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JS: What’s one unconventional growth tactic that works surprisingly well?
Jay Bowden: So Jorge, you know, for me, I think it’s an unconventional answer to your unconventional growth strategy and I’d say Leadership, in the sense that typically in a growth strategy is going to imply products or strategy or a dynamic in the market, those types of things. But I think of leadership first, often great leaders can get a lot done. If a great leader doesn’t have a great team, I just think they don’t have the propensity to do as much.
Right. So when I think about that, I think hiring great people is first and foremost to being a great leader, I think you can do more with more. And a few things come to mind. One is setting a north star for the team. And I like for it to be aggregated from the group, not top down from me. And I go out and I write a north star, I write a mission statement and I say, what do you think? And people have to agree and that kinda thing. We like the whiteboard with it. We like to get everyone involved. We like to feel like it came from everyone. And then for me as a leader, kind of getting buy into that, and having people want to follow that mission, and want to accomplish our goals. I feel like that’s the way to go about it.
JS: What other sort of actionable tactics or strategies would allow you to implement this leadership approach that really drives growth?
Jay Bowden: Well, first of all, I think about impact first, right? First and foremost in the line I use, I do prefer it and we’re a sales organization. And just to be candid a couple of things come to mind. One is that the ultimate sign of customer success is revenue growth on our side, right? Client’s that, in our business, clients of Google’s, don’t tend to spend more money if they’re not seeing the ROI on their side. So, I like for my team’s to be focused on impact and by impact. We have a quota, we have a sales number to attain. We have a growth rate.
I love the title of this. One of the questions was, what do you have in common with GMC? Well, my title is Director of Growth right now. We’ve started up a lab in the group that I’m in called the partner growth lab. So the word growth is really what we’re focused on. So year over year percentage is great, but net dollars to the company, net dollars to the business, ultimately I think is the ultimate way to see if we’re being successful against our plan. If our people are performing well, if those numbers are not healthy. Then, you know, typically I wanna have a conversation. I just want to see what might be missing.
Is there a way that I can help remove obstacles is something I get to do, hopefully for my teams not become an obstacle, which I think is an interesting one for leaders. If you’re spending all your time making your leader happy or trying to find answers to random questions that you get a text on it sometimes at night, that’s way too distracting. I like to keep people focused on the goals at hand, again impact first, and we can see impact in a number of ways Jorge. So I think that’s an easy one actually, based on the systems that we put in place.
JS: Are there any sort of soft skills or qualitative attributes that this type of leader possesses?
Jay Bowden: So yeah, I think yes. And I also have to watch out, right, and not have biases as a leader, right? Traditionally in a sales organization, you could argue there is a stereotype or a stereotypical salesperson or successful leader or a sales leader. And I’ve actually found that that’s not the case. There’s not one pattern here. And so I have a very open mind these days. I think great ideas come from everywhere in an organization. They certainly don’t come from me. And so I try to be as inclusive as possible.
And again, the wisdom of the crowds, I think about all of us being smarter than one of us. And so the more people that are involved, the more room we give them to do great things. I think that’s how they can be successful. So to your question, is it an EQ? Is it IQ?, Is it that they look and act a certain way? I don’t think there’s denotable quality in a soft skill, but I think first and foremost, they do have to care about people. They have to care about their people and you can’t fake that. Especially with good people, if you’re running a team of great people and I’m fortunate to work at Google, I think we hire really, really good people.
They’ll know when you’re fake. They’ll know when you don’t really care about them. They’ll know when you just want what you want from them. So I think to be a great leader, the soft skills become authenticity. And I bring my whole self to work. You don’t meet Jay at the grocery store and you don’t meet Jay at another event. And then you meet Jay as the leader and think, wow, that’s a totally different guy, right? Like, no, I bring myself, I bring my stories that bring my life to work. And I’m myself, every single day. To my point on being inclusive. That’s a really important piece as well. I think when teams feel included, when people that are helping you achieve your goals, feel included in the program and a part of the team, they just do so much more.
And when I say that, it even sounds like I’m doing it for that reason. I’m actually not, I’m doing it for them because in my career when I felt included, I performed at the highest level. Which by the way means when I came home, I was in the best mood, which means as a dad I was the best dad, as a husband I was the best husband. So being inclusive, it just makes everybody feel better about what they’re doing. And these days giving that to people is something that’s super important.
JS: That’s awesome. How do you sort of create a culture of trust?
Jay Bowden: So trust is a two way street, right? And I mean, that sounds pretty simple and pretty basic, but again, to my point a minute ago, great people won’t work for someone they don’t trust. So in the end I establish it by leading by example. And that’s so cliche, right? I mean, but it’s so true. Look at our world, right. If I’m transparent and I share what’s going on with my team, I share up, I just got this note, there’s this thing that we gotta watch out for in the business, or we are a little concerned about this. I shoot them straight.
And I think they trust me because they see a lot of times the comms that I’ve pushed through Jorge or direct from above or around. So there’s no copying pasting and I’m just showing them the part I want them to see. I wanted them to see the whole note and know that I trust them with that information. It may be confidential. I say, please do not forward. But I think showing that I’m willing to share everything, builds trust with the team. And then when I need something in return, when we are missing something, if there’s a metric that’s off, if we’re missing a number, we’re down on some areas that we think we should be better at.
I think I get more from the team when they trust me. And by the way, I love that I can trust the people that I hire because I sleep better at night. I don’t worry about double checking their work. They don’t see me making changes because I think something was wrong. I might add or subtract something. But in general, I see us as partners and I think with partnership should, and hopefully does come trust.
JS: I’ve been a type of individual who’s generally really kind to everybody. And I’d be very kind to my coworkers, to the folks who have worked for and have worked on my team or reported to me, those sorts of things. But I have struggled in the past with just in general, even just in life, with the distinction between kindness and then being weak.
How would you say that you find that balance within the role of a leader?
Jay Bowden: Well, first of all, I think it’s a fine line. I’ve had leaders that were not kind, that kind of wanted what they wanted from me. It was a transactional relationship, right. I was more like that in my earlier days in my career because I was insecure myself. I worried too much about what my teams thought about me. I tried to always say something that was smart or that would, Oh, you know, I’m the boss. I should have something great to say here. Well, over time, Jorge, I’ve learned, first of all, don’t expect that much from me.
And I don’t expect that I’m going to have the right answer every time. To my earlier point on the wisdom of the crowds to my earlier point on hiring great people and the expression, don’t mistake kindness for softness. I think it comes through. Because I want to be inspirational. I want to motivate our teams and my people to do the best that they can. And I’m going to be kind, and I think about taking vacation time. To your earlier point when you and I were chatting earlier, we talked about meditation and your doing things. I highly recommend those things to the team.
So I think that’s me being kind, as a human being. I’m saying that I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to be healthy. I want you to enjoy what we’re doing. But when we started this relationship, we did set some standards. We did set a bar and we are going to maintain that if we fall off, if you fall off, I’m going to have a conversation with you and say, Hey, we all see the numbers there, or a couple of numbers that are missing. How can I help you? And then I think it’s the respect piece and that trust piece. Jorge, where I don’t get taken advantage of for being a kind leader, because they also know I have a very healthy respect for high performance.
And I know most likely because I don’t tend to hire people that don’t have high expectations of themselves. The good news is they want to do as much or more than I do. And being kind is a great way to express humanity, in my view.
JS: We were living in interesting times, as we know, and there’s a lot of impact on people’s mental health, which impacts physical health in general. What tips would you give leaders who have to deal with this? You might have a high performer who now is really having some struggles? And this has been happening all over the place. My father is an industrial psychologist and the stuff that he tells me makes my stomach turn. What’s happening with his client’s and the way that people are being affected.
What kind of tips would you give a leader that might be dealing with this? That might be dealing with his or her team dealing with some very tough emotional psychological challenges?
Jay Bowden: Yeah. What a life growing up with a father that’s an industrial psychologist, right? I think you’ve probably learned a lot from your father. And I think for the rest of us, candidly, we don’t know. I mean, we are operating in times that no one that’s alive today, no one has ever seen before. So, first of all, don’t expect yourself to be perfect and don’t sacrifice good for great. Second of all, treat people as you want to be treated. Most of the leaders that I manage, most of them have kids.
Most of them at least have partners. Some of them are taking care of their parents. Some were living in multi-generational homes. And so you need to understand that, by the way by knowing, by asking questions and being curious. If I meet someone, I say, Hey, how’s your husband, you Jim or whatever. And that’s not the right name and how are the kids? And they don’t have any kids. Then you know how the dogs, they have cats. I’m not paying attention. Right. I don’t care. I’m not empathetic to them. So to answer your question, be empathetic first, if there’s that whole expression put the oxygen mask on you first, right, like the directions in a plane.
If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. So for me, the same applies. I need a break. I need time. I build capacity over the years through a number of techniques, be it meditation, like keeping a gratitude journal on a daily basis, just to remind myself of the things that I’m grateful for. And so that I don’t take them for granted or wish I was at some different places in my life. So I share those stories, Jorge, with the team. And I would say the general answer is to listen, if someone’s struggling and you can see it, or even better yet someone shares with you that they know someone’s struggling.
And I might not know about that. Just to take that with all due respect, right? I call it most respectful interpretation, MRI. So it’s not snarky. It’s not critical, it’s just saying, Hey, I know you’re going through some tough times. I wanted to make sure you take time off. We got this. And I found this, especially in Google, but I would imagine at all kinds of top performing organizations, people worry that if they take time off their job, their performance, their career trajectory is going to be hurt. And so my first thing is to make sure they know that it will not, this will have no effect on your trajectory and your performance.
These are unusual times, you need to take care of yourself and your family and the rest will come. And again, as I say that, I find, you know, repetition, doesn’t spoil the prayer, right? I do say that a number of times, I still see people not taking the time they need. So, reinforcing that that’s the way I feel. And Jorge, leading by example, I’ve taken some time off. I say I’m going to go do this, I’m going to do that over the weekend. I did this because it’s something I enjoy, it’s something that makes me feel good, and it’s something that builds capacity. So, I can give to work when I come in on Monday. I share it all.
JS: That’s fantastic. If I’m a leader who wants to be better and wants to be more empathetic, then develop more trusts. What are some short term tips that I can implement right now?
Jay Bowden: So I’ll never forget the first one on one I had with the new boss. I was in a new role, I had much more scope. I had moved. We lived in Atlanta, we moved out to California. I am sitting in this room with this person who is the vice president. In my first one on one, I swear to you the whole hour, all he did was ask about me. All he did. Where did I grow up? What music instruments did I play? Kids? Dogs? Hobbies? And he was writing some of this stuff down. And I’ll never forget, because I do believe that you go to a cocktail party or you meet someone and they ask a bunch of questions about you.
And then later you’re talking to your friend or your spouse, where you say, man, I really liked that guy, Jorge. Well, what I really liked was that I got to talk about myself and Jorge asked questions about me. So, I would say the first step to being that leader is to ask questions, be curious and get to know your people on a people level. The performance will come. You hired them for all the right reasons. Right. But to know them on a personal level. And if there’s something in common there, great. If there’s nothing in common there, that’s fine too. So, I think establishing that people basis, the other piece Jorge is be confident in yourself.
It took me a long time to gain my confidence. I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome over the course of my career, because I was always in rooms where I thought I wasn’t the smartest person in the room and I’d be thinking oh wow, these people are so smart. So I would say have that internal confidence, know yourself and feel good about yourself. Cause again, like the oxygen mask thing, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re really not going to be able to help others. And the final line that I love, but it sounds counterintuitive is to care less. So, what I mean by that is care a ton, but don’t care so much that it consumes you.
You can’t have work life balance and those things. So as a leader prepare enough, certainly you want your teams to see that you care, but you want your teams to also see that you have balance. And you know that ultimately we were playing a game, we’re in sales, we’re not saving lives. We’re not doing those types of critical jobs. So, we’re trying to make numbers. We’re trying to hit attainments, if you will. But in the end, it is a game that we’re playing, we’re going to continue to play it. To use a bad sports analogy, you have a bad inning, the next inning can be better. You have a bad golf shot and the next one could be better.
So, just know that we are playing the game here. Don’t take it and don’t take yourself too seriously.
JS: Thank you so much for your time today. This was awesome. If folks want to learn more about you and maybe some of your best practices or follow you on social, what are the best URLs or handles to go to?
Jay Bowden: Well, I spend most of my time on LinkedIn, so it’s Jay Bowden. Please find me there, candidly trying to do a better job sharing and being out there on LinkedIn specifically.
So, you will see more and more content from me over the next few months. Like I said earlier, I do not know it at all. I’d love to learn from others as well.
JS: Awesome will have a wonderful day. Thank you so much.
Jay Bowden: You too. Thank you for including me, Jorge. Have a great one.
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