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188

When teams are doing their three-year planning, having people teams embedded in those conversations early on, and having those talent conversations, you get a much better, richer outcome, and you're able to execute more quickly.

In this episode

Striking the right balance between growth and stability is a challenge faced by many large organizations today.

It’s essential to anticipate and adapt to market changes, and according to Joe Militello, one way to do this is by firmly anchoring your people strategy with your business strategy.

With over twenty years of management experience, Joe Militello is a seasoned people leader in the tech industry. As the Chief People Officer at PagerDuty, Joe oversees the entire People organization, including HR, talent development, recruiting, and diversity and inclusion. He has a proven track record of helping renowned technology companies scale and reach their market potential. Prior to PagerDuty, Joe held senior leadership roles at Pivotal Software, EMC, and even served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In episode #188, Joe dives into his expertise in seamlessly integrating the people strategy into every functional unit of your organization, from recruitment to executive development. Drawing from his wealth of experience, Joe emphasizes the importance of reflecting on and refining strategy based on factors like the increasing need for generative AI or market fluctuations. He also shares his insights into building high-performing teams, managing individuals with more experience, and leading teams consciously above the line.

Tune in to discover Joe’s secrets to achieving responsible growth, predictability, and profitability through people strategy!


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


04:45

Early management mistakes

10:55

The art of managing people with more experience

15:30

Above the line vs. below the line leadership

20:16

Anchoring people strategy in business strategy

28:08

Incorporating AI into people strategy

34:00

Training people in their flow of work

40:22

Final words of wisdom


Resources mentioned in this episode:


Transcript

Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Militello  04:06

Thank you. Great to be here.

Aydin Mirzaee  04:08

Yeah, very excited to do this. You know, we often do this on the show, which is you know, as soon as guests arrives, the first thing that we do is we start talking about mistakes. And typically we do this thing where we say what are some mistakes I used to make very early on in your management career, but we’ve been changing it up a little bit. And now we’re also allowing for recent mistakes too. I think the audience has been also curious about what kind of more advanced mistakes people are making later on in their career. So I’ll give you the choice. So we can start with a very early mistake or more recent mistake, whatever you think is best but also a great place to start.

Joe Militello  04:45

I have lots of mistakes, we can probably just fill up an entire podcast on mistakes, but maybe give you a couple quick ones both earlier in my career because that might be relevant. And then also just you know, you’ve never stopped making mistakes, right? You make mistakes at any sort of level. And so I would say in college, I had several leadership roles where I was managing peers. When I was in the military, I was managing and leading Marines more often, with more years of experience than I did. And that trend continued in the private market. And in all those examples of leading a team for the first time, and that type of setting, whether it’s college or military or private sector, a few common mistakes that I kept repeating or just having to deal with is that it’s really hard to manage and lead someone who is your peer, or who was your peer. So I can imagine, maybe many of the audience who have just been recently promoted, or were a manager, first time where now they are, have to manage their period. Like that’s an adjustment that you have to go through. And it can be intimidating as a first time manager to manage someone like who you know, and who used to be your friend. And so I would say some mistakes associated with that was maybe being too directive with peers, like maybe in college where I needed to exercise maybe a little more influence and inspiration than be able to be too directive, because they can tell me no. You know, I would say in the military, and even first time manager in the private sector would be maybe trying to prove myself or show off too much, and maybe work too hard to show that I’m worthy of leading them and maybe trying too hard. And so not letting go and really maybe getting more into my team’s space than than I should have, and really letting them run it. So those are some rookie mistakes. I’d say a more recent example…

Aydin Mirzaee  06:26

Before we dive into the recent one, you know, I’d love to dig in here. So it seems like it’s the same scenario, but you had a different series of mistakes. And what I love about this is that it’s the same sort of thing that we have talked on the podcast, but you’ve taken like a different mistake approach. So usually, when you start managing people who used to be friends or peers, people are usually not directive enough. So but you started by being more directive. And so that’s really interesting. So what do you think the difference is that got you to start there versus some people do the opposite, and they’re, like, not directive enough, and they’re afraid to be directive with their friends? Or was this more…

Joe Militello  07:05

I think, maybe it’s a personality flaw with me, but I think early on, it may have been that – I’m in this responsibility. And I’m taking the responsibility seriously that someone entrusted me to lead this team. And so I’m very focusing on the end result and doing a good job, and moving as quickly as possible. And as part of my learning journey, as a manager, my tendency was always to just jump into the work first, let’s get the work done. And we need to get the work done. And my learning journey have been really bring a little bit more empathy to the teams and really get to know folks and to lead more than inspiration and also giving space for my team to what do they think and giving them room to excel and so forth. So I think was just more socially with my personality of like, Oh, here’s the mission, here’s the job. We’re all going and we need to go do this by x date.

Aydin Mirzaee  07:57

Yeah, I love it. And so in those early days, when you share managing friends, he said that sometimes they give him directive. And they just may say, No, how do you address a situation like that? That’s a tough one.

Joe Militello  08:08

Well, in college was a little bit easier because it was a job, but it was a little bit more flexibility. So that was a little bit easier to deal with and end up saying, hey, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee later, appeared later. I think in the private sector, it was a little bit more of tend the run the risk of alienating folks or burning folks out. And by being too directive and folks push back, then you don’t have folks aren’t gonna want to be part of your team, right, that starts impacting your reputation. So I was fortunate enough to have a lot of good mentors early on, I tend to be fairly self aware and self reflective. So I was able to pivot early before creating too many disastrous mistakes.

Aydin Mirzaee  08:47

That makes sense. And then in the military, it was, I guess, like the same concept, but just like a different materialization of the same thing where you want it to go in. And I guess part of this is, it’s not even just like being promoted to being a manager, per se. It’s also I think you touched on it when you first started telling the story around it, but just managing people who are more senior, more experienced, and there is this tendency to say like, wow, these people are more experienced, you’re maybe a little bit starstruck depending on who it is. And there’s a tendency of saying, wanting to show value or wanting to do more, I think that’s super common. That’s not even a early mistake. That’s the thing that happens all the time for everyone, for sure. And so how do people deal with it? Like, how did you when you started managing people? And I’m sure this has happened many times over, but managing people who are more experienced, more knowledgeable, what is the playbook? Like if someone came to you and said, Joe, how do I play this? These people are all so much better than I am and know so much more. I don’t even know why I have this job.

Joe Militello  09:50

I think it has to start with yourself in the sense of having a little maybe confidence and security in your own right in terms of what you bring to the table. And confidence that you’re in that role for a reason. And that you don’t necessarily need to go prove like how smart you are, and trying to outdo anyone, like you’re in the role for a reason. You have folks on the team, whether they have more experience or not, they’re there for a reason, too. And so for the folks that have more experience and learn this really early on as a young lieutenant is like, they know the way the world works, they have a lot more lived experiences than you do, maybe you just came out of school, and you have some maybe more fresh thinking and schooling. And so it’s really important in terms of like, how you engage with them, and recognizing the fact that they have a lot of lived experiences, they have a lot to bring to the table. And maybe they get treated, I don’t want to say differently, but way you can be direct and instruct someone with 10, 15, 20 years of experience versus someone who doesn’t have any years of experience needs to look a little bit different. And respect them, respect them for what they bring to the table, or you’re going to alienate them.

Aydin Mirzaee  10:55

And I’d love to dig into that more. So just getting very tactical, what are some of the differences between someone who’s much more senior? What is that like interacting with them, and what starts to change more?

Joe Militello  11:08

We see this a lot when folks who are accelerated quickly in their career, and they need to, really, I think, appreciate the fact that while they may be in this management position, that they don’t necessarily know everything. And you can certainly, you can read the books, you can listen to the podcasts. But one of the things I personally think you can’t really discount is the experience. Sometimes folks think, Oh, I’ve done that role, or I’m doing the role, how come I’m not promoted on that the next level. And there may be good reasons or bad reasons why that is the case. But I think folks who you’re working with, and you’re leading that have more years of experience than you and maybe different experience, that’s worth a lot. Because like when we look to hire leaders, especially more senior leaders, we bring them in because of in part because of their experience, not necessarily just their accomplishments, but their experience, right, and that they’ve seen a version of the movie before. And so while your company culture, your company mission, your company, what you build and sell may look different. But having folks who have all these different lived experiences, allows to kind of learn through them. And maybe there’s, you’ve seen a different version of the movie before. And I would say that that’s also at the heart of inclusion, you get that diversity of thought, that diversity of perspective. But if you come on as the new hotshot, and you think you know it all, and you don’t tap into the experience of others, you’re making a big mistake, in my opinion.

Aydin Mirzaee  12:36

Yeah, I think just going back to what you said originally, which was the, you’re there for a reason, they’re there for a reason. And everybody’s playing a really important role, you just have to, being in that manager role, know how to utilize the various levels of expertise there is. And so that’s what it’s really about. It’s just bringing people together, utilizing and making the most and like building that super strong team.

Joe Militello  12:59

Right. And one of the things as a newer manager that you will learn is you certainly have your values, you certainly have your style, but you also need to adjust it based on your team in terms of where they are in their career, maybe even depending on what’s going on in their life, if they have things that are going on at home, you need to know when to dial things up or dial things back and get to know when to give folks based you need to know when maybe it’s appropriate for some coaching and some inquiry, and maybe there’s some times where it’s appropriate, you need to be involved and be more directive. And so that self awareness, and being astute to kind of the environment, and what’s going on with your team, both in terms of who they are, but also what’s going on in that point in time is super important. 

Aydin Mirzaee  13:39

That makes a lot of sense. And then let’s go on to the more recent one. What was your recent mistake?

Joe Militello  13:44

Oh man, hopefully she’s not listening. You know, this was as a theater not my current company. And I was encouraging the entire team, I want you to give me feedback. And the team was tight, the team has been working together for three or four years, like the average tenure was super high. And we all have strong relationships. And but I’m encouraging the team to give me feedback. And so HR professional comes into my office. And I can tell that she was spending all this time like kind of really getting brave and getting all this courage to kind of give me feedback, something in terms of a situation that impacted her. And she wanted me to know about it. And as soon as she opened her mouth, I knew the topic that she was talking about. And unfortunately, I was below the line, I was equally frustrated with that topic, and so I was not hearing the feedback. And I went super defensive. If your audience knows the concept of like being above the line and below the line, like I was way below the line, and I was defensive. And what I did in that moment, I shattered all trust and psychological safety and confidence and just completely demoralized her because she was coming to give me feedback on something and I should have just kept my mouth shut more and should have listened to really where she was coming from and her perspective. Now after the fact I realized my faux pas, my mistake, and I spent a lot of days, weeks and months trying to atone for my mistake. And we’re still, we’ve worked together for a long time. And we’re still close today. But that was a mistake she came in with, you know, based on my ask, and I didn’t handle it well.

Aydin Mirzaee  15:17

Yeah, that makes sense, then thank you for sharing that. This idea of below the line and above the line. I’d love for you to explain it to the folks it comes from the book on Conscious Leadership. Is that right?

Joe Militello  15:29

Yeah, on Conscious leadership.

Aydin Mirzaee  15:30

Yeah, so what does it mean to be above the line and below the line?

Joe Militello  15:33

So if you’re below the line, you’re most likely acting super defensive, you can be acting as a victim, but like, I just got that report last night, how can I possibly respond to that, I got that report last night, or you’re even coming in as like the hero where you’re trying to like overly defend another team. That’s not their fault. It was other folks fault and you’re trying to come in and as a hero. So like, when you are not, I guess fully present and balanced in terms of taking accountability and responsibility for the situation. And you are operating on just pure emotion, because you have the range of you’re either being attacked or defending someone that’s the concept of below the line, and you’re probably not operating at your best. And the fact is that many of us go below the line, and it’s okay, we’re human beings, like it’s perfectly okay. And I share with my team all the time, it’s okay to kind of go below the line and have those points of frustration and anger or disappointment, but you just can’t stay there. You have to get above the line and get back to more of kind of that center.

Aydin Mirzaee  16:39

That’s awesome. And so are there effective strategies that you’ve used in the past to move from one state to the other, or things that you’ve coached others on?

Joe Militello  16:48

I think one is having a good coach, having a coach someone that you can talk to, certainly to kind of really kind of unpack why you’re feeling that way in that moment, or why there’s certain triggers, you know, that can bring you below the line. So having a coach is really great, or just some trusted colleagues or mentors is really great. I think, also just taking that time for yourself to just self reflect. When you feel like you’re not at your best, if you don’t have that coach or that mentor or that peer, that trusted peer, available, just taking a step back and ask yourself, Why? Why am I feeling that way? Why am I telling myself that story? And while most people admit that, some people may not think that they’re good storytellers, everyone is fantastic at telling them stories, themselves stories, everyone tells themselves stories. And sometimes we do ourselves a disservice, we reinforce a narrative in our head, that may not necessarily be true. And so taking those moments to just kind of step back, reflect, and really inquire like, why am I feeling this way? Why am I reacting this way in this moment, and not play that victim role or being defensive?

Aydin Mirzaee  17:55

Yeah, that makes sense. And thank you for explaining that. So we touched on a bunch of different mistakes and learnings. And so I’d love to talk to you about most of what your day job is about, which is leading a people organization. Today, you’re Chief People Officer at PagerDuty, and you’ve done this a number of times across a number of organizations, larger organizations. So I’d love to start from just the very beginning, which is when you go into an organization, and you become responsible for people strategy, like what does that mean to you? And what is the first 90 days, six months? What does that look for you, now that you’ve done it several times. When you first get in, what is the playbook now?

Joe Militello  18:37

First of all, like whenever I think about any sort of functional strategy, whether it’s the people strategy, or whether it’s a go to market strategy, like the first thing I always do is just try to anchor it in the business strategy. Because at the end of the day, our people strategy is here to support the overall business. And so as part of my the playbook or part of the 90 days, even ongoing now as someone that’s been in the organization for a while, is to always kind of ground yourself in terms of what is the company’s mission? What is the company’s purpose? What is the company trying to accomplish? What is the company’s culture and values, and then the people strategy is just one component of helping support that and that can span across the entire employee lifecycle, from attracting talent, to retaining talent, to growing developing talent in order to meet the company’s business objectives. And also, we want to make sure that as part of the playbook and as you’ve come on board, in those 90 days, I’m really trying to listen on how things really operate, and really getting a good sense of the culture and the values of the organization. And just making sure that it’s very much anchored in the culture.

Aydin Mirzaee  19:44

One of the things on this aspect of the people strategy, I love that you said that it’s always rooted in the business strategy, and at the end of the day, everything kind of serves the business strategy. What are some things that you have made changes in? Like, have there been times where you’ve seen maybe the people strategy was not aligned with the business strategy? And like, I don’t know if there’s an example or a story that comes to mind or something that you had to pivot or change or what’s kind of been like a big rock that’s had to be moved in order to fulfill the business strategy? It could be at PagerDuty, it could be elsewhere.

Joe Militello  20:16

You know, a good example is when early on with one of my previous companies, we were growing exponentially, and we were growing outside of North America. And we really didn’t have a people strategy that was aligned to supporting that growth outside the organization. And so our approach to compensation was ill equipped to grow in Europe and in Asia. Our equity strategy was ill equipped to grow and support the team. And we didn’t have a benefit strategy in order to do attract and retain the top talent. Another example of where we’ve had to evolve our strategy is, even if you think about the market changes over the last couple of years, both for private and public companies, investors have been put more of a premium on reasonable growth and profitability. Where COVID years and even before the COVID years, a lot of the expectations was grow at all costs. And you can burn through a lot of cash. And so as that market has shifted, or that expectation has shifted, where they want growth, but they also want responsible growth, and more predictable growth, and they also want profitability, our people strategy has to evolve to adapt to that business need to that expectation, right. And so terms of how we think about our equity strategy for new hires, how we think about our annual equity program for our existing employees, how we think about leveraging cash and how we think about leveraging sign on bonuses, all those need to evolve, based on the business strategy. And as much as I think a really important part of people strategy is to anticipate some of those market trends as much as possible, so that you are right there at the cusp of the change and not overly reacting to it. And another big change with the people strategy, which I would think is important with all strategies is that, you know, big change that we made this year was incorporating the people strategy into the functional planning, we’re talking a lot of my peers is sometimes I do the business planning, and then the people strategy as an afterthought or to siloed activity. And so now when products teams, or the sales teams are doing their three year planning, and thinking about the skills that they need, whether it’s from general AI, and how they think about beating these AI skills and terms in the organization, or we need to open a new geography because we need to be closer to our customers, having people team embedded in those conversations early on, and having those talent conversations, you get a much better, richer outcome, and you’re able to execute more quickly. 

Aydin Mirzaee  22:42

Yeah, I was gonna ask about that planning. So how does that work? So you obviously have a people strategy that serves the business, but the being embedded, but obviously, every functional part of the company also has a people strategy. So do you end up having your own plan? Or are you a part of everybody else’s plan? How does that part work?

Joe Militello  23:03

Yes and yes. 

Aydin Mirzaee  23:04

Okay, both.  I love it. And that’s a really good point, as you were saying that you also said these are three year plans. That’s a long time. How does the planning look like? Is it higher fidelity in the first year and then it kind of gets a little bit more hazy? And is it like here’s our long term goal three years from now. I’m just curious, like, yeah, what that plan ended up looking like. 

Joe Militello  23:05

So part of the people strategy is really a big piece of kind of a long term workforce model. And so each organization needs to be thinking about their talent strategies, and we embed our HR business partners to be part of those conversations. And so whether the thinking about the right organizational structure for R&D, the right level of kind of management layers within Go-To-Market, I’ve already mentioned other geographies and skills. And so those conversations take place, but also within the people team, I also have a function that run, there’s also services that we need to provide. So I am also thinking ahead in terms of what do I expect of my team and setting the vision for the people team in terms of how we’re going to operate and how we’re going to support the business. And one of the things just I know you didn’t ask this, but just add on to this is that I think, a really good approach with any sort of management but also within the people organization, and just a personal style is driving clarity on both what we want to do, but also how we do it. And I always think of the world is 50/50. But in terms of getting the right balance of when you’re executing on your strategy, or in terms of just how you’re operating day to day. For me, it’s both the what, and as much as the how, because as you probably know this very well is that it’s people are going to remember more around how you treated them versus what you did. And so I care both about the end result, but also how we got there. Well it’s constant refinement. It’s just constant refinement and as you move forward in the quarters and you move forward and The years right you continue to learn. And so your strategy planning and you’re planning really shouldn’t just be on an annual basis, right, you’re really just always just constantly refining it based on market conditions based on how you’re performing based on what your customers need. But typically, six months before we enter a new fiscal year, we’re taking a step back, as a leadership team, we’re taking a step back with the board and really do my comprehensive view of kind of overall strategy and testing and validating that and to your point, maybe there’s just some refinements from year to year, we’re generally not doing a complete kind of zero basis. And then once you have validated with lots of different data and lots of robust discussion around your through your strategies, then you can start getting into more of your annual planning, and then you can get more into your budgeting. But they should be every quarter, every planning cycle should be an iteration, in general, it’s an iteration unless there’s something seismic going on, that requires a completely different pivot.

Aydin Mirzaee  26:01

Hey, everyone, just a quick pause on today’s episode to tell you about a new feature that I am so excited about, we’ve been working on this one for quite a while, and excited to announce it to the world. We’re calling it Meeting Guidelines. So there’s all these things that people already know they should do when they organize a meeting. So for example, you should make sure that you shouldn’t invite too many people or if you’re booking a recurring meeting, you probably want to put an end date on that meeting. Or if you’re going to invite someone to a meeting, you should probably you know, if they have more than 20 hours of meetings that week, maybe be a little bit more considerate, and ask Should I really invite that person to the meeting. So there’s a bunch of these sorts of things that you might even know about. But what happens somehow in larger organizations, is that people forget all of these things. And so that’s why we built this feature called Meeting Guidelines. It’s super easy to use, it’s a Google Chrome extension. So if you install it, what will happen is it will integrate with your Google Calendar. And that way, whenever anyone within your company is about to book a meeting, these Meeting Guidelines will show up and make sure that people know and take a second look at that meeting that they’re about to book and make sure that it adheres to these guidelines. So if you want to book or within your company, have a no meeting day, or if you want to make sure that every meeting has an agenda in advance before it’s booked. So all the different sorts of guidelines that you may want. And they’re all obviously highly configurable, because every company is going to be slightly different. But this is the first time that there is a way that you can get an entire organization to change their meeting behavior. It’s something that we’ve been working on for a very long time, super proud to announce it to the world. It’s called Meeting Guidelines. If you’re interested in checking it out, we’d love for you to do that and give us feedback, you can get to it by going to Fellow.app/guidelines. Again, that’s Fellow.app/guidelines. Check it out. And let me know what you think. One of the things that you also mentioned in passing is you talked about AI. I’m curious, when I think about this, as it relates to people strategy, there’s probably an element of oh, we’re gonna need different skill sets. But then there’s also just incorporating AI and more areas of the business. I’m curious, like, what kind of things have you all done at PagerDuty as it relates to AI and people’s strategy altogether?

Joe Militello  28:33

Yeah, I’ll answer in a couple of different ways mean, from a customer and a product perspective, we have our AIOps. And we’ve had that for years. So we feel, from a product perspective, we’ve been way ahead of our focus on AI before even chatGPT became a thing 12 or 13 months ago. In terms of the people team, we’re looking at both generative AI and also how we continue to automate basic workflow tasks. And you can actually do that not just in people organization, but in terms of all the different functions with a product that we have called Catalytic. And one of the things that I ended up writing a blog on this, one of the things we did back in August is in the people team, we did our first ever hackathon. And it was around how do we better use generative AI? And also, how do we automate some of our workflow tasks so that we can spend more time on more high value high impact work, and I was so proud and so impressed with the team that 75% of the people team participated in the hackathon in the Middle East. Some folks were a little nervous because they’re not technical. And sometimes folks think like a hackathon is just for the technical folks. And they came up with 13 different use cases for generative AI and or automation. Now, in practice, we’re looking at a lot of external vendors who are leveraging generative AI. And so actually have a call later on today with a particular vendor who’s using generative AI to better source and find talent. So we’re looking at partners who have incorporating this into their technology, we have rules and guidelines within PagerDuty for not just the people team, but the entire team to use ChatGPT. And so we encourage them to use it. Now, we don’t want our employees putting private confidential material or information into ChatGPT. But everyone’s experimenting with it. I experimented with it all the time and using it as a copilot. And just to get started. And I’ve seen a lot of improvement, a lot of just acceleration of work. So for example, my team was asked me, What’s the difference between the non GAAP and GAAP accounting principles. For instance, on the ChatGPT like and hey, can you give me a quick outline of what’s the difference between GAAP and non GAAP just to kind of get started, we’ve had folks who were getting a little confused in terms of how to use a RACI versus a DACI. And if your audience doesn’t really know what those are, those are really the first one RACI is really a framework to help align roles and responsibilities, the other’s more decision making framework, just when the chat up team like can you just give me a couple bullets on the difference between? I know that what the acronym stands for, but can you give me a couple of bullets in terms of what they stand for? So it’s a great copilot just to kind of get you started. And then like I said, we’ve been using our Catalytic workflows to automate a lot of tasks. That’s awesome, and thank you for the broad overview. So another thing that you’ve been pretty passionate about is just this idea of leadership development, something that you’ve focused on a number of different companies. And so what is the leadership development program actually look like? Within PagerDuty? Do you have something for new managers? But then you also have things for more senior people, maybe for executives? And is it the whole gamut? Is this something you’ve developed internally? Is it outsourced? Or how do you think about all this stuff? You think about it a lot. And I would say there are certain parts of our development for leaders is, depending on the level is some are more mature than others. And that is something we’re continuing to build on. And I’m actually really excited what we’re going to do this year, but I’ll just give you some examples of like how we think about leadership development. One is, let’s say that the VP levels, all VPs and above, they will experience some sort of leadership development at least once a quarter. And what we tried to do is we try to actually with many of our learning experiences is to bring them into an existing forum. So for example, with our quarterly business reviews, we bring in a training topic, and sometimes we bring in a third party partner, if we need some specialization and help the maybe go deep dive on because we want to learn about accountability, you know, it’s probably something that all organizations are focusing on is like, hey, how do we hold our leaders accountable for executing on their goals? And so we brought in a third party to kind of help take us through what does accountability really mean at pager duty, and to betting those learning experiences when you already have the eyeballs already captured is really important. And also I have our people development team will go into existing off sites, right. So if an engineering team is about to have an off site, we’ll talk with them and say, Well, what type of learning experience do you want. And we’ll just embed in that as opposed to just because one of the things that I’m also very sensitive to as part of our people strategy is to keep people in their flow of work as much as possible. And so if we can catch them and get their eyeballs when they’re already in the flow of work, then that’s great. Because we know that when we have engineers or sales folks come out of their flow of work, that means they’re not either building or selling products, we’re very, very mindful of that.

Aydin Mirzaee  33:20

I love this idea of keeping people in their flow of work. And it also feels very similar to the point where you started by saying the people strategy has to be grounded in the business strategy. And it almost feels like and similar to the planning where as part of planning, you’re embedded in all of the other functional plans? And seems like even from a training and development perspective, you’re always keeping an eye out for what’s going on and seeing how you can embed and add value to those sorts of workflows. And is there separate stuff too? Are there like outside standard kind of trainings? Where I don’t know if your director and is there a program for those people? Or is it opt in, just in time?

Joe Militello  34:00

So for first time managers and directors, we have programs called our Shields, so we have like a yellow shield or a gray shield. And they’re different levels, or they cover different things. And also, depending on whether you’re a first time manager or a second time manager. And so actually, one of the things we’ve automated is that if someone becomes a manager for the first time, or they become a director, there’s an automatic notification to folks that need to know that so that they’re put on the right distribution list. And so that then they’re put in the queue for the next level of training. So we actually automated that, to know when folks are ready for that training. So we do have those programs. The other thing, though, that we’ve implemented over the last couple of months was that each VP and above has gone through a 360. And as part of that 360, we’ve been able to analyze all the data of all the leaders that have gone through it, and were able to identify the most common areas of gaps within the leadership team. So that then informs us. It’s another important data point on where do we need to go to build some of that gap. And so we’re trying to use data to guide in terms of what are the most important areas of development, because I’m sure you’re aware of just a whole laundry list of things we can go improve our managers on. Whether it’s accountability, whether it’s delegation, whether it’s change management, whether it’s global acumen, whether it’s financial acumen, whether it’s negotiation skills, whether it’s dealing with conflict, or there’s a whole laundry list. And so we use data, whether it’s our engagement surveys, whether it’s the 360, or other mechanisms to really help inform us where the biggest opportunities for development, as opposed to guessing.

Aydin Mirzaee  35:36

And so on the 365 point, are these just surveys are these like, you’re getting coaches to come in and spend a bunch of time with the peers and really do a very detailed analysis? Or is it like an online survey type tool?

Joe Militello  35:50

Both. And so for the VPs, there will be a online tool in which both the manager of that leader fills out, the individual fills out their own form, and then there’s a handful of peers and other stakeholders. And then there’s a Coach assigned to that individual to work with them to talk through the feedback, and to identify the areas that they want to work on. And then there’s a conversation between that individual, the coach, the HR business partner and the manager, to get to some clean agreements in terms of what are the areas of focus so that the manager and the HRBP can support that leader in terms of their development, we document all the individual development plans. And then we also encourage all of our managers to have quarterly conversations with their team outside of the day to day work, but really around their professional development around their career aspirations. And we go back and reference the progress on those IDPs to hold ourselves accountable to actually we’re making progress.

Aydin Mirzaee  36:52

And the coaches, are they typically external, or do you have full time coaches that work and are on the payroll?

Joe Militello  36:59

Both. So for certain levels in the organization, we use our internal coaching, and we do have coaches, we’re in the process of increasing the capacity of that, for our senior executives, we generally go to a third party, and those 360s are generally more interview based. And then we use a third party for the executive coaches today, maybe larger organizations, maybe have it all in house, but at our size and scale, we outsource that — the senior levels.

Aydin Mirzaee  37:24

Got it. And then just the training. So it’s interesting. So you have all this standardized training for the levels, a lot of his automated people get auto enrolled, how different or how customized? Have you made these things, to be in the way of the life of managing at pager duty versus if you were to get an off the shelf, you know, external organization to run the training? And I’m sure it’s different. But my question is like, what are the sorts of differences for people who are trying to understand at scale? What does manage your training look like? And how does it end up fitting the organization better? Are there differences that you can imagine that might be more geared towards you guys versus just a general training?

Joe Militello  38:08

So a couple things on that, I think another mistake that I’ve probably made at a previous life is bringing in external trainers that have no idea or concept of what we do as a company or understand our culture. And so I think, if you’re bringing in an instructor led course, whether it’s internally or externally, they really need to take time to understand kind of your culture, how you operate in your value system, where they could potentially walk into landmine. So I think there has to be some sort of context that surrounds that content, or it’s just gonna be potentially be ineffective. So we talked a lot about content, but as you were, the context of any situation matters just as much with regards to the content. So and then another area that we really I focus on a lot with our training may be helpful with your audience is really the pure learning. And so I think just sending someone to a two day course on ABC, the likelihood of them retaining that knowledge drops off dramatically, you know, weeks and months later. And so, I think a couple of ways in which we reinforced that as one through peer learning and through role playing, so not just in that session, but in following sessions. And then that kind of led to my second point is that one of the things I personally value when it comes to trying to develop a certain topic is that you should have a strategy in terms of how do you build on it over a period of time, whether it’s six months or 12 months. So I gave you that example, earlier among the leadership team around accountability. We didn’t just do a one and done. We’ve had that conversation three different times. Now, every time we had that conversation was a little bit different. We’ve gotten down deeper, and we’re going to roll it out to our company and kickoff. And so I think one of the things I’ve really stressed that’s really worked for us is that if you think about a capability or a skill that you’re trying to develop within your organization, You can figure out how you’re going to build on it. And then the next skill that you’re going to introduce how they build on top of it, almost think about like building a house, right? Having the right foundation, because if you just do one offs here and there, and you’re not reinforcing them throughout the month, throughout the quarter throughout the year, and you’re not creating ways for folks to learn, through practical experience, like role playing, it’s gonna be ineffective.

Aydin Mirzaee  40:22

Yeah, I think the practice makes a lot of sense. And once it’s not enough, and repetition is the mother of skill, as they say. So this has been great. So Joe, we’ve talked about a bunch of different topics, everything from leadership development, to how you do planning people’s strategies, and everything in between. The question that we always like to end on 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?

Joe Militello  40:49

I would say, be authentic, you have to be yourself. If you’re trying to be someone that you’re not, it’s gonna be hard. So I’d say Be authentic. And you’ll be surprised how folks will rally behind you for that authenticity. I would say be curious, always ask questions, and really trying to understand where folks are coming from where folks are, both in terms of their professional and personal goals, but also, obviously, the work. So I would say, be curious, I would say be clear on what you expect, both in terms of the work and just both the what, but as I mentioned before, I put a premium on the house as well. So being clear in your expectations of both what they do and how they do it. And then also, I would say demonstrate your support and confidence in the team in reaching those expectations, the more you believe in them, and the more you support your team in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish, they’re gonna rally behind you. They want a leader that can not only set the vision, set clear goals, but that are supporting them. And so and then the last thing with that was just holding yourself accountable to the team for achieving those goals and for supporting the team.

Aydin Mirzaee  41:52

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Joe, thank you so much for doing this.

Joe Militello  41:56

You’re welcome. Thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Really enjoyed it. Thank you. 

Aydin Mirzaee  42:00

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.Fellow.app/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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