Ready. Set. Change!

Kristen Yerardi- WordStreamCompanies are like kids. They grow, they get messy, they change, they make you laugh, and cry. Sometimes, all at the same time. Like kids, companies don’t stay the same, and eventually you just have to accept and embrace that. Kristen Yerardi, VP of Customer Success at WordStream, has grown her department from 4 to 45 since joining the founding executive team in 2010. Throughout her 15-plus years experience providing customers with excellence, Kristen has led teams of all shapes and sizes, so we asked her to join Exchange to share about HOW to embrace organizational change.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about adapting and evolving!

Listen, listen, and listen some more:

Kristen helps her team grow by showing empathy, sharing her personal experiences, and letting them learn from her mistakes. WordStream is known for its culture of transparency, so Kristen encourages each of her team members to be completely honest with her. She believes that a leader’s most crucial responsibility is listening in order to help the team make the best decisions. Have a “whatever happens within these four walls stays here” philosophy and allow your team to share openly what they need from you to do their jobs better.

Pass the baton:

You can never have too many direct reports, right? Turns out, you can from Kristen’s experience. She’s observed that truly effective  leaders can only meaningfully coach and support six to eight people at once. As your team grows, scale your leadership style by choosing your second-in-command, giving them a couple direct reports of their own so you can delegate more. Kristen takes the time to empower her team to be self-sufficient, providing them with growth opportunities that lead to higher levels of employee retention.

Go above and beyond:

Kristen’s job is to help WordStream grow, and that means growing with the company herself. To continue learning, Kristen says she constantly surrounds herself with people she can learn from, whether it be through an online forum (like LinkedIn), or by cultivating new mentor relationships with people she meets in the community. It’s all about  taking advantage of every opportunity you have to stretch your skills (and network)!

WordStreamWordStream Inc. is a provider of software and services that help search marketers maximize the performance of their PPC and SEO campaigns, driving traffic, leads, and sales for lower costs. Our easy-to-use PPC management software facilitates more effective paid search campaigns by increasing relevance and Quality Scores in Google AdWords, automating proven best practices, and delivering expert-level results in a fraction of the time.

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.

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.”

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!