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!

 

 

Leaders love feedback

SpeakerSpotlight

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.”

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!

Image: Kristen Yerardi, WordstreamImage: David brown, Technology Underwriting Greater Good TUGGImage: Debbie Cavalier, Berklee OnlineImage: Dan Allred, Silicon Valley BankImage: Ben Carcio, Promoboxx Image: Jennifer Lum, Adelphic MobileImage: Mike Troiano, ActifioImage: Sarah Hodges, Smarterer, Intelligent.ly

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