CEO Spotlight: Be a Great Leader in 2017
As the CEO of Ytel, taking a step back and reflecting on my leadership has always been important to me. I find that in doing so, I’m able to see clearly what my team needs more of and where we need to focus our energy. Here are a few tips I’ve found really help support Ytel in terms of morale, company spirit, and all departments rowing in the same direction.
For me, transparency is all about trust, honesty, and being open. I know that the entire Ytel team is more motivated and productive when everyone feels included in company decisions and goal setting, so that's been a big focus for me this year. Keep in mind that transparency should come from your entire leadership team emanating the same attitude and perspective that you do.
This includes where we're at now, what’s next, and where the final destination is, so everyone knows exactly what they're working towards, what's in it for them, and what we all have to look forward to.
Set culture/ work-life balance expectations
I often have to send people home from work, whether they’re sick or need a break from a complicated solution during the workday. We’re human, and people need to take breaks. I can't stress enough the importance of getting a read on how people are feeling and give them the resources and support they need to be successful. Read more about our work-life balance perspective here.
Attend company events
Not only attending is important, but make sure to always say a few words at the event so the team knows you’re present. Ideas include: why we’re here, are we celebrating or are we doing this to sync up in a few areas where we need improvement. I find that keeping these ‘speeches’ short, honest, and to the point are most effective. My personal go-to is along the lines of: “Let’s keep kicking ass, and we can keep doing these events.”
Check in & maintain an open door policy
I set weekly meetings with my direct reports and use any spare time to go and visit with anyone and everyone. One of my favorite things I did last week was visit our developer office. After purchasing stand-up desks, I noticed developers were sitting on this big gray couch we have in the office. Our programmers were frantically pounding out code, and once in awhile they would look to their peers to ask a question, but it was mostly heads-down work. After being a little overwhelmed with my email inbox, I went and sat with them (a nice and quiet, focused area) and was able to get to inbox zero simply by changing my environment and surrounding myself with focused people.
Continue learning & feeding your passions
I have noticed more employees are taking advantage of continued education. This is happening in all departments. For example, our Marketing team is certified in Hubspot, the software they use every day. Our programmers always seem to be taking new courses and keeping up on trendy new stacks.
We'll also be participating in the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge as a company this month, an 100-day virtual journey around the world with 60,000 other teams all across the globe. This challenge encourages physical activity and friendly competition; the more active you are, the farther your team will progress and the more virtual locations and trophies you’ll unlock. I'm really excited to see the Ytel team jump on board with this new challenge as it's something we've never done before!
Do things for others that you already do for yourself
Example: When at work, getting lunch, instead of just buying lunch for you and a VP, why not expand this perk to the entire company. The payback for us has been huge. Did you know 49% of employees would be more productive with lunch? I’m a big believer in leadership teams NOT walling themselves off in ivory gardens. I often see late-stage startups or successful management teams disconnect from the rest of the company at some point. Keeping continuity and prioritizing the team that drives your business forward is always something you have to keep in mind when leading a company.
What have you learned in the last year that will help Ytel grow in 2017?
When adding resources to a team, allow the people you hire to morph into focused hunters. Don't limit them to exactly what you hired them for; allow them to grow in their own space, at their own pace.
Example: Our small development team are a group of what we call Programming Ninjas (jack of all trade programmers that are really good at what they do) and operate at a very different capacity. They are laser-focused on their tasks and meeting their end goals. This team can focus from a high level because they’re on a highly functional development team where trust has been built, the road map has been defined, and the programming tasks have been balanced and assigned.