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There are countless books, podcasts, and articles on leadership. But nothing can quite describe the sense of pride a leader feels when they watch a team they’ve built succeed.
That feeling of pride resonates and inspires others to continue to work hard, achieve more, and build on their strengths. We sat down with some leaders at Pitney Bowes to hear how they’ve been able to build teams they’re proud of. Read on for their stories and advice.
Value Unique Perspectives and Experiences
To build a successful team, it’s crucial to focus on the skills, perspectives, and experiences that each individual team member brings to the table. “One skill that stands out above and beyond everything is that once you are in an executive role of any type, you are really a human resources leader. Many people don't understand the amount of time that is spent on the people side of the equation with our most precious resource, talent,” says Pitney Bowes Chief Financial Officer, Ana Chadwick.
So, when you’re choosing people, Senior Vice President and President of Pitney Bowes Global Financial Services Christopher Johnson encourages leaders to fill the team with as many diverse perspectives as possible. “Diversity in business is about winning. It's about achieving success. The best performing companies are those that promote diversity and inclusion,” he elaborates. “Diversity gives us something that is important for our business: diversity of thought. Through our different lenses — whether you are a woman, from whatever race, religious background, belief, identity, or orientation — we can see opportunities and build on each other’s ideas. This lends itself to an environment where the best of the best ideas can be forged.”
Similarly, Executive Vice President and President of Sending Technology Solutions, Jason Dies keeps his eye out for people with unique backgrounds and talents. “I generally look for people with diversity in experience and perspectives,” he says. “For example, sales and marketing, or finance and supply chain. Even within your own part of the organization you can get different experiences that will allow you to look at things in a new way. Being ambidextrous — the ability to work on multiple goals at the same time — is important.”
But your team members aren’t the only source of unique perspectives that you can tap into. Ana encourages leaders to remember the role that mentors and sponsors can play, which is why she suggests they nurture their network. “When you find someone who's willing to stick their neck out for you and sponsor you, make sure you keep those relationships. It’s one thing to have someone sit at a distance and give you advice, but when you have someone who can say, ‘This person can do that, or is ready for that,’ treasure those sponsors. Keep in touch with them.”
Be Intentional About Your Leadership Strategy
Before you start building your team, you have to hone in on your leadership skills and work to embody them in your personal and professional life. Ana stresses that leadership extends far beyond the office. “You [can be a] leader at any stage or in any role. I look at kids, and they can be leaders in their own classrooms,” she elaborates.
Ana learned a lesson early in her career that has stuck with her as she’s grown into executive roles: the 3 ‘E’s of leadership. “As a leader, you have to have energy and you need to have the ability to energize others.” Then there’s edge. “You're not here to please everybody. You need to have a path and a mission, and you must have the edge to get there.” The last one is execution. “I've always been a firm believer of those ‘E’s: Your energy, energizing others, having edge, and execution, which you have to do with passion. Once that all comes together, a leader can set a vision, break down that vision into manageable tasks, and rally people around achieving those things.”
Bill Hughes, Chief Communications Officer, offers a different take on embodying leadership. When it comes to leadership styles, he prioritizes showing unwavering support to his team. “Somebody told me once that the best demonstration of leadership is how you bring people along with you, and whether or not they believe that you have their back,” he says. “That's true. When people know that we learn from mistakes, and we have each other’s backs, you have a much more efficient and productive team.”
These Pitney Bowes leaders break down some actionable ways to exercise those leadership skills and improve executive presence. President of Presort Services, Debbie Pfieffer urges new leaders to, “fill the space [they’re] in. You can’t be a quiet mouse in the corner. Don’t assume that others at the table have all the answers or more experience. Ask questions, lean into conversations. Be present and ask the questions that you know other people have, but that they’re afraid to ask.”
Jason reiterates the point that leaders shouldn’t be afraid to conscientiously take up space. His top tip for exuding a confident leadership style is to be prepared. “One trick to remember is that most times when you are presenting, you actually know more about the topic than the people you're presenting to. But on the flip side of that, be cognizant of your audience; you don’t want to overwhelm them by demonstrating everything you know about a topic,” he says. “When I give a presentation, I think of it as a story; it's not a set of individual charts or facts that I'm going to recite, but it's about moving the audience from point A to point B.”
Set Goals and Empower Your Team
Once you have established your team and a leadership strategy to support them, creating clear objectives to ensure they’re on the right track is the final step. Setting goals and working strategically is natural for many leaders, but oftentimes that involves getting out of your comfort zone. Take it from Christopher, a first-generation American. “I come from humble beginnings. What my family has achieved has been through a lot of hard work and sharing our experiences. To get the right set of experiences, you need to put yourself into positions that might sometimes be uncomfortable. As a Black man growing up in America, if I didn't get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable, I would not have been able to accomplish the things that I have. It's all about putting yourself into positions where you can learn.”
And don’t forget to celebrate your (and your team’s) success.
Christopher continues to give back to others, whether it's by sitting on local charity boards or empowering his team. “I get a great deal of joy helping people succeed — seeing how individuals on our team have been able to grow their careers, expand, learn, and develop.”
Bill agrees that empowerment is important to building and retaining a team you’re proud of.
“When you find great people, you want to do everything that you can to keep them. I try to reward people that are thinking differently. I think that's critical to success. Their success is your success.”
As a kid, Maleni Palacios had a long list of questions that no one could answer for her.
“I started asking myself, ‘Why are some countries rich? Why are some of them “poor”? What is this notion of a country and a nation-state? Why do people have different lines of work? Who chooses that for them?’” remembers the associate consultant.
Now, several years later, Maleni works at Capco, where she makes a living out of questioning the world, particularly what the future of financial services will look like. She’s learned that some of the best answers to the hardest questions come when you work towards them together.
We sat down with Maleni to talk about her journey into financial consulting, how she found a sense of community through Women@Capco and Latinx@Capco, two of the firm’s affinity groups, and what she’s most looking forward to next.
Chasing Tangible Change
Maleni grew up in Atlanta, but regularly spent time in Mexico, her ancestral home. She credits the experience of traveling between two cultures as what inspired her to start questioning the world.
“My dad and uncles were constantly talking about the world and globalization, like the implications of NAFTA on trade and migration,” she said. “I was an only child for a long time, in this environment of adults, and found it very intriguing. That’s where my insatiable curiosity was cultivated.”
For this reason, when she moved to New York City to study at Barnard, Maleni was drawn to economics. “A lot of the theories we know about were made by people a long time ago,” she says. “Adam Smith was not here at the turn of the 21st century.”
She also liked how interdisciplinary and direct economics was, especially compared to behavioral and philosophical fields like anthropology and art, which interested her but didn’t seem to come with immediate tangible change for societies. “A lot of what I'm passionate about or a lot of what inspires me is changing people's lives on a daily basis,” she says. “Economic policy directly affects people’s day-to-day lives, and to me, that’s valuable.”
Maleni studied the 2008 financial crisis in college, and wanted to be able to work towards improving the financial system so that things like that didn’t happen again. “I wanted to understand how institutions were regulating themselves, how they use their freedom,” she says. “I liked that at Capco I’d have some specialization, but work with different banks at different scales in different engagements. That was really compelling to me, and why I came here.”
Learning in Community
In her first weeks at Capco, Maleni and her fellow colleagues gave a presentation on demographic shifts as a driver for change poised to impact the financial services industry—and now, just over a year later, she’s used the initial research to publish an official Capco whitepaper titled “Unbanked & Underserved: Latinx Demographic Changes & Creating Financial Inclusion.”
“You can run with your ideas at Capco, and they’ll help you accomplish them,” says Maleni, who adds that she’s enjoying pursuing some of her academic interests at work and positioning herself as a thought leader.
As she networked and collaborated with colleagues at the firm in order to publish the paper, she was reminded of the kinds of discussions she’d been able to have in college, and the community spaces where she felt comfortable having them.
Maleni knew she wanted to continue to find opportunities for those kinds of conversations at Capco, so she joined Women@Capco where she leads Table Talks, a Women@Capco initiative that convenes the women of Capco and allies to discuss intersectional gender-based issues in a corporate environment. She also helped found Latinx@Capco, where she serves as Community Outreach Lead, when interest around it swelled earlier this year.
In both groups, Maleni enjoys getting to know people who share her identities in a space where they can support each other.
“You can talk about best practices that got you where you are: ‘How did you do that, who did you talk to, how did that happen?’” says Maleni. “You get a lot of connectivity, and a support group that can help you through when times are difficult.”
“As someone who’s Latinx, a woman of color, a first gen college student—all of these labels I hold mean that certain environments and institutions were not made for people like me,” she says. “That’s why it’s so important to convene people that look like you when you're at these institutions so that you can visualize a future that includes you.”
Building Impact Together
Maleni says she loves that despite being relatively early in her career, she’s been able to leverage her writing and her community involvement to forge relationships with senior leaders and push herself. That’s been especially true thanks to remote work, she notes, which has let her connect with Capco coworkers all around the country.
When she thinks about what’s next, she knows she wants to keep chasing answers alongside her community:
“I think about where we can have the most impact. Sometimes it’s well-defined and small, like our 20, 30 Latinx@Capco members. Maybe you’re impacting a client at a big Tier-I global bank,” she says. “As people, we get sucked into this idea of ‘we have to be changing the world.’ But sometimes that takes time. Defining where and how you can have the most impact is critical.”
Give Maddie Buras a new environment and she'll find a way to fit in. Whether growing up in New Orleans, working for media giant Time Inc., or attending business school in France and Singapore, Maddie's never had a problem creating connections and building community.
Post business school, Maddie started working in marketing for startups in the New York area. She loved the fast pace and opportunity to build and shape company culture, so when she heard about a marketing opportunity at extended warranty platform Clyde just over a year ago, she knew it was an environment where she would thrive. "I was really excited to go back to a smaller startup and build something from scratch," she says.
She joined Clyde just over a year ago as their first marketing hire, and now, as their Director of Marketing, she's working on building a team—and an environment that will set her team members up for success.
We sat down with Maddie to talk about the ways she's practicing purposeful management to create a team that can navigate the no-holds-barred environment of a fast-growing, industry-changing startup without losing momentum or focus.
Building a management philosophy
Now that Maddie's team is expanding, she's been thinking about what kind of manager she wants to be. For her, it's all about centering expertise and unblocking obstacles to allow her team to focus on what they do best.
"It was just me for a year, and it was really fun to be able to do a little bit of everything from content to field marketing to operations to email to advertising, and to ruthlessly prioritize," she says. "It's allowed me to be a generalist, and it means now I want to find people who are strong in specific areas of marketing who I can help develop, while having them own their portion and be the expert."
For Maddie, expanding her team and setting them up for success has meant taking the following steps:
1) Defining what you're looking for. "For me, it's all about a positive attitude; an eagerness to go outside of your job's specific, wnarro duties; and strong written and verbal communication skills. No matter what your role is on a marketing team, even if you're not focused a hundred percent on content, being a good writer is key," she says. It's a bonus if candidates have startup experience; Maddie notes that people who haven't worked on small teams before can get "stressed out by the fact that there's less structure than they're used to."
2) Creating a human-first interview process. Maddie started interviewing for her team during COVID and noticed that many candidates were coming off of layoffs at other companies. "I can imagine how people are feeling right now. I wanted to be upfront about what the process of interviewing at Clyde looked like and how long it might take so I could manage their expectations," she says.
3) Handing off goals to her team—and empowering them to make decisions. As the Director of Marketing, it's Maddie's role to translate company initiatives and goals into specific marketing OKRs that she can then hand off to her team. And she doesn't just give them the worst things on her plate: "I don't delegate the things I don't want to do," says Maddie. "I try to give my team projects that I think will help them grow, that will be slightly challenging and fun. And when they succeed at that project, I want them to be the person who presents that to the whole company. I don't need to be the mouthpiece of marketing all the time," she says.
Giving people goals to go after, says Maddie, empowers them by giving them enough structure to make sure they're headed in the right direction, while leaving them with enough space to self-start and prioritize their work. "It lets team members view everything they're doing through the lens of, 'Is this something that's going to help me achieve these objectives?'" she says.
4) Giving regular feedback. Maddie likes the cadence of weekly one-on-ones with her direct reports to do project check-ins, give feedback and get feedback in return, and prioritize as a team. "It's often hard to give feedback upwards, but there are a bunch of little things you do to make people feel comfortable; it's not getting angry when things get messed up; it's creating an environment where you can have that dialogue," she says.
It's important for her to get an up-close look at progress in these meetings, Maddie notes, so that she knows how her team is doing against Clyde's shifting marketing goals. "In marketing, you can always be doing a lot of things, but you have to figure out what's actually working—whatever you've defined 'working' to mean," says Maddie.
And this extends to managing asks from other teams and coworkers, as well, she says. "Lots of people feel like they have to say yes to everything, but when you have a strong sense of your goals, it empowers you to say, 'No, I can't prioritize that right now; it's not aligned with my goals.'"
Looking towards the future
As Clyde continues to shape the extended warranty market, Maddie imagines her team will continue to grow. When she looks to bring on more marketers, she'll look for the key experience and skills outlined above, as well as an important and vital characteristic for a growing startup: the ability to work across teams.
"Being good at your job, as in technically good at the skills required, is only half of your job. The other half is being able to work collaboratively with other teams," says Maddie. "I can't be successful at my job unless I get feedback from sales and customer success and work with our data science team to get data that I need for content, and work with product to understand what our platform can do so that I can help with messaging. If you can collaborate effectively, then you'll find success in your role."
Onboarding is a vital step in any company's growth. For new employees to be able to make the impact they were hired for, they first need to be oriented to and trained up on a company's history, mission, and workflows, while meeting and building relationships with their new team and understanding their new responsibilities.
Normal onboarding is complicated enough, and all-remote onboarding—which comes with extra reliance on tools and tech and less options for in-person bonding—can seem even harder to plan and execute.
But here at PowerToFly, we've been a remote-first company since we started connecting companies to women in tech six years ago. Our 50+ employees work all around the globe. As we've grown to help more and more companies bring diverse talent onto their teams, we've gotten plenty of practice working remotely, including how to successfully remotely onboard a new team member.
We've come to see remote onboarding as a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Managed well, they allow a company to set a new hire up for success. Managed poorly, they contribute to the sobering statistic that 31% of employees have left a job in the first six months, with 68% of those leaving in the first three months. Here's how we look at it:
Whether your company is 100% remote all the time or you've moved remote to respond to the global health crisis we're all currently facing, having a solid remote onboarding plan is a key part of closing the loop on hiring and recruiting and reaping the benefit of finding new team members.
How to Onboard Remote Employees
Keep in mind a few general principles that apply to remote work in general:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. When your team doesn't sit in the same space, you need to rely extra on thoughtful communication to make sure everyone feels included and is up-to-date on what's happening. Written communication is best for asynchronous communication—that is, communication across time zones or when you don't need an immediate response—and verbal (whether through phone or video) is best for building rapport, sensitive topics, or dealing with quick-moving variables or crises. Experiment with what works best for your team, but definitely try to fall on the side of over-communicating (and documenting that communication with open and perusable channels) versus leaving them in the dark.
- Don't micromanage. Trust. Yes, it's weird that you can't look over someone's shoulder as they respond to a help ticket or swing by their cubicle to check in on their code. But don't try to make up for the lack of in-person contact with smothering your team or micromanaging their every move. Make sure they know what their responsibilities and deliverables are and that you're there to help, but then trust them to get their work done and pull you in as needed. Obviously, for a new hire, you can be more proactive about checking-in, but even with your newest team members, make sure they know trust is automatic, and not something that has to be earned.
- Team building is vital. You may not be able to go to happy hour together every Friday, but there's a myriad of ways you can bring team spirit to work, and it's important that you do so. People who feel supported and part of a work community are more likely to stay at your company long term.
With those challenges and opportunities in mind, and a good understanding of remote-first principles, you're ready to build your own remote onboarding guide. We've gotten you started with a customizable version of our tried-and-true remote onboarding checklist, ready for you to download and start using right now.
It provides a detailed walkthrough of the first four weeks of onboarding a new employee, and guidance on how to adapt the checklist to your business and your department.
If you'd like to create a smooth, memorable-in-a-good-way onboarding experience for your new hires, download our Customizable Remote Onboarding Checklist and get started today.
Check Out Our Customizable Remote Onboarding Checklist