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Guest

91

“I feel like the modern leader is really about facilitation. It's about growing a great team, being super clear with them about the problems and opportunities in your business and what they're accountable for solving. And then as things emerge, really being able to step back, and ask yourself, is this a problem that I can solve? Or is this something that someone on my team can solve?”

In this episode

How often does your team bring you bad news? And how do you react to it when they do?

Anna Curzon is the Chief Product Officer at Xero, and also previously led internet banking at ASB.

In episode #91, Anna talks about the “Xero Magic” and how as leaders, we should bring our “most authentic selves” to work.

She also shares how leaders can be sure they’ve provided enough clarity to their team and how to distinguish if you have a reward versus fear-based leadership style. 

Tune in to hear all about Anna’s leadership journey and the lessons learned along the way!


Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


02:55

Decision-making for the greater good

08:27

Approaching change

09:40

Xero magic

17:30

The goo channel

22:28

Customers, people, and clarity

27:00

Knowing when you’ve provided clarity

31:09

Reward versus fear-based leadership

34:45

High performing to value creation teams

38:06

Implementing ally training

42:28

Learn about yourself


Resources


Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:18

Welcome to the show.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  02:26

Thank you Aydin. It’s lovely to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:28

Yeah, it’s very nice to have you on. I’m very curious to begin with you. You’ve had a pretty extensive leadership career, you’ve played many roles at ASB bank, and today you’re the chief product officer at Xero. So before we dig in, and what we usually like to do is start off by asking you, do you remember when you first started managing and leading teams? And what were some of the very early mistakes that you made back in those days?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  02:55

I do remember, because I made so many mistakes. I was absolutely unprepared I think for leadership and management. And I thought I was. But I think the transition of the appear into a leadership role, especially when you are changing that dynamic. It’s different if you’re going to a whole new team. But if you’ve been promoted, and suddenly that dynamic changes between being appear and having the luxury of basically being able to state your position for your portfolio that you operate in to becoming a leader and a manager, or actually you’ve got to look right across the board, and sometimes make some unpopular decisions. And I think one of the things that I learned was that your perspective changes immediately. And that can sometimes impact on the interactions that you’ve had with the people in your team. And it was really interesting, I was reflecting on this actually with my daughter who’s 14. And here’s the crazy world we live in right now. Right? And lots of people that are grumpy about the COVID situation all over the world because things have really impacted them personally. And I said to my daughter, you know, it’s so hard because our leaders globally, see and feel and hear that pain, but we’ve got to be making decisions for the greater community and the greater good. And it’s sometimes makes them unpopular. And you don’t have the luxury of just reacting to what’s right in front of you and your emotions, you’ve actually got to step back and learn to detach to a certain respect to a certain respect to make the decisions that need to be made. And so I think for me, that was a really big learning and knowing too that sometimes again, those relationships will change. And that been okay, that been okay because I went from a position where I felt like I had a really good relationship with the people around me to them suddenly stepping back and being a little bit. I don’t know about this, you know, I don’t know if I agree with what you and I had to learn to really work hard To explain the reasons why I was making that change, and sometimes for people to still say, okay, but I’m not bought and and that been okay. So it’s, it’s one of those things personally where you realize it’s actually not about you and your ego. It’s about leadership and doing the right thing. I think one of the other really practical things I learned, I hit to actually go and lead our context in today’s speech short notice. And I thought I was doing a really good job with my direct leadership team was getting lots of time and planning, and I was understanding the business. And then my assistant at the time said, Anna, and people need to see you. They were asking me you are. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, it’s so obvious. And so I would dedicate a line sheet, you know, large part of my day, from that point on, just to walk in the floor, walking up and down talking to people, what happened on the weekend, how’s your daughter had to go with the nipple chain? And so that was a good learning. And I’m so grateful to today for my assistant that pointed that out, not keep that close to me innocence.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  06:05

Oh, very interesting. I mean, if you think should unpack it all, I’ll start from the last thing that you mentioned. I mean, this is very interesting, right, like the people need to see you. I’m curious, how do you play that in a and again, I don’t know how things work at Xero today, if it’s a remote first company, or it’s kind of hybrid? But how do you think that plays out? In a world where people are hybrid, the concept of like, people need to see you if you can’t walk up and down the floor.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  06:32

Yeah, it’s something and look, you know, at Xero, we were lucky enough to, you know, because we were global companies, you’re on screens all day, every day connecting with our people and our partners and our customers across the globe. So we were all quite used to doing calls from home or anywhere, really, but what we weren’t used to, was just not having that tactile, physical interaction. And that’s a big part of Xero. We very much like New Zealand terms you talked about for now, which is family, we really want to understand each other what we’re looking to do personally, professionally. And so we had to stop and think and create ways of doing it remotely doing that through screens. And so we ended up what we call our ama sessions asked me anything sessions. And we ended up our global hands. And we ended up our communication. And so especially with our senior leadership team, yes, of course, the whole organization, but our senior leaders to make sure that we had a really safe space where we could see each other talk about our concerns, what’s working, what’s not, and come together to problem solve. And then with our partners, and our customers, you know, we used to do these big Xero cons with 1000s of partners every year for different places across the globe. And of course, we couldn’t do that. So like most people, we jumped online, and it was really cool, actually, to see the interaction, and the feedback coming through in real time. So there’s pros and cons,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:01

that makes a lot of sense, I think it is very true that you can replicate a lot of these things. And like he said, I like the term, amp up some of the amas. I think that’s super useful. Going back to the first point that you made, which is around making tough decisions, and then also being able to mentally detach from them. Is there a specific example that you remember, of maybe what’s an example of a tough decision you had to make early on?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  08:27

Oh, gosh, super, super early on, I think I have to go right back into the early years, but it’s probably at my time at A is B and I was working and sleep banking, and again, had just become a manager. And there was a key structural decision that we needed to make. And it actually meant that, you know, people that I’ve worked with, and they had become friends needed to either change roles, or move roles. And some of them, you know, needed to think about other opportunities. And I found that really difficult because I knew the personal impact of that. And invariably, there are when you’re doing it for the first time, it’s very easy to lean into that empathy, and play that supporter role, as opposed to being the leader. And, of course, it’s really important to support your people through change, but at the same time, you can’t get them to that point where you’re synthesizing them and saying, oh, you know, I wish this didn’t have to happen. But actually, you’ve really got to take a step back and have a conviction and believe what you’re doing is the right thing, you know, for the organization and the team that you’re leading, and you’ve got to be really authentic. You’ve got to be upfront, you’ve got to explain the reasoning. At the same time, making sure that you know, you have that empathy about what’s next for them. And for me, I thing I wanted to say everyone. No, but let me help you with this. And, gosh, have you thought about that? And actually, sometimes you need allow people to chat their own way, when change happens as well. And I think changes always had, I always learn every time I have to go through that with myself or with other people. But I think the learning I got from that as you’ve got to be really clear on the rationale, you’ve got to be upfront, over communicate and communicate early and often.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:32

That makes a lot of sense. And that summarizes it pretty well. I did want to talk about some of the things and some of the culture at 01 thing that I know you’ve said is you talk about this term called the Xero magic. Now, I don’t know if that’s it’s a term you use, or it’s used often in the company, but at that three to talk about, like what you consider to be the Xero magic?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  10:54

Yeah, that is a term that I use, I think, as opposed to, you’ll probably be Xero scratching your head thinking, Gosh, what is that, but that for us? I guess the Xero way, which is a term that we do use is very much orientated around our values. And I think, look at the at the core of that is our human value, seem to occur inclusive, and we care. And I think one of the best ways of describing that is just don’t be a duck. Treat people the way you want to be treated. And people should, let’s talk about being inclusive that actually, for us, it’s making sure that we create an environment where people can tune up and truly bring their authentic self to work that they don’t feel like the broken and have to be fixed. If they’re at Xero, we want them because they unique, the different the brilliant, and we want the different perspectives. And again, we do really care about people. And we want to make sure that the core of our purpose is actually helping small businesses have been alive. And so this is intrinsically linked to that value of being human, and helping and supporting our partners and our customers. Some of the other gifts, if you talk about the magic, some of the other values that we hold dear and that these aren’t just sort of words on a website or a page as it will come to Xero or a wall as you walk into Xero. We use them in our vernacular all the time. And we’re getting feedback when we want to call someone out for doing amazing things. So hashtag car ownership, we deliver on our commitments, and we take ownership, we don’t just pass things off. But I’ll take that, and I’ll see it through hashtag challenge. So that’s about really dreaming big and embracing change, and also having the challenging conversations that we need to hear. So while we are really caring organization, we care enough to say the things that need to be said in the room, and to challenge each other because we know great things will come from that. And then to sell last value is beautiful. And beautiful has been at the core of our vernacular from the very beginning. You know, when we launched not nearly 16 years ago, so was beautiful accounting software. And now we’re this beautiful business platform. And that’s, you know, more than just the cosmetic notion of beautiful, yes, we want our software to be beautiful, and, and you know, spark joy. But we also want the relationships that we have with our partners, to be a beautiful experience. And we want to create amazing experiences for our people, for our partners, our customers. And that’s just not through our software. It’s through the interactions we have. And of course, tea is the last one as well, we know because we’re an open ecosystem. And that goes right through to our whole philosophy of we’re better together is nothing we can achieve. By working together.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:50

Yeah, no, that summarizes very well. And I am impressed. I don’t know if you have something in front of you that you’re looking through. But typically, I think a lot of people can say like, oh, three out of five values off the top of their heads, but you went through all of them. So

Anna Curzon (Xero)  14:04

think about them frequently. No, that’s awesome. That’s Xero. Yeah.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:08

Yeah, that’s great. Sure. Let’s talk about the openness concept. So there’s a few things I wanted to ask about. One is the just around, like, having an open culture and allowing people to, I guess, make suggestions or offer insights to, I guess, people throughout the company? How does that work practically? Like, what are some examples of that playing out that other people can replicate in their companies? Yeah, look, I

Anna Curzon (Xero)  14:35

think, you know, we, from day one, we’ve changed our tools along the way at Xero. At the moment, we have tools like Slack, and that’s our core engineering of communication at Xero. We’ve used different tools in the past, but we’ve always had a way of coming together and communicating and I think what that does, it’s a great democratizer it really ensures that you know even see them as a CEO and Rodri, who was a founder. And previously I was saying they have people from across the organization, pinging them. And they don’t take it for granted either but the pinning them directly about things that are super, super important that have been rod say, Steve’s day. And people say to us, hey, you know, I got a message from sound so and technology or on the go to market team Singapore, or product and design. And here’s what’s on their mind, or they’ve got this concept around this. And so we really do make sure we want to bring the employee voice into the room and to everything that we’re doing. But of course, you don’t rely on all the great ideas and issues being funneled through the CEO. So all the other ways that we have in terms of people to communicate your ideas, also things that really frustrate them, we’ve got explore, which is our hackathon. And that invites people from across the organization, not necessarily people in their product portfolios of technology divisions of go to market teams, but to come together and form a unique team to solve really important problems, even you know, in COVID hitch and we were trying to figure out what was right during really our planning early on in 2020. And we’re mapping out the year and then we said, You know what, let’s stop our people closest to our customer problems, they know what needs to be done right now. So for the month of May, we had what we called ship it month. And it was really we gave permission to our teams to do what they needed to do to support customers. And so whether that was making sure we put the build out for filo payments and to enable those calculations in the UK to be made. And that happened everywhere across every region. You know, whether it’s Canada and Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, we really made sure that we did everything we could to support our small businesses to survive and thrive and that our accountants and bookkeepers had the tools to do that. I think the other thing too, again, it’s not just about all the good positive staff, you need to really listen. And we’ve got a channel called goo that Xero. And it’s the people to call out stuff that isn’t working or stuff that they don’t feel is right, stupid stuff that they just get frustrated about. And over the years. I remember actually when Ron Drury our founder, he created it. And in the middle of an exact meeting, because we were talking about something I got, why are we doing it that way? That’s just crazy. Why would you guys, this probably hates us things like this that our people are getting frustrated about? I’m going to create this goo channel. Sure.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:36

It’s a goo channel?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  17:37

I don’t know how why he called it goo. But he called it goo. And yeah, so it’s where people can come. And basically, whether it’s to vent or call out staff or to ask questions. And it’s so important. And you know, people have debated over the years, gosh, is this a healthy thing? You know, should we be should we be doing this? And we’re absolutely convinced as the leadership team, we need that it’s gold, we want to hear from people. Because you know, what, if you don’t give people the right, to be able to talk and do that publicly, you know, within your organization, then they’re going to start doing that. And the same conversations will be happening. And there’s been some really important things that have come from it as well. So

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:18

that’s super interesting. So just sure I understand. So there is a public channel. I mean, you know, like, Xero within Xero. Yeah. And it’s accessible to everybody. And you can go complain about or talk about anything that you think is, you know, could be better at the company.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  18:35

Oh, 100% 100%. I’m looking at it now, actually. And is it active? Like, oh, yes, my goodness. tidily is active. So I’m just gonna and I’m sure I’m not breaking me confidentially here. Someone’s just, this is the last post just a few hours ago, I wish there was an easier and clearer way to know the cost into my group is, and for expense cane, this is a fault. There’s no way to confirm a bit to folders accurate, right now I have to beg my manager. And this is really frustrating. So that just gives you an example. But it’s probably quite a safe. Yeah, to see with everyone, but it gives you a bit of a flavor.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  19:14

I have to ask a tactical question. So I guess like a lot of people look at this, and is it anyone’s responsibility? Or is it kind of like a known thing within the company that if it’s about, say, an area you’re responsible for, then you should pay attention to it. I’m just wondering like the logistics of setting like this

Anna Curzon (Xero)  19:34

really good, self directed community. I mean, if people are complaining or I’ve got an issue or they’re, you know, they’re frustrated with something, for example, and product, they’ll tag me in. And that’s the beauty of slack, right? You could bring in whoever you bring in Steve memasukkan, bring a mark Rizal, CTO, whoever. And so you know, you get alerted and you’re it’s interesting, I’ll go on. I’ll go and find out a little bit more about that. And but often itself moderated like that one there. There’s a whole heap of people that have just come in then helps to solve that problem. So the one I mentioned previously, so it’s no one’s job itself, like a lot of good social forums, the community really does self moderate. And it’s a great place for people to have really good debates about what they feel is important at Xero. And I love it. Because it’s the continuation of our culture. That means that we provide this open, as he talked about earlier, it’s open transparency that we can lean into. And out of that comes, you know, better decision making better insights. And are people really genuinely feeling like I’ve been huge?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:36

Yeah, no, that’s, I mean, it’s super interesting, right? Like, I think you are in the 1000s of employees at Xero, right? And so yeah, if you can do it, I think a lot of companies should be able to do that and not worry about it getting overwhelming. And like you said, it’s better to have it there than in like private DMS, where nobody can really do very much about it.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  20:57

Yeah. And look, it’s really interesting to to see how others feel in the organization. Because sometimes when you look at a thread, others have pointed out and say, No, I disagree. And here’s why I disagree. And here’s why I don’t think it’s an issue and, and so, we trust everyone, as soon as they come into the organization, we treat them like adults. And we encourage that debate to happen. It’s a really good lesson, actually. And that, you know, as a leader and a manager, you don’t have to dive in and solve everything actually has a lot of leaders around the organization that have a voice. Yeah. Do you have people not?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:32

You know, that’s an interesting one. I’ll dig into that. So the you don’t need to solve everything. That’s a lesson that I feel like you learn over time, it’s not the sort of thing that you first start doing this and figure that out. How do you decide like what things are worthy of your attention? Again, like, as a chief product officer, you probably experienced, like a lot of noise. Yeah, I wonder like, have you over time, like figured out where you want to spend your time more how you triage all the different things that you could be working on? Oh, for?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  22:28

Sure. It’s a great question. Because I think, you know, we talked earlier about early mistakes and thinking that you have to be across everything, and you have to know everything. I think for me, the biggest thing is, obviously, customers, or people in clarity, would be the things that I focus in on. And often, there are people better placed than me, quite frankly, to contribute to solving a problem or to make calls that are closest to whatever problem or opportunity we’re trying to realize. So for me, I feel like the modern leader is really about facilitation. It’s about growing a great team, be super clear with them about the problems and opportunities in your business and what they’re accountable for solving. And then as things emerge, really, you know, being able to step back, and sometimes, gosh, is this a problem that I can solve? Or is this something that someone in my team can solve and have like, given me the opportunity yet to lean into that? And if I haven’t been, I should give them that opportunity? And then I think it’s also about thinking, if I’m trying to lean into something that I actually know, I don’t need to what’s going on for me? Is it my ego? Do I want to lean on and save the world and be thing to be solving this? And is it really helpful right now. And I often think that some of the best leadership moments are the discussions that you’re having with someone on your team. We’re no analysis in the room, no one else hears them, no one else will probably ever hear them. But it is about those quiet moments where you can support and encourage people to focus on the right problems and do the right thing. And again, you’re not having to feel like you can ride on your white charger and be the one all the time that everything has to come to because that’s just unsustainable, and it takes away opportunities for your team.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:26

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So it’s almost like you mentioned some of the things like if it’s people, if it’s customers, if it’s clarity, and if it’s not those things, then you’re taking like almost like a second look then asking, Does this need to be me or is there someone really well positioned or can a well positioned someone to help handle this?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  24:47

Yeah, and look, I think, I know a lot of your listeners are really keen on what are some simple sort of functional operational ideas and look, we’re going through a process at the moment as well. We are getting through RKR process, really getting really clear as an executive team and accountabilities and then deploying that rapid methodology. So you’re really clear about more importantly, who that decision maker is in the room. So very quickly, you can triage things and say, Look, you know, is this again, something not so much my team members, or I should be making a resistor decision that my PA should be making. And we’ve already kind of decided that. So very quickly, we can go, Hey, this has popped up. You’re really the deal decision maker on this. But we’re really happy to inform you make a recommendation and give you ever thought so and it might even be us that has to execute on it. But I think doing groundwork first and early as a team, to understand your accountabilities to have a decision making process. There are lots out there, just pick one, it actually means for your people, they know who to go to, they can get it, you know, like rather than going to five different people, and no one’s making a decision. They know that they’re, they’ve got the opportunity to make that call. And they can move on really quickly. And I think when you’re in a high growth tech companies, best gifts, you can give people clarity, decision faster decision making, move on test, lean, and keep going.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  26:15

Yeah, and I think, you know, for people who want to learn more, the rapid decision making framework, this is I think, originally came from Bain. But like you mentioned, it’s not the only one. But having a framework just allows you to triage things faster, and get to the bottom of whatever decision at a much faster cadence. So on the clarity front, so you mentioned OKRs, what else do you do to provide clarity to your teams and to your organization’s like, how do you know when you’ve done a good job, and everyone’s super clear, when people

Anna Curzon (Xero)  26:48

aren’t coming to you for a decision? Seriously, but that, to me is when it goes quiet, which is slightly uncomfortable when you’re used to having people coming to you, and making calls. That actually, when you’re looking across your team. And you’re seeing things getting resolved super quickly, to me that as when you know you’ve got it, right, because the team can move on really, really quickly. They don’t have blockages, they don’t have obstacles, and they’re really empowered autonomously to do that. And so yes, okay, ours have been and we’re still on that journey, I think a lot of organizations are learning, you know, how to implement OKRs for them and the culture. The other thing that we’ve done, as I’ve been closely aligned with Mark Reis, our CTO on this is just really making sure we get a stack rank of priorities. because Xero is an organization that even from an architecture perspective, often if you want to deliver a solution, there are other parties around the organization that need to help you to do that. And so if you’re faced with three or four people coming to you saying, I need your help, and it’s really urgent and important, how are you going to make that call. And then if we don’t give people a way of making that decision themselves, what’s going to happen as either Valley end up making it so you get decision making about really important stuff, with people that aren’t necessarily informed of the context of everything. And so decisions being made across the organization without context. And they might not be the right one, and will be they’ll try and do everything for everyone. And that’s not great, either. And so what we’re founders, it’s not perfect stick ranking. There’s no perfect solution. But what it does do is it allows people to say no, like, I’d love to help you, I understand how it’s really important thing I’m working on. It’s like two things about that thing that you’ve asked me to come and help you with. And here’s when we be able to look at it, but just not now. And people go for comment, like, of course, you know, the big part of that is if you’re going to publish a steak crank order of priorities, you really need to over communicate why those things are important and why they’ve been ranked in that way. So that allows, you know, leaders across the organization to say no, and say, Hey, can I just tell you how important that says it’s really important because it’s going to deliver a, b and c for our customers and for Xero?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  29:22

Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense on the stack ranking first, and then obviously, like explaining why it is the way that it is, I think that makes things obviously a lot more clear. And then people don’t have to come to you to ask you about things because it’s kind of already obvious there. But I love your diagnosis tool, which is if people are coming to you for decisions often and a lot then you haven’t. Clearly there isn’t enough alignment or there isn’t enough context that’s already been communicated. So I think that’s a really good diagnosis tool. So I feel like I’ve been in situations maybe I am Now where people come to me with a lot of questions around decisions. So you’re like I have some homework there to do.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  30:06

I think, you know, often I learned this actually. And early on in my career at ASP, we had this had this sort of diagnosis tool, and it was when you’re presented with a leadership issue, if something hasn’t gone the way you thought it would ask yourself, is that person capable? Is that team capable? Have we set them up for success? Is it a capability issue? Or is it? Are they motivated? Or is that person motivated enough? Have we got the incentives wrong? Or was something hit me at home? And in the food questioners was I clear enough about what we needed to do what the priority was? And I tell you, what, eight or nine times out of 10, when I’ve quickly done that I’ve landed on I wasn’t clear enough. It’s actually my issue. And I think that’s a mess of fame. I know just how frustrating it is for our team. They want to do the right thing, this so passionate, that our customers and our purpose. And the best gift I can give them is clarity, because I know they’ll run like the wind or do amazing things once once we’ve done that.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:09

Yeah, that’s super useful to know. I. Yeah, I think like, there’s always the opportunity to say, you know, how did I contribute to this situation? And you’re right, a lot of times, it’s you think you’ve set expectations, but maybe you haven’t set expectations clearly enough. So I think it’s refreshing to hear that leaders have I mean, you know, Xero is pretty big organization. Like, it’s a difficult thing to get right at all levels. And it’s refreshing to hear that it’s something that, that you always have to ask yourself. And one thing I did want to dig into with you is just on different styles of leadership, so reward and fear based leadership, if we could I like this idea of creating diagnosis tools, so people can maybe ask them questions and kind of diagnose which way they’re going. But how do you know, if an organization has fear base or reward based culture? If you were to just go to a CEO somewhere and ask them a bunch of questions, and based on their answers, you didn’t make a diagnosis? What would some of those questions be, for example?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  32:14

Oh, that’s a great way to phrase it. Look, I think that if I was interviewing a CEO about the culture, I would ask, how often do people bring you bad news? And if they do, how do you react when that happens? Probably the first thing. And

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:31

it’s funny, because now I’m thinking that they’re, you know, CEOs out there. Everything is great. Nothing is going wrong at all. I never hear any bad news.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  32:42

I tell you what, it’s a really interesting question, because I think I’ve been reflecting HL swarmed my panel the other day, and he was saying that they were starting pay for where he works, starting to move away from this idea of high performing teams, and starting to think of value creation teams, because performance in the language of performance is super important. Like we’re so ambitious at Xero for our customers, we are so ambitious for small businesses, and we want them to succeed, we want to hit them with amazing, you know, lives, we want to contribute to that. And we want to create value, you know, that’s a collective good, you want to be able to look back and say, three years and say, as a team, you know, is the awesome things we delivered for our customers and for each other. And the language of performance can sometimes be quite individualistic, and you’re kind of looking at each other. And that takes you away from the customer. It really suits ego, as opposed to the customer and what you want to achieve for them. And so I think when we’re thinking about fear based organizations versus rewards based organizations, I think fear based, it’s control. Its threats, it’s fun, the smartest person in the room. You know, sometimes a CEO might say, look, so great, there’s no problem I can’t solve, I can act, you know, I have people coming to me lining up behind my door all day, every day, and I make decisions quickly, and I never changed my mind. And for me, that would be interesting. I’d be curious about that. Because then you’d say, well, right? What messages are you telling you, your people and in before how’s it and pick your customers? Because it’s kind of a Xero sum game about, like, where power resides? And as a hierarchical, or is it dispersed among the organization? Is that, you know, are the winners and losers? Do people use that language? Or is it more about learning? You know, we’re wondering if we’re learning and do people talk about fear of failure, or is failure not discussed at all? Or do people talk about like learning and I think I think if you in a rewards, values orientated company, you’re actually given the opportunity to talk about the things that didn’t go well. And you’re given the opportunity to kind of say, Okay, well, that was really interesting, because with all the information we had, in great people, and we’re clear about what happened there. And in my experience, you know, we run retries all the time at Xero, we do celebrate when we do get things, right. And that’s an amazing experience. But we’re, we really lean in when we don’t get things right. And we’re really curious about that. And we really want to give people the opportunity to say, Hey, I could have done this better, I forgot about this, or this happened, and we got great. Okay, well, how do we make that better for next time might be a communication issue might be a current issue, again, who knows that the only way you’re going to get faster, and Xero is going to be a intergenerational business, we need to make sure we’ve got these really quick, fast feedback, fast feedback loops, and that we’re learning 24 by seven, because that means we’re just adding more and more and more value into the organization, and we happen to de risk it. So yeah, I think a leader that can celebrate the good times, but also know, there will be not so good times, and be prepared for those is super important that equilibrium, that you know, you’re not just going to high five everyone, when things go well, you’re also going to wrap your arms around them and things don’t.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:40

Yeah, I think that’s a super valuable way to put it. And I love the questions that you asked. I just wanted to you mentioned, don’t call it a high performance team. But did you say a high impact team high value creation, high value creation? Yeah, I like that, that that is a good framing. And and I like how you said it changes. Like, if it’s very performance oriented, like maybe you stop thinking about the customer as much. And so that makes a lot of sense. I did want to make sure to ask you, I know you’re very passionate about D AI, what are some things that like you’ve done that have been very impactful, and maybe we don’t have time to go through all of them. But if you were to recommend something that people can take away today, to create more diverse teams, and I know your leadership team is I think, like 60%, female, for example, what is something tactical that, you know, people leaders out there can do to make sure that their teams are a bit more diverse,

Anna Curzon (Xero)  37:38

the one thing I would do, above and beyond is mean,ally training, and you can’t force it on people. You can talk about why that’s important. And you can encourage it. But you’ve got to create that environment where people feel like that that’s a growth opportunity for them if you like, now, I don’t know if your listeners and you know, I have heard of ally training.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  38:06

Yeah. And like, it’s really important and tick, because traditionally, our industry has been dominated by men, and also geographically, right? What I love about COVID is it’s dispelled the myth that you’ve got to be in Seattle, San Francisco, or London or wherever, to kind of succeed and tick. And that’s been great for diversity and inclusion as well. But ally training is really about understanding your unconscious bias, understanding your privilege, and the impact that can have in a really positive way, but also in a really negative way. And I think this journey of diversity inclusion, we’re all on, we need to recognize and have empathy that not everyone starts from the same place. So whether you’re someone that’s minority, that’s not traditionally, you’re from a group that’s not traditionally seen in tech, we’ve got to have empathy for the position that they ran and how they’re coming into the organization. And I’ll talk about problems in that context in a minute. But also to you know, if you’re part of a group that traditionally has held a lot of power in that organization, so call it out, a senior white male. They don’t, I think this is much effort that needs to go into supporting, you know, groups at either end of the spectrum, to really understand the part that they can play on this journey. And we can be very dismissive and focus on you know, the groups that minorities we want to bring into organizations. But a big part of this is actually going to the people that traditionally have had privileged and saying, you might not notice some of the stuff that goes on around you that’s acutely obvious that someone’s sitting in the corner of the room, not being called on to speak. They assume that they’re Junior because they’re either female Male because of the ethnic background, and you need to be, you need to be open and aware of that. And so li training really does, you know, help you to understand where you’ve come from, potentially, you know, unconscious bias, but also to your privilege. And knowing that you’ve actually got a part to play, if you’re committed to diversity inclusion, you can’t be a spectator. And it gives you a really safe way of being able to the language, we practice case studies at Xero, we practice sort of scenarios, and we just allow people to kind of contemplate, okay, now I understand the privilege I bring into these meetings, how can I use that? How can I call out microaggressions? In a really respectful way? Because it’s very hard for people and minority groups to do that themselves. It’s almost impossible, right? Because then they get labeled aggressive, or, and so for me, you know, we’ve offered that to everyone right across product and tech, and I’ve been just really, you know, without making it a mandatory thing. And I’ve attended sessions, and it’s been beautiful to see people a feel like, oh, gosh, I know, I’m going to have people around me that will support me, but also to the awakening of others who have had a lot of privilege and didn’t even realize it, and the power of God that they can have in an organization. So to me, that would be the one thing, because you can’t just create a lot of policies and had that at the top of an organization and and just demand that everyone welcomes people, minority groups into an organization that is not sustainable. And it’s an authentic, the best thing you can do is help people to learn about themselves, and how they can impact on the world.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:46

Yeah, it sounds like building context building clarity. That makes a lot of sense. So you know, now we are at time, the question that we asked all of our guests is the for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft of managing and leading teams? Are there any tips, tricks, or parting words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Anna Curzon (Xero)  42:09

It’s interesting, I’ve thought about, what are some of the things that I’ve learned along the way? I would say the best thing you can do is learn about yourself, too, you know, who was it that said, you know, write the book leaders eat last?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  42:25

Was it Simon Sinek? Yeah, it’s great, but

Anna Curzon (Xero)  42:28

not when it comes to your development. Because you can’t lead people, if you’re not interested in your evolution of yourself as a human being. I spend a lot of my time with my team, working actually with, you know, an organization in New Zealand could play. And we learn about our egos, our masks and shadows, and your ego is going to try and protect you from everything. And I think as a leader, you know, the best, the best opportunity for development you’ve got is just to understand when your ego is getting in the way of you making a decision for the greater good. And I think if you can almost step back and invest in the tools or conversations that are going to help you understand yourself, evolution as a human being, it means that you’re not as attached to house is going to make me look but more about how is this going to help the organization, it means that you’re not defining your worth by your job title, and the role that you have, but more about the contribution you’re making. I thought I’d just it’s actually Steve Jobs would have been 67. He actually posted a beautiful snippet of a speech she was giving. And he said, life is gonna hit you in the head with a brick sometimes. He said, getting fired from Apple was the best thing that have could have happened to me. Absolutely. He said, it gave me a lightness of being to begin, again, to take the heat of being successful, and it was the most creative phase in his life. And of course, we don’t want to have to wait till we get fired to have that. To have that, you know, sort of evolution that I’d encourage leaders just to think about, what is the contribution they want to make the world to learn about themselves to not be attached to the titles, but more so to the value that they want to create, because that will free them to be more creative, into good in the world.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  44:31

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. And thanks so much for doing this.

Anna Curzon (Xero)  44:36

Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you.

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