Startup Talent Development
When I joined Archimedes, a tech startup that spun out of Kaiser, the company had less than 15 employees, many of whom were remote, and a brand new CEO. I was charged with helping to grow the organization and cultivate a more open, transparent and cohesive company culture. We were operating in a very competitive space and knew that our ability to succeed lay in the talent we could attract, retain and optimize.
I worked closely with the CEO to create a vision for the company and build structures to support the vision: 360-degree reviews, peer recognition systems, leadership coaching for executives, incentive programs. Not only did we grow our employee count substantially, but we managed to maintain a very high retention rate, even while selling the company. That’s a big deal, as any HR leader knows.
Focus on Communication
Turnover typically increases when companies are for sale as employees are understandably nervous about their future. How did we manage to retain so many people at a time of turmoil? Simply put, we stepped up our communication efforts with employees.
Our bi-monthly, all-hands employee meetings transformed into “fireside chats” with the CEO. There’s a fine balance between authenticity and authority that great leaders must strike. It’s an art, actually. You have to know what to share and when. You also have to be willing to listen and take some emotional risks for people to trust you. It doesn’t come naturally to all executives, but with coaching it can be learned.
When employee anxiety levels were rising, we responded by launching an employee wellness program to reduce stress. I designed a 16 week course based loosely upon Google’s Search Inside Yourself program that covered mindfulness mediation techniques and emotional intelligence tools. It included self-care practices, listening skills, training on how to have difficult conversations and values clarification exercises. The majority of the company participated, including members of the executive team.
In many ways the wellness program was the intersection of my personal and professional interests. In my HR roles, I’d always been focused on talent development and culture. Prior to Archimedes, I worked for a software company that acquired three firms in three different states in the span of a year. My proudest accomplishment was helping to create a strong, unified culture for this geographically dispersed organization which itself ultimately was sold at a profit.
My Own Leadership Development
My interest in wellness came about when I was in the midst of some big personal transitions. I was introduced to mindfulness meditation and saw how effective it was at helping reduce stress and increase clarity. For years my daily mediation practice was strictly a self-care tool. But when I was first promoted to Vice President of HR, I began applying these same mindfulness techniques to my work life for profound effect.
At the time of my promotion, the company was in a period of transition and I felt immense pressure to perform at a new and unfamiliar level. I needed to learn how to cultivate a leadership mindset and presence. My mindfulness practices helped me to listen deeply to my own intuition and what others were saying (and not saying). Working with an executive coach closed the loop by helping me learn how to respond like a leader and hone my communication skills. The result was that I improved my ability to influence and make more powerful impacts on the business. These are the skills I work to impart to my own coaching clients.
My experiences as VP of HR play a big role in my coaching. But so does my background in accounting, which gives me a strong business perspective that looks to the bottom line results and allows me to stand toe-to-toe with C-level executives. I’m happiest coaching people, but I get how business works and that informs my coaching.
A Coach to Coaches
I currently serve as an adjunct faculty member at New Ventures West, which is where I received my coaching certification. I love the Integral coaching model created by New Ventures West because it is geared towards helping people make significant and lasting transformations. It offers a variety of powerful tools and processes designed to help people shift their mindsets, behaviors, relationships and environments.