olivia Pope early in her career at a political communications firm. She got her MBA at Sloan, then made the jump to PR at HubSpot, before recently transitioning to a new role as the company’s Director of Talent & Culture. From preparing for HubSpot’s IPO to navigating its tremendous growth, Katie is adept at swiftly adapting to change to rally people in the right direction.

We joined forces with Young Women in Digital to sit down with Katie for a fireside chat with one goal in mind: to tackle a topic we all need help with – learning how to tell compelling stories. Katie showed us how to craft our stories in a clear, concise way, own its execution, and write our own endings.

As one person listening in nicely put it, Katie is, “the most quotable person to walk the planet.” So, rather than try to summarize our experience, here are some Katie’s most memorable quotes:

Own your Beyoncé walk, and have the confidence of Queen Bey herself.

  • “Speak in statements, not apologetic questions.”
  • “Use actions to show your stakeholders you are hungry to grow.”
  • “You don’t get to places in your career by making safe bets.”

Do your homework. Know the story you want to tell.

  • “Part of storytelling is believing you can write a different ending than those before you, and being willing to write that narrative yourself.”
  • “When communicating your ideas, speak in ‘we,’ not ‘I,’ to show that your idea provides value to the company’s best interest.”
  • “Prepare for each stakeholder’s ‘pet rock’ (i.e. special interest), and know how to address that particular perspective.”
Katie Burke

Photo Courtesy of @MsChristinaCF

Plan your approach.

  • “Think, speak, and sell in headlines. Is your idea attention grabbing? If not, think bigger about what you’re pitching.”
  • “Have a 10-slide deck. If you’re presenting your slides for the first time at a meeting, you’re doing it wrong. Rehearse! Ask for feedback early and get buy-in first from the people you need to move the project forward.”
  • “Understand why your story matters to the business and how to engage your stakeholders. If your presentation doesn’t clarify the benefits to the company, you need to revisit your approach.”
  • “Take the time, several days beforehand, to get dissenters’ buy-in and feedback; address their concerns before you pitch, then tailor your approach for them for the actual presentation.”
  • “If you have a diverse audience, pick a high-level point that everyone will be able to buy into and rally around.”
  • “Show a bias for action.”

Follow up!

  • “The next day, follow up with an email that directly states outcomes, sets expectations, and asks for validation. Then run with it.”
  • “Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you need to execute your plan.”

Invest in your own professional growth.

  • “Lead by being open to feedback and continuous improvement.”
  • “Find one thing you can do that makes you indispensable to your team and make your perspective valuable through your actions.”

REPEAT.

10 Secrets to Great Leadership from Diane Hessan

Image: Diane Hessan, Startup InstituteAfter recently leaving her 13-year gig as Communispace CEO, Diane Hessan stepped into a new role as CEO of Startup Institute, a Boston-based company dedicated to helping people transform their careers and find jobs they love. There are few CEOs as charismatic and candid as Diane, so it’s no surprise that she is a stellar leader, committed to developing top talent in Boston’s startup community.

Last Tuesday night, Diane joined Intelligent.ly’s Abbie Waite for a fireside chat about leadership with 125+ members of our community. The audience was astounded by Diane’s openness—it was like chatting with an old friend about how she casually became CEO of an international organization. In spite of immense success, Diane maintains her humility, paying forward the wisdom she’s gathered over her remarkable career. Here are her top 10 secrets to great leadership:

1. Build your A-Team: From Diane’s experience, “A-players” transform teams and help take them to the next level. Diane supports her team by spending hours interviewing key players to ensure they’re a “fit,” build rapport, and learn what matters to them.

2. Being honest ≄ being mean: Leadership is about being direct and objective. Sometimes you need to have difficult conversations for the good of the company, but it doesn’t have to be mean. People value the truth, especially when it helps them in the long run.

3. There’s no such thing as, “I’m not a leader yet:” You can be a leader at any level. Leadership is more about empowering others to lead than getting them to follow.

4. Serendipity: Most of your life is the product of a few “aha” moments. Diane keeps these tucked away and remembered, and they shape how she leads her team.

Image: Abbie Waite, Diane Hessan5. Listen more than you speak: For her first month at Startup Institute, Diane did almost nothing but listen. She asked each team in the organization about their unique challenges, then began to formulate solutions.

6. You can’t do it all: You may be a leader, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything well. Instead, choose a few things you can do really well to impact your team, and focus on that!

7. Don’t keep secrets: Diane believes in being open and transparent with her team. Two weeks into her new CEO position, she laid out all the numbers for her team, a shocking and unprecedented move. This small action went a long way in helping her team understand how they contribute, building trust, and reducing anxiety.

8. Keep the conversation going: Leadership is all about having a continued conversation, and you never stop trying to raise the bar. Ask your team, “if you could wave a magic wand, what would this team be doing?” and get everyone involved in the vision.

9. You’re leading PEOPLE: Well, duh. But we truly can’t overstate this enough. Everyone’s different, and human beings want to know that they matter and that you’re thinking of them. They need to know what the team vision is and that it’s okay to screw up sometimes.

10. Embrace question marks: In rapidly growing organizations, scaling leadership is just as important as scaling the company itself. This oftentimes means not knowing all the answers, but rather having a diverse team who you can trust to have the answers you don’t have.

Want more great leadership pointers like these? Attend our next Leadership + Libations event OR learn more about Intelligent.ly Exchange!

 

Intelligent.ly Insights: Greg Raiz

Intelligent.ly Insights

Greg RaizThis week’s insights are brought to you by Greg Raiz, CEO of Raizlabs, an app company that’s been leading leading in mobile software development since before the launch of the iTunes App Store in 2008.

You may not have met Greg, but we bet you’ve met some of the essential apps he and his team have created, apps like HubSpot, Bloomingdale’s, Rue La La, and RunKeeper, to name a few. Greg approaches app development like he does his team: methodically. Raizlabs is known for their exceptional product management, creative design services, and impeccable execution. But that’s not the only thing that’s driving Raizlabs’ unprecedented growth—it’s their commitment to their people. Building the right team, capitalizing on each person’s skills, and promoting innovation from within…it’s all about the people.

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

We’ve spent a fair bit of time this year thinking about the culture of the company and how we can align the entire company around a vision and mission. Everyone wants to make a difference and feel that their work is important. We started by creating a high-level vision that we could rally around. It was important that the vision would stand the test of time and allow the organization some flexibility. Our vision statement of “shaping the world through great software” has led us to explore the values that our company felt were necessary for us to execute that vision. These values now guide most of the decisions we make from hiring, to the projects that we take, to the regular feedback we give to one another. Keeping the vision and values central to our process serves as a natural reminder for us. 

What’s one strategy or tactic that you consistently use to support the growth of your team.

Trust, but verify. I think it’s great to give your team a lot of trust and autonomy to grow, experiment and occasionally fail. The key is putting in your own checks to make sure they aren’t failing too much. Keeping track and closing the loop gives you the opportunity to give the person a pat on the back if they did a good job or a nudge in the right direction without micro-managing.

In your opinion, what is the primary role of a manager?

My primary role as a manager is setting up situations where people can be successful. This cuts across a number of things including hiring, company culture, tools and procedures. If I’m doing my job then the team can execute and do great work and it feels effortless. A mentor of mine explained it best; your team is a train, they are rolling along. It’s your job to make sure they have plenty of track and no hazards in the way.

How do you ensure that you stay in lock step communication with your team?

This has been an increasing challenge as the team has grown. It’s easy to stay in lock step with five people but hard to stay in lock step with 50. We have a company Town Hall meeting each week so everyone can get up to speed on the entire business with minimal overhead. Beyond this, I try to have regular conversations with both leads and individual contributors. This helps keep me stay grounded with what’s really going on at the company.

How do you continue to evolve as a leader?

As a leader, your job is constantly changing. One day you’re thinking about hiring, the next you’re dealing with technology questions. The key for me to evolve as a leader is to constantly question if the things I’ve done before continue to make sense as the company grows and changes. The way our company did projects stopped making sense at a certain size and scale. We had to unlearn certain habits and learn new ones. Growth as a leader is being open to change and adapting how I do things as the organization grows.

Greg Raiz founded Raizlabs in 2001, after getting his start at Microsoft. Since then, he’s been working toward his vision of building incredible software, and has helped over 100 companies improve the way they connect with their markets. Raizlabs was named one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in 2014.

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