Insights w/ Larry Kim

INTELLIGENT.LY INSIGHTS lets you learn from leaders who have done it before.

For this series inaugural post, we’re thrilled to feature Larry Kim, CTO of WordStream. Larry is deeply committed to cultivating his team’s leadership skills, investing in future leaders to promote the company’s long-term growth.

Larry Kim PhotoWhat’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you as a new manager?

Building a start-up is a challenge, and communication is key among the few employees you have in the beginning. We recently did a communication exercise with our team, based on Exchange training, that really shone a light on the different personalities we have and how we can communicate more effectively with one another for better outcomes. This is the type of lesson I wish I’d learned earlier, when I was just starting up. As an entrepreneur, when you’re just getting into managing people, definitely take the time to actively work on communication with your team.

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

We have regularly scheduled meetings and training, but I think it’s also important to have an open-door policy. I mean, anyone can say they have an open-door policy for their employees, but you have to live it for it to be meaningful. People need to know they can bring their ideas and concerns to you without repercussion and that’s an environment that you build over time.

Describe what the term ‘Manage Up’ means to you. How have you see people manage up effectively?

At WordStream, managing up is critical for effective teamwork. In addition to managing up, which is making that effort consistently to go above and beyond to make your manager’s job easier, I think it’s important for everyone to “manage across” and even manage down! Companies don’t need a couple of heroes to carry the team – they need an entire team that feels empowered and like their work is appreciated. So manage up, yes, but it’s even better to get all employees thinking in a team mindset, not competing against one another but building the unit up as a whole.

Share one strategy or tactic that you consistently use to support the growth of your direct reports.

One thing we really focus on is giving employees ongoing learning opportunities. In tech and in other industries, as well, the industry changes constantly and very quickly. It’s to our benefit to keep our knowledge current, but it also feeds a personal development need in employees and executives. We do a lot of internal group work and training and have been sending our top team members to’s management development program, as well. You have to make time for ongoing education and prioritize it so employees have time to really get into it and bring those benefits back to your team.

Larry Kim is a marketing industry thought leader and the CTO and founder of WordStream, a million search marketing software and services provider based in Boston managing approximately a half Billion in ad spend for over two thousand small businesses. He regularly shares his advice and insight with over 750,000 visitors a month at his WordStream Blog and is a columnist and top contributor for leading industry publications including, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and Social Media Today.