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Society tells us that the more you do, the more valuable you are, and I think that ripples into work in a very unhealthy way.

In this episode

Are you only focusing on the fires affecting your team?

We often overlook the things that may not need our instant attention. We know it’s important not to distance ourselves too far from the work of our team, yet we can put too much focus on those urgent things, leaving little room for anything else. 

In episode #160, Joanna Lord explains how important it is to focus on the small stuff as leaders to prevent it from turning into the big stuff. 

We also chat with her about the impact of emotional intelligence on leadership, the “is that 100% true” exercise, the importance of focus, how to hire, and of course, the craft of marketing. 

Joanna Lord is an Executive in Residence at Reforge and former CMO of Skyscanner, where she helped scale the company to over 100 million users per month. Prior to that, Joanna was CMO at ClassPass for four years, leading their marketing, brand, creative and product marketing. She’s also a public board director, independent board member, advisor and consultant for consumer companies.

Tune in to hear all about Joanna’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.


04:00

The benefits of an executive coach

08:00

The impact of emotional intelligence

11:11

Is that 100% true exercise

18:35

Being a later life convert of focus

31:15

When you’re asked something you should know the answer to

33:24

Things that make a difference in hiring


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Joanna, welcome to the show.

Joanna Lord  02:25

Thank you excited to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  02:27

Yeah, super excited to do this. You and I were just chatting. I’m a huge fan of reforge. You’re currently in EIR there you were the CMO at Skyscanner, you were at ClassPass and a bunch of other companies too. And so lots of things that we’re going to dive into today. The thing that we like to do on the show is start with the mistakes, though. So if you could rewind back to when you first started to manage or lead a team, do you remember what some of those very early mistakes were for you?

Joanna Lord  02:57

I love that you jump right in, let’s get let’s get to the good stuff. I mean, yes, I do. Remember because they sit with me very heavy, even years later, I think my first management role was probably at this point almost 1617 years ago. And I made what I believe is probably now in hindsight, almost every possible mistake, it’s it’s actually impressive how many mistakes I made in my first role, one that really stands out. And I think about this a lot when I’m, you know, thinking of bringing on a first time manager or even now because like, obviously leadership. So lifetime journey is I tried to do it all myself, like I it was my first role. I didn’t want anyone to know, I was not qualified because I was not qualified. I didn’t want anyone to know what I didn’t know. And so I didn’t ask, I didn’t lean on my manager for support. I didn’t, you know, go to the people team for support. And weirdly, even though I’m a growth marketer at heart, I didn’t like apply the growth mindset. I didn’t even go looking for best practices or so I think when a lot of my early mistakes, some very I can talk through some examples. But a lot of those mistakes were pretty avoidable. If I had just kind of raised my hand and said, This is my first time managing like any tips, you know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:08

yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And do you remember what led you to draw that conclusion? Or how did you end up getting to that? Realization?

Joanna Lord  04:16

Yeah, I was very fortunate. early on. So I was at a company called SEO Moz. At the time, which is now Moz, one of the early pioneers in SEO, I had a remarkable SEO Rand Fishkin, like very early in SEO, and he was smart enough to bring in executive coaching for a lot of the leadership team. And, you know, I like to say I was identified as someone who could use that help, which I totally appreciate now. And when I sat down with that executive coach who has been pretty pivotal in my career as a manager and leader, she helped me see it, you know, she was just like, and I think she what her exact kind of push was, why didn’t we would talk to examples of like, maybe I was in a confrontation with one of my direct reports, or I didn’t know how to do Good feedback or, you know, maybe one of them was underperforming in an area. And I’d heard that from another team and I, and she would just be like, Well, why haven’t you asked for help? And like, I think we really talked about that. And my main reason is, and I think this is really complicated. It’s like, many first time managers are exceptional ICs. And you get all this great feedback, and you’re like, you’re feeling really good. And then you get promoted and you you don’t want to underperform. It’s like the biggest fear you have is letting someone down. And you know, so I think she helped me see it. And I think it often takes an external perspective reflecting back to you, you know, you could just ask for help, like, there’s no shame in that game. And I think that was pretty pivotal for me. Yeah, that’s

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:41

super interesting. And on the executive coach thing, so at the various companies that you’ve worked at, how does that work? I know, for example, there’s some companies like Shopify, for example, that very early on, they brought in executive coaches that were full time employees at the company. What’s your view on that? For larger companies? Should there be a budget for it? Or should you know, executive coaches be on staff? Or what are your thoughts?

Joanna Lord  06:06

Well, I’ve seen all the flavors. And I think, you know, like you said, when I was at Skyscanner, we had full time employees, I had a full time executive coach available to the exec team, I used that resource plenty, you know, in a plentiful way. at Moz, it was hired, step episodically, right, like, maybe you would have them for three to six months, I’ve also spent my own money on it. And at times in my life, when I didn’t have a lot of money. And there’s formal executive coaching, there’s kind of more like mentorship that you really invest in. So my strong thesis on this is probably the biggest difference between great managers and leaders and good ones, is whether or not they are proactively and consistently investing and getting better at it. And it’s not rocket science. But it is, it’s an easy thing to fall to the bottom of your to do list. It’s like the meeting you cancel is the one that about you becoming a better manager and leader because you have so much other things, so many other things to do. So I believe the more a company can do, the more they set aside budget to invest in their management levels. You feel in everywhere. And so, you know, I’ve talked to companies I joined or companies that I advise and consult with, this is always an area that comes up and I always advise in that direction.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:18

Yeah, super interesting. And fun fact. So I had an executive coach and actually invited him on the show. So we did an interview that way, and talked about some of the things I learned just to give the audience like a flavor of that if they haven’t done that before. But one of the questions that I did want to talk to you about is emotional intelligence in the workplace. And it sounds like you’ve done a lot of training in that area. Maybe you can talk to us about like, what does that mean to you? And what can you advise others about developing? If it’s possible?

Joanna Lord  07:55

Yeah, I mean, so it is possible. And I think that’s probably one of the most common misconceptions about EQ. Everyone else at baseline. So one, if we EQ for those that are listening, like emotional intelligence, most people think of it as a singular thing, which is like, how self aware Am I do I know myself? And that is a very important important part, but it’s one of the four quadrants. It’s actually self awareness. Like, can I have a joy? I know how I feel, can I like recognize that self management? Like, how do I manage the way I’m feeling like how do I respond in a room? Can I control my angst, my anxieties, you know, can I, if I’m really excited, like too excited? How do I control that? And then there’s social awareness, right? How aware it is basically, can you read the room? And then there’s social management, right? And how can you control a room? How can you maneuver maneuver a room? And so I say all that because I think it is so important. I think that EQ is for everyone, not just managers and leaders, but there’s work to do against it. And a lot of it comes down to that first quadrant, which is like, I think what what you’re kind of getting out with your question, which is, everyone has a predisposed baseline for how self aware they are some people and I’ll give you an example, like to get really candid. I’ve had people on my team that are drastically underperforming. And when you talk to them, they’re like, I’m doing great, I’m just knocking it out of the park, look at all this great stuff I’m doing. And I’ve seen the exact opposite, where people are crushing it. And every time you talk to them, they’re incredibly low confidence. All they see is what they’re doing wrong. And that tends to signal that they have work to do on self awareness. There are things you can do, but most of it is in the softer side of things. And it’s intimidating, where it’s things like therapy, meditation, mentorship, like healthy dialogues and discussions with your managers really candid feedback discussions, because what really helps someone get better at self awareness is figuring out what makes you tick. What are your triggers? What are you afraid of? And a lot of that as you probably know it and like go way back to like when you were 15 or like your first year. Haven’t 22 Or a time you were fired that you couldn’t that you thought you’re over, but you never shook? And so I think self awareness is a massive advantage and leadership. But I think it’s hard work.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:10

Yeah. I mean, this concept of some people thinking that they’re doing much better than they are and other people thinking that they’re doing much worse than they are. This is to some extent, human nature and people are just wired differently. Yeah, I am curious if you were to give us some tactical tips on how to deal with each if you had, and we can talk about both scenarios. How do you deal with this on your team?

Joanna Lord  10:33

Yeah, love it, I’ll give some very tactile examples, like skills I’ve learned over the years. So probably, if someone is I’ll start with the positive if they are over. They’re overqualified. And they’re constantly undercutting themselves. And this is a very challenging thing for a manager because you also meet people as they become more senior, as they take on more projects as they strengthen and kind of build out their mandate. You need them to demonstrate competence. And internally, they need to be seen as an ambassador of those projects are an advocate. And if they’re constantly questioning their ability, and constantly in fear that they’re underperforming, it will come through, which erodes the trust cross functionally, like all the things we know. So probably the number one thing I have them do, and I actually did take this from training in the past is called the is that 100%? True exercise?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:19

I don’t know if you’ve ever done it. No, what is it? Yeah, so

Joanna Lord  11:22

if I say to someone who, who I think is doing really well at something, but they’re just constantly showing kind of lack of confidence, or inability to be self reflective of their performance, and I say, write down what you are most afraid of on this project. And they will always start with some crazy sentence. Like, if I take on this big project you’re asking me to and everyone at the company will see how not trained I am at the skill, it will be incredibly embarrassing, I will be performance managed out fired and everyone in my life will know that I’m not any good. Like it will be some crazy big sentences narrative they’ve built. And you go, okay, is that 100%? True? Like if you didn’t do well at this fair, so let’s come up with a more true sentence. And they’ll write something like, If I don’t do well, that I’d have to present in front of the team? And they would they would think that I’m not good at what I do. And that would make me feel embarrassed. Okay, is that 100%? True? Will everyone at the company not think you’re good at what you do if there’s, so you go through this exercise till you get to the 100% true statement. And that’s usually something like, I’m afraid I’m not good enough to do this job, or something very like about them about their self awareness. Like, I was told once that I might not be good at this one thing, I think I am, but I’m afraid to take on this project, or I care too much what you think about me, it’s something that you can actually work off of. So that’s an example is called the 100%. True, it usually takes like eight to 10 sentences, but you get to the one that they’re most scared of, and then you can say to them, is that so bad? So you know, the project doesn’t go well. And we realize there’s never any need to develop Is that so bad? So that’s one direction. If I flip it, if it’s helpful, that this one’s much easier, if they’re underperforming, but they think they’re over performing, I tend to do the, let me put your job description in front of you. Let’s walk through line by line. And let’s score on a one to 10. You score on one to 10. And I’ll score I’m on a 10 on how good we we think it’s going. And there’s it’s usually like, I call it football fields apart. They are they think they’re an eight out of 10. I show them your three out of 10. It’s an honest way is a third is triangulation. And I can point to and say like how do you feel about these differences in numbers, right, and we can start to talk as humans, which is what we really need to do. And it doesn’t become a justification of the eight of the three, it becomes a reality that we are five football fields apart. So those are some examples and tactics, but I think they tend to help you build self awareness and realize there might be another narrative you have to consider.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:44

This is super interesting. So talking about the 100% true one. So you would roll out that tool in your toolkit, if someone is starting, say you want them to do something, a bigger project, and you’re noticing a lack of confidence. And rather than just saying like, Hey, don’t worry, you’re great. It’ll be great. Just do it. Which you can also do, maybe you also do that. But if it persists, then you take this tool, really cool tool, by the way and on the job description when that’s super interesting. I think that sometimes maybe the wit, you know, people do stuff like this when they are like it’s performance review time, but you don’t wait for that. Right? Like anytime you feel that there is a discrepancy. You just go to talking about each one of those individual things and and maybe they are over performing in some areas, but maybe in some critical areas. They’re not.

Joanna Lord  14:36

Absolutely and I think on the second one of like going through and doing it ahead of a performance review. People it’s common, right, like we think of performance reviews is cyclical. We think of one on ones as the in between time to like address big stuff. But I think oftentimes as managers and I certainly made this mistake early, it’s actually the small stuff that you need to manage because that becomes the big stuff. And we know internally, I’ll give you an example, if someone is underperforming in a very specific area. So say I have a lifecycle marketer, and they’re not being a good partner to product. And I hear that from my product leader. But my life cycle marketers like giving me all these reasons why the product partnership isn’t working, and it doesn’t feel like a big deal. You and I both know, like, once that’s gone, that’s really big deal like once that that relationship, so when I bring them in, and we’re talking about it, I’m not waiting for a performance review. I’m not even waiting for issue. I just say to them, Hey, listen, let’s talk about partnership, marketing and product. That’s, you know, the second paragraph in your GED, let’s walk through what I think did an exceptional partnership and like, Let’s score ourselves on what that looks like. And you can start to identify probably something fairly small that you can actually start to improve something like detail orientation, when you’re cross functionally documenting, you’re working on something. And that’s what your PMS feedback is like, they’re not detail oriented, we have all these meetings, there’s never any follow ups, blah, blah, blah. So I think you, the better managers manage the small stuff, so they don’t become the big stuff. And I think that’s what that exercise can give you. If you wait for performance review. As we all say, you’re managing the fallout not the problem. Do you ever

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  16:15

realize in the when someone maybe thinks that they’re over performing? When they’re not? Do you ever come to the conclusion that maybe they are over performers, but they just might be in the wrong role? Yeah. Is that something that sometimes comes up?

Joanna Lord  16:31

Oh, absolutely. And I mean, if we’re really getting into it, I think you can be an exceptional performer and still not be the culture bid for that role, or for that company. And I think the how we do it ever says the way we do it both need to be true. And I think that oftentimes, when you get bad feedback at a company, like from either a cross functional partner, someone on your team, or I’m giving them poor feedback on something I’ve seen, if they’re an over performer, it’s usually on, you know, the how they’re doing it. And I think sometimes, and I have had success, you can move them around, right? Because there’s the culture of the company, then there’s culture on teams, and then there’s culture on squads. And even I think projects have like this very temporal culture. Like if you need to move really hot and heavy on a P zero project to a company, you can have its own mini culture. So like, I think you can move people around successfully, I think when it’s not on the what you do, but on the how you do, it is harder when the feedback is in that room. And I think as a manager, you have to take that more seriously. Because this might sound poor, but like the different seasons and stages at companies lives, you might be able to underperform on the on kind of the what you’re doing for a little bit longer. But the how you do one strike maybe two. But like, you know, we have to manage that even more aggressively. And because of culture. So critical. So I think there’s a chance and I’ve certainly had success, but it’s rare. I think the the person also has to be up for it right and getting the how you do feedback is harder to hear. It’s easier to hear you miss that number. Let’s talk about why versus no one wants to work with you on a project. Let’s talk about why

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:04

Yeah, these are all super difficult to have conversations. But like you said, you need to have them and I love the phrase of you need to manage the small stuff, because that is the stuff that becomes the big stuff. So I totally agree with you on that. One of the other areas is so you’ve been a CMO multiple times over manage very large teams, but one of the things that you really care about is getting people to do less. So I’m curious, when you first walk into a role managing a large organization, how do you think about things like I get the sense that you maybe get the whole org to do less things? Or how do you think about that

Joanna Lord  18:42

I am a later life convert of focus. I was like I say that jokingly because early in my life, I was really proud of the fact that I did so much. And I again, I’ll use quotations air quotations for those that can’t see me. My friends, they call me a hummingbird. I run around I’ve endless boundless energy. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. And I think society tells us the more you do, the more valuable you are. And I think that ripples into work in a very unhealthy way, and especially into tech in a very unhealthy way. We’ve all or many of us have probably heard in the book, the one thing, or we’ve leveraged a resource like the Eisenhower box about urgent and important and like, but we’re not good at actually implementing it. Like we love it in theory, but then we just keep adding things on it every day more to do some of its productive work. Some of its people work some of its us work. And so one of the first things I do when I come into a company is I try to understand, do we know what we’re here to do? And it sounds really bad, but most companies don’t. They don’t know their Northstar metric. They don’t know the input metrics. They don’t have an aligned view even sometimes on the time horizon in which things need to be accomplished. So there’s some upfront wrestling with the reality that a lot of companies are being steered And without clarity, right. But once you have identified what we’re here to do, and by when are the two most common questions, I start to audit, especially in marketing as because I’m, you know, obviously on top of that function, the work we’re doing, and what percent of it actually will meaningfully move the needle on those things. And inevitably, you find this bucket of work that’s high priority, this bucket of work that’s low, this bucket of work that’s Opps. And just feels like it needs to get done this bucket of work that like we all think we should do, but no one knows how to prove that we should. And you just need to start working through those buckets of work and get it down to like two to three things literally like two to three things. I’ve written a lot about this, I genuinely believe that time is the thing that kills startups like momentum is everything opportunity cost is heavy. And if you’re not focusing your very limited resources on the right things, that’s just a death sentence for startups. And so I spent a lot of time thinking about focus, intentional time spent, inevitably, you will end up doing less, but better and faster than if you didn’t

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:07

pay there. Just a quick pause on today’s episode to let you know that we’d really appreciate you helping us spread the word about the Supermanagers podcast, if you’re enjoying what you’re hearing so far, dial into your podcast app of choice, whether that’s on Apple, or Android or Spotify. And just leave us a quick review. Now back to the interview. So if there’s someone on your team, and they come to you, and they’re in overwhelm, they’ve got a lot going on, they’re putting out a lot of fires, like how am I going to have a conversation with them to get them to the point where they can be more focused on the most important things? Because prioritization. I mean, it’s easy for us to say, but sometimes it you know, it is hard to do. Yeah. So yeah, how would you approach that conversation?

Joanna Lord  21:54

I mean, the first thing and by the way, this is like feel like most of my days, right? Especially when my my larger teams, like Skyscanner was a very large team, the majority of my conversation is trying to align my team, individual ICs, or managers or managers of managers, and making sure that their to do list, one aligns with each other so that everyone can be done, and they’re not blocked on cross dependencies. But that that ladders up to what the business needs done. And inevitably, about 60 70% of the time, people come overwhelmed. And so one, I think this is more the human side, I think there’s just like an acknowledging like the needs to happen before you start to audit and fix the problem where it’s like, I want you to know, this is not okay, and I’m not gonna let it continue. I think a lot of managers skip that step where they’re like, well, let’s solve it. If you feel overwhelmed, we got to fix that. And it’s like, let’s just take a minute and be like, I appreciate how hot you’re running. But I want you to know, I commit to helping you solve this, like, this is not how I want you to run. And I think a lot that goes a long way. Because it gives them a moment of reprieve like I’m not going to be fired, or scored poorly, if I do less. And it’s just as much mental, right? Because we take on, we say yes, before something hits our to do lists, so and then giving them the freedom to say no, once you get that part aside, I think there’s okay write down everything that you’re doing everything you’re touching, nothing’s too small, nothing’s too big. Every I want to look at your calendar, I want to do an audit, I want to color code, the people meetings, the weekly regulars versus the project meetings, and I want you to come up with a first pass on what you would stop doing if you had full autonomy, what projects on your to do list. And oftentimes, they’re the cross functional projects, they’re like, I don’t understand why we’re working on this. I don’t get it, you know, and we work through all of those. And oftentimes, honestly, and it’s me going to other functions, and actually having the hard conversation with my CPA or my head of product. Hey, I hear from someone that like when they’re in the meetings on these projects from taking a long time, we’ve received it three times, the KPIs feel soft, like, have you are you in the loop on this or in you know, I’m not even joking, even 50% 60% majority of the time, they tell me they’re hearing from their team, they shouldn’t be doing it. So like, I think there’s a lot of work that gets created, cross functionally with the best of intention that could get killed. But I think it’s as simple as acknowledging and releasing them of the expectation of speed for speed sake, that more is more, it’s auditing. having them write down everything they’re doing, have them audit their calendars that we really know where the time is going. And then you usually start to think to yourself, Okay, what can we actually stop and what hard conversations have to happen to make that possible? It’s never just them in me that can make that call a lot of the really time consuming things for everyone is cross functional. So you end you end up having to really, really approach those hard conversations. Yeah, this is

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:45

really interesting. And of course, like for first line managers, this is a thing that they do, but I feel like you know, this is even more important that the more senior you get within the org, a lot of it is trying to figure out where time is wasted or what things don’t need to be done and These days everybody’s talking about efficiencies. And so, I mean, this is a way that you can get your team to do more by doing less. Right. And by doing the more important things, and I think that’s super valuable. The thing that I wanted to also ask you about, it’s kind of an aside, but what do you think about like, as you’ve continued to have more and more senior roles? How do you think about the craft of marketing itself and giving yourself time to practice the craft? And do you feel like it’s important for leaders to always have something that they can very directly touch? Or do at some point, you just have to give that up completely, and just become focused on the people and the numbers?

Joanna Lord  25:43

I have such strong thoughts on this. I’m like, smiling, as you asked this question, you have to still touch the work. How else will I ever be able to help my marketers like, I learned this lesson in a, like, I got too far from the work in one of my roles, and I became more of a managerial head, like I was super people oriented. And way too focused candidly on my executive board, exec, board management, executive team contributions. And one every time I was asked a question about the details, I didn’t know the answer. And you know, that’s not good. But too, as my team came to me, and I just couldn’t really truly help solve many problems, I’d have to go like, understand all this context I didn’t have, I think, when I went to ClassPass, was the first time I really tried to hone this specific skill, which is, how do you know when to delegate? How do you know when to be in the room? How do you help people know why you’re in the room? How can you still be an IC, even though you might be a C level or a VP level? And when and how do you do that? So I deeply believe in I do, you’ll see this at any role I’m in, I try to delegate as much as I can, because that’s why I hire great people. But I hold on to like the marquee projects, the ones that kind of either map out to the most important metric, and or have the most eyes. So like sometimes you have a cross functional seasonal campaign. It’s meant to drive a lot of work. But it also has a lot of people involved, right? I try to stay very involved in those projects, meaning I’m in the brainstorms, I’m in the ideation, I’m in the scope reviews, I’m in the Crip, you know, design crypts, right. And I think that people appreciate it. Because I show up as a marketer, I don’t show up as a CMO, I show up as just like someone who has done a lot of marketing. And then the other place that I really still go deep, because I think it’s super important isn’t martech. And I think that I’ll be really candid, if I can show up on projects like CRM, integrations, or ESP decisions, or any sort of like really deep project we want to do with personalization, that requires pride. And if I stay in those details, one, those are costly projects. So like I need to be on top of them. But to it earns a lot of respect internally, from product from engineering and from marketing. Because no one wants to do that project. Literally no one, everyone wishes that one was off their plate. And they tend to take nine to 10 to 11 months and nine. So like, I think it’s important, every marketing leader needs to pick which project is the one but like, for me, it’s either really high visible projects, because they have a really important metric. I mean, if this is a any sort of marketing activity, that we’re about to make a change, and it could affect our revenue, I’m on it. And if it’s a high visibility, or you know, a lot of people are on the project, I’m on it. And then if it’s a martec project, I tried to stay close, I think you have to get out of some of the projects, I get looped in on a lot of things. And I think it’s important that you you say actually, she’s your person, or he’s your person for that. And I think it’s actually really important you draw that line, or you’ll you’ll never find the time to be a leader. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:36

this is really excellent. I think it shows a lot of lessons in ways that you never forget the craft, and you continue to get better at it. If you were advising someone who’s newly become a manager or leader, and you know, this is always a question to ask, right? Like, how much managing is there? And how much you know, how close can I stay to my craft and keep evolving there? Yeah, how would you advise them?

Joanna Lord  28:59

I probably would think of it. So especially I’ll use marketing, but I think it translates to other functions, I think of the journey of a marketer and like this tree ad, right? You’re an IC, you’re probably not managing, you’re on top of your function, your tea isn’t that function, right? It’s like, you’re exceptional at that one part of marketing, maybe paid, you’re fairly good at other things across the stack, like you know what organic means, you know, I think as you become a manager or a leader, so you’re kind of in that head of director of level, you become a tea, you were the function like maybe it’s all of growth or all of brand becomes your depth, but you have to start to think about the other domains like the entire other domains of marketing. And one of the other domains needs to be management. So like you, you basically it’s like I’m deep on growth, but I understand brand, I understand product marketing, and I’m starting to study what it means to be a great manager and leader. I think when you go up one more level, maybe your manager managers, your C level or VP, your depth is your function, all of marketing, but then I need to be great At product and engineering and finance, and one of mine is leadership, executive leadership. In all of those steps that you make, you have to find rhythms or cadences or ways to stay close to the craft that you’re stretching into. And I think that that could be as simple as continuing to be a student of it or involved in it like digital communities reading about it podcasts about it. Like, I think it could be as simple as that. I think it’s usually something more proactive, like, I want to go seek out for the first time ever, I’m a growth marketer, I want to go seek out communities and brand leaders and learn from them, and how do they work better with growth leaders? How do I better with them? So I think there tends to be more needed, the further up you go. But I just make it clear. It’s an expectation. And I actually think a lot of leaders, don’t they, I think when someone becomes a first time manager, they say you’re a manager now. And so they get rid of the whole team. They’re like, Okay, well, I’m not a marketer anymore. I’m a manager. And it’s like, no, you know, I hired you for a functional role. But now an entire nother dimension of that role is being added. But you have to be as proactive about that, as you would be anything else you’re learning.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:05

Yeah, I think it’s super Excellent. And it’s one of those things that is a debate that comes in cycles, and we’re definitely in this cycle of you need to be able to get into the weeds. I mean, I just go back to the thing that you said, which was, you know, if you’re asked about something or project or you know, the details, if your answer every time is I have to check with my team. Now, sometimes that makes sense. But if it’s every time, then potentially, that’s a sign that you’ve gotten too far away from the craft.

Joanna Lord  31:34

Yeah, I mean, I’ll be really vulnerable on this podcast with you. But I remember once being in a board meeting and being asked a question I should have known the answer to, which was basically, what’s the size of your email database again, and I hadn’t, that team was so good in my life cycle team was so good. I hadn’t really talked to them about that in a while, like, I was focused on these other things. And I prep this whole board deck. And I couldn’t answer that to my board. Like, it’s one of my most significant assets as a consumer marketing company is the size of my audience. So that was embarrassing one, I remember, not only did I had to say, I’ll have to check with my team, which is embarrassing, because we also have a funnel, right? It’s like the number one metric that matters. But two, I had I wrote a note to the board after late that night, just apologizing for not being on top of my metrics. And I just think like, that was a lesson I needed to learn. And I think, by the way, it’s pretty common, that we tend as leaders to put our attention on the fighters, you know, and I usually that lightly, but like, if a team’s doing really well, and you’ve got all stars, you feel pretty good about it, you redirect your energy to an area that needs it more. But you can’t get far from that trade. I can’t not know what’s going on with the size of our database, and how are we accelerating our ability to convert those leads and those sorts of things? So just an example, a really honest example of a time I really missed up, you know, it’s took a big misstep. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  32:53

that’s a great example. And thank you for sharing that I think all of these things. I mean, they solidify our vision of what the role should be, and what our careers should be about. So I think all of these are super important parts of the growing journey. And on this journey, you’ve hired a lot of people. And so one thing that I’m super curious about is having hired so many people seen when things work really, really well, when there are mismatches and seeing everything in between. What do you now look for in people, when you bring people onto your team? What are the things that you’ve learned that really make a difference?

Joanna Lord  33:30

Yeah, I was actually reflecting on this the other day, because like, you get into these roles, and you hire teams. And I think most managers and leaders are probably most proud of their teams, like, the teams I built are even more beautiful than the mark work in marketing I’ve done. But I’ve hired a lot of people like 1000s of marketers, which means I’ve been in probably close to, I don’t even know 10,000 interviews, if you think about

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:51

it over so many interviews. Yeah.

Joanna Lord  33:53

And I’m very lucky. I’ve worked with some remarkable people teams, and I feel like they’ve really helped me hone how I think about hiring. Obviously, early in my career, I made a bunch of mistakes. I just hired people that were best at the thing I needed in the next six months, right? Like, oh, maybe that’s not the right answer. Maybe you have to think longer term and more holistically. So I have a very high bar on candidates. If you ask anyone that ever worked for me, if you ever read like my recommendations on LinkedIn, my people that have worked for me have managed this. And it’s because I believe there’s the again, kind of back to the book, like there’s the what you do. And there I have a multitude of dimensions I’ve honed over the years when I’m hiring a growth marketer versus a brand marketer versus a product marketer how I think about the skill, but I actually think the more important things to look for when you’re hiring, if you really want to give yourself the best shot at the right hire. There’s kind of three things I look at outside of just what they do, and how well they do it, which is actually an easier thing to vet these days. I think the three softer things. I think there’s a predisposition I look for are they naturally above the line at the line or below the line right And sometimes it’s called optimism or pessimism. I work in high growth tech. If you’re a pessimist, we’re gonna have a hard time I ensure your teams are not going to want to work with you. People love pragmatists. Sometimes I love a good curmudgeon. But like for the majority of the time, you need someone who’s like bringing positivity to hard problems, like believing they can’t be solved. So predisposition is an area I bet for

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:22

sure. On the predisposition point, that sounds super interesting to me. How do you tease that out? How do you find that out during an interview process?

Joanna Lord  35:30

I think there’s a lot of questions you can ask for this. But I actually think I’m fairly candid in this question, where I kind of say to someone, Listen, can you give me an example of a time you approach to hard, like a hard problem, you sat down with a team and a heart problem was put in front of you? What voice in the room were you? And they’re really because people are proud of this? They’re either I’m the person who brings a super rational pragmatic, should we, you know, is this the right problem we shouldn’t be on? If it’s too hard of a problem, is this the right use of our resources, you can start to vet that they might be a little bit closer to either neutral or pessimist. If they’re like, I like to understand why, you know, this problem seems really interesting. I want to understand all the ways we can solve it, I want to hear everyone else’s voice in the room, then we can evaluate what’s the right way to tackle it, they are already assuming there’s a way to solve it. Right. So I think people are proud of this not bad or good. I just think in high growth companies, a predisposition of optimism, or at least above neutral tends to help like I always say, are you going to be? Are you going to bring an energy into the room that brings us closer to a solution or further from it? And that’s kind of a question that helps you get there.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  36:35

Such a good question. I’m definitely etching that into my memory from now until forever. That is very good question. Okay. So predisposition, what was number two?

Joanna Lord  36:44

So the second is ego. I think this is probably easier to vet for when you kind of ask someone about what they’re most proud of, you know, do they use the because, again, you’re looking for someone who’s humble, but not just humble, someone who genuinely believes that more people together working on something is superior than one person working on something right like that there’s a benefit to multiple voices have multiple contributions. And the question I simply asked there is, you know, what are you most proud of, and you are just looking for language you’re looking for how they describe it is a lot of like, I’m most proud of the work I did on x is the I’m actually really proud of this campaign that my team did XYZ and I watched them so shine in that project, or like, we discovered a whole new way of doing something. So you’re looking for their predisposition on how they see the world as part of a team or as an individual. Sometimes you want an individual mindset, like some hires you do, and I’ll talk about that in a sec. But like, I think for the majority of the time, and again, high growth tech companies, you really want a humble attitude. And someone who’s just deeply believes, like they have more to learn, they have more to learn. They’re only have one voice. So that tends to be the second dimension. And then the third is mindset. Right? And I think we’ve heard and talked a lot about this in tech, but I’m always vetting for growth or fixed mindset. This is easier to vet for than Well, it’s harder in some roles and easier and others. So I think I manage a lot of creative teams. And I think sometimes they have a fixed mindset, right? Like there’s there are superior better ways to do things. And they’re not necessarily open to a new way of doing things because they’ve been taught a certain way. And so you really have to unpick with this one, is it that they believe there’s more to learn, and they always want to learn it? Or do they believe they’ve like, learned something really well, and they want to bring it to your company? Like you want to make sure you don’t misrepresent fixed mindset. But those are the three things I’m looking for. How are they going to show up? And that’s really the thing I don’t work gets easier if people show up well, and it’s contagious, right? If someone shows up and they’re like, let’s solve this problem, we can do it, you probably can solve the problem. And so those are the things that are I tried to vet for because they’re the they’re the gotchas when you make a hire.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:53

Yeah, that’s super well explained. But also it just shows you know how deeply you’ve thought about this stuff. This is not something that you’re coming up with on the fly. This is like the combination, the cumulative knowledge and experience of like you said that hiring 1000s of people so super valuable. The one phrase I heard from other guests we had on this show was it was funny the way that he said it, it was I only worked with people who have a bounce in their step as they’re walking into the building. That was, that was awesome. So on the last one I knew mindset, again, is probably one of the things that people talk about more, but I am curious, how do you evaluate that in an interview setting?

Joanna Lord  39:34

Yeah, I mean, I think for mindset, you can kind of ask softer questions around things like what do you do with your free time? And oftentimes, it’d be like, in this is just one signal, but if they’re doing hobbies that are expanding their mind, like, Oh, I’m actually learning a new language right now or I’m trying a whole new hobby and you know, or I recently got into baking bread because one of my friends said it’s mint for staying like so I think there’s a where they spend their time outside of work that usually can show you a signal one of many signals. I think the second thing is just you ask them, what’s the last thing you learned? And what in how did you learn it? And if they really struggle with that question doesn’t mean they are always a fixed mindset. But it usually means it like, someone could listen to new podcasts and tell me that they learned something off that podcast that shows growth mindset, they took the initiative to listen to a podcast. So I think there’s like those softer questions. I again, Aiden, I like to ask the obvious question, hey, you know, in the world of growth mindset, or fixed mindset, like where have you found yourself on that spectrum? Because I think a lot of people when they say they’ll, they’ll almost always say, I believe in a growth mindset. Well, give me some examples of that. It’s like they go blank. And so I think, you know, people, people will tell you in interviews, their best answer, and I think asking the obvious question isn’t always the wrong question to ask, you know,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:54

yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And asking for the examples is, where you really, really start to dig in. John, this has been an awesome interview, we’ve talked about so many different topics started with EQ, I loved your 100% true test, that is awesome. And, and also the job description and voting against that managing the small stuff, because that will become the big stuff. I love the discussion we had around focusing on your craft and never losing focus of what it is that you’re there to do. And your hiring rubric is awesome. I feel like a lot of people will take notes to get it published somewhere. Yeah, it does need to get published. I’m glad that you were able to share that lots of really, really good tips there the question of what voice in the room? Were you? That’s such a brilliant question. It’s so awesome. So thank you for sharing all of that. The final question that we always like to end on with our guests is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Joanna Lord  41:56

Yeah, I mean, I would say, you know, call me we’ll chat. It’s such a hard journey. Like I really I genuinely empathize. And I still remember how hard those first couple roles can be. And sometimes, even today, what how hard some days can be as a leader, I guess my best advice is, get to know yourself. And I said a little bit earlier, but how you are as a leader is basically who you are as a human. And if you don’t know, what you’re scared of, you don’t know what makes you tick, or what you’re motivated by, if you can’t speak to your strengths and your weaknesses, if you can’t respect yourself, but also know what you don’t know. Like, if you don’t do that work, it will be very hard to show up and help others do that work. And when I say very hard, absolutely impossible. So I think my tip is get you know, whatever that personal work is like getting to know who you are and why you love what you love. I’d start that journey, therapy, meditation, coaching mentorship, having healthy friends and talking about these things. I just start that journey, because I really believe that like great leaders just couldn’t connect with their teams on a very human level. And that’s hard to do. If you haven’t done that work.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:05

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

Joanna Lord  43:09

Thank you Aidan. This was great. And you know, I just really appreciate you having me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:13

And that’s it for today. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Supermanagers podcast. You can find the show notes and transcript at WWW dot Fellow.app slash Supermanagers. If you liked the content, be sure to rate review and subscribe so you can get notified when we post the next episode. And please tell your friends and fellow managers about it. It’d be awesome if you can help us spread the word about the show. See you next time.

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