All great leaders are informed by certain North Stars––things they fundamentally believe in that guide their decision making, the way they lead, and how they engage with their teams.
Over the course of my career, I’ve latched on to a few core principles that help me simplify my work, stay engaged with my team, and lead in a way that I can be proud of. For me, that means assuming good intent, always seeking to understand, and leading with gratitude and empathy.
These principles are proving useful in my role as Chief People Officer at Honey. At Honey, we believe in creating an environment of respect, in which people can be exactly who they are every day, be on the best team of their career, and experience limitless growth and opportunity. By following my leadership North Stars, my team and I are getting closer and closer to bringing this vision of our workplace to life. Here’s how.
As leaders, we ask a lot of our teams. We ask them to work hard. We ask them to believe in their teammates. But most importantly, we ask people to trust us––trust that we are giving them the full context, trust that we are being transparent, and trust that we have their best interests in mind. But that trust isn’t a given. As leaders, we have to earn it by reciprocating it.
No one is perfect. We (or at least I) make mistakes all the time. In our day-to-day work, that means we forget to forward emails, forget to invite employees to key meetings, and say things over Slack that just plain lack the intended timing and tone. Most of the time, these mistakes aren’t malicious.
That’s why it’s so important for leaders to assume good intent. To me, that means that in the face of a mistake––no matter how frustrating it might be––I always need to pause, reflect, and trust that the person I’m working with meant no harm and intended to do the right thing. At Honey, we encourage everyone to own their actions, seek the truth of the matter (as opposed to making certain negative assumptions), and use that new awareness to improve and keep going.
As leaders, we too often assume that we know exactly what’s going on when we step in to help or address a given situation. But the truth is, we don’t. That’s why I try to ask questions that get to the core of what’s happening. Sometimes, this looks like simply navigating a conversation away from email or Slack to an in-person meeting. From there, I try and ask questions that help me gain additional context and get more information about the problem we’re trying to solve.
This is, of course, easier said than done. At Honey, people managers and leadership as a whole are spending a lot of time practicing this––knowing our triggers and reminding ourselves to assume good intent; practicing the right questions to ask to dig deeper; and seeking always to gain genuine understanding.
No one is perfect, and self-development is a journey. That’s why we all need to give each other the space to practice, learn, and get better over time. There are things I’m always working to improve at.
I’ve found that everyone appreciates recognition for their efforts. This is true regardless of if those efforts tangibly “impact the business” or directly result in “success.” Rather, what we all really want to be seen for is the simple fact that we’ve put our all into what we do.
As leaders, it can be easy to overlook this fact, especially given our big-picture view of the company and its moving parts. But it’s important that we don’t. We should all strive to be better about calling it out when you know someone put their all into a body of work.
Leading with this kind of gratitude conveys to employees that you care about them and appreciate what they bring to the table, which is inspiring and fulfilling to hear. Even recognizing the simplest things like, “I know you put a ton of effort and time into this,” will go a long way.
It also enables you to reflect and pay forward what valuable lessons you learned in your journey to where you are now. None of us are born into our jobs, and certainly none of us are born as leaders. We all had to try, fail, succeed, and keep going, and we all benefited from the encouragement of others. I recall my first boss giving me some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: “Get out of your head and just try.” For me, that was huge. Now I have the chance to encourage someone else in that same way.
That’s not something I take lightly. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, along with the support and early guidance I’ve received. I remind myself how lucky I am and that without those people, I wouldn’t have accomplished anything. Now, I want to push myself to give that same kind of support to the people I manage today, who rely on me for this type of guidance.
To couple gratitude with empathy in this manner amounts to showing rather than just telling your teams that you give a shit about them. And almost nothing is more inspirational and actually connects you with your team more than that.
So, dig deep to understand your team as people. Ask them how they want to communicate—don’t just tell them how you want to communicate. This will give you deeper insights into how people operate and will be the start to a great connection as a team.
Honey is currently hiring! If this article resonates with you, we’re certainly looking to talk. Go to joinhoney.com/careers to learn more.