Execs: Here’s How to Nurture Top Talent

February 12, 2021
HyperScience
hyperscience

Leading a company all-hands. Finalizing quarterly budgets. Perfecting client presentations. 

Executives’ to-do lists are long. So where does management come into play? At local companies Hyperscience and Cedar Inc., the answer is simple: every step of the way. 

Hyperscience’s VP of Customer Experience Jon-Marc Patton said that at the artificial intelligence company, it’s his job to “liberate the talent,” separating the good from the great and then giving them room to do the best job possible. At Cedar Inc., Chief People Officer Liz Ratto also recommends giving managers freedom to fully call the shots — even when it means letting them make mistakes along the way.

“As long as those mistakes can be learning opportunities, then making them is often the best way for us to hone our leadership personas and skills,” Ratto said.  

Below, executives at the two businesses shared their best practices for nurturing their top talent.
 

Jon-Marc Patton
VP of Customer Experience

Especially during times of stress or uncertainty, VP of Customer Experience Jon-Marc Patton encourages managers to be people-first. At Hyperscience, Patton said leadership is flexible and accessible, understanding that managers and teammates are all operating under different situations and require different types of support to grow into leaders. 
 

First, briefly describe your management style. How do you like to work with your direct reports?

When managing people, I find it’s important to have a flexible approach with open communication channels since so much is situational. Different team members have different levels of experience and skill, and that’s OK. As vice president of customer experience, it’s my job to assess and provide the right support so they can grow independently (and as a team). 

It’s equally important to liberate the talent, help define what “good” or “great” looks like, and then empower them to do the best possible job. “Liberate the talent” has been a personal slogan of sorts for me, reflecting an intent to discover where untapped or underutilized talent may be and allowing folks to contribute where they can add value. I see myself as their biggest supporter, enabling my teams to greatness and championing their development as conditions evolve or challenges arise.

 

As a leader of leaders, what strategy have you found to be key for empowering the managers below you and supporting them in their growth?

Team leaders have an especially important role to ensure that their teams are as effective as possible and that we’re growing as an organization. I encourage all of my team leaders to establish strong “connective tissue” with other leaders across the organization in order to gain a 360-degree perspective and support our overall operations.  

At Hyperscience, we often discuss how to strike the right balance between working “in the business” versus “on the business,” and we’re conscious of how this will potentially change as we continue growing and expanding internationally. During these challenging times, it’s extra important to be a people manager first. Be sensitive and attune to the challenges and nuances brought on by distributed work, including childcare coverage or home distractions, outside stressors and maintaining healthy work-life symbiosis.

During these challenging times, it’s extra important to be a people manager first.’’

 

What formal training does your company offer developing leaders to help them grow and thrive in their roles as people managers?

We believe that manager development is an ongoing endeavor and that structured learning is most useful when it is in sync with the day-to-day managerial activity of our company. We just brought on a new director of talent and organizational development, who has designed and launched a year-round program to help people managers as well as individual contributors. 

They’ve aligned the curriculum with our business rhythm, including opportunities to build coaching and career development skills around the time of our development cycles, fair evaluation and rewards skills during our performance cycles, and goal-setting skills during annual planning. We’ve partnered with the MindGym to deliver this program and are excited to kick it off soon.

 

At Cedar, Chief People Officer Liz Ratto is all about giving managers the tools they need to lead and then getting out of their way. Despite different leadership styles, she and colleague Yohann Smadja both rely on giving candid feedback to help managers hone their skills. Smadja said he holds twice-weekly one-on-ones in addition to regularly scheduled syncs to address challenges and possible areas of collaboration.

 

Yohann Smadja
Head of Data Science

First, briefly describe your management style. How do you like to work with your direct reports?

Yohann Smadja: I pay a lot of attention to building trust with and within the team. It’s critical people feel as comfortable as possible raising feedback. I also encourage teammates to give each other feedback. The goal is for data scientists to be challenged on their decisions and for knowledge to be transferred. All of this needs to be done constructively for it to work. At Cedar, we put in place processes for feedback to happen systematically. Acting on this feedback encourages employees to give more of it as we build trust. 

We also focus on employee growth by empowering them to make their own decisions for projects they lead. They own their projects from goal formulation and methodology to the final write-up.

 

 

Liz Ratto
Chief People Officer

As a leader of leaders, what strategy have you found to be key for empowering the managers below you and supporting them in their growth?

Liz Ratto: Managing managers, for me, means being ready to be extremely flexible and to give them space to build their own toolkits. Starting conversations with my managers about what kind of managers they want to be and then consistently modeling those behaviors and following up on how that’s going is extremely important. Beyond that, you have to be ready to give managers room to lead in their own ways. I try to ensure I’m sharing any and all context and expectations upfront, but then am allowing the manager to execute and lead their team as they think is best — even if that means making some mistakes along the way. As long as those mistakes can be learning opportunities, then making them is often the best way for us to hone our leadership personas and skills. 

You have to be ready to give managers room to lead in their own ways.’’ 

 

What formal training does your company offer developing leaders to help them grow and thrive in their roles as people managers? 

Smadja: I’m currently working with an executive coach through Cedar. I have never managed a team as large as I am now, and I want to make sure I am spending time with someone to help me think strategically about how I should approach some of the challenges the team is facing and how I can have a greater impact at the company level. 

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