Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan

Culture is usually the hardest thing for organizations to figure out.

It’s something you can’t see or touch.

Culture is how employees feel working for the organization.

I’ll never forget the story of when President Kennedy visited NASA Space Center.

In the middle of his tour, he saw a man walking down the hall with a mop and a bucket.

President Kennedy stopped the tour and went over to the man and said, “Hi, I'm President Kennedy. What do you do here?” And the man said: “I helped put a man on the moon.”

This is the type of culture they had in NASA, and it’s something every company should have.

The type of culture you have in your organization greatly impacts the employee experience.

Direct download: 7._he_Impact_Corporate_Culture_has_on_Employee_Experience_AME.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 12:29pm PDT

Kathy Mazzarella is the Chairman, President, and CEO at Graybar, a wholesale distribution company that’s been around for 151 years. The company has around 8,700 employees and $7.5 billion in revenue. She has been with the company for 41 years and has been president for 9 of those years.

Kathy Mazzarella has a great story of how she first started at the company she now leads as Chairman, President, and CEO. When she was 19 years old she decided she didn’t want to go into medicine anymore so she dropped out of college, where she had a full scholarship, and moved back home with her parents.

It only took about three days before both she and her parents came to the mutual conclusion that Kathy needed to get a job and move out.

So she set up an interview with a company called Genentech where she was applying to do some research work. But on the day of the interview she got lost and had to ask for directions.

She just happened to walk into Graybar to ask someone at the front desk for directions and the woman asked Kathy if she was looking for a job. Kathy said she was and the woman let her know they were hiring and asked if Kathy wanted to take the test. Kathy agreed to do the test, she was hired, and that was the start of her 41 year career at Graybar.

Over the past few decades she has worked her way up from an entry level employee to leading the company. And she believes that day she got lost was a blessing because it led her to an amazing career.

Why you should take the jobs that make you the most uncomfortable

Even though Kathy has worked at the same company for 41 years, she has worked in around 15 different positions within the company. It was actually her time in HR that really shaped her current leadership approach, because she was truly able to see the people side of the business.

Prior to working in HR Kathy was a very number focused type of person. It really changed her perspective and made her focus more on the people she worked with. Kathy believes the best leaders have the broadest experience. Because experiencing different roles inside of a company or in a few different companies helps leaders gain an appreciation of how interconnected the business actually is. It helps them see the different roles, elements, and responsibilities that make up the business.

A lot of roles can look easy from the outside looking in. But when you truly experience the role for yourself, most likely it isn’t as easy as it seems.

Kathy also advises leaders to take jobs that make them uncomfortable. She says, “When you're the expert, you tend to get into autopilot mode. You're very comfortable in your lane, you stay in your lane, and it's really fun to be the expert that everybody comes to you to ask your opinion on a particular topic. It's very uncomfortable to go into a position where you have no grounding. But you also really challenge yourself. I've told people in the past, take the job that you're least qualified for. Because you're going to learn the most, you're going to work harder than you've ever worked, you're going to challenge yourself, and you're going to have to lean and depend on your team more if you don't know the topic.”

You definitely open yourself up to a lot more opportunities when you have a wide variety of experience and skills.

What it’s like being a female CEO

When asked what it is like being a female CEO Kathy says she doesn’t think of herself as a female CEO. She just always knew she had to do a good job and work hard.

As Kathy shares, “when I said I was going to do something, I would make sure I did it. And I never really thought about the fact that being a woman, I couldn't be president. Some of that could have been because I was raised that way to my father was a very big influence on my life. And he taught me that the only limitations I had in life were those that were self imposed and that I should never let anybody in my life put me in a box.”

When she first started as CEO there were 18 women who were leading Fortune 500 companies and now there are 37, so progress is slowly being made even though there is still a long way to go. But as Kathy mentions women didn’t really become influential in the workplace until the 80s and 90s, so the start of the progress didn’t start until fairly recently. So Kathy believes that as time goes on we will see more and more women leaders.

The truth about balancing everything as a CEO

Early in her career Kathy was traveling a lot, she was working long hours to prove herself at work, she was going to school at night, plus she was raising young children with her husband who was also in school getting his PhD. She remembers it being very difficult and stressful, but they made it work.

A lesson that she learned during this time was that not everything is going to be balanced all the time, and that’s okay. She says, “Keeping the balls in the air, some of the balls fell, you know, I mean, you can't be perfect. That was a lesson that I learned in my mid 30s. I remember coming in from traveling in the house was a mess. And because my husband was doing the best he could, I had two little kids running all over the place. And I remember falling just to the floor in the hallway and I said I can't do this anymore. I can't be perfect. I can't have the perfect house. I can't have straight A's. I can't be number one at work. I can't have my kids being perfect, I just can't.”

And she says finally giving herself permission to not have to be perfect was a life changing moment. She realized that trying to be perfect was actually selfish, because being perfect is not about helping other people, it's about caring too much about what people may think about you. It is a never ending quest to be an artificial character.

Giving yourself permission to be human releases a lot of stress and pressure that comes along with perfection. In life you are not always going to have things balanced, it is about making choices. At different points in your life you will need to focus more on work and in others you will need to focus more on family and your personal life. And that’s okay.

What keeps Kathy motivated

Kathy has a very rigorous schedule with a lot going on, especially now that she is leading a company through a pandemic. She also wakes up at 4am everyday so she can go through her morning routine before starting work around 7am. In normal times she travels a lot, although this year has been different.

But with her busy schedule and the pressure of work what keeps her motivated? She says being the CEO of one of the largest and oldest companies in the United States comes with a lot of responsibility. A lot of people are depending on her to run the company in the best way possible.

How she leads impacts how her employees feel and how they interact with their customers and their communities. They count on her to make the big decisions so that they can do their best. Kathy feels she has to work harder than they do.

She says, “I need to work harder than them. Because they depend on me to take care of the big stuff. So they don't have to worry about it. And I can't let these people down. I just can't let these people down. The people that work for Graybar, and our customers are amazing human beings. That became even more evident during this pandemic. And the way they gave back to the communities the way they took care of each other. And even the way they took care of me. That's the reason I get up. And anytime I feel sorry for myself or get tired or get exhausted, or get frustrated or burned out, I think about that person that's counting on me. And the fact that these people care so much, that they even care about me, I can't let them down.”

The moment that had the biggest impact on Kathy’s leadership approach

When asked what moment most shaped her as a person and her leadership approach, Kathy shared a story of a time when she was passed up for a big promotion. At the time she was a vice president and there was a senior position open that she applied for.

She worked really hard, she and her family had sacrificed a lot in order to work hard. She worked on the weekends, she worked overtime, she traveled a lot. So when she didn’t get the job she was devastated.

She thought about giving up on growing her career or about possibly moving companies. But she called her dad and he gave her great advice. He told her, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Everybody's going to watch how you recover. This will determine your future and leadership. So make that call now and step up.”

He told her to call the person who got the role to congratulate him and to offer her support. He reminded her that not everyone gets the job they want, it’s all about how you recover. Her dad went on to say that one of the biggest regrets he had in his career was moving companies when he didn’t get a promotion he wanted. And he advised Kathy to not make the same mistake.

So Kathy took her dad’s advice. She called the guy who got the job, congratulated him and told him she wanted to do anything she could to make him successful in his new role. And it ended up having a big impact on her career.

When the time came for Graybar to get a new CEO one of the people voting on who to put in place recalled the time when Kathy lost the job and how she handled herself. He said it really showed that she put the company first and that really changed his perspective of her. Now the man who got that original promotion reports to Kathy. And he is one of her strongest partners.

Leadership lessons Kathy has learned

Kathy has learned a lot during her 41 year career at Graybar. One thing she shares is never settle for the status quo. Whatever it is you want to do in life, do it in the best way you can, aim high and don’t just settle. She says we all have special gifts to offer our communities, our families, and our organizations and in order to reach our full potential we have to work hard and keep reaching.

It is also important to be true to who you are and to stand up for what you believe in. She says, “I tell our young leaders all the time, if it doesn't feel right, and you walk from a business transaction, you will never lose your job. I have your back. But if it doesn't feel right, and you take that contract, or whatever it may be, and it's bad, you will lose your job. Because you got to stand up for it. There's a level of integrity and you know what's right, and you know what's wrong, never, never sacrifice it. Once you lose your integrity, you lose everything, you lose everything. And no career and no business environment, or whatever it is you're trying to do is worth losing your soul. It's not.”

Another lesson she thinks is important is to use your setbacks to build strength and resilience. Don’t give up and run away from hard things. And make sure as leaders you leave things better than when you took over. You should always aim to leave in a way that allows the next generation to come in and continue building where you left off.

Direct download: Audio_-_Kathy_Mazarella_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 11:14am PDT

The world of work has changed a lot. 

We live in a world of uncertainty where employee tenure is no longer a thing.

The best way to navigate this world is to be a super perpetual learner. 

That means constantly learning new things at a rapid pace and applying those things on a regular basis. 

You need to keep up with the pace of change or you will be left behind.

Direct download: The_Best_Way_to_Navigate_an_Uncertain_World.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 1:22am PDT

Aaron Cooper is the Interim CEO at Groupon, an online marketplace with around 4,000 employees globally. Prior to that he had worked in several other roles at Groupon including president of North America, Chief Marketing Officer, head of Global Travel, Head of North America Services and Head of North America Goods.

Before Groupon Aaron held a lot of marketing and leadership positions at Orbitz and optionsXpress and he held consulting roles at AOL and PwC.

Aaron Cooper, who recently moved into the role of interim CEO at Groupon, says his recipe for success has been working across many different industries and in very diverse roles. These experiences have given him the skills and mindsets he needs to be the best leader he can be.

He says it has been incredibly important for his career that he’s been able to work in finance, marketing, brand marketing, and general management across industries such as travel, retail, finance, and internet. He has worked with companies who were very successful and growing and he’s worked for companies that were in distress.

All of these experiences have shaped his leadership approach and have led him to his current role.

In fact, Aaron says most of the biggest career moves he made were jobs he didn’t even know were available. He got into a role and did exceptionally well and then management would grab him and tell him he’s moving to a new role. He said he learned quickly to just say yes to these opportunities and it has proved to be an effective way for him to climb up the ladder.

What to do when you work for a bad boss 

Aaron says he’s worked for a few tough bosses that have bordered on being too tough. There are always going to be people we work for who aren’t the best leaders. But Aaron says he always uses these opportunities to learn something and grow.

He says, “At those times I was focused on what I can learn out of this situation. It's a mind shift, you have to decide that you want to be in that situation and you're up for learning from this person. I also find that when you adopt that mindset, the tougher boss changes their attitude towards you. Which is something that I realized as well, hey, I'm a student, so please teach, has been a productive relationship for me to get the most out of those. And because of that there are tools that I have in my toolkit now.”

The best bosses on the other hand make employees want to show up every single day for them. Aaron says he had a great boss who with very little effort could get the very best out of Aaron. He knew the boss had his back and believed in him, so Aaron wanted to do his best and live up to the reputation the boss believed in.

Aaron gives an example of this great boss. Aaron had moved into a role leading online marketing and his team did a deal, but it ended up being a bad deal that cost a lot of money. Instead of just firing him or demoting him, the boss called Aaron out and said it was his to solve. He was counting on Aaron to fix it.

But the way he called Aaron out was in such a positive way that Aaron was able to come back from the failure. He motivated his team and they all went after it and fixed the problem. He actually looks back at this experience in a favorable way, which is all because of how the boss handled the situation.

Aaron says being a good leader comes down to how you leave people feeling. When you leave the room is everyone wanting to crush it, and do a great job for you? Or does everyone want to leave the company?

How Aaron carves out downtime and why every CEO should do the same

Aaron is very busy with his role as CEO, leading his company through the pandemic, as well as his personal life with his wife and kids. He has found that it is so important to carve out time every day for downtime, time to think through issues, focus on one specific problem, or just think of the next big move for the company.

He actually says his ideal amount of downtime each day is three hours. Which seems like a lot in a normal workday, but he says it’s important to have a good chunk of time so you can actually dive deep into the problems and issues you’re trying to solve.

Aaron says, “if you actually get a chance to think there's such important things that you can always solve for your team. And sometimes during that time, I may call somebody and think a problem through with them. Absolutely. But it's time for me to just make sure to take a step back and make sure that in the relative challenges of COVID and people working from home, and everything that comes with that for running a company where local businesses around the world have been shut down and their business has been impaired. And we're looking for our strategies that we're working on right now to be successful to help our broad community of Groupon. There's so much in there for me, just to make sure that as things change day to day everyone's coming along the same way.”

And even though downtime sounds like someone is just sitting around and pondering things, that is far from the truth. Aaron is very structured with his downtime. He always has a list of priorities he has to think through and he is very active and engaged during the entire time. During this time he only focuses on the top priorities, you can’t let priority 6 or 7 sneak into your thought process at this time. It has to be about critical issues only.

How to give employees the autonomy to make decisions on their own

In the past companies have tended to be bogged down with bureaucracy and hierarchy that made the decision process long and tedious. Just to get permission to buy a new piece of equipment or streamline a process it may take weeks or months to run it up the ladder and back down.

Now, with our current pace of change companies can no longer afford to make decisions this way. Employees have to be able to have the autonomy to make decisions for themselves. So how does Groupon make this possible for employees?

Aaron says it comes down a couple things they have done internally. The first big thing is transparency. Every employee, whether they have been at the company for 10 years or 4 months, knows what the company priorities are and they know what the current strategy is.

In fact when they launched a new strategy during Covid-19 they not only announced it company wide, but they went team by team, person by person to make sure they fully understood what the new strategy meant.

But Aaron knows that people can’t just understand the strategy, they have to believe in it. But you can’t force people to believe in something, it has to be a back and forth conversation until everyone is on board. This process takes consistency, discipline, and commitment.

So you have to have transparency and alignment in order to successfully hand over control to your employees. As Aaron says, “Within that empowerment giving someone the task, the resources and trusting them and their judgment becomes so much easier, because trying to goal something so specifically for the uncertainties going on right now is that much harder. So I'm really proud of our team across the board for the way that everyone has come along on this.”

How Aaron works on being a better leader

One thing Aaron has found very helpful in his journey as a leader is reflection. He takes time to reflect on the week to think back to when he wasn’t the leader he wanted to be so he can address those issues.

He also recently attended a class on authentic leadership which really impacted him and the way he approaches leadership. You have to figure out what kind of leader you are and you have to authentically lead in that way. Don’t try to be someone you are not. You can’t just read about another leader and try to copy and paste that into your way of leading.

When asked what kind of leader he is, Aaron said “An energetic leader, I'm a structured thinking leader. I like to make sure that we have the strategy and goals set out clearly. And people have embraced those. Because for me it's grounded in getting the absolute best out of the team. And having them show up in ways where the energy that they're both getting and giving to Groupon makes them feel better about themselves outside of Groupon, especially in a pandemic.”

And so he shows up everyday with that purpose and mission in mind and he leads as authentically as he can.

How Aaron keeps up with the constant pace of change

One thing a lot of leaders struggle with today is trying to keep up with things when the pace of change is so constant and so fast. This year has really shown how fast things can completely change. So how does Aaron keep up?

He says constant learning is a crucial key. He is always reading and is a part of a few book clubs, he listens to podcasts, he meets with other leaders, etc...He also finds it important to pay attention to his employees and what they are saying. They bring different perspectives and ideas that drive him forward.

What should leaders stop doing to become better leaders

For any leaders who want to better themselves Aaron’s advice is to stop playing it safe. You are going to have tough decisions to make and you are going to have to keep the company moving forward, playing it safe will not help you. You have to be bold. Especially with the things we are facing this year.

He says, “One of the things I learned in my turnaround management days is you've got to make the hard decisions, because time does not help when you're running out of cash. We were in that situation here. But I learned that earlier in my career, and that's something that now in leading through a year like now, it shows up, and it shows up in important ways. So stop playing it safe, is I think, really, really big.”

What should leaders start doing to become better leaders

Aaron says it is crucial for leaders to have a mission, a passion, an obsession and they have to be able to name it so that they know what they are doing when they get out of bed in the morning. This really goes back to the importance of reflection and understanding what kind of leader you are.

As Aaron shares, “Here, we're helping local businesses, we're helping local businesses through a challenging time, we're helping our customers do more. There's more ways that we can help. But we are redesigning Groupon into a recovery so we can help grow local commerce. And for us, that's energizing, it shows up in multiple ways from our strategy, just to the way we were working throughout the team to develop more empathy and more listening on the front end with customers and merchants. But I would say you gotta you got to start with that passion. But again, I think the ingredient for that is you have to do the reflection. So you can really be genuine and honest with yourself about what your passion is all about.”

Direct download: Audio_-_Aaron_Cooper_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 1:18am PDT

You can start being an intrapreneur now!

When most people think of an entrepreneur, they think of an individual who went off on their own to start a successful business.

But being an entrepreneur can also be applicable inside of your organization--it’s called being an intrapreneur.

One of the things that make entrepreneurs unique is their ability to push through obstacles and challenges that come their way.

Entrepreneurs are also big dreamers.

They understand failures and move on to the next obstacle.

Entrepreneurs also have vision.

They have a very clear picture in their minds of what they want to do and the problem they want to solve.

Entrepreneurs are also extremely self-driven, they have an internal fire that's always pushing them, and they don't need somebody to tell them what to do.

You can have all of these qualities even if you work inside an organization.

Thinking like an entrepreneur will have a significant impact on your career and on your life.

Direct download: 3._How_to_Think_Like_an_Entrepreneur_Inside_an_Organization.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 3:21am PDT

Shellye Archambeau is the former CEO of MetricStream, a Silicon Valley based governance, risk, and compliance software company, and the author of the new book, Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms. She also serves on the boards of Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta.

Under her leadership MetricStream was recognized for growth and innovation over the years and was named in the top 10 of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50. Shellye was named the second most influential African American in IT by Business Insider. She was ranked one of the “100 Most Influential Business Leaders in America” by Newsmax and she received the NCWIT Symons Innovator Award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).

Shellye Archambeau is no stranger to roadblocks and barriers. All throughout her career she has encountered them.

But one thing she learned early on was that life is not fair, you’re not always going to have an easy time. The good news is, you can do something about it. Shellye realized she had to be intentional about everything that she did and every decision she made in order to improve her odds of being successful and reaching her goals.

She knew that if she just did what everybody else did, she probably wasn’t going to get much out of life.

In her new book, Unapologetically Ambitious, she shares some of the biggest lessons she has learned throughout her career and what she had to do to reach the goal she set in place as a 16 year old.

Why you need to set goals

At the age of 16 Shellye decided she wanted to be a CEO. With that goal in place she worked hard and she always knew which direction to go. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do at a young age, but you do have to be able to set goals for yourself. Even if it means just looking forward to a goal next year or in 6 months.

If you don’t set goals, you don’t know where you are trying to go, you don’t have anything specific you are trying to achieve. If you don’t have a goal in mind then it doesn’t matter what you do next or how you make decisions. You have to know what you are aiming for to know what actions to take.

As Shellye shares, “Setting goals is really all about picking that objective in the future. And honestly, if you can only think two years ahead, then that's better than nothing, right? I don't care how far ahead, however far ahead you can pick, just pick that goal. Ask yourself, what has to be true for you to achieve that goal? And then ask yourself, how do you make that true? Which is basically the plan. What has to be true? And then how do I make it true? That's how I think about everything. And that's how to make the plan.”

When setting goals it is also important to let others around you know what your goal is. Tell your boss, your mentor, your spouse, your coworkers. People can’t help you if they don’t know what you are aiming for.

And while it can be easy to give up goals at the first sign of hardship, don’t give in. Figure out a different path, but don’t change your goals. Make sure you stay focused on them and keep working to get there.

Few people make consistent daily decisions that get them to their goal. That is the key to success. Shellye says that’s where the real power lies. Make every decision and every action count in your journey to your goal.

How to create your own luck

In this world you have to create your own luck, especially when it comes to your career. Shellye explains that creating luck means positioning yourself so that when an opportunity shows up you actually have the ability to take advantage of it.

Planning can improve your odds for good things to happen. After you set your goal, that’s when you get to work. Figure out what skills, experiences, and knowledge you will need in order to reach your goal and go after it.

When you set a plan Shellye says you have to assume it’s going to happen and get ready for it. If that means you have to take a course or read some books or learn a new skill get to it. Don’t let yourself get to the point where the opportunity arrives but you miss out because you aren’t prepared.

Do your homework, always keep learning. Don’t go into a meeting to learn something, learn what you need to before the meeting so you can contribute. You have to be proactive every step of the way.

Shellye also advises people to take the time to let people know what it is you actually do. Don’t just give them your job title, titles are useless. What that job title means inside your company could be completely different inside of another. Explain what it is you do so that when somebody is looking for a person with a specific set of skills they will remember you.

Dealing with imposter syndrome

So many leaders deal with imposter syndrome, that voice in your head that says--what makes you think you can do this? Wait until they find out you don’t have the skills to do the job.

You may never fully get rid of it, but you can deal with it in order to make sure it doesn’t stop you from succeeding. Shellye says the first thing is to realize that almost everyone (if not everyone) deals with this at some point in their life. It’s not just you. Understand that although the voice sounds real, it’s not.

Also realize that you would not be in your current position if the people around you felt like you didn’t belong. So if you can’t believe yourself when you try to quiet the doubts, believe the people around you.

And Shellye says, worst case scenario, just fake it until you make it. Act like you are comfortable and confident, even if you aren’t. Because eventually you will figure it out and realize you belong.

Fostering self determination

Self determination means you believe you are in control of yourself. You have confidence in yourself that you can go get things. But you also need relatedness, a feeling that you belong.

So fostering self determination is really about creating an environment in which you feel you belong and that others care about you. So how can you do this? Shellye suggests joining groups, starting a club, getting people together around a hobby you are passionate about. Create that community for yourself where you belong.

Forget about work life balance

The phrase work-life balance has become very popular over the past few years. It is a very hot topic, but Shellye actually hates the term. She believes it just sets us up for failure and disappointment.

Because in a true work-life balance both sides should be equally balanced at the same time, and life is too tumultuous for that. It is almost impossible to balance both, one side will suffer or the other side will. And trying to pretend we can have it all while staying sane is not healthy.

Shellye likes work-life integration instead. You have to prioritize and deal with what needs to be dealt with no matter what side it is on. Especially these days in the pandemic when we are all wearing so many different hats. Life and work are blurring while we work from home with our kids and families. Don’t worry about being balanced, just get done what needs to get done on all fronts.

Embrace your limits

Most of us have gone through our strengths and weaknesses at some point in our career. We are usually pretty aware of what we are good at and what we struggle with.

But what usually happens is people tend to focus on their weaknesses and they try to work on getting better. If you already know what you are good at, wouldn’t your time be better spent making your strengths even better? If you take an hour to work on a weakness you have you might improve a tiny bit, but if you could work for an hour on something you are already great at, think of how much more you could achieve.

You are known for your strengths, so strengthen your strengths. Focus on those areas and really push yourself. And then lean on others around you to fill in the gaps where you have weaknesses.

Learning to swerve

So many people are having to swerve in their careers now with Covid-19. With all of the shutdowns and restrictions businesses and individuals have had to figure out how to continue to grow and thrive.

Being able to swerve in your career means you can move around the roadblocks you can’t move. All of us are going to face roadblocks from time to time. Some that you can easily get around and some that seem impossible. You have to learn to go over, under, around, whatever you have to do to get past them.

Roadblocks can be a boss who doesn’t see your potential, or a coworker who tries to push you down, or an organization with no new opportunities. Whatever it is figure out what you can do to swerve.

As Shellye says, “The only difference between a roadblock and a stepping stone, is how high you lift your leg. So don't let anything stop you.”

Never say die

One of the values that was added to the MetricStream culture back in 2008 was never say die, which meant never give up. It’s all about resilience. They had to figure out how to fight to keep the company going when the economy crashed and they did. Shellye says it is so important that you don’t stop just because life gets hard, keep going, keep pushing.

The most important thing they did in the middle of this storm was to focus. As Shellye explains in hard times everyone in the company has to be pulling in the same direction. Communication is critical so that everyone is on the same page and knows what is important. And the whole company focuses on what really matters and all the extra stuff falls away.

During these times leaders also have to have a vision and they have to share that with the company, because when you are going through dark times it’s easy for people to want to jump ship. Leaders have to have a vision and they have to inspire everyone to keep moving forward. Life is hard for everyone, the key is to not let those circumstances affect your drive and motivation. Keep pushing forward and never give up.

How Shellye takes risks

In order to grow and move up in your career you are going to have to take risks. As Shellye says, you can’t get opportunity without taking risks. But risks can be daunting. What if you fail or fall on your face?

Shellye has been taking risks her whole life and what she does is she asks herself a few questions before making a move.

  • What is the likely outcome?
  • If I do this, what is the upside? 
  • What’s the worst that could happen and can I live with it?

Most of the time people walk away from risks without even considering them because they are afraid. But if you take the time to understand what it is you are afraid of, you may find it’s not that scary after all.

There are some risks where an outcome could be a long term negative impact on your health or it could mean your family ends up on the street. But usually if you think about the worst that could happen it’s not that dramatic. There are a lot of outcomes that you can live with. So when you are faced with a risk really look into it and what could potentially happen. You never know, it could result in the best decision you have ever made.

Direct download: Audio_-_Shellye_Archambeau_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 11:35pm PDT

People are always reluctant to change.

It’s human nature.

But if you want your team to adapt to new technologies, there is something you can do.

To get your team to embrace new technology, you have to educate them.

It's not just about giving them the tools or training them how to use it--it’s about helping them understand why and how these technologies will improve how they work.

Change is hard. There will be a learning curve.

But I promise you, if you get through that learning curve, you’ll absolutely see the benefits.

Direct download: 2._How_to_Get_Your_Team_to_Embrace_New_Technology.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 5:44am PDT

Melissa Smith is the CEO of Wex Inc. a provider of payment processing and information management services in the US, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. They have around 5,000 employees and under Melissa’s leadership the company has gone from $50 million to $1.7 billion in revenue.

Melissa began at Wex Inc. in 1997 as a senior financial analyst and she worked her way up to being CFO and then President of the Americas before becoming CEO. 

A lot of things in the world have been changed by Covid-19. The way organizations operate, the way employees connect with one another, and even the way leaders have to lead.

Melissa Smith, the CEO of Wex Inc., who is responsible for around 5,000 employees around the world says connecting with her people is more important now than ever before. And one important way she does that is through recognizing her people for what they do.

She takes time to send handwritten notes to employees who have been promoted, or who have gone above and beyond in a project, or who have volunteered for events in the community.

She believes that people need to be recognized with little things like handwritten notes and big things like stock grants. She says it is so important for people to know that their work is recognized and valued.

This recognition can actually go both ways. Melissa has been grateful for letters that her employees have been sending her during the pandemic to let her know they appreciate what she does. In fact, she has one employee who sends her a note every single month, and it really means a lot to Melissa.

Overcoming internal and external doubt

A lot of leaders deal with imposter syndrome at some point or another. In fact, a majority of the leaders I speak with on the Future of Work podcast admit that they have faced internal and external doubt throughout their careers. It just comes with the territory. Leaders are going to have times when they feel they are not right for the job or that they don’t have the skills to complete a task.

So how can you overcome those feelings? Melissa says that when it comes to internal doubt it’s all about toning it down. Most likely those thoughts and feelings will never go away completely, but you have to learn to switch that inside voice off.

When it comes to external doubt, it is a balancing act. You have to be able to listen to feedback from others and learn to accept constructive criticism. But you also have to be able to recognize if people are just naysayers who question your abilities without reason. For the naysayers you just have to learn how to move on and prove them wrong. 

Melissa’s experience as a female leader

While Melissa doesn’t really think of herself as a female leader, she does recognize that some people will be surprised when they meet her, especially because of the industry she is in, which tends to be male dominant.

In fact when she recalls a time when she was the CFO at Wex Inc. and she and the head of investor relations were on a call with an investor and a portfolio manager that Melissa had not yet met. When both sides went to hang up, the other side of the call thought they had hung up but hadn’t. So she heard a part of their conversation.

The portfolio manager was saying “The CFO is a chick”. And the investor that Melissa knew responded and said “Yes, but she’s a geek chick”. And then they went on to talk about the answers to questions they had.

What she took away from that experience is that people recognize that she is different and they stop to acknowledge that, but at the end of the day what they really care about is the content of what she has to say. They care about performance and results.

When asked if she has to work harder or be tougher as a female leader, Melissa says, “It is different, yeah. Clearly it's different. I think the important part, though, is those things happen. But if you allow that to be kind of the central part of your thinking, so if I start with the fact that it's unfair, then you're almost putting your own baggage on top of what's already going to be a little bit more difficult.  And so what I think of that is, I would rather not have that in the back of my mind, not have your own mind questioning what you're capable of, on top of what's going to be other people who do perceive that they just can't relate or understand sometimes or how you're capable of doing what you're doing. But that's not for me to own. You know, I think that's for me to a certain extent, to put blinders on and focus on what needs to get done.”

The importance of saying yes to opportunities 

Melissa has given a talk for TEDx and in it she talks about the importance of saying yes to opportunities at work. Career progression, Melissa believes, is in part our own responsibility. It is part your capability, part sponsorship, and part timing.

When you say yes to something outside of your normal responsibilities it allows you to get exposure to people you wouldn’t normally have and it shows a set of skills that are different then what you normally use.

As Melissa shares, “Often what I was given for assignments that would be outside of my job were things that weren't fun, or, you know, something was broken, or something was happening across some other parts of the planet. And I was being asked to step in and be involved. And I really think that doing that was part of a big part of my career progression, because it again, allowed people to see me in a different light than they would have if I was just, you know, the CFO or the controller or some of the things that I've done in my past.”

So if you get the opportunity to do something outside of your job title, or something even a bit outside of your comfort zone, you should definitely consider saying yes.

Dealing with failures and mistakes

Every single leader deals with failures or mistakes at some point in their career. Melissa says she views these as learning opportunities. We are all constantly learning and evolving, so using these situations to grow and get better is important.

Melissa says it is crucial for leaders to create an environment that accepts failures. If people feel like they can’t fail, they are going to be too safe.

One thing she has learned is not to put difficult things off for later.  As she says, “bad news doesn’t age well”. If there is a hard decision you have to make, or a hard announcement you have to give, do it sooner rather than later.

Advice Melissa would give to her younger self

If she could go back in time and give herself some advice Melissa says she would tell herself you have the power to impact the way others think and feel by your actions.

She says, “When you get older, you realize that everything you do affects the people around you when you know, like it or not. And so you have to be, you know, you have to just be thoughtful about might meet with somebody and for you, that meeting, you know, maybe the last thing that's on your mind, but it may be the most important meeting of the day for that other person. And so kind of taking a deep breath, and being the person you want to be in that moment, is, I think, really important. And something particularly in this pandemic environment. Like, you know, you might be running 100 miles an hour and really thinking about a lot of things. But if you can just take a deep breath and reframe yourself for what you're about to go into it. I think that's really important.”

Direct download: Audio_-_Melissa_Smith_-_Ready.mp3
Category:Business -- posted at: 9:24pm PDT