3 Things You Can Do When You Don’t Have Time for Coaching

This post first appeared on BostInno.

“When we started our company, we were scrappy and lean. We hired a bunch of people in their early 20s with tons of hustle. Now we’re growing like crazy, and they’re in over their heads. It’s really not their fault – they’ve taken on more responsibility, we want to help them grow, but no one has the time for coaching.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with startups.

We invest so much time and energy in staying ahead of the market by developing new product features. Yet over and over again, we lag in developing our people. We wait until the pain is acute, when attrition skyrockets and people start leaving for better opportunities, or employee engagement and happiness hit rock bottom. Remember who builds those product features – people.

One thing’s for sure: employees often feel the pain before their leaders do. A Deloitte study of millennials noted that among employees who are likely to leave their employers within the next two years, 71 percent are unhappy with how their leadership skills are being developed. SHRM reports that the direct replacement costs of employee turnover can run as high as 50% – 60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. That’s a whole lotta Benjamins.

When the reality finally hits us in the face like a bucket of cold ice water, managers get all the love. We double-down on sending managers to workshops and conferences and investing in coaches – but what about individual contributors? Plenty of employees deliberately choose an individual contributor path (HubSpot’s Pamela Vaughan wrote a great article about this). Others are high performers on the road to future management roles. They’re not managers, but they are leaders. And they’re critical to a company’s success.

Boston startups are starting to take note. Companies and programs like Intelligent.ly EMERGE are stepping up to shine a light on the importance of developing our city’s next-generation of leaders. I’m a co-founder of Intelligent.ly; at the last Emerge event, I heard from a handful of Boston’s best tech recruiters and leaders.

HubSpot’s Katie Burke shared her perspective: “One of the most critical steps in retaining top talent in Boston is ensuring that rising stars in the tech community receive the training, support and network they need to grow personally and professionally in their careers.” They’re not alone.

Loren Boyce, Director of Talent at Yesware echoed the focus on investing in personal development for individual contributors, “We are all-in when it comes to providing resources and experiences that help our employees reach their professional potential.”

What can you and your company do to develop these leaders? Here are three tips:

Start a Conversation

The first step to developing individual contributors is understanding how they want to grow. Let your team members know that you want to support their personal development. Set up a 1:1 to talk through their personal goals, and together, consider the resources you can help provide. This might mean connecting them with mentorship opportunities or investing in skills training. You won’t know until you ask.

Self-Assess

Experts go back and forth on the science and applicability of the various personality tests that dominate leadership development conversations. My perspective is that if they help you better understand something about yourself – your strengths, and the way you operate – it’s a win for everyone. 16Personalities provides a simple and free personality test based on the Myer-Briggs approach. Encourage your team members to learn from the insight that resonates for them…and don’t stress about the areas that don’t.

Organize a Leadership Lunch & Learn

Consider how many individual contributors you could reach with solid leadership advice if you leveraged your internal team to set up a weekly or monthly Leadership Lunch & Learn. Invite respected leaders from inside your company to share leadership advice and tips that helped them through their own careers.

Close your eyes. Think about all the individual contributors in your company. Consider what you could achieve if they truly had the coaching they need to fulfill their leadership potential. Now envision them walking out the door because you don’t have time to support them. Scary, right?

It’s Not Easy Being Green: A Millennial’s Guide to Leadership

Big news, guys. This month marked my first ever work anniversary. There was blood, sweat, and more tears than I’d care to admit, but here I am, one year after signing onto my role as Intelligent.ly’s Content & Community Specialist. For most seasoned professionals, this is no magnificent feat, but my fellow Millennials (and Kermit the Frog) know that it’s not easy being green.

If television has taught me anything, it’s that most 23-year old Communication Studies majors are doomed for years of frustration and debt before having a job they love. I was one of the lucky ones, I guess. In hindsight, before joining Intelligent.ly, I was naive to the monumental importance of leadership. The simple truth is leadership can’t be taught in college; it’s learned from experience – and many of us don’t get direct access to learn from strong leaders early on in our careers.

After 31 Exchange sessions, 2 EMERGE workshops, and an endless supply of leadership inspiration from the Boston community, I’m by no means a guru. But I have learned a thing or two about what makes organizations and teams successful from 500 people across 50 startups:

Know yourself: This is Day 1 of Exchange, and it’s critical for us youngsters. In a sea of resumes, self-awareness can be the thing that sets you apart from the pack (Whitney Johnson calls this the “competitive advantage”). Knowing your strengths and your weaknesses will allow you to find areas you can really shine, and generate baselines for meaningful growth. It also helps to know how you like to be communicated with, and what truly motivates you.

And, know your team: We spend so much time working that our teams become like our families. To keep frustrations low and productivity high, it’s important to know what each member loves, makes them tick, and how they learn best. So many lapses in productivity are caused by miscommunication. Ask each member what they need from you, in terms of communication. You can use this blueprint to share each other’s quirks!

Conflict is good: Startup life can be emotionally taxing, and conflict is inevitable. Create an open environment with your team by being vulnerable, sharing your challenges, and consequently creating trust to ensure healthy conflict. This means everyone’s perspective is valued and team members are open to growth.

Ask for help: Spoiler alert: at 23, I still don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay. No one expects you to. Give yourself a break, and lean on others for advice and best practices. Our program, participants and guest speakers alike talk about the importance of having a meaningful network. At Exchange, we have participating managers ask their peers for advice. Create your own web of trusted individuals you can ask for help, and learn from them.

Lack of experience ≠ lack of leadership: This one was an eye-opener for me. I spent months diminishing my own opinions, firmly believing that those with more experience knew better. I’m still working on it, but I’m slowly learning that you can be a leader…even if you were born in the ‘90s. You were hired for a reason, and your opinion matters, if nothing else to provide a new perspective.

Create your own path: What I love about my role at Intelligent.ly is that it’s not set in stone. I’m young; I don’t know what I want yet. I have no 5-year plan. And startups are the perfect place for that. My role (and yours) can become whatever you want it to be, if you prove you’re worthy of the reward.

Quick Guide:
Owning Your Leadership Role

Dave McLaughlin WeWorkLeaders face all kinds of inner conflicts: projecting confidence without appearing arrogant; being humble yet strong; being agile, but firm in their vision. Exceptional leaders are masters of this balancing act, as WeWork City Lead, Dave McLaughlin showed us during a recent Intelligent.ly Exchange session.

Before joining the WeWork team in May, Dave was the CEO and Co-Founder of Vsnap, a video messaging system for sales reps who need a quick and effective way to create face time with their customers from afar. Adding to his list of impressively original professional journey, Dave was also Marketing  Director for Mayor Menino, and Writer of the feature film “Southie,” starring Rose McGowan, Amanda Peet, Donnie Wahlberg, and Will Arnett. Besides having a genuine interest in how his journey unfolded, we’d also heard that “Dave is the best manager” from a handful of friends, so we were anxious to sit down with him to learn how he supports the success of his team.

Here’s what we learned from Dave about how to build teams effectively:

Have Humility…And Bulletproof Confidence

Successful leaders are open to the opinions of others, and incorporate feedback to complement and enhance their own ideas. Be open to understanding (and asking for) your team’s perspectives, but when push comes to shove, great leaders don’t shy away from making executive decisions. Leaders need to have the confidence to be bulletproof under fire, in order to maintain their stakeholders’ trust and make the best decisions for their teams in the long run.

Here are three things to consider when asking for feedback from your team:

  • Carve out time to sit down with your team to ensure that they understand your values, inspiring trust for open communication
  • Incorporate a touchpoint to gather feedback during the process of developing new ideas. Encourage the team to speak up, and if need be, challenge you, to get the best possible results
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of learning new things.

Know Your Team- Well Enough to Appeal to THEIR Interests:

Your leadership narrative for your team needs to be authentic; if you want people to follow, you’ve got to believe in where you’re headed. Ask your team lots of questions to get them to affirm what they believe in and care about, and use this as leverage when forming the vision. When the whole team can own the vision, you’ll be more cohesive, productive, and proud of your outcomes. Want to hone your authentic leadership skills to learn how it relates to influence and gaining buy-in from others? Enroll in EMERGE.

Be clear and intentional with how you create culture:

Company culture consists of more than grabbing drinks with your team after work. Culture begins with  a set of explicitly stated values. Having clear values is one of the most pragmatic things you can do. These values give employees a roadmap for navigating tense situations when they do arrive, and help create cohesiveness throughout the organization. Leaders should be sure to circulate values within everyday conversations so they become natural touchpoints.

Want one actionable piece of advice you can implement today? Ask yourself what is the thing that, when you’re doing, you lose track of time? That’s what you’re meant to be doing, so be great at it.

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.

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.