A conversation with Laura Melchor McCanlies, Chief of Analytics and IT Divisions at IDB Invest
“ I ask the team because I don’t want to be imposing too much. Because I’m really having so much fun because I like improvisation and creativity. And they tell me the thing that they like a lot is when we bring people from other groups. And the reason is, that we understand the meaning of why we are doing certain things. Especially, my peers, they come and talk about their expertise, why they love what they’re doing and how it works in the organization. How it impacts the organization, right? Then we make the connection. So it gives meaning to our work. And they find that very insightful.” –Laura Melchor McCanlieste
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Laura Melchor McCanlies about her 25 years of experience improving people’s lives with technology. She shares what it’s like developing mission-driven teams supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development goal with robotics, A.I., and Blockchain. We then discuss why appreciating your team and being vulnerable with them is so important. Listen in to hear tips for getting more participation from teammates in meetings.
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[2:15] How Laura Got Her Start Working In Technology
[10:30] How 30 Minute Connection Meetings Has Giving Her Teams More Meaning
[18:00] The Organizational Shifts That Resulted From Work From Home
[24:05] Using Robotics, A.I., and Blockchain To Help Achieve The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
[31:40] Tips For Improving Participation In Meetings
Links | Resources
About the Guest
Laura is a technologist with an entrepreneur’s passion for digital transformations by leveraging data analytics, to create new products and drive innovation. Laura has over 25 years of experience in technology and has worked with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 250, across multiple industries including Consulting, Pharmaceutical, High-Tech, Engineering, and Impact Investment. Laura has worked with teams located in Asia, Europe, the US, and Latin America. She is an advocate of women.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control The Room podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture, and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose, to control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out. All in the service of having a truly magical meeting.
Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control The Room facilitation lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques, so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my new book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at voltagecontrol.com/magical-meetings-quick-guide.
Today, I’m with Laura McKinley, she is currently division chief of technology and analytics at IDB Invest, a multi-lateral bank that supports sustainable investing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Focused on five key areas, supporting subject matter experts, gender and inclusion, climate action, digital economy, and regional integration and strengthening value chains. Welcome to the show, Laura.
Laura: Hi, thank you for having me. I’m actually really excited to be here.
Douglas: It’s exciting to have you, I’m really looking forward to the conversation. Let’s kick things off with a little bit about how you got your start. How did you become a chief technology officer for such an amazing firm?
Laura: Well, first of all, I’m from Mexico originally, and I love technology. And so I started my career there, and move here into the US. And you cannot get exposed to the different source of technology that you can use to solve business problems, so I was found by the head hunter of IDB Invest. And the thing that attract me the most was the impact in the region, the things that we are doing to drive growth. And also our investment in the private sector that tries to support the United Nations SDG goals. And so that’s, for me, that’s like giving back to my country, and to the region. For me, that’s really inspiring.
Douglas: Yeah. It’s so amazing to be a part of something that’s so mission-driven. I think that really does have such a deep impact on most employees that are in companies that have a solid mission. And it does a disservice to employees for companies that don’t have that.
Laura: Well I can tell you, last year was a tough year, especially when we went to work remotely. And you’re busy. I mean, I’m in the technology side, so I really need to be supporting all the employees in IDB Invest. But the thing is, what really keeps you going is what we are doing for the region. And when you hear all the stories that are happening, or how much we are supporting, that’s the first thing you think about, and it keeps you inspired. And that is really what is driving us, or the teams. So you wouldn’t believe the level of engagement of our teams has grown really constantly all last year. And I can tell you that, because we have been doing some surveying since last year and several periods of the year. And we have seen that increase. And it’s because, I mean, we are committed and we know what we’re going is positive for the countries we come from.
Douglas: Wow. Yeah. And especially in times like this, where there’s a global pandemic. There’s lots of just lockdown, and division in general across a lot of different parameters in society. And you can imagine being part of an organization like this that’s so mission-driven and benefiting those that are in a region that you feel connected to. It’s powerful, especially in this time, right? In a time where it’s so easy to feel disconnected.
Laura: And it really gives you a meaning. It just, I don’t know how to describe. This is the first time and I work in an organization like this. I came from the private sector, but this is special.
Douglas: Yeah. Well, I remember doing a design sprint with you some years ago, and it was really noticeable how passionate everyone was about the cause, and how committed they were to the work. And I want to come back to that a little bit later, because we talked about some stuff that I know we’ll dig into that surfaced out of that. But I just wanted to echo that my experience was that I just saw people showing up in that way, and I remember thinking it was really special.
Laura: Yeah, it is. That’s why I love my team.
Douglas: Yeah, no doubt. One more thing about the past, and then we’ll get into what’s happening these days and what we’re noticing. But I wanted to hear a little bit, you talked about your love for tech. And I’m curious if you remember that first moment when you really just noticed this fondness around technology.
Laura: Okay. I might probably be disclosing my age, but when I was younger, and this is around the 60s. And you will see when the men arrive in the moon. And you will see all the computers there. That’s something that I have not forgotten. And so I really wanted to be an astronomist. And so I knew I wanted to be in research, I wanted to do something in this area of science. But when I had to choose what I wanted to study, and I thought, well, computers is something that it’s just different. I mean, you can’t go to the moon. What are all the things that you can do for humanity?
So I got into the path. I like technology, but it’s not only that, what I like is the outcome. What can you do? What are the problems you can solve? And so for me, enabling technology and leveraging data to solve business problems, I just think that the connection it just makes it extremely fascinating. Because by heart, I would like to have my own company. Right? So if I can see how the whole things connect together, then that makes the whole package. I just think it’s fascinating how all the things connect together and how you can leverage technology and data to run your business or create products.
Douglas: Yeah. It can enable so much, right? Just the sheer efficiency that it can create, and capability. So, yeah, that’s amazing that it was like… So it was some of the original moonwalk footage and images of those folks, the mission control things that got you excited about tech?
Laura: Yeah. No, it’s pretty cool. Actually, I think it was two years ago we had here in DC, because I’m based in DC now, we had the anniversary of the men landing on the moon. And I went to the Washington Memorial, and you can have this place on the Washington Monument of the men going to the moon. It was pretty amazing. It just gives you chills. I mean, those are the things that humanity and the mankind can do you. Wow, that’s pretty impressive.
Douglas: No doubt. Especially when we put our minds to it. So this is actually a really fantastic segue into the first thing I wanted to talk about, so let’s head there. Probably one of the most fascinating things, from my perspective, about the space race was how much quicker we moved compared to Europe. And all the countries across Europe were coordinating together to get to the moon as well, so they were investigating and trying to do it. And then here in the US, we were also racing to get to the moon as well. The interesting thing was, with Europe, they were actually moving much faster and had arguably better technology. But everything kept exploding on the launchpads because when they tried to integrate them. But here in the US, pretty quickly, I think they were called NASA at the time, I’m pretty sure.
So NASA was realizing that, hey, if we’re going to do this well, we need to create good communication protocols and good communication systems. So before they even started building the rockets, they were working on communication systems to get all the people that needed to communicate properly well communicating. But instead, Europe was letting the problems just fester until they just had explosions on the launchpads. This brings me to the first thing that we’re going to talk about, which was this notion of connection. And how this time has created a connection. And how maybe we owe a lot to those early days at NASA when they were studying these different ways to use technology to communicate.
Laura: Yeah. And when you get to think about, you had the people that were in the rocket, and so you were in a distance. And then you had the people that were on the ground, and they were communicating in the coordination, and the trust you had to build between each other. So it’s kind of, I believe, and I feel it was what has happened now. I know a lot of people were working virtual, but not everybody. And so suddenly the whole world had to go home and work from their houses, and that make a level field where we in the same environment. And so for us, let me just bring it back to my environment, my team. I feel that we are more connected.
We make an effort. Of course, you have to put your head to be there, right? And trying to run things differently, more discipline, et cetera. But on the other hand, the payback is huge. I used to spend my time in meetings. Now, it’s not that I don’t, I do, but I have time. I can control my time more to spend more of it with my team, and I make an effort of it. So we meet every Friday, and we have a meeting every Friday, all of us, 40 people. To really either talk about how we are doing or talking about projects, strategies, roadmap. Sharing what they are doing, finding inspiration. Because sometimes I don’t know in between which groups are doing what, the products we are creating, cooking classes. We have virtuals, trivia. I mean, we have a lot of stuff.
We have Halloween parties. And you want to think about it, we just know each other more now than we did before. And I was telling them today, because today we had our Thanksgiving gathering, that I found this probably was a little selfish of me, but I found more meaning. And my interest of keeping these meetings on Fridays is because it really gives me joy to see them and connect, and find inspiration. And they did have so many ideas. The group is just so supportive to each other. Then I get recharged to fight the battles. And so collaboration has increased a lot. And the connection, it’s pretty impressive. Believe it or not, it’s very impressive that we had kept it up.
Douglas: Wow. And so how long are these meetings typically on Fridays? You said it’s 40 people. How long are they-
Laura: Like 30 minutes.
Douglas: … are these folks meeting?
Laura: 30 minutes. Yeah, 30 minutes.
Douglas: 30 minutes, yeah.
Laura: It’s not that much, but it is like… I mean, we even run videos. We have it well-scripted, and we take turns, and we have a program. And, oh, by the way, I bring outside speakers. So I started doing kind of podcasts, but not really. I still am in touch with my friends in Austin, so I invite them to come and talk to us about different topics. And it’s good, because then we get more connected to what other companies are doing in different areas like product management, or blockchain. But also, I’m inviting my peers out of other divisions and departments to come and talk to us about what they do. And when you think about it, for example, last week we invited a lady who came and talked to us about the agriculture, and how that impacts climate change. And so we are learning things that we just we didn’t know otherwise. But we build the systems and solutions to help them measure that on the investments we’re doing. So it’s pretty exciting, people like that.
Douglas: Yeah. I could imagine it would be really interesting for your team to hear from your peers and the other departments because they have to serve those departments. And they can have a lens into the needs and the mindsets of the folks that they’re working with.
Laura: Yeah, that’s true. And for example, we have impact development. That’s a group that measures the projects if they are going to back positively in the economy, et cetera. There are a lot of factors that they measure. And they have a lot of statistics and models, and we develop the systems that they’re using. But then they come and explain to us how it works, how they evaluate the projects, how they really keep track and supervise them that everything is going well. And so we [inaudible 00:13:49] technology, but then we learn other things that we will not know otherwise. So again, that gives you meaning, you understand what you’re doing. And then when we get to see it in the field, in the marketplace, because we publish the results as an organization of the work we’re doing, then you understand more.
Douglas: Yeah, that’s smart. I’m curious, you’re experimenting every week. I’m actually a really big fan of these types of meetings, and I’ve seen people do it with large teams like you’ve got 40 people. I’ve seen executives do it with their executive team, where it’s like, let’s just carve out the time. We’re not sure quite what we’re going to do every week, but we’re going to need the time every week. And so let’s just honor it. And I love that you’re changing it each week and keeping it fresh. I’m curious when you think back since you’ve started doing these Fridays, is there anything in particular that you think the team found the most interesting or the most helpful?
Laura: I ask, actually, because I don’t want to be imposing too much. Because I’m really having so much fun because I like improvisation and creativity. And they tell me the thing that they like a lot is when we bring people from other groups. And the reason is, that we understand the meaning of why we are doing certain things. Especially, my peers, they come and talk about their expertise, why they love what they’re doing and how it works in the organization. How it impacts the organization, right? Then we make the connection. So it gives meaning to our work. And they found that very insightful.
Now, it depends who we bring, but then when we bring people from outside, depending… I mean, if you do that because you bring people to come and talk to your group here in your podcast. Is that, if a person from outside is exciting, then it gets them up really fast. Right? And thinking differently. But then it’s hard to find the right mix, but so far so good. But mostly bringing people from other departments and divisions has helped my team, they like it is what I hear.
Douglas: Yeah, that makes sense. And also thinking back to that design sprint that I mentioned earlier, where I came in and ran the design sprint some years back. And the focus was all on the branding of your group, and the perception that everyone else had of the group and what it did, and the services you could offer. And I mean, when I hear that you’re inviting folks from other groups to share their needs, I would hope there’s a little bit of dialogue too. What a great way to keep that message of the brand and what you’re doing alive. And it feeds that hunger for your team to be acknowledged and relevant and do good work.
Laura: Yeah. And what is interesting is, because all these people that I was brought to talk to my team, I will keep it private because I don’t want to be basic either other times. But then I started sharing with the organization which ones I was brought from outside. And I say, “Hey, you are interested to come and join us. We are having a guest speaker to come and talk to us about this.” And we call it fireside chats that I host. And some people showed some interest. So we are influencing, so that’s a good thing. So people are coming because they want to hear what we’re talking about, the interesting things that we are doing.
And for me, the most important thing, especially after we did that branding exercise, is that we wanted our team to be recognized differently. And that we are forward thinkers and innovators and solution providers. Right? I think we are not there yet, but I think we have changed a lot of the dynamic in the last… Believe it or not, the last one and a half year have helped us to become closer even to our clients, internal clients.
Douglas: Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the pandemic, and the fact that it’s been quite a strain on all our psyches, and whatnot. Yet at the same time, it’s been a forcing function for change so that we create subtle and even sometimes big shifts in the way we work and gather and meet. And you were telling me earlier about the team weeklys. And I think in the pre-show chat you were mentioning the president’s been bringing together people weekly, which he wasn’t doing previously. So, love to hear more about these shifts that are happening in the organization that resulted from this unexpected change in the way we’re having to work from home, and whatnot.
Laura: It’s really fascinating, because the organization is very people-driven, so employees are really important. But one thing that it was at the top of the mind of everybody, especially senior management, is that we wanted the teams to feel we were there for them. Especially because we were extremely busy trying to be there for the region, providing either loans or the different instruments that we provide. And so we were busy, but then on the other hand, we needed to be there in a good place. So we started monitoring a lot of things about times that people worked. And then they started putting rules, for example, from one to two really is lunchtime. So no meetings, please. And that has helped a lot. Another thing that it was important was that please let’s not send emails during the weekends, or don’t expect for them to have to respond to you. I mean, the people that work on your teams.
Why? Because it’s stressful. Otherwise, I mean, you are working 24/7, and that’s not healthy. Because we were seeing the statistics. And it worries you. At the beginning, I was providing this report to senior management, not volumes of when people get in, get out. And it was a pretty big space of time. So with that, these new shifts started happening, right? Or being more respectful of others, especially during off-hours. That’s one. One thing that I think I was telling you about is when we went to work remotely, I wanted to be sure the people that didn’t use the technologies we were using to work remotely for conferencing, knew how to use them. So we started doing webinars about how to use Teams.
That’s the tool we use internally. And then we started providing a lot of those webinars, we call it, because it’s not training, it’s something informal. And we have produced several of those. We are doing even three or four a month, and different topics about data, how to use [inaudible 00:20:43], Agile. How to be a product manager, the importance of change management projects, et cetera. And so that has helped several of our employees to understand how things work, especially Teams. We have done one recently, we started doing some for people that are working hybrid, right? Some people are in the office, some people are online, and how can we make them feel that you are still connected? And so we have enabled some technologies, that’s fun, because we test them first. And we do, my team that is a technical team.
Now they are doing, like I was telling you, live productions, videos like the ones that are present, these sessions that he does. Now they are not that often, every week, but every other week. And so we bought video equipment, lighting, and now we are producing that. So these are services we’re now providing. We were now doing webinars that we were not doing. And we are discovering things that we were not doing with the same people. But then, yet we are enjoying it because that’s something that we like to do. We want to keep our clients happy. We want to be sure we are integral part of the organization, and that we are enabling through technology to, and continue doing business right in the best manner they can.
Douglas: Yeah. That makes so much sense. And it’s been quite a while since I had spoken with you or seen what the team was up to, and it makes sense that they’ve had to provide support around making sure that the video switching is clean and looks professional when it’s a high stakes meeting, or run the breakout rooms inside of Teams if that’s needed. Just make sure all the technical pieces are taken care of so that the meeting runs flawlessly, especially if it’s high-stakes and important session. And I was super thrilled to hear that because you and the team were so focused on how to change the perception across the organization of what the group was about. And it wasn’t so focused around, oh, just call us when something’s broken. It’s like, no, we’re here to support you. And we’re here to help the organization be more tech-forward.
Laura: Yeah, yeah. In between that and data, but getting the analytics of usage of things, of Teams and accesses, VPNs, et cetera. So you start seeing patterning. Then we also started getting more into recollecting data. We are having projects of related to climate change. And that’s something that we are just depending on that, it’s pretty exciting. I don’t know. I think to me, these are the things, the potential is… Things that keep me inspired and going forward is the potential of things. It’s not what we have done today, it’s the things that we can do. And especially the more you understand and discover there is so much stuff going on, that I’m just fascinated.
Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. That’s something that I always knew we had in common, this thirst for curiosity around where things could go and what’s possible, right? Versus just optimizing what’s there. And I guess I’m curious, as you think about the coming months and years, you mentioned climate change and the work you’re starting to do there, what are the things you’re most excited about, or where do you see some of the work that you’re doing? How do you see that evolving? What are the opportunities that are untapped that you’re super excited about?
Laura: Well, there are two major things that I’m very excited. Last year and this year we started really using more emerging technologies between robots and AI, in a simple manner. And machine learning. But then now we are really getting into blockchain, so that’s exciting. I mean, you get to think as we are in the financial services sector of multilateral, nevertheless. And so we are getting into that. We are working in a blockchain world. And that, just seeing the possibilities on that side, not only just on utilizing it for those purposes, but I do know that related to climate is going to be important. We have several projects for next year that are going in that direction, and some that we are doing this year. And we are automating a lot of our internal processes. But more importantly, our digital client interaction, that’s something that is coming, so we are working on that.
In all the analytical space, bringing all the data to make sense of things, right? What we’re doing with the specific clients, you start doing benchmarking with other ones. This is something that we are not doing, and something that I think is a huge potential. We have an impact development tool internally that we have developed, and we are trying to figure out how we can productize that. So it’s exciting. There are a lot of possibilities in this area, especially because not only that’s what we do for living, anything related to ESGs and impact development. But I mean, that is so relevant right now in today’s days, things that are related to either climate, gender equality, clean water, et cetera. So those are things that we are involved, and I’m excited to see all the things that we are involved as an enabler, right? From a data or from a technology stack. So I see a lot of possibilities, and I’m excited, and I think next year is going to be pretty interesting.
Douglas: Yeah. And so two things that jumped out for me were, one was, how have you leveraged the robots so far? You mentioned robotics was a thing. So I’m like, oh, that’s cool. How are you using robots for the work you do?
Laura: What we did is we have a product, and just to disclose, I’m not an expert on the products we sell tour clients. But we have one of the financial products that we have is supply chain finance. And that means we use some intermediaries to buy either account receivable or accounts payable. And so we receive a lot of transactions from this intermediary, that we end up funding. And everything, it was a spreadsheet Excel. And especially during last year, this is something, a business that grew a lot. Well, we just couldn’t keep up so we had to automate it, right? So we created some prototypes and put something together, but we started using robots to connect different systems and talk with different processes. So that was the first one.
And we really increase, we were able to scale up during that time. And we even now, so we are now on the second phase, we are really moving into open banking. So that’s another thing that is interesting, that it was a result of that prototype we did use robots. And the thing is, it really mainly accessing to systems, retrievement Excel documents, moving things around, interacting with a system, doing validations to different banks to bring exchange rates. Because in that case, we were working in a local currency. And I mean, we just did that. And Interestingly enough, we just did a video, an internal video where we were say, well this is what we automated.
And then our end client, the end recipient talk about the benefits of the work we did. I mean, he didn’t know it was a robot in the product. I mean, he didn’t. We know. But he was a recipient of this animation, and how much liquidity into his business, especially last year. Time was so tough. And it just warms your heart. It was so meaningful because then you see the results of the stuff you’re doing. That was pretty cool.
Douglas: Yeah, no doubt. I bet those types of stories really help the team connect in with that purpose that we started off with.
Laura: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Douglas: Wow, really cool. It sounds like from a tooling standpoint you really benefited from having already had experience with Teams, and just leaning into that during these shifts. And then even using Mural as well. Just curious to hear how the technology around collaboration’s been helping support you in this journey.
Laura: A lot. A lot. Obviously, between some people use Zoom, for us, we use Teams. And we use that a lot. Between that, we use several tools to do either collaboration and the way of designing that is white boarding and tools that we use. So we started playing with that, or doing designs, people can do them either in Word, or we share information. I’m extremely visual, so I always start with designs, doing some designs with, in this case, I doing with PowerPoint. And then when we are in a bigger setting, we really start doing them with Mural. We start experimenting with that, that was pretty fun. And so you start experimenting and using whatever you have at hand. But having your Teams enabled, and be able to chat and share information, do polls and surveys, I think that’s pretty helpful.
We rely a lot on that. I mean, we are doing major transformations in the projects we are working on, and all of it remotely. And that’s pretty amazing.
Douglas: It’s a real testament, right?
Laura: Yeah. I mean, it takes a lot, but the engage, you can do it because you use the tools you have about hand, right? And you feel more comfortable to be sharing screens and moving around, chatting in order to communicate, and doing polling. We use also, there is another tool that we use is Slido, as another way to be asking questions. And you start retrieving information online of, what are the things that are important or not important? Technology, man.
Douglas: Yeah, no doubt. I love that you’re using Slido, it’s like big fan of any way we can create more participation and get more people involved, and give everybody a voice.
Laura: Yeah. But on the other hand, talking about that, not everybody participates in meetings. So sometimes I really need to call out people, especially the ones I know that are shy.
Douglas: What’s your favorite way to do that?
Laura: Well, I will just call them and say, “Hey, so what do you think?”
Douglas: But it takes a lot of care and attention to notice that they haven’t contributed. So any tips for other leaders who might not be noticed, to make it easier for them to even tell that, hey, that these people aren’t contributing as much?
Well, the thing is you get to know your people, right? And so, I get to know the team, some more than others. And I know who is passionate in general about what. Because everybody’s allowed to have one to ones with me, [inaudible 00:32:02]. If they take advantage of that, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s up to them. But we do that. And so they tell me the things, “Hey, I would like to be working more on this or that.” So when I know that somebody has an opinion about something, because we talk either in private or I heard it in another session that was smaller. People don’t like to talk in front of a lot of people. And so I do pinpoint the questions when I might think that somebody might have an opinion about that.
Or, there are some people that are shyer, and you always have somebody who dominates the meeting. But then, that’s why sometimes I ask for having the video on, because you can’t read it on their faces. And for me, you have to take it up a notch, right? I need to have people contributing. The more you get challenged, I’m happy to be challenged. I love that, because then you have really good discussions.
Douglas: Yeah. I love that. If everyone’s saying the same thing, it’s harder to have a healthy debate, right?
Laura: No, because people that are just repeating what you say, no, I don’t like it. It’s worrying. I like debates. Sometimes I just throw something just to break it up.
Douglas: Right. What are we not thinking about? Who doesn’t agree with this?
Laura: Yeah. And you think I’m crazy, just tell me. That’s all right. And so we start talking about it. And so you have other people that thinks differently, and we go back and forth, but we have learned. And for me, the most important thing is to keep the good mojo we have in my team. Having said that, I really take care of it. I’m mindful that people contribute, and if they feel uncomfortable… Because when we have a one to one I tell them, “Hey, how about you do a presentation? You tell them what you’re doing.” “Oh, I don’t want to.” I say, “How about you try, because people might not know what you’re doing and how you can help them.” So I volunteer a lot of people to speak in our meetings, that’s their homework. No, you need to come and talk. And I know it’s a pain sometimes, but it’s helpful because then they get to know each other and they get to present the things they are passionate about. Even if you just do a cooking class, come on, [crosstalk 00:34:32]-
Douglas: Yeah. I think that’s brilliant. I think, as a leader, it shows a great strength to be willing to put people just outside of their comfort zone so they have to stretch and learn, and their team can become stronger for it.
Laura: Yep. And so that’s what we do.
Douglas: It reminds me of something I noticed, it was after the design sprint we did. And I was chatting with you about, what did you think? Any feedback? And what do you notice, or what was unexpected? And one of the things, I’ll never forget this, you said, “I’ve learned so much about my team. There were skills they had that I didn’t even know.” And I thought that was so awesome, because you clearly had an appreciation for what the team could offer, and were amazed that there were things that you hadn’t even tuned into yet, and were excited about the potential of where that could go with that newfound knowledge. And how you could set them up for success. And then even hearing about these transitions through the pandemic, and them now taking on these production things and these new skills they have, it really just rings true to your leadership style about being curious and supportive about how to set them up for success and help them be the best they can be.
Laura: Yeah. I think that’s our job. I just really do it with a lot of pleasure, because I’m so proud when I see things. It’s like when you get surprised, and you see people doing things that you didn’t even think about, that what it makes the collaboration good. I really feel, and they can tell you if you ever ask, we all play different roles, right? Mine is to be able to say, set a vision and be able to move the rocks. But on the other hand, everybody has a little piece. And I really honestly just feel part of the group, I’m not any different. I have very open doors policy, and I honestly like to be challenged. And sometimes my team comes, they came in my one to ones to say, “Hey, you [inaudible 00:36:46].” I’m like, oh, okay.
Douglas: That’s the challenge of having an open door.
Laura: Because you-
Douglas: Yeah. If you’re curious and vulnerable and want to be there, that’s part of why it’s scary. Why so many people don’t do it. And you have to be really brave, because it means that you’re going to hear some stuff you don’t want to hear. All the time, I get a heavy dose of reality and just have to learn from it.
Laura: Yeah. Well, but the thing is, you are there for the long run. You have to listen to a little bit because when you remember me, I was there, I joined three years ago. And I didn’t know a lot of things about the culture, and the culture is different and you have to adapt. I’m pretty Americanized in certain things now. And so I need to figure it out, how can I navigate? And you have to listen to people who have been there for a while. And I have my good advisors. I have one that is my guardian angel, he says, “No, Laura, don’t do that.” It’s true. Or, don’t push too hard. And I just think about these people. And so I’m just thinking they’re really taking care of me, so they’re helping me figure it out, my surroundings.
Douglas: I love that. I think any good leaders listening intently to the team, because they’re the eyes and ears. And it’s like, the boots on the ground matter. And pushing a lot of the intelligence to the edge.
Laura: Yeah. And that goes both ways, right? I cannot tell them, “Hey, just be careful with this, or be careful with that.” And so, “I suggest you do it this way or this other way.” And then they tell me the same thing. And of course, not everybody feels comfortable saying that to me, but I try to. And I give them really special marks when they say something challenging to me, because then I’m like, wow, okay. It brings you back, so you need to be humble.
Douglas: Yeah. I love it when I tell someone exactly how to do it, and they say, “Well, shouldn’t we do it this way?” And I’m like, “Yep, we should totally do it that way.” It’s like, you’re right.
So good. I think we’re coming up on time here, and I want to make sure that you have a moment to leave our listeners with a final thought. You talked about a lot, these shifts that you all are having to make, these newfound skills and services. These moments where the team’s getting to hear from other departments and how much they appreciate that. And then we’re ending here with some of these, just leadership stuff around knowing the team and giving the team space to have a voice, and be seen and heard. I don’t know, I’m just curious, what’s on your mind, and how do you want to leave our listeners?
Laura: I just see a lot of opportunities. And sometimes I feel that we need to give people the opportunity to experiment in different things. Because they might surprise you. And not only that, I think you can bring the services that you provide, or whatever ever product you are providing, in a different manner that can impact more. Or either, you are creating products or you are supporting certain groups or generating more revenue. I think creativity is the source of a lot of positive things. But for that, you really need to nurture it. And I’m just curious and looking forward for the new things people do next year, especially anything related to climate, blockchain, and AI, and robotics. How can we use these three to enable our organization to impact more of the region? I’m excited about that.
Douglas: Excellent. Well, it’s been great chatting with you, Laura. Thanks so much for joining me on the show today.
Laura: Well, thank you for inviting me, this has been actually really fun. Thank you.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control The Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together, voltagecontrol.com.