How would you describe your leadership style?
In any company that’s growing at the pace that we are, it’s important to stay ahead of the game and empower people to do things on their own, in order to stay sustainable. While there is a certain risk involved in letting employees act independently, this independence creates the opportunity for a certain type of leader, one who sees opportunity in empty spaces.
It’s this type of approach which will enable a business to scale and avoid processes and decisions being bottlenecked. As a CEO and founder, I will of course get involved at certain stages, demanding smaller details to ensure things are still progressing correctly, but more often than not the leader is the one who figures things out autonomously.
What’s your top leadership tip?
Keep your team focused on the bigger picture. And no, that bigger picture is never about making more revenue.
Revenue is the easiest common denominator that everyone can understand, but to actually create that revenue, it’s all about being demanding on quality from those around you, pushing people to produce their best work at all times.
Employees need to be inspired and know they’re working for something more than just a paycheck. Constantly linking employees’ work to the bigger mission is the most effective and rewarding way to get more from them.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a leader?
There is never a right or wrong answer, there are just answers which the majority of people will consider right while others will not. As we’ve scaled to almost 200 people, it doesn’t take a statistician to recognise that the chances of people having differing views will happen on just about every decision you make.
This actually brings a form of comfort and confidence that’s really important as a leader. I remember vividly when the pandemic hit our core Visitor Registration product and the proposal from some was to spend the next year fixing the bugs and issues. Instead, the path we chose was to build new products around employees registering instead.
This pivot took a lot of people in the company by surprise; they said we’d be doomed as there were plenty of competitors already doing what we were looking to do. Fast-forward to today and we have the most return-to-office functionality of any company. We took a risk and it massively paid off.
"Take lots of risks, when they fail it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it’d be"
What do you do to help others progress through the company?
One of our five core values is communicating openly. The more information people have, the easier it is for them to make smart and thoughtful decisions. This requires communicating the same notion several times and across multiple channels. This is the tricky part that companies usually miss out on.
We try our best to communicate everything in email, through our #general channel on Slack, and in our weekly all-hands where there’s a Q&A. You know you’re doing well when people are saying; “Okay, okay. We get it. You’ve said this a hundred times”. Unsurprisingly, even at this point that rarely happens.
What do you look for from your people team?
I look for a people team that takes some risks. There’s already an inordinate amount of pressure to stay safe and compliant in HR, so it’s a breath of fresh air when a people team is given an opportunity to try new things.
Of course, HR is all about every unlikely event happening, so there will be times these risks won’t work, but it’s important to have that safety in the workplace where we call out what didn’t work and what we learned. This has allowed us to experiment with new hire processes and even new benefits and perks. All of this happened during the pandemic where there was no safety rulebook to use. Just don’t let all your decisions be led by finance.
Do you think HR directors have the skills needed to be CEO?
Being a CEO means you get to see the worst of the problems in a company, which actually isn’t too far away from the day-to-day of HR leaders already. Plus, being a great recruiter is one of the most important skills for being a CEO too, so we’re off to a great start.
However, too much of traditional HR teachings centre around minimising risk. Risk needs to be embraced and encouraged, especially when a company is small. Once over that hurdle, there are few barriers left in the way, just stay forward looking and hire ambitious and resilient people.