In our last post we chatted with Katie Breen, Digital Marketing Project Manager at Green Chef and our Manager-X Award winner for Cross-Team Collaboration. Today we’re highlighting our Manager-X Award winner for Culture of Excellence: Ashleigh Shapiro, Associate Director of Account Services at Metric Theory.
Creating great products and providing white-glove service is key to building a successful company. But these achievements are easy compared to the real core of every great organization: a culture of excellence.
Culturally excellent companies are nimble in the face of rapid growth, challenges, and opportunity. They’re quick to adopt new ideas and iterate for improvement. They collaborate consistently and provide employees visibility into how their work contributes to the larger picture.
Metric Theory is an Inc 500-recognized digital performance marketing agency with offices in San Francisco, New York, and Denver. Associate Director of Account Services Ashleigh Shapiro has witnessed her Denver office grow from eight to 40 people in just four years.
During this time she has worn multiple hats, solved countless challenges, and made a broad impact across the organization. Her dedication helps star performers grow their careers and delivers outstanding results to Metric Theory’s customers. It’s also the reason why Ashleigh is our Manager-X Award winner for Culture of Excellence.
We recently spoke with Ashleigh about her team, management style, and life inside a rapidly growing company.
How did you feel when you found out you’re one of Wrike’s Manager-X Award winners?
The word that comes to mind is “honored.” I'm really passionate about managing people and what I do, but I didn't think it was above and beyond what others were doing. So it’s great validation for the amount of care and time I put into managing my team and bettering Metric Theory.
One of the core tenets of a culture of excellence is continuous improvement. How do you ensure your team and entire organization is continuously improving?
Metric Theory was a startup when I first joined, and when you work at a startup, everyone wears a lot of different hats and can make an impact in a lot of different ways. What I learned pretty quickly is enabling and empowering people to make an impact across the organization inspires them to improve themselves and the processes around them.
If you show somebody their opinion matters and it's going to be considered, it not only inspires collaboration and creativity, but it also makes people feel so much more satisfied in their roles. I want the people I manage and anyone I work with to feel empowered and that they can leave their own footprint on Metric Theory.
We always get really great ideas from the talented people we hire, even if they’ve only been here for a short time, which improves Metric Theory as a whole and allows us to progress and improve constantly.
Do you feel a personal responsibility to help uphold and improve the culture at Metric Theory?
Absolutely. I never want to let us lose that startup mentality where everybody feels they have a part to play and can make a big impact. It's part of the fun of working here.
People don’t want to come to work and feel like they’re just clocking in and clocking out. They want to come to a company and know they have an influence and are helping to innovate for the future. So when people come to me with ideas, I try to hear them out, and then encourage them to run with them if it’s something they’re passionate about.
How do you leverage talent to maintain this culture of excellence?
From a philosophy standpoint, I really believe in collaboration. That’s a core tenet of Metric Theory as a whole, and it's also one of the biggest aspects of my management style.
I also believe everybody has their own strengths that they bring to the table, so I always try to figure out what my team members are passionate about and give them opportunities to do those things. If someone is passionate about training, I try to find opportunities for them to serve as a coach or mentor others. If someone is excited about culture, I’ll let them plan and run team events. I want to give people the chance to use their passions and strengths to build the next generation of Metric Theory.
I also apply this philosophy to career development. If I know a person wants to be a manager, I try to find ways to prepare them and give them opportunities to lead. We’ll get creative and brainstorm how they can have an impact within the company.
What is the most rewarding part of being a manager and coaching people?
It’s seeing the people I manage succeed, hands down. A couple weeks ago I was sitting in a management meeting and I looked up and realized on either side of me were two people I had previously managed, and they had since been promoted into their own management positions. I have never been more proud or felt more rewarded in my job than looking at them and thinking, "Wow. Look at how far they've come!”
It made me think about all the work we had done together, the feedback they received, how hard they worked, and how lucky I was to play a part in getting them from point A to point B. I think the most rewarding part is giving people those opportunities to succeed and then seeing them actually do it and move to the next step in their career.
What's the best advice you can give to other managers?
Something I wish somebody would have told me but I learned the hard way is that managing people isn’t easy. It’s hard because everyone is different. You’re dealing with human beings, and people are unpredictable. There's always going to be conversations that you leave feeling like you could have handled them better or said something differently. And you kick yourself. And I think that is okay.
Being a good manager boils down to genuinely caring about your people, giving them mutual respect, and having their best interests in mind. And I think this can be shown in a couple different ways. First, get to know your people personally and have a real relationship with them. A common mistake people make is treating the people they manage like subordinates instead of just people. Show them that you're also human.
I can't tell you how many times I’ve had an account manager come to me and tell me they've made a mistake. And I just say, "Yup, I've been there." There's nothing better than a "me too" when you’re having a difficult time. It’s helpful for them to realize their manager isn't perfect, but is somebody who's worked through a lot of similar experiences to get where they are.
Last but not least, find out what motivates your people and tailor your approach accordingly. Management is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. You can't just pick your strategy and think it's going to work for everybody. You have to really understand what makes people tick and then adjust your strategy to make sure you're being as effective as you can be for them, rather than expecting them to adapt to your style.
If every action that you take comes from a place of mutual respect, you treat your people like they're people and not just subordinates, and you show them you genuinely care, those conversations where you could have said something better don’t really matter. Your people will trust you have their best interests in mind. They'll trust putting their careers in your hands and that you're going to get them where they want to go.
Stay tuned for our next interview with the Manager-X Award winner for Routine Work Automation. For the full list of award winners, check out the announcement post.