Let’s talk about devotion. Songs, poetry and plays are written about it, films are made about it. We use it in association with family, children, partners…. But colleagues or employees…? Not so much. Sure, we want the best for the people we work with, but how many leaders can truly say they are devoted to the success of their people?
And success is the key word here, because helping someone become the best person they can be, so they thrive under your stewardship – and long after – is one of the most vital forms of influence there is.
My guest is striving for more of us to do just that. Frances Frei is an American academic and author. She is the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management and Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education at Harvard Business School. She is also the author of the recently released book: ‘Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leaders Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You’.
On top of that – she also leap into Silicon Valley – and became the very first Senior Vice-President for Leadership and Strategy at Uber, brought in at a time when Uber was under fire from pretty much every corner of the planet. Her job description? To try and restore trust at a time when it was at an all time catastrophic low.
Her first decision in that role says a lot about who she is – committing to wear an Uber T-shirt every day, until the people working alongside her were as proud to wear it as she was… but more on that later.
What brought her first into my world was actually her TED talk ‘How to Build and Rebuild Trust’. Where her insightful and – more than anything else – practical views on building trust in a world where it’s in short supply, became the first time I began to view trust as something tangible – that we can all build – quickly and predictably.
In this interview, we cover…
Unapologetic leadership – what it is, what it looks like and why it has nothing to do with refusing to take responsibility – in fact quite the opposite.
Devotion – yep that word again. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then stick with it. What does it take to be deeply devoted to the ‘wild success’ of another human being? More success than they could possibly achieve on their own. Then – if we can do it once – which we can – how do we take that impact and harness it to create a cascade effect – where it goes on to transform a team, an entire organisation (reference again her time at Uber) or a whole Nation.
How to set and hold high standards without disconnecting from the person you’re trying to support. Basically, how to play bad cop and still have someone feel like you have their back.
The taking and giving of radical responsibility – this one I have not stopped thinking about since this interview. It’s become almost a filter through which I run decisions. Total game changer.
The Trust Triangle; what the three points of the triangle are, how to achieve them and how to maintain them. And how to look, square on and without flinching – at what Frances calls, the ‘devastating data’. This being where you currently sit in the eyes of your team, client base or community. And how to then use the information – rather than a brick to beat yourself with – as a benchmark to know when to celebrate.
Leadership is hard at the best of times – in the middle of a pandemic, on the edge of a recession, when you’re miles away from those you’re trying to serve and support. I’m not sure it gets much harder. If I took anything from this conversation, it’s the calm and wholehearted way in which Frances approaches the tough stuff. If nothing else, I hope that carries with you into your day.
In the meantime, sit back and enjoy my conversation with Frances Frei.