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A Leadership Deep Dive With Yours Truly

(In this week's In My Network article, my friend Chris Anibarro interviewed me!)

Each week Christine shares valuable insights by introducing us to great leaders in her network. This week we’re turning the tables and interviewing Christine!

There are LOTS of gems in this week’s blog but one of my favorite is, “This is not the time for big long, drawn out strategy development or rigidity – it’s all about having disciplined agility.” I had fun asking her some tough questions and I know you’ll enjoy hearing her thinking in this week’s In My Network interview! Chris

How and when did we first meet?

I think we first met via LinkedIn after realizing we had some common connections and a shared passion for leadership. Then it turned it that your wife and I run together frequently which confirmed for me that you are a good human :)

At this moment there is so much uncertainty for many business owners. What are you advising leaders pay attention to in order to survive and thrive through this period?

Leaders first need to pay attention to themselves and their own health and well-being. Then they need to stay connected to their people, how they are feeling, what they are struggling with, etc. Showing they care and are listening has never been more crucial. It’s important for leaders to constantly restate their vision to give people a compass and hope for the future. Lastly, leaders need to pay attention to their customers and their changing need states. I honestly think that if businesses haven’t adapted already, they are not going to survive. And it’s not just about adapting once, it’s about tuning into the fast-changing landscape and meeting their customers where they are.

Due to the need for physical distancing, many businesses are now almost 100% remote. What are some important actions you’ve seen or would recommend leaders do to support their people working & teaming in a remote environment (during a global pandemic)?

First, have compassion. Know that many people working remote are likely not working in ideal environments. From parenting young children and trying to keep them entertained to homeschooling in between business meetings to sharing a house with a lot of other people and no privacy, to being completely alone – everyone is dealing with something.

Acknowledge this and set any structure that would be helpful to your team. I’ve heard of organizations doing things like having no-meeting hours, team happy hours and built in brain or exercise breaks during the day. Finally, be really clear as to what’s important, what the priorities are and what they aren’t.

Everyone will have some kind of reflection from this experience we are going through. What are some of your leadership reflections thus far?

Things change so fast that you need to keep your vision front and center but be open to how you are going to achieve it. This is not the time for big long, drawn out strategy development or rigidity – it’s all about having disciplined agility.

It’s important to create and nurture a genuine connection with your customers too. I’ve appreciated some of the emails I’ve gotten from my service provider and have been annoyed by others that are cluttering my inbox because if feels like they’re sending me stuff just to send stuff when there’s no real action or meat.

As it relates to team leadership, it’s been hard to figure out how to message the perceived workload imbalance on the team. Some are working long hours and others are just trying to get what they can done in between taking care of their families. Everyone is doing their best effort given their circumstances and it’s so important to have people not feel like they’re failing and acknowledge that they are doing the best they can.

It kind of reminds me of training to run on hills. The measure of “effort” (how it feels) versus pace prevails because pace changes on different terrain. And we are definitely all running on different terrain right now and that might even feel inequitable in some cases. And made people’s home and life situations much more visible.

You once told me that leaders grow by growing everyone around them. What are some of the ways you coach leaders to grow the people around them?

If you want to grow the people around you, you need to delegate and loosen the reigns. Give people meaningful work and development assignments they can learn from. Don’t be afraid to let people fail or have it not be perfect. Give them the space to try it on for size and encourage them to take risks. If this makes you uncomfortable, then that mean you are growing too. Leverage the strengths of those around you, especially for things that you aren’t particularly good at.

You’re well known as a Servant Leader. What have been the biggest influences on you and your call to lead from a place of service to others?

This comes from three places – my family environment growing up, my early days at Starbucks and my own personal hardships.

I grew up in a family of civil servants, mostly in the political arena. My paternal grandfather was on the civil rights commission and my maternal grandmother was part of the delegation that brought Alaska into statehood. My paternal grandmother advocated for high quality housing for senior citizens in her town and ended up getting the land donated and government funding to eventually build a 200-unit facility that has become a gathering place for the entire community. The list goes on and my inspiration from what those before me have contributed is endless. If I can positively impact a fraction of those my family has before I die, I will feel quite accomplished.

At Starbucks, a culture of service was and still is deeply embedded in the organization. This includes service to the community and service to one another. Community service activities are encouraged and participation expected at Starbucks. It’s through these activities that I began to realize how much need there is out there, and we all have a role in helping however we can. I’ve also had some amazing leaders like Tom Haro and Howard Behar that taught me that our role is to serve others. They’ve demonstrated as leaders that by deeply and genuinely caring for people, work will get done and customers will get served.

Lastly, I think my own hardships and struggles have influenced my service orientation. This is a harder connection to explain but I’ve learned from my own experiences that things aren’t always easy and it takes a village of support to solve problems and persevere. In a way, by serving others, I’m reciprocating the grace and help I’ve received from other. I believe that helping makes the world go round and we each have times when we can give and, at other times, we are lucky to be on the receiving end.

I know you are a big believer that self-awareness is key for leaders to develop. How do you help leaders build their self-awareness and what are some key aspects of self you think leaders should be aware of?

It starts with leaders being genuinely curious and asking questions of others as to what’s working and what could make them more effective. It doesn’t have to be some big feedback conversation but even asking “how did that land with you or with the team?” is a way to build self-awareness.

I also help leaders really understand their strengths, their weaknesses, blind spots and triggers and then decide what they want to do with that information.

And there is this aspect of mindfulness by paying attention to how you feel and why you feel that way about a certain conversation, topic or task. Exploring this and then taking a few minutes to write it down builds self-awareness and illuminates positive patterns and possibly less productive ones.

Any last thoughts you want to leave us with?

Leadership is a journey that never ends. It’s about constant learning, exploration, experimentation and reflection. It’s about knowing your values and what’s important to you and being clear on that with others.

Time to turn the tables in the rapid fire round. Go!

  • Favorite leadership book: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

  • What gives you energy: New things and helping people

  • Best Zoom virtual background you’ve seen in the past month: A brewery

  • What is one word others would use to describe you: Inspiring (I feel pompous when I say that but I’ve definitely heard it)

  • Favorite quote: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right.” Henry Ford

  • One thing you plan to do by the end of 2020: Get my book into the publishing process

Christine is graciously offering free leadership and career coaching through the end of May as a way to serve our community during this time. Anyone can sign up, no strings attached. Click HERE to schedule.

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