Guest

02

What motivates you as an employee might not motivate your team members. Getting down to what truly motivates each employee is really critical if you want to drive optimal results across that entire team.

In this episode

In episode #2, Sara Varni (CMO of Twilio) talks about the importance of understanding your team’s motivations, setting clear expectations around KPIs, and empowering people to develop professionally within your organization.

Prior to joining Twilio, Sara was a leader at Salesforce – where she grew from product marketing manager, all the way to SVP of Marketing. 

Tune in to hear all about Sara’s leadership journey!

. . .

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


02:19

Sara’s experience managing remote teams.

03:06

Lessons from managing a team for the first time at Salesforce.

4:48

“Management 101”: Sit down with every employee to understand what motivates them.

5:57

The importance of active listening.

7:35

Sara’s strategies to set priorities and prepare for meetings.

10:28

How to establish a meeting cadence (high-frequency vs. low-frequency meetings).

13:40

How to pick a meeting structure.

15:30

Why Sara starts every meeting with a core set of metrics.

17:48

The importance of communicating your team’s work in a consistent and compelling way.

21:00

Sara’s career track becoming an SVP at Salesforce and the lessons she learned from her mentors, Leyla Seka and Mike Rosenbaum.

24:09

The importance of staying calm under every situation (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic).

26:30

Best practices to encourage growth and development within your team.

26:53

How to give immediate and specific feedback.

27:58

How skip-level meetings can help you get a pulse on all levels of your organization.

31:10

How can leaders cultivate a sense of belonging?

34:00

Sara Varni’s advice for managers and leaders looking to get better at their craft.


Resources


Episode Transcript

Aydin Mirzaee  1:51  

Sarah, welcome to the show. It’s awesome to have you here. I’ve been looking forward to our chat for a while now. It’s a particularly interesting time, obviously, you’re recording this from home. I’m recording this from home. And it’s interesting times out there, but you are definitely no stranger to managing teams across the globe.

Sara Varni  2:17  

Yes, that’s true. And I think I was thinking about it this morning, as I was getting ready for this call, where we used to, pre-COVID, have to make special considerations for international teams. We’re all kind of on the same playing field right now. And so we’re all I think a lot of my teams that are based here in San Francisco, are really having empathy for our remote workers and our employees that work across the globe. Because they’re seeing, you know, what it takes to really break through not being face to face or in the office.

Aydin Mirzaee  2:53  

Yeah, definitely. So, you know, to kick things off, I just basically wanted to start by asking you: when was the first time that you started to manage a team?

Sara Varni  3:05  

Yeah. So the first time I started, the managing team was at Salesforce. And I’ve been a manager now for over 10 years. And it was kind of a sudden thing. Honestly, it wasn’t like something I’d been prepped for for 18 months, or “Hey, this is coming in and we’re trying to get, you know, people to report to you”. My manager, essentially found a new role outside of Salesforce he was really excited about and overnight, they were like, “Sarah, you’re in!”, you know, it’s kind of pulled out of the bullpen. And so that was a really scary experience, and I definitely had imposter syndrome and you know, all those doubts about whether or not if I could do this, and but it was just kind of into the deep end and I had to learn how to swim and make it happen.

Aydin Mirzaee  3:49  

So what’s something that you know, just going back to those very early days, what’s something that you did not know in the beginning, but that you wish that you knew about leading a team?

Sara Varni  4:00  

I think there are so many things that you just have to learn by doing. And I think one thing that I can look back on and wish that I’d learned earlier on is that… what motivates you as an employee might not motivate your team members, and everyone is motivated by different things. Some people are motivated by titles, some people are motivated by work-life balance, some people are motivated by a ton of money. And I think getting down to what that true motivation is for each employee is really critical if you want to drive the optimal result across that entire team.

Aydin Mirzaee  4:36  

A very valuable lesson. Yeah, so I guess like, does that mean that when you first join a team, I mean, that’s probably what you’re trying to get at, like when first starting to lead a team?

Sara Varni  4:47  

Yeah, I mean, I think you have to, it’s, it’s kind of basic management 101, but I think it’s really, every time I take on a team, I sit down with each person individually, no matter how large my team has been, if it’s 14 people or you know, 200 people. I, when I started at Twilio, I sat down with every employee for at least 30 minutes just to understand what their role was, how they fit into the organization, and what really got them up in the morning.

And I think that gave me a great composite of the culture of the team, and allowed me to think about “Alright, this is, these are some tactics or these are some programs that it’s really going to motivate this group. And these are some tactics that are not these are the things are going to turn them off and, you know, make them not feel like they’re part of Twilio or part of Salesforce”.

Aydin Mirzaee  5:37  

Yeah, that makes sense. And what was the thing that you felt that you needed to work the most on, you know, like, after starting to become a manager like what do you think was the thing that in the beginning, you might have not been as good at but subsequently had to work on and get better at?

Sara Varni  5:57  

I think one thing that I’m still working on today is just listening, I think could be a really good manager, you have to be a really good listener. And I think as you take on larger and larger teams, this becomes even harder because you’re constantly being asked to context switch across different functions.

If you think about my role as a CMO, you know, I’ll be in one meeting on demand generation, the next meeting might be on events, the next meeting might be on our website. And so in the course of all that context switching, I really have to remind myself to focus and be in the moment, otherwise, I’m thinking about the conversation before or I’m thinking about something, maybe we have ahead, and I’m not really taking advantage of the moment and not using that meeting time as effective as I could. So that’s something I’m constantly trying to work out with myself. I know it’s not perfect in that way. And, you know, I just think it’s important to remind myself about daily.

Aydin Mirzaee  6:50  

Yeah, I mean, that’s an interesting, interesting topic in itself because I think for a lot of managers they are walking, you know, from meeting to meeting and it is a context switch to a large extent, so probably something that a lot of people have to go through.

I’m curious. So I would imagine your schedule probably looks like, basically there might be half an hour, blank, but everything else is always full. So how do you, prep for your day? Is there this concept of, you know, like, you start to look at all the agendas pre-populated for all your meetings? Or do you do it like, in the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, like how do you tackle all those different projects that are being thrown at you in one day?

Sara Varni  7:36  

Yeah, I have a few different tactics that I use together or just depending on what’s going on on the team in general.

I always watched my dad growing up, my dad is a lawyer, and he used to have these big, huge yellow legal pads all the time. He still does this day. And every morning when he was drinking his coffee, he’d write like a list of 20 boxes of things he was going to do. And so I definitely I follow suit in that way I do. I write a list every morning. Of what I’m going to try and tackle, and I, you know, I do that in coordination with my calendar. But I also, if you’re kind of doing it at the point of your calendar, it’s almost too late, you should be thinking about it more upfront before those meetings even get scheduled.

You know, and I have the luxury of having an assistant at this level. And so but I sit down with her, and I think, you know, I could do it on my own, as well. But you know, I sit down and say, all right, “what are my priorities for the year? And how is my time being split across those priorities as I look at the course of this week, or this month, or this quarter? And do I have the right set of cadences set up to really check in on these programs to make sure that we’re, you know, pushing the ball down the field?” That’s the one thing I do.

And then a second thing I’ve tried this year, which I’m happy to say is working well, and this might not be for everyone, but I basically try to work longer days Monday through Thursday and crunch as many meetings as I can to that so I might work from like, 8 to 6 and they’re long days, you know, I’m tired by the end of the day, and all those things, but then I block Friday entirely just to get actual work done and to do any kind of recap from the meetings I had Monday through Thursday. And I found that to be very powerful for me. I’ve seen my productivity increased dramatically, just because I have time to think, I have time to reset on the next week. And I’m just able to tackle more strategic projects than if I had, you know, spread those meetings across the five days. So that’s my latest strategy. I think it’s all it’s constantly evolving, if I talk to you in a quarter, I might say, well, you know, that, that broke down at some point because of X, Y, and Z. But for now, that’s working well.

Aydin Mirzaee  9:44  

Yeah. Well, there’s one thing that you said which is super interesting. Just this concept of, you know, taking a look at what your priorities are, and then obviously, focusing and making sure that your time is actually spent in those areas. While you were saying that you also mentioned this other thing. Which was making sure that in order to achieve those priorities and spend that time that you have, like the right cadences of communication with your team, or like, you’re making sure that the right cadence is being established.

Could you maybe elaborate on that? And like how you actually, you know, make that happen?

Sara Varni  10:20  

Yeah, I kind of look at it project by project, and then I look at the team that’s on it, and how much have I interacted with that team? And how familiar am I with their work style?

So if it’s a brand new team, and it’s a brand new project, that’s like the, like, lethal combination, right? Because that team’s kind of getting used to working on a project together, and the project’s new. And so in that sense, I will have a high frequency of meetings upfront, to make sure we’re super clear on goals that we know ultimately, in a quarter, what does the project look like that we’re trying to deliver? And so I might have a meeting even like twice a week at that point, just to establish like, what it is we’re actually building.

And then as I see the team kind of gel and form together and get in motion, I want to step out of it because I don’t want to be the like, you know, micromanager and, and be constantly saying do this or do that. I just want to get them going and get that give them the momentum. And then I would so I probably reduce the cadence to be like, once every other week, or, you know, once a week, and then, you know, as I see them progressing and moving down the road, we would assess, alright, is this the right cadence? Do we do less frequent, more frequent, maybe when the thing is actually rolling out we’ll have to meet more frequently again. But you know, that’s kind of my approach for new team new project.

If it’s a team I’ve worked with, but a new project, you know, the cadence might change. If it’s a team I’ve worked with, and it’s just iterating on a project that already exists, that’s probably like a monthly check-in, right? So I think you have to assess how familiar you are with the team’s work. And then how much input do you need to give upfront to get a project off the ground.

Aydin Mirzaee  12:02  

Yeah, that’s a super valuable way to look at it. That’s awesome. And it’s interesting because like part of it was, it seems like there’s just this concept of like how well have you dealt with that team in the past? And you understand how each other, like, each person communicates. And the more that happens, I guess there’s less frequent interaction that’s probably required.

Sara Varni  12:25  

Yeah, I mean, I think as people… I have people at Salesforce that I worked with for a number of years… that we just did so many projects together, that there was a speed of trust. We just knew exactly what was expected of each other. And we could get things off the ground quickly.

And you know, the same at Twilio is I’ve started to work with some teams, repetitively, they know the types of things I’m looking for, like, I want a brief 5 to 10 slide deck with metrics upfront as to like what the KPIs are for this program. I want to know who the key stakeholders are. I want it to be socialized internally. And so as you do your second and third project with me, it’s probably really annoying, like, “okay, here she goes again, she wants this metrics deck” And that’s it, but I do it so that you know, people know what to expect from me. And, you know, there’s a clear kind of way to drive programs within our marketing organization that’s repeatable.

Aydin Mirzaee  13:17  

Another sort of like tactical question there. What is your preferred format for those meetings to say like, it’s a project meeting, and now say, like, the definition is well underway? You talked about KPIs and different things. Is there a particular format, like high-level structure that you prefer to see these meetings organized in?

Sara Varni  13:40  

Yeah, I mean, I think if you’re pre-launch, I always like to see a work back schedule. So all right here, this is a three-month project. Here’s where we are, in terms of where we were supposed to be. Or, you know, here’s where we were supposed to be. Here’s where we actually are. And here’s what the next couple of months look like or next, you know, series of weeks, like whatever it is.

And then I like to, I will rotate. I like to have a deep dive on certain topics where we need to get a little bit more into the meat of things and like, you know, just discuss things in another level. But sometimes I will rotate to like, just give me the full status of, you know, everything that’s happening across this project right now, like top to bottom, let’s get into the details. And just so I have both that like deep view, but also the, you know, 50,000-foot view, too, and I can kind of troubleshoot.

I think about COVID. For example, we have a big task force that we’re running three times a week here at Twilio. And some of the days when we get together, it’s a really broad team. It’s about 40 people across a number of different teams. And some days we’ll go deep on a certain topic like press outreach, where we need a bunch of people to contribute, and other times we’ll just go top to bottom down the whole list of activities we have and have everyone give a quick status report. So it just kind of depends where I think the team would benefit the most and we get the most out of the time.

Aydin Mirzaee  15:12  

And for things that are, say project-oriented and KPI oriented, like, does every meeting always have like a measurable topic that’s talked about?

Sara Varni  15:26  

Yeah, so that’s the tricky part. And I am and I’m empathetic to the fact that certain things are going to be very easy to measure and certain things are going to be more focused on intangibles or more awareness-focused and have a longer lead time to actually show results. So I try to balance and make sure that people are not trying to manufacture metrics just so it checks the box for me, but I do want people to have goals and they could be you know, qualitative goals or milestones, just so that there’s a longer-term strategy to what they’re trying to achieve. And that we’re really thinking about at its core, like, what is the business impact of this?

And every meeting, I start at Twilio, whether it’s my, my directs meeting that I have weekly, or my marketing all hands, I start with a core set of metrics. And I try to keep it as small number just because I think, if there’s too many metrics, it’s gonna be complicated, and no one’s gonna sink in. A team of, you know, a couple hundred people are not gonna sink into any one metric. So I try to keep it to a small amount of metrics that everyone is familiar with. And I really push the team no matter where you sit in the organization, to think about how your programs are going to impact these in some way. And I pick the metrics I pick strategically so that you know, there’s awareness in there there’s middle middle of funnel kind of, from a marketing perspective, middle of funnel type metrics, and then there’s very concrete metrics of the bottom of the funnel. And so I think my hope is that that helps people, you know, really look at their priorities for the year and figure out how they’re, they’re pushing to the overall marketing goals.

Aydin Mirzaee  17:14  

And in terms of one of the things that, you know, you and I were chatting before the show on this concept of, you know, cadence of communication, and, you know, consistency and, you know, various topics like that.

What are your thoughts? I mean, you were talking about how there is a fine balance of figuring out how to communicate and when to communicate. I would love for you to elaborate on that topic.

Sara Varni  17:41  

I mean, I’m very hot on this topic, just given the company I’m at right now in the phase of growth we’re in. Twilio is a very high-growth environment. We’ve doubled an employee size since I’ve been there. I’ve only been there two years. And so I think it’s super critical for everyone to be communicating their work out to whoever it’s relevant for in a really consistent and thoughtful way.

So I’m big on sending monthly updates for the marketing team that start with metrics that go into a few of our key programs that highlight what’s coming in the next month and any kind of calls to action for the group, like where do we need help?

And, you know, it is an art, I think, if you were just to be super formulaic about it, people would zone out and delete that email right away and say, Oh, this is boring, or I, you know, I know what this is. But I think you have to think about how do you keep a structure that’s consistent so people generally know what to expect, but how do you edit it in a way that keeps it compelling and you know, reads like a magazine?

And we have a concept of Twilio, which is you need to market your marketing. And so I think that’s true for these types of communications. What type of email are you going to write to compel someone to take five minutes out of their day and read it? But I think it’s super critical because people think, Oh, you know, everyone knows exactly what my team’s doing. They know what’s expected. And I think if everyone has that mindset but doesn’t communicate out, no one is going to understand what anyone else is doing, and not get the help they need.

Aydin Mirzaee  19:15  

It’s interesting you mention that. I send this email to the whole company once a week. And it’s one of the things that I struggle with, like, is anyone reading this? Are they not? And so what I what I’ve done is basically, just like there’s a standard format, everybody contributes to it. But then I write the beginning part and that’s kind of unformatted and I go wild and I might write different things and there’ll be important information… Is there like, I mean, do you do something similar where like, there’s like a free forum section and anything could be in there?

Sara Varni  19:50  

I do! I try to think about like, what are the visuals I can incorporate in it what are the funny elements of it that I can incorporate or what are the Easter eggs I can hide to get people to pay attention. And then I also try to make sure that I have a good cross-section of people’s work in it. Because I think the more they see their own teams work in it, the more likely they are going to look at it every month, they’re gonna want to, you know… Going back to the motivation thing, some are motivated by praise. And so if they see their team’s work highlighted there, they’re going to be more likely to tune in every month.

Aydin Mirzaee  20:23  

Yeah, that makes sense. You know, switching to another topic, one of the things that’s, you know, very interesting about your background, in general, is that, you know, obviously, during your time at Salesforce, you started as a product marketing manager, and you worked all your way, all the way up to becoming SVP of marketing.

And we’ve also, you know, basically read about you that there’s this concept that you tend to talk about, which is the generosity gene. I was wondering if you could elaborate on that and, you know, tell us how that helped you, basically, in your career track becoming an SVP at Salesforce at that time?

Sara Varni  21:06  

I think I was on a panel a couple of weeks ago at Twilio, with some female colleagues and one of the women mentioned something that I absolutely agree with. And she said, you know, if I could tell my younger self, something, I would follow great teams as much as I would follow actual jobs in the job description. And I think I was super fortunate to be part of great, amazing teams at Salesforce with amazing leaders that had great momentum. And, you know, speaking of the generosity gene, these are people that, you know, definitely gave me tons of their time. That, they had, they were people who had been helped by managers themselves, and they knew that it was their turn to give back. And I think, you know, two of those people specifically at Salesforce.

I had tons of mentors that Salesforce, I don’t, I don’t want to limit it to just two but two that really made a difference for me and that I worked for for a number of years. Super different people, but you know, helped me in different ways.

One was Leyla Seka. And Leyla is just a force if you ever meet her, she’s just a high-energy person. She was a huge proponent behind the Equal Pay movement and activity at Salesforce, just inspiration, and a much different personality to me. She’s bold, she has tons of confidence. She’s just out there. And so for me, reporting to her, she would always push me. She pushed me to have a seat at the table. She pushed me to speak up in places where I was not comfortable. And you know, she would, she would say things like, “Hey, if you’re invited to this meeting, you should speak up because not everyone gets invited this meeting and this is your shot”. And so it was really good to have her behind me and to build my confidence and help me find my voice in those meetings where I didn’t know if I belonged. So she was one part.

My other major mentor at Salesforce was an individual named Mike Rosenbaum, and Mike had a completely different leadership style he was much more reserved in his just demeanor and approach and you know, I think he taught me a lot about how to motivate a team to really get to those motivations, like that is a big part of his management style, and to also to point people in the right direction and say, “Hey, this is what I think you know, our North Star is and this is where I want us to go and you know, I’ll see you there”. Without having to say like “turn left walk three feet turn right” now he was really good at kind of setting the direction, saying this is where we’re gonna go, and he checked it at the right point, you always knew he was there when you needed him, but he wasn’t gonna micromanage or helicopter in and tell you you were doing everything wrong.

Aydin Mirzaee  23:53  

How does that, I guess, basically influence your approach? Where do you stand in that mix? And what is your leadership style?

Sara Varni  24:04  

If they’re the two extremes? Gosh, I don’t know, I’d say that I am pretty balanced. Honestly, I probably lean more towards the reserved leadership style. But you know, I just try to stay calm under any situation. I think especially in the wake of things that are happening right now with COVID. There are people that are legitimately concerned about their well being and their health, they’ve got kids running around the background, they’re trying to, you know, work these jobs that are crazy on a normal day with no pandemic. And so I think for me, where I can be most helpful is just to be there for them to be responsive, to let them know that everything’s gonna be okay. And, you know, that’s really where I’m trying to focus my management energy in this point in time. It’s just, this is something none of us have encountered.

Aydin Mirzaee  25:01  

Yeah, definitely like it’s interesting times and yes, sometimes you just have to be there and be the voice of calm admits the storm.

Sara Varni  25:12  

Yeah, I’m always kind of a “glass half full” person and you know, there are good and bad parts about that, I might not worry enough at points. That is a that’s just my style, I’m the youngest of five kids, I’ve always kind of had to go with the flow, and I was kind of just like “Sarah get in the car”, you know at that point. And so I think that has trained me well to kind of roll with the punches, and it’s been a great fit for tech because tech is very high energy fast-paced, and if you let that energy kind of eat you up, you won’t have a long career.

Aydin Mirzaee  25:52  

One topic that I wanted to also chat about is, you know, in terms of developing your own teams, and seeing, the career trajectory that you had, when looking at, you know, people who are within your organization, what kind of practices or rituals do you have, or things you do to basically encourage that same level of growth for people on your team?

And potentially, like, you know, people who report to people who report to people who report to you. How do you basically emphasize growth and learning and development within your teams?

Sara Varni  26:31  

Yeah, I mean, I think for my managers, or new managers that are just starting to manage people, or managers starting to manage managers… I just ask a simple question in our one-on-ones. I say: how is your team? talk me through, you know, each person.

And you get a really good sense right away for how in tune that manager is with their team, what some of their blind spots might be, and I always try to coach when it comes to performance. I always really try to coach in the moment I don’t… like if I see something in a meeting. I’ll try to pull the person aside pretty soon after, and just say, “Hey, you know, when you said this, you might want to say a different way, because I think that room was reading it this way.”

I love to give feedback as close to when it happened when whatever the incident was happened if it’s specific, just because it’s more tangible, they can, you know, they can get a good sense for what good, great could look like. And then it also doesn’t feel like it’s this pent up thing that your manager’s being stewing on and then you know, you get it more in your head about it. And so that’s generally my approach on performance, and then also motivating managers to be better managers.

Aydin Mirzaee  27:38  

And one of the things that you talked about was, you know, whether people just become managers and first-time managers in general. Do you often do skip-level meetings or basically meet with people who report to people who report to you?

Sara Varni  27:57  

I do. I do a lot of skip-level meetings, I think it’s just really important to have a pulse on all levels of your organization. And just to get to know people on a personal level, I think I always, I always say to people, that your work can’t be “choose your own adventure”, like you can’t like, always decide exactly what you want to work on. And you can’t just take all the fun projects, but to the extent I know, as a leader of the team, that your interests are, and I given that I see projects across the whole team, it’s really, it’s great for me to know what particular side interests are because then I can allocate some of these people to projects where we need extra hands. So I love to meet with people at all different parts of the team. I love to mentor people from all different parts of the team. To the extent that I can, at some points, they’re better off with someone that’s going to be able to give them more time. But I just I always like to, to get a sense for the overall makeup of the team and I don’t think you can do that just relying on your relationships with your directs.

Aydin Mirzaee  29:03  

And are there any specific so when you’re having those sorts of conversations in the skip level setting… Are there any questions or go-to questions that you like to dive into when meeting with those people?

Sara Varni  29:17  

Well, I always appreciate when someone comes with their own items to talk about, I think that that shows that they’re, they’re thinking about their own career. And you know, I think it’s a, it is a meet halfway type of thing. But, you know, from my perspective, the questions I will ask is:

If we look at you in five years, like, what would you want your LinkedIn profile to say, you know, or what are the projects, what are the skill sets, you know, that you think you need to pick out to get to that place in five years?

And what are your areas of interest? Like, what are the what are projects that you wish you could be working on that you’re that you’re not working on today? And I’ll ask too like, is there something that your manager could be doing any better? Because they might not feel comfortable or just might not come in the context of their meetings. But it’s good to get that feedback to you so that I can help coach their manager too if there’s a certain way that they should be coaching this individual employee.

And I, you know, I also solicit the good and the bad, I’m not just looking to like, get my managers in trouble. But yeah, I mean, I think that those are kind of my go-to set of questions.

Aydin Mirzaee  30:25  

Yeah, super helpful. You know, one of the things about Twilio, in general, that, you know, I know about the company is just this concept of cultivating a sense of belonging everywhere. And I think it’s it’s a particularly more difficult task, I would assume. I mean, you know, you have 17 offices, and only four of those are in the US. So there’s this question of how do you actually approach that?

I mean, it’s one thing to say you want to do it, but you what are the things that you know, leadership in Twilio does and like, what are the things that you encourage your leaders to do in order to actually make that happen?

Sara Varni  31:09  

Yeah. So tactically, I include our EMEA, and APAC leads in my monthly leads meeting, so that they’re part of that conversation. And we get more insight into what’s happening with them.

For our marketing all hands, we try to be considerate of just even time zones and making sure that we’re rotating time so that we’re not always making EMEA dial in at night or we’re not making, you know, APAC dial in at six in the morning, whatever it is.

And we try to just be considered that way. And then in terms of my team, to the extent your travel policy will permit it, I encourage my directs to get out to each of our major regions once a year. I just think there’s nothing better than really sitting with those teams. And understanding what it’s like to work in a regional office, what are the particular, you know, pain points and that they have not working in headquarters? And then also just what are the regional dynamics that our customers face there? And how do we need to think about our business differently? Just given what we see really being on the ground and with the field teams there. So those are my approaches. I think we always could be getting better. I think there’s nothing better than actually getting out to the region and seeing it firsthand.

Aydin Mirzaee  32:31  

Yeah, it’s a very interesting thing. I think one of the things that I’ve had experience within this area is that when you, having worked at a company that was a satellite office before, sometimes you start to feel left out from time to time and so even the basic concept of having a leader come to your office makes you believe that “yay, we exist”. It sounds like a small thing, but it really does make a huge difference, I think.

Sara Varni  33:03  

Yeah, I agree. And it’s been a little bit weird to be grounded right now because we normally are making it out to our different offices. But we’ve also we’re learning how to adapt. I’ve had more Zoom happy hours that I can count at this point. But I think it’s great. And part of it makes you question like, why don’t we use some of these tactics without a global pandemic? I think it’s made us think about new ways to really engage with people that are right in our backyard.

Aydin Mirzaee  33:30  

Yeah, hundred percent. So Sara, this has been really fun. You know, one of the things that I wanted to basically, you know, end on is just this concept of, you know, for all those managers and leaders out there looking to get better at their craft of managing and leading teams:

What are some things that you would recommend that they do, whether they’re books or resources or you know, things that they should practice doing or rituals that they should adopt? What is some advice that you would give to those folks?

Sara Varni  34:02  

Yeah, I mean, I have, I have a few different books that I that I’d recommend.

I love Tribal Leadership. I think that’s a great book that kind of walks through the different stages and mentality certain team members might be in and how you can identify those and try and graduate people to the ideal stage so that everyone’s working together and playing nice.

I love Start with Why by Simon Sinek I think it’s especially important for marketing organizations. I think it’s just a very kind of fundamental, customer-centric book. That’s great from a manager perspective.

I love Made to Stick. It’s another marketing one, but I think that there’s elements of it that can be used in any different function is just like how do you make your work memorable? Going to my, to my point around communications and making sure people are listening and understanding what your team is doing? I think that that’s a great book to guide you there.

And then Radical Candor is a great book to realize that giving feedback and even hard feedback and constructive feedback is a kind and right thing to do at the end of the day. I think some people, especially new managers, and especially we didn’t touch on this, but especially if you come from being a peer to managing one of your former peers, I think that can be really tricky. I think this book is great at helping you navigate through effective ways to give feedback and also not to, not to hesitate from giving feedback, because ultimately, you’re helping that person in the end, even if it’s hard to hear at first. And ultimately, that person’s going to be in a better place.

Aydin Mirzaee  35:38  

Yeah, great recommendations. And obviously, we’ll include all of these in the show notes. And the first one was Tribal Leadership. I haven’t read that one. So it’s on my list now.

Sara Varni  35:51  

Yeah, no, it’s a good one.

Aydin Mirzaee  35:54  

Well, Sarah, thanks so much again. This was great. And thank you for being on the show.

Sara Varni  35:58  

Yeah, thanks for having me!

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