Say hello to our new Content & Community Specialist!

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It’s not every day you see a personal statement accompany a resume. Especially not from recent college grads. But Rachel’s did, so we took notice. And it didn’t take long for her calm confidence, witty remarks, and marketing smarts to win us over.

Although new to the startup world, Rachel’s desire to create is not. She was a communications and PR major at Northeastern University and completed co-ops at EF Education, Kravet, and the Improv Asylum, expanding each role she undertook.

Rachel will be sharing success stories and speaker insights from Intelligent.ly Exchange- our management development program- often, so stay tuned!

Give @rachelwaldmann a shoutout or email her at rachel@intelligent.ly.

Abbie Waite
@abbottwaite

Leadership Lessons: Ralph Folz

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folz__ralphLast week at Intelligent.ly Exchange, we had the good fortune to be joined by Ralph Folz, CEO of WordStream. Ralph got his bearings as a nerdy engineer, before getting bit by the entrepreneurship bug at age 26. As a leader, Ralph is genuine, honest, and deliberate about his strengths and limitations. He has a deep understanding of his communication style, and his sense of self-awareness and thoughtfulness make him an incredibly approachable executive. Wordstream was established just seven years ago, and has rapidly become one of the most respected high-growth search marketing software companies around. His secret? Embracing diversity, laser sharp focus, and goal simplification.

Hone Your Strengths

In Ralph’s words, “There are different flavors of people.” Leaders can maximize team success by targeting each team member’s specific “flavor” or strength. You can’t make employees into something they’re not; all you can do is hone in on what each person can bring to the table, celebrating the diversity of skill sets among your team. For all you Red Sox fans, Ralph described it like this: if you had nine Manny Ramirez’s in the field, you’d hit a million home runs, but you probably wouldn’t win.Ralph Folz Key Takeaways

Focus

No matter how large your company is or how quickly you’re scaling, maintaining a focus on your core values is critical. Ralph noted that clarity about your core values not only creates direction, but can also help frame difficult conversations. He humbly admitted that in fact, he isn’t perfect; owning that helps him create the right team. For so many startups, growth is hectic and not easily planned. Strongly aligned values keep teams rowing in the same direction, as the environment around them rapidly changes. Transparency and conviction in upholding the culture that makes your team unique are key to developing a thriving business.

It’s all about 1’s and 0’s

In a successful team like Ralph’s, all members have the same core values, so when problems arise, everyone is able to keep their eye on the common goals. At Wordstream, the executive team shares four core goals, which allows the team to approach conflict more objectively. Alignment of goals helps the team to embrace healthy conflict with rich debate before choosing the best course of action. Ralph is an engineer at heart, which means everything can be measured. He quantifies goals as simple 1’s and 0’s. I know what you’re thinking–really? We’re bringing math into this? Fret not! Ralph assured us that success can be determined objectively, with each person focusing on three simple, measurable goals. At the end of each quarter, goals can be defined as a 1 or 0–either they were achieved or they weren’t. If there are 0’s present, the goal needs to be defined more clearly. Clear goals and values drive decisions toward success and keep the team hungry for that sense of achievement.

His last snippet of advice: Have a mentor and a network. Overcommunicate.

Thank you, Ralph!

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann

Hello, Intelligent.ly!

Boston’s startupRachel Waldmann community thrills me. I applied for dozens of roles across so many interesting companies in Boston before I accepted the role as Intelligent.ly’s Content & Community Specialist. I love that startups achieve big goals with dedicated, passionate teams and the work hard, play hard attitude has always been so quintessentially me.

After my first meeting with Abbie Waite, I went home to my roommates and told them I interviewed with a non-arrogant version of Gwyneth Paltrow–she was approachable, compassionate, blonde, and had me hooked with her passion for helping people lead, to win. When I learned about how Intelligent.ly Exchange solves the management gap that even I, a recent college grad, have experienced already in my career, I wanted IN!

In my new role at Intelligent.ly, I’ll be coordinating Intelligent.ly Exchange, sharing success stories and leadership insights on our blog, planning community events, and hopefully meeting many of you in person very soon!

Iggy WigglesSome fun facts about me: I’m from Long Island, I graduated from Northeastern last May, I volunteer with the MSPCA-Angell animal shelter, I have a pet hedgehog named Iggy (he’s a monster), I studied abroad in Prague, and my spirit animal is Liz Lemon. People always expect me to be taller when they meet me.

I’m passionate about content creation, visual design, and event planning, and am psyched to hone all of these skills at my new Intelligent.ly job (I love saying it…”my new job”).

But enough about me. I can’t wait to learn about you!

Rachel Waldmann

Rachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann

Be like Mike!

Mike Troiano“All the pain in your life will be caused by distance from the truth,” said Mike Troiano, CMO and self-proclaimed “Communicator-in-Chief” at Actifio. Think that’s profound? Now think about how a company that’s only 5 years old is already worth $1.4 billion dollars. With Troiano and a group of seriously intentional leaders at the helm, it’s no surprise that the copy data management company is rapidly growing into one of Boston’s biggest success stories.

On Monday night, Mike joined Intelligent.ly’s Abbie Waite for a fireside chat about leadership with 200 members of startup community. Perhaps most impressive about Mike is how he commands a room, like that funny uncle who you deeply respect and are also a little afraid of disappointing. In spite of huge success, he maintains his humility and charisma- admirable characteristics of a seasoned leader.

During the evening, Mike relayed sound words of advice. As a new professional getting my career off the ground, I’m making them words to live by. The resounding theme was that people are perhaps the greatest (and sometimes most difficult) part of being in business, and as a leader you have to establish enduring trust and open lines of communication right from the start.

Mike broke effective leadership into three actionable buckets:

Be Human
“Understand people, what matters to them, who they love, and what they’re afraid of,” Mike advised. Starting with the human side of management helps leaders motivate their teams, foster healthy conflict, and drive results.

Mike entertained the crowd with an anecdote about the epic difference between Italian sauce and gravy; sauce takes 20 minutes to whip up, while gravy is an all day affair, that requires slaving over a stove, and putting blood, sweat, and tears into the final product, but is worth every ounce of effort. The effort Mike puts into his gravy is paralleled only by the thought he puts into building relationships with his team. Ultimately, good business is good people, and exceptional leaders understand what motivates and challenges each individual member of a team.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
Mike Troiano
Mike asserted that managers need to ask themselves, “What are the three most important things right I can do to grow our business right now?” Focus solely on doing those (and only those) three things. Take for instance, when Mike joined the executive team at Actifio. His first move was to identify key stakeholders, focus on understanding their needs and challenges, and create lists of each team member’s goals. Within the first week, he realized where the communication gaps were, and set a clear vision for moving forward. He asked himself, “What am I good at?” and set an actionable strategy for using his skills to fill in the gaps and add value to the team.

As a leader, you’ll have boundless opportunities, but Mike urged us to proceed with caution to avoid falling victim to the overwhelming choices that come with growing a company and a team. Choose a few areas where you can add value to your team, and give them all you’ve got. Prioritize.

Keep it Simple
Mike drove this home over and over: it’s a manager’s responsibility to set clear expectations for each team member right from the start. Communication should be clear, direct, and honest. This is the best (and if we’re being honest, only) way to retain employees for the long haul.

When a team member lacks success, leaders need to take a good hard look at the mirror and think about why this person’s results are not measuring up to the expectation. And then you have to think about what you can do to support each individual on your team. Do you need to clarify your expectations? Provide your team member with a tool or resource to improve their performance? Is there tension within the team? Whatever it is, it’s up to the leader to provide clarity. It’s as simple as that.

Preach, Mike. Preach.

Rachel WaldmannRachel Waldmann
Content & Community Specialist
@rachelwaldmann

The Secret to Bill Belichick’s Success

The New England Patriots have won all but two AFC East titles since 2001, and haven’t had a losing season since 2000. Think it’s all because of Bill Belichick sick coaching skills? Think again. Bill Belichick’s primary responsibility isn’t just coaching–it’s making sure the team is made up of the best players (and coaches) for every position at any given moment. Belichick’s primary responsibility is talent density.

Last week, Swami Kumaresan (Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners; Former SVP, Product and Engineering at Carbonite) stopped by Intelligent.ly Exchange as Swami Kumaresan Photoa guest speaker to share his thoughts on building exceptional teams. Swami was instrumental in Carbonite’s growth, helping lead the company to its 2011 IPO, but his proudest accomplishment is building strong teams. When asked to share how he’s cultivated the right talent mix, density always emerges as a recurring theme; you have to get the right people on the bus.

So, what is talent density? In short, managers and coaches (like Belichick) have to be fanatical about recruiting and cultivating stars for their teams if they want to win. This idea typically sparks concern in our Exchange sessions among managers; they react by pointing to their team members’ potential, or their stellar attitudes, urging that “the stars” aren’t the only people who can play to win. But people want to be surrounded by team members who are exceptional at what they do, who lift them up, who push them to do their best by leading with a positive example, who help them learn and grow by sharing their own insight and experience. If this reminds you of the Netflix Culture Deck – you’re getting the message!

Believe focusing on talent density is good advice? We had a full 60 minutes with Swami jam-packed with tips. Check in with us next week to get the scoop straight from Swami himself on why he believes in the importance of managers fostering trust on their teams, and discover the difference between “trust in agenda” and “trust in ability”.