“Your employees are looking at you as a barometer of how they should feel about the company. If you come in in the morning and you're in a terrible mood, that sets the tone for the rest of the office. So my goal is always to be consistent.”
In this episode
In episode 21, Erin Bury shares how she brings optimism to her leadership and how we can balance positivity with the challenges that come with business.
Erin recognizes that empathy, awareness, and connection are key aspects of being a leader, no matter what kind of business you are leading, be it service-based or product-based.
Erin Bury is the Co-Founder and CEO of Willful, a Toronto based startup building the online estate planning platform for today’s generation.
Prior to founding Willful in 2019, Erin held senior roles at BetaKit and wrote for publications such as The Globe and Mail and Business Insider. She also led her own creative marketing agency, Eighty-Eight, where she worked with clients such as Lyft, Telus, and Sony Pictures Television.
Listen to this episode to remember just how important our actions are as leaders and how they directly impact our teams and our culture at work.
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Erin’s first and most memorable boss
Leading services-based teams versus product-based teams
How Erin changed her leadership approach in a product-based biz
Empowering your leadership team to lead better
Investing in your team’s personal and career growth through education
What to do when you can’t promote your employees
Product-based problems as shared team experiences
How to make your team feel connected and cared for
Positivity isn’t pretending that bad things aren’t happening
Sharing hard news with a growth mindset
You can’t hire for shared hobbies, teams need skills
Look for company alignment, not personal alignment when hiring
Resourcefulness over skills and experience
Why you need to share the good and the bad about positions you are hiring for
Organization tools and platforms to ensure your team is speaking the same language
Founder relationships and important conversations
Leaning into empathy comes with power as a leader
Erin’s resources and advice for fellow managers and leaders
- Ontario Startups! Apply for the job grant program
- How F*ucked Up If Your Management? By Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale
- Managing 2020, a course on managing in uncertain times by Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale
- Listen to the Radical Candor Podcast
Aydin Mirzaee 2:16
Erin, welcome to the show.
Aydin Mirzaee 2:18
So where are you located today?
Erin Bury 2:20
Today, I’m in our willful office in downtown Toronto, I am the only one here because we are facing back into the office and a lot of people just like working from home. So you never know who’s gonna be here on a random Tuesday.
Aydin Mirzaee 2:33
Very cool. Very cool. So Erin, there’s a lot of stuff that we’re going to be talking about during this interview. And what’s really interesting about your background in particular is that you’ve just had extensive leadership experience across a bunch of different sectors. Obviously, you’ve worked as a journalist, you’ve run an agency, and now you’re a startup CEO. So there’s a lot that we want to dive into. But before we go into all the specifics, we typically like to start way in the beginning and ask you who has been your favorite or most memorable boss?
Erin Bury 3:07
Well, my favorite and most memorable are both the same person, someone who I believe, you know, as well as Sarah Yvette, who was my first startup boss. So my second job out of university was working at a startup called Sprouter, which is a social network for entrepreneurs. And so Sarah was, you know, a really strong example of a female entrepreneur, she really made me fall in love with startups, which previously hadn’t been an industry I had known much about. And she was just super supportive of me, she still is to this day, and she really helped kind of shaped my career on the path that it’s that it’s now moved into in the entrepreneurship world. So definitely favorite and most memorable. And Hi, Sarah, if you’re listening.
Aydin Mirzaee 3:47
And so what are some things that you would have adopted from what you’ve learned from Sarah, I think
Erin Bury 3:53
Sarah was always someone who encouraged autonomy versus micromanagement and encouraging resourcefulness. And people figuring things out on their own, instead of holding their hand breathing down their neck, she really hired people that she thought were, you know, great at their craft, and she hired them for a reason. And she didn’t, you know, micromanage and as you kind of went on achieving your goals, but she was very clear in setting out what those expectations for success were, what are the goals that we’re all working towards, as a company? What are your individual goals, so that there was a lot of autonomy, but everyone was kind of rowing in the same direction. So I always appreciated that approach to kind of, you know, keeping, letting people do what they’re best at and stepping in when help is needed, but not necessarily being the kind of hover boss that never just lets you do things on your own. So I’ve applied that to my own management style as well.
Aydin Mirzaee 4:53
Very cool. So one of the things that I was very curious to talk to you about is some of the differences that you Notice, obviously managing teams that at an agency and now a technology startup, one question that that I always am very curious about is, you know, some of the lessons learned, obviously, like, what are some of the things that you would have done in the agency that turned out well, and you’re going to reap repeat at your tech startup? And what were some of the mistakes, obviously, that you’ve learned? And you’re like, we won’t don’t do those, again, at the new company?
Erin Bury 5:27
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s it’s so interesting to look at the differences between a service business and a product business, I mean, at the agency, our entire day, and really, the entire company was dictated and driven by external factors, you know, the clients that were saying jump, and we were saying how high versus a product company where it’s really driven by internal factors. And when I made the shift from the agency, which I had been at for almost six years, to willful, this, it was, I was almost lost on day one, because you’re so used to having clients dictate your daily agenda. And all of a sudden, as a product CEO, you dictate your daily agenda, and your time is your own, which is really great. But you also have this pressure of Am I focusing on the right things? Am I doing the right things? And I found an agency, it was also difficult, because you couldn’t always control how your team felt, right? Because often they would have, you know, difficult client interactions, or impossible deadlines, or a client that was demanding or unreasonable. So you were often in this rock and a hard place situation where you had clients who were paying the bills, and you couldn’t necessarily just turn around and fire them. But you also had to stand up for your team and make sure that they were being treated with respect. So that’s just kind of a note on how things shifted from services to products. As I kind of came into Willful, the things that I wouldn’t do are things like tracking time and judging someone’s output based on their billable ratios, and how many hours of client work they’re doing a week. And one thing that I did at the agency that I definitely haven’t brought forward is managing all of the performance reviews myself, and almost having this kind of not having an executive team around me, right. I think at willful, I’ve really taken the approach of building up the leadership team and empowering them to do a lot of the things that I might have previously done as the leader at the agency. And that includes things like one on ones with team members and performance reviews and things like that. But there’s also a lot of stuff that I have brought over. And a lot of it has to do with culture and education. So we did things called demo Fridays at the agency where someone would demo a client project or skill, or a case study. And it was really helpful to people on other teams who weren’t necessarily experts in that discipline. And that’s something that we’ve brought forward to willful. I’ve also brought forward management, training and education. So we have an education budget and have invested in things like public speaking, training and management training. And I think that’s really been helpful to show people their kind of growth path and career plan. And then just the fun stuff, like team events and retreats and all that good stuff. But yeah, I’ve tried to bring over the good and iterate on the stuff that maybe wasn’t the most seamless at the agency.
Aydin Mirzaee 8:16
Yeah, that makes sense. So in terms of just, you know, management, training, and investing in people’s skills, and so on, and so forth. I mean, that’s a very interesting thing to do, especially at a smaller scale company, I think, you know, some people would take the position that, you know, like startups are resource strapped, and, and they won’t be able to do things like that. But it seems like you’ve taken a different view.
Erin Bury 8:42
Yeah, I mean, I think for a team member to feel good about their direction at the company, they kind of have to feel aligned with the larger company mission and and feel like they’re, they know where it’s going. But they also have to feel like they know their direction and where they’re going and feel like they can actually learn and progress and that they won’t just stagnate and stay in place. And I find it’s really hard in small teams, you know, especially if you’re less than 20, 30 people, because you can’t always just promote people right away, because you don’t necessarily have somewhere to promote them to, or you need someone to be doing the job that they’re doing and you don’t have budget to replace their roles. So I found over time that the best way to show that career growth, when you can’t necessarily always be putting people into different roles, is helping them grow in their kind of skill set their training or education. So at the agency and willful I’ve always had $500 annual education budgets for each person that they can use on whatever they’d like that relates to their role. But we also do semi annual training programs for the majority of the team. And to your point, it is really hard to budget for that stuff. But there’s a really amazing grant in Ontario called the Canada Ontario jobs grant. That offsets the cost of training for employees. And I applied to that grant every six months like clockwork, and I think we’ve funded almost, you know, all of the costs of those group training sessions over the past few years through that grant from the Ontario government. Very cool.
Aydin Mirzaee 10:17
That’s a great tip for all those in Ontario, Canada. So that’s really interesting. So that, you know, this other concept of, you know, obviously, in an agency, you don’t really control a lot of the extrinsic things that are happening. But I think that even in a startup, I mean, there’s also many externalities. And so I think, like a lot of the How do you manage the emotions of your team and how they react to things? Probably a lot of those will translate as well to the startup to know
Erin Bury 10:47
they do for sure. I think it’s just, it’s not always as pronounced, right. But if a client is a thorn in your side, that’s all you can think about. And everyone else on the team may not even know or be aware of it, because they may or may not just work with that client. Whereas, for example, with Willful, you’re right, there are external factors like competitors launching or legislative changes, or even COVID, which was, you know, it was a huge shift for the business. But everyone kind of experiences them together. And they may matter more to the marketing team versus the product team, or vice versa. But I find there’s more commonality of those external challenges versus an agency where, you know, it’s usually the account manager who bears the brunt of a client and the other folks are maybe shielded from it.
Aydin Mirzaee 11:34
Hmm, yeah, that’s actually really interesting. It’s interesting that you can take a look at some externalities and problems in a product based company and really think of them as actually shared experiences that bring people together. So there’s a positive in that, too. One thing I wanted to chat with you about was this concept of positivity in general. So one thing that we’ve heard you say is, I think you have to be committed to having a positive attitude and a positive mindset. When you’re leading a team, you set the example for the culture, the tone and the attitudes of the office. I’m curious why you think this positive outlook is so important?
Erin Bury 12:16
Yeah. I mean, I’ve always just been an unfailing optimist. My mom was, as well. And I remember one time she told me, You know, I asked her why she was always so happy. And she said, You know, I view positivity as a choice. It’s a choice, when you wake up in the morning, how you’re going to walk out the door and carry yourself and I choose positivity, and I very much subscribed to the same belief. And it became more pronounced for me in the workplace. When I actually joined the agency that I was previously running. When it was I didn’t found it, I joined it when it was already a few people and the person that I was replacing, who is leading the agency at the time, I kind of pulled the team when I joined and surveyed them and said, What did you like about the way this person was running it? What did you not? Like? How do you feel generally about the way things are going, and I heard from several people that they felt really disconnected from this leader, because they all sat in one common area and this leader had an office and, you know, he would come in in the morning, he wouldn’t necessarily even say hi to people, he would, you know, lock himself in his office, and no one would really ever know what he was working on. And, you know, he leave at all different times of the day, and people felt like there wasn’t, you know, a connection there. And also, there wasn’t any sense of transparency that, you know, they were all working with him instead of for him. And so I really took that to heart. And already being a positive person, it was natural for me to carry that attitude into the office. But that experience really taught me that your employees are looking at you all the time as a barometer of how they should feel about the company, if you come in in the morning, and you had a really bad sleep, and you’re in a terrible mood that sets the tone for the rest of the office. And so my goal is always to to be consistent. And to know that there’s always going to be fluctuations and how someone’s feeling you’re always going to have you know, a crappy day or a day where you just don’t feel like showing up but as a leader, it’s your job to and to have that consistency because your team is really relying on that so that they feel confident and also so that they feel like you’re in it with them. So I really kind of took the opposite approach. I moved my my chair out into the common area, I made sure that in the morning everyone was getting greeted How was your night and every day I was putting that positive attitude forward. And I think that’s really that really set the tone for not me being one of them, but of me being on their side and invested in their success. Yeah,
Aydin Mirzaee 14:41
no, I I love that. And I love that quote specifically. Some some days you might not feel like showing up but as a leader, it’s your job. No, I agree with that, you know, wholeheartedly. One of the questions I have for you then do is say that like you’re an agency and You just lost, you know, your biggest account? How do you how do you deal with that? Do you still put on the positive attitude? Life is great. The world is great. Yeah. How do you play it in that scenario?
Erin Bury 15:12
You know, to me positivity is in pretending that bad things don’t happen or pretending that you don’t have bad days. In fact, I think it’s important to highlight that it is I am transparent about, especially with my leadership team about days where I am off, or I’m not necessarily you know, something bad has happened with, with Willful and we aren’t just in the best frame of mind, it’s important to share that you’re not in that you’re infallible, and that you’re not someone who is perfect, right. But I feel like when sharing that news, it’s always framed in the context of what we can learn from it, right. You know, if if, if there’s a setback for the team, if we miss a revenue goal, if at the agency, if we lost a big client, it was always Okay, this sucks. It’s not ideal. But the positive side of it is This frees up space for us to bring on those three smaller clients that we wanted, or this gives us time to work on our internal website, which we’ve been putting off for months, or, you know, this is actually an opportunity because x y Zed, so I think it’s not pretending bad things don’t happen. It’s communicating. And in such a way that highlights there is always a silver lining, and that might just be that you freed up time for something else.
Aydin Mirzaee 16:21
Yeah, no, that makes sense. I mean, I like the you know, the concepts of positivity is a choice. But it also seems like, you know, it is work too. So it’s it positively doesn’t come easily. I mean, maybe for some it does, but but you can always look for a silver lining in anything and and that kind of sets the tone for the company, the office, you know, wherever people work today.
Erin Bury 16:43
So yeah, I mean, my husband calls me Mary Poppins, because he is, he says he gets annoyed by how unfailingly positive I am. And he’s actually my co founder. So he experiences it in a work context. And then he also experiences it in a personal context, because I’m always the person that when he’s cut off and you know, yells at someone on the road, or when something goes wrong, I’m always like, but here’s the positive side, it could be worse. And he’s like, sure that Mary Poppins. So you know, I think it is important to recognize that sometimes people just want to vent. Sometimes people just need to have a bit of like, release and to talk about the negatives without being constantly reminded of the positive. It’s kind of like when you go through a bad breakup. And your friend says, Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea. And you’re like, I don’t care right now, Susan, I want that fish like this is not helpful. So I think it’s tempering that unfailing positivity with the fact that sometimes people don’t want positivity. They want commiseration, and you have to be there for that as well.
Aydin Mirzaee 17:39
Yeah. Words of wisdom. So another topic that I wanted to chat with you about is hiring. So wanted to see like in terms of hiring, what are the things that you’ve learned in hiring people in all the different contexts that that you’ve been? What do you look out for when hiring?
Erin Bury 17:59
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to note that I’ve, I’ve worked with HR consultants, but we’ve never had a full time HR person at any of the startups or small teams that I’ve run. And so it has been me, in many cases doing the hiring. And I’ve definitely made every single mistake in the book. I mean, I’ve hired people because they also liked the bachelor and wine and then realized, Oh, you know, what, you probably shouldn’t just hire people, because they have the same hobbies outside of work as you. You know, I’ve hired people when I didn’t trust my gut, for example, there was someone I hired at the agency who had a really long commute, and who promised it wasn’t going to be an issue. And I kind of just felt in my gut, that’s a really long commute every single day, are you really going to want to do that. And they ended up leaving a few months later, because in fact, it was a really long commute. So I think, you know, trusting my gut, really looking for company alignment, not personal alignment with someone that you’re interviewing. And then I mean, the biggest thing that I always look for is resourcefulness. And that’s something that comes from my experience working for Sarah, early in my career. I was, you know, a year out of school, and she hired me to do all the digital marketing and events for her company. And a couple months in I said, you know, why did you hire me? Like I had very little experience in any of the things that you were looking for. And she said, You know what, I don’t necessarily hire hire for skills I hire for resourcefulness. I don’t care if you have the answer. I just want to know that you can find it on your own and get from A to B. And that really reframed not only my own role, because I felt like it was okay to fail. And it was okay to admit that I wasn’t, you know, I didn’t have it all figured out. But it also framed how I set out on hiring in the rest of my career, which is, you know, I’m not always looking for the perfect skills fit. I’m not always looking for someone that has, you know, the perfect track record at previous companies. I’m looking for someone that is willing to get their hands dirty. That’s okay, working within constraints, which you have to be able to do at an early stage startup and someone He’s going to be able to just have a set of goals and figure out how to get from A to B, and not have to have me hold their hand between between A and B. So that’s really what I’ve learned over the years. And I don’t get it right, every single time but, but I think if you use resourcefulness as kind of a barometer for what you’re looking for in startups, you often do get people who are just really flexible, and who work hard and who are able to work within constraints.
Aydin Mirzaee 20:26
And so how do you find these people? Or how do you figure out if someone is resourceful?
Erin Bury 20:32
I think a lot of it is being upfront about what the job and the environment is like, before you even bring them in for an interview. I remember at the agency one time, we had, you know, you’re always trying to paint this picture of what the job will be. That’s through rose colored glasses, right? We’re this amazing company with this amazing culture, and we work with awesome clients. And you don’t always highlight Yeah, but some of our clients are really difficult. And, you know, not every day is going to be amazing. And yeah, we have a great culture. But some days, there’s deadlines. And, you know, that led to experiences like the person who left after a few months, partly because of the commute, but partly because I just don’t think the role as described, matched what it actually was when she got in the door. And so I really tried to start being extremely upfront in the job description, but also in interviews about all of the bad things about the role, right. So we just hired a marketing specialist, for example, and I was very upfront, you know, you’ll have very little budget, and you will get almost none of the product and engineering teams time. And you will be competing with a million other, you know, share voice competitors, and these are all things that are going to suck about your job. But it’s a huge opportunity. And here’s why. And I think painting that picture, you’re almost forcing resourcefulness, because you’re telling them we’re you’re not going to be set up for success unless you’re the type of person who can work within constraints and, you know, find a way to get stuff done without the perfect set of conditions. So the other way we do that is also through just, you know, tests, I’m not a huge fan of having candidates do hours and hours of work. But one simple writing test or coding technology test, if you’re a developer, where you’re kind of walking through your thought process can be really helpful to just see if I give someone a grain of information, can they go out and find all of the other pieces of the pie that they need to solve this problem? And that can be really helpful in understanding if someone is the type of person who goes out and is resourceful in finding answers.
Aydin Mirzaee 22:37
Yeah, I love this concept of, you know, it’s almost when someone’s joining, maybe you’re doing a little bit of selling, trying to get them to join. And then it almost seems like you’re trying to sell them not to join. And if they still want to join them, that might be the right person.
Erin Bury 22:54
Yeah, it’s kind of like Zappos they famously used to offer people, I think, $2,000, after the two week training period to leave the company, because they didn’t just want people who were there for a paycheck, they wanted people who were aligned for the mission. And while we’re not exactly doing that, I think the idea is, the more upfront that we can be about the challenges of working at willful, the less of a surprise, it’ll be when you get in the door. And if you come to me month two and say, my budget is too small, I’ll say, Yeah, I told you that in the first interview, and unfortunately, that’s the way it is, right. So I think it’s no surprises on either side is really the goal when you’re hiring someone and being upfront about the upsides, but also, the challenges, I think helps you actually ensure that both sides are on the same page.
Aydin Mirzaee 23:37
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. You know, in terms of, you know, we talked about positivity, and as a leader, obviously exemplifying that and, and allowing a lot, a lot of other people to see that in in you and set the tone for the office. One of the other things that I’ve I’ve known you for is just, you know, as a person who’s had a love for productivity and systems in place to promote that wanted to, you know, ask you just in terms of, you know, managing yourself and your productivity and things. What have you learned over the course of, you know, the last decade or so, and what tips would you have for for other people looking to enhance that in themselves?
Erin Bury 24:18
Yeah, I mean, to me, just like positivity is a choice. organization is a choice. And I think some people are naturally organized. I am very much one of those people. I’m super type A, I’ve always been a planner. I you know, when we were planning our wedding, I had like 72 spreadsheets and everything was connected, and I’m just that kind of person. I don’t think it comes naturally to everybody. For example, my husband, Kevin, he’s definitely more the creative entrepreneur. He’s the one who had the idea behind Whirlpool, and he it doesn’t come as easily to him to be super organized. And over the years, I’ve been saying that to him, you know, you can either call yourself a disorganized person who’s just never going to have those systems in place, or you can try to kind of work against your natural tendencies and input systems that actually do the work for you. It’s kind of like when financial financial people say, you know, pay yourself first set up the savings to go out of your bank account before you even have a chance to touch them. To me, that’s what organization and productivity is like, set up the systems that help do the work for you so that you don’t actually have to wake up every day choosing it. So for me, that’s been things like religiously adhering to, to do lists and productivity software that’s changed over the years today. It’s Asana, I live and breathe by our team Asana boards, and by my own personal Asana board that has everything from today’s to do list to this week’s next week’s quarterly priorities, personal to dues, you name it, I swear by it. And if it’s not on that list, it just doesn’t get done. I also am a big fan of time blocking. So putting time in the calendar for heads down work against some of those two dues and priorities and kind of mapping that out at the start of the week. So that you’re not just dictated by your inbox, which is, I think, an easy trap to fall into when you’re a founder. And I’m also a big fan of the Sunday organization session. Some days, I hate it when I you know, get home from a cottage and all I want to do is watch Netflix, but I take a couple hours every Sunday and clean up my inbox, set up my to do list and reorganize it for the week time blocking my calendar. And it’s a really great way for me to just go into the week with a really clear sense of what needs to happen. And without it feeling chaotic, because to me, feeling like I’m a disorganized is the equivalent of chaos. And when there’s organization to me, there’s peace.
Aydin Mirzaee 26:41
So I love that ritual of you know, spending your Sundays actually planning the week ahead and organizing things in that way. How do you teach things like that to other members on the team? Or how do you build systems in the company to make sure that, you know, the team as a whole gets more done?
Erin Bury 26:59
Yeah, that’s a great question. I mean, I certainly don’t expect anyone and I’m sure many people listening will say, Well, I don’t want to work on Sunday, or I have kids, which I don’t. And the answer is you could do that Monday morning, I just like to start off Monday feeling organized and go to bed Sunday feeling organized. But you could absolutely wake up on a Monday and just block two hours in your calendar to do exactly that, clean out your inbox, review your to do list time block for the week, I think everyone on a team has their own personal organizational system. So for example, I have team members who keep paper to do lists, and that is their, their Bible for how they organize themselves. And I don’t think the method matters as much as what they’re all trying to achieve. And for us, we use the OKR goal setting system. We also have individual team KPIs where, you know, it kind of goes down from the company okrs. So I think that’s really everyone organizes towards that in their own way. And we’re not prescriptive about you must use Asana, you must use paper to do lists. Everyone kind of organizes their own structure, but we do you I find, you know, for the engineering and product team, they’re using pivotal, which is a you know, similar to JIRA. And on the marketing operations partnership side of the business, we’re using Asana, and I think that also just helps to keep everyone on the same platforms and speaking the same language makes sense.
Aydin Mirzaee 28:23
So one other concept. I mean, I can’t not ask you about startup life. And you know, obviously startup life is a roller coaster highs are high lows are low. How do you keep balancing? I guess the the need for keeping everybody informed with you know, obviously not getting them distracted at the same time, especially during I know that, you know, you and team you recently and congratulations for completing your fundraising, especially during times where fundraising and and it’s it’s a lot of noise. How do you how do you balance these two concepts of distraction versus keeping people informed?
Erin Bury 29:06
Yeah, great question. And thank you very much on the fundraising. I don’t think that we have this figured out necessarily, but I would say my approach to it is always, you know, remember that the more the more things I put in the team’s head to think about the more distracted or the more balls they’ll be juggling. So, you know, again, we have our quarterly OKRs as a company. And those are really the focus and anything else that is that side of that is typically shared through our monthly town halls. So we have, you know, a team wide meeting every month where I kind of keep everyone in the loop on the other stuff that’s happening, the fundraising, the special projects that we’re working on the maybe next quarter priorities that we’re making traction towards. And so the idea is kind of balancing transparency, which I’m very passionate about, how do I make sure everyone feels confident about our financial status? How do I make sure that they feel confident about where we’re going? As a company, but balancing that with not giving them so much information that it’s actually detrimental to them doing the job at hand. And I think it also depends on the level, you know, if you’re someone who is really an individual contributor, you don’t necessarily maybe need to know some of the stuff that let’s say the CTO needs to know, because he needs to be seeing what’s coming down the pipeline six to 18 months ahead. So So yeah, I don’t think we have a perfect approach to it. But But that’s also the benefit of running the company with my husband, right? There’s always someone 24 seven, who I can talk to about the challenges who I can vent to who, you know, can talk through a challenge with me without me having to bring it to the rest of the team. But the flip side of that coin is you have to be really Cognizant, when you are running a company with your spouse, that you’re not having important discussions about the business that make the rest of the leadership team feel like they’ll never be privy to those types of conversations. So that in and of itself is a fine balance.
Aydin Mirzaee 30:58
Yeah. And that’s actually a very sort of, like astute observation there. When you have two people, I mean, in this case, husband and wife, but also you have other cases, you know, my co founder, for example, is, is my brother and another close friend. And we juggle that that exact same problem, which is, you know, how do you make sure that you don’t have conversations that really everybody in the leadership team should be a part of, and not doing that in silos? And it is a difficult one. But yeah, it’s important to acknowledge and realize that, you know, that’s something that needs to be actively actively worked on. We’ve talked about a lot, you know, we you know, we started out, we talked about hiring, we’ve talked about, you know, the concept of positivity and productivity. I take it one of your one of the things that you are a big believer in is the manager, as a coach, I want to ask you about, you know, why you think it is so important, but also, how can people change their leadership style to become more like a coach, maybe some examples of like, what coaching would look like versus what coaching would not look like?
Erin Bury 32:05
Yeah, I mean, I’m a very empathetic leader. So I think for me, caring about my team on a personal level, and caring about them on a professional level just comes naturally, I remember I was speaking with someone who were empathy doesn’t come naturally to them as a leader. And they said, they had to train themselves to ask somebody at the beginning of a meeting, how they were doing and how their weekend was, because, you know, it was just their their nature to kind of get into a meeting and immediately dive into the task at hand. And so I used to really fight that empathetic leadership style, I always felt like, Oh, am I nice? Am I not getting the best results out of people because I’m not yelling, or, you know, really being hard on people. And a business coach that I work with a few months ago, he said, you know, if you came into the office and screamed at everyone, everyone would be like, Who is this, this is so antithetical to the to her leadership style, and actually don’t think that you would engender better results from people because it would, you know, they’re so used to wanting to work hard, because you’re empathetic. So I’ve started to lean more into the empathetic side of my leadership and to recognize that it’s actually not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a trait that a lot of managers have to practice and learn and hone over time. So for me, the coaching side of it comes easily, because I genuinely want to know how people’s lives are, what their goals are in future. And I make sure to, to get those things out of them through, you know, ongoing, one on ones through some of those feedback surveys on what types of things they want to learn. In terms of what not to do, I would say it’s just not caring and not asking, right? It doesn’t you don’t have to have a one on one with someone to have a five minute chat with them about, hey, what could we be doing to better support you? What other resources would you want to learn? Is there are there any books that we can order for the library at the office that would help you with learning a specific skill set? So I think it’s just generally kind of keeping employee growth, top of mind. And for some people, maybe it’s a more formal coaching engagement. But for others, it’s probably just informally making sure you’re keeping a pulse on that.
Aydin Mirzaee 34:08
Yeah, no, those are all all really, really good tips. So we’re coming up on our time here. And one of the questions that we we ask all the guests on the show, is for all the managers and leaders out there people who are actively working on getting better at leading teams, what tips or resources or advice would you have anything that you think would help them on their journey to becoming better leaders?
Erin Bury 34:31
Yeah, I mean, I’m a big reader. So for me, there’s a lot of books that I really love. How asked up is my management by the nightingales is a favorite of mine. And actually, they have a really amazing course Melissa and Jonathan Nightingale, who own raw signal Group, a management training company that I’ve worked with in the past, we’re actually going through management training with them right now at willful. They have a course called managing 2020, which I think is very affordable, it might be about $99, and it’s an online course. But it’s all about managing through uncertain times because of COVID. And because everyone’s not only dealing with how do I manage my team, but how do I manage my team through a pandemic? So I would definitely recommend that. I’m also a big fan of the asking manager blog, which is all about kind of employee conundrums and how people should tackle them. So that’s a good one to check out, especially if you have really kind of edge case scenarios that you need advice on. I’m a big podcast person, I tend to listen to a lot of kind of business focus podcasts. And so I love this podcast specifically because I just love hearing people talk about their management journey. No one’s perfect, obviously. But everyone has just a great nugget that you can take away. And I also really love the radical candor podcast. I haven’t read the book. But apparently that’s also good, but just this idea of kind of radical transparency within an organization and how to leverage that as a manager. So those are two of the podcasts that I really love.
Aydin Mirzaee 35:56
Cool. Well, we feel honored that we made the list, lots of lots of really good resources. And obviously we’ll include all of those in the show notes. Erin, thank you so much for doing this.
Erin Bury 36:07
Aydin, thanks for having me. And congrats on all the growth at Fellow. You have a fellow Erin, Erin Blaskie on your team, and she’s absolutely fabulous. So, so yeah, it’s been great to see all your growth!