4 Ways Leaders Can Be Learners


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


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.”

We’re All Ears (And Big Brains) at Intelligent.ly!

As things here at Intelligent.ly really start to heat up, it’s pretty clear where we thrive. But it’s also clear that we’ve got plenty of room to grow and improve. Our top priority is to expose students to the most ideal learning environment possible, and the same goes for our instructors. We want everyone who comes to our classroom to consider it a comfortable end to your day, where you can relax and unwind while taking a professional step forward. Perhaps our most valuable resource for achieving this is the feedback from both the instructor and the students.

Simple comments results in small changes that produce big results all around. Here’s an example—after the first day of class, we received an email from student from recommending that we turn our straight across rows into a circular set up, letting people see one another to chat and engage. We took his advice and the results were immediately tangible. This small change resulted in a communal shift from a student/teacher to a student/peer/teacher relationship. Just being able to see one another promoted a sense of a shared goal, something in common with everyone around you. It helped to encourage connections and solidify them.

Aaron White, Co-Founder and CTO of Boundless Learning, recently taught a technical course on NoSQL with MongoDB. Following his class I asked him how he felt about the teaching experience. As an instructor, he felt very comfortable in the space provided and felt it worked very as a teaching environment. One thing he emphasized, besides the importance of feedback, was the ability to maximize the potential understanding students’ objectives prior to class. “I felt like if I had had a stronger outline up-front, it would have been more obvious to me that I delivered value to the students. Ideally, I’d do that, they’d write it, what they’d like to learn, and we’d all walk away happy!”  We listened to Aaron, and are making an effort to reach out before class, inquiring about students’ goals and what they’d like to take away from each class. We want to optimize everyone’s time and more specifically address students’ needs.

The idea of reciprocating the learning experience in the Intellignt.ly classroom involves everyone, including us. Whether it’s as simple as adjusting the lights or a recommendation about the class itself, we’re all ears. Find us before or hunt us down at info@intelligent.ly–we want to make as much progress as possible, maximizing the Intelligent.ly learning experience.