The Los Angeles Times describes Frances Frei as “the go-to woman for companies like Uber who are looking to improve their image.” Frances is a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor who is credited with making HBS more gender-inclusive. She also served recently as Uber’s first VP of Leadership and Strategy, brought in to turn around its toxic culture. Along with co-author Anne Morriss, she has written Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leaders Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You. She chats with Marcel Schwantes about her book and how to unleash the potential of those you lead by applying practical love.
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- Marcel quotes Frances’ book: “Leadership is about empowering other people as a result of your presence and making sure that impact continues into your absence.” [5:46]
- Empowerment leadership can be represented by a target, the bullseye of which is trust. As a leader moves outward with each ring, they gain the skills to empower more and more people. The next ring is love: How can I set up one other person for success? Belonging is next: What can I do for a varied group? Influencing others is the next step, which entails combining strategy and culture to influence people even in your absence. [6:52]
- Frances recounts how she helped change the culture of Uber. [9:50]
- If your culture is broken, start with trust. [18:00]
- “The reason that people haven’t been able to make much progress on trust is they kept trying to move to trust without understanding its very different but comprehensive component parts,” Frances explains. These components are authenticity, logic and empathy. She describes the role of each component in building a trustworthy culture. [18:40]
- Love is empowering people by setting high standards and revealing deep devotion to them. To bring out someone’s best, they have to feel your high standards as much as your devotion to them. Marcel comments that people often forget the leadership part of servant leadership: high standards and accountability are as important as caring. Both are necessary in a great leader. [23:20]
- Two practical ways to be more loving by setting high standards are: set better goals and celebrate wins. Two ways to show devotion are: proactively help, and fulfill people’s basic needs. [25:05]
- Marcel and Frances talk about how she helped make HBS more gender-inclusive. [28:39]
- “If there are demographic tendencies associated with who’s thriving, your culture is broken,” Frances says. [30:54]
- “If you only give me an hour to diagnose whether the culture has a problem, I’m going to do two things. I’m going to listen to see if any of the cultural values are weaponized, and I’m going to look at the data to see if women and men are thriving at the same rates,” says Frances. [38:55]
- Marcel asks, “One of the strategies that often fails in making a workplace more diverse and inclusive — especially for women looking to move up into the higher ranks — is the recruitment process. So what are some ways we can improve it to promote more diversity?” Frances responds with practical advice. [41:20]
- The most important thing to do for our employees during this pandemic, Frances says, is to enrich them by helping them develop. [46:48]
- Frances wants leaders to take away this point: if you notice something wrong, address it now. “Meaningful change only happens quickly,” she argues. “Meaningful change happens when the thing you want to change is your number one priority… So when you see something, address it; address it with all your might, close it, and move on to the next thing.” [51:06]
- Marcel walks listeners through the Leadership Performance Curve exercise from Frances’ book. [53:36]
- Frances Frei on LinkedIn
- Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leaders Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You
- TED Talk: How to Build (and Rebuild) Trust
- Matthew Emerzian: Everybody Matters (Episode #52)
- Laura Morgan Roberts: Toward A Racially Just Workplace (Episode #45)
- Melanie Katzman: Connect First (Episode #27)
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