Integrity — this is another oldie but goodie, and it seems obvious, but sometimes we have unintentional lapses in integrity. This trait is about doing what you say you will. Being consistent and transparent. I’ve seen leaders say one thing, then do another in the background OR for certain people. Telling the organization as a whole that there are no promotions or raises right now, but then doing it for certain people anyways. They made these decisions because they think they are helping the business or saving an employee they value, but not realizing that messaging they put out to others of saying one thing, and doing another.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Abbie Mirata.
Abbie Mirata is a Sr. Corporate Director of Learning & Organizational Development at a public company. She’s also a business owner, speaker, author, mom, and wife. She has over 20 years of sales, marketing, training, and people operations experience. Abbie draws from those professional and personal experiences to teach and empower others to shift their perspective so they can respond to day-to-day life differently and adapt an inherent value of joy, maintaining their sanity while keeping their humanity. She is now focused on the Intrapreneur Project, a professional development and success strategy to guide driven humans in business to be professionally fulfilled, grow their personal brands, and create inspired impact inside and outside of their organization.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
Oh my! All the things. Personally, we are in the midst of planning a dream trip to Europe with our adult children and our parents. I am known for my planning personality to come out in moments like this. But I just love the journey of planning for something. Isn’t looking forward to something so much fun! Imagining the time you’ll spend together, the memories you’ll make and seeing people you love experience things for the very first time! As our families grow up both our children and our parents, making the time to do these types of things make us happier, fulfilled and more focused for all the other responsibilities we have. Whatever stage your in right now with your family, you’ll never be there again, so I’m making the most of where we are right now to be able to enjoy something like this together.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
My former boss and still current mentor Graham Hughes had the strongest impact on me as a leader. You hear about leadership styles and cultures in organizations that truly implement love, feedback, development and transparency, yet we all feel it’s the elusive unicorn that people talk about but doesn’t really exist in corporate. Graham showed me that it’s real. He set the example of holding to those values, finding success and leading others through those qualities.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
Early on, I went to far to one side of stepping back and giving my people “space”. I am quite the opposite of a micro manager, but in that I found that I became quite disconnected from where we were with some projects, who was doing what and the final quality of the work. One way I learned that was through feedback from a team member who thought that I was over critical and always had a way their work could be better. That’s because I stayed so removed, allowing them to have free reign, thinking I was doing them a favor and then realizing that instead of giving guidance, feedback and encouragement throughout, I was only giving it at the end. This made them feel like there was always something not right about their work.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
Yes. And anyone who tells you that their style, definition or outlook on leadership doesn’t constantly evolve, has some work to do. Early on, becoming a leader felt like more responsibility for output and results. I thought I needed to work harder, take on more and make sure everyone else saw through my same lens. Today, I see my role as less responsible for the results and more responsible for the people, and when I say that, I mean the whole person. I understand their individual motivations, when things are rough, what they need to feel valued and healthy. Part of that, is simply being human, but I also know that when my team feels good mentally, physically and professionally, they will create incredible impact within the organization.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
I stopped working in my business so much and started working on my business more. Through that, I also threw away a little of the concept that you have to have known or done the job, to lead the job. We tend to get promoted not because of leadership skills, but functional skills. We are the best at what we do, so now we’re the boss. The problem with this is doing the job and leading people are two completely different skill sets. And if you don’t have the right mindset about leadership and you think you can do the job better than your people, you’ll find yourself burned out and with a lot of turnover. You don’t always have to show people the how, sometimes, you just show them the way.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
Direct & clear conversations through the lens of empathy & compassion. Since the dawn of time we’ve known that direct conversations and feedback are crucial skills to a good leader, yet it seems to be one of the hardest behaviors for managers and leaders to embrace and display. Tell the truth. Use empathy and compassion as the lens in which you do this, but do it. Be direct, give feedback fast and often.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
That old standby, what got you where you are today, won’t get you where you want to go. If you are feeling like something is missing, if you aren’t getting your team to move in one direction, if people aren’t responding to you the way you used too, maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you. Whether we like it or not, the world is evolving and changing. People are evolving and changing. Work is evolving and changing. And if you don’t let go of old patters and evolve and change with it, you’ll be left in the past you yearn for.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Don’t let it go to your head. The first several years (yes years) of finding your way in a leadership position should be about humility, listening, asking for help and surrounding yourself with the right people. Don’t go it alone. Don’t keep it to yourself. Ask constantly ask for feedback from your peers, your own supervisors and most importantly, the people you lead. Pick one thing every few months that you recognize as something you can do better and change and focus on just that one thing. Then you can move on to the next, taking the time to build up your leadership style and giving yourself the grace to make mistakes as long as you are constantly learning from them.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?
This is a tough question because leadership takes a lot more than 5 traits AND there are so many that intertwine and go together. We can attempt to put value on some more than others, but the reality is, you can’t expect to be a great leader if you only stick with a few as if they are magical bullets! But here are 5 of my favorites for the moment we are in right now.
- Integrity — this is another oldie but goodie, and it seems obvious, but sometimes we have unintentional lapses in integrity. This trait is about doing what you say you will. Being consistent and transparent. I’ve seen leaders say one thing, then do another in the background OR for certain people. Telling the organization as a whole that there are no promotions or raises right now, but then doing it for certain people anyways. They made these decisions because they think they are helping the business or saving an employee they value, but not realizing that messaging they put out to others of saying one thing, and doing another.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — There are multiple ways to reach the number 10. Just because you have the title, doesn’t mean your way is the only way. We have to be flexible as leaders these days, in more ways than one. You must be flexible with your expectations, with your perception of results, with your time and with your people’s time. Being flexible is about being open to change. Being able to stretch in ways we never thought possible. And just like physical flexibility, this can take practice everyday. Just like you may work over time to be able to bend over and touch your toes, you should do little things every day to become more flexible as a leader.
- Resilience — We all know what this means. One way I would challenge you in your thinking of resilience though is that it’s not about bouncing back, but bouncing forward. Don’t just get up and try again, try different. You have to show people that falling down and getting back up, but now being aware of what made you fall in the first place, is the key to resiliency. If a team doesn’t have a resilient leader and the capability to build that trait in others, you won’t have a resilient team, and if your team as a whole isn’t resilient, you’re going nowhere.
- Respect — as a trait, not as an ask. Please know that YOU earn respect, it is a privilege of leadership, not a right. But we look at respect as something we seek as leaders rather than something we give. And you have to work at respect, at being aware, at knowing what that means to those you lead. I had a leader once who continually moved meetings, rescheduled at the last minute or simply cancelled with no explanation. That is because in their minds, whatever it was that came up always seemed to be “more important than”. I’m sorry, but this is downright disrespectful. Our time as a leader is not more valuable or more important than that of those we lead. As a matter of fact, your number one responsibility should be to be available for your people. If you find yourself falling into this cycle, it’s a clear sign that you need a layer between you and others. There actually is a point in a career that you move past “leader”, that your job is no longer to directly lead the people, but the organization as whole. If you truly respect your people, then you’ll realize that they deserve a leader who can be present and available for them as their number one responsibility.
- Love — Now this may sound really old school, but love is the most powerful force out there. And — we need to redefine what we perceive love as. There are different ways and kinds of love. Leaders should love, as a trait. When we love something we fight for it, but we also know when it’s time to let it go. When we love someone we want what’s best for them, even if it means compromise or sacrifice for us. When we love life, we show up as someone who is happy, true, present and grateful. And that is a strong foundation for leadership.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
I think maybe by doing a little better every day. If today is my masterpiece, it mean I showed up better than I did yesterday. If you want to embody this concept, then you have to be willing to take the time each day to self evaluate, figure out where you could have done something better, than intentionally do it better the next day. Sometimes we fall into this idea of self-forgiveness too deeply. While I believe in it, there comes a point where we have to be self-accountable and stop telling ourselves “it’s ok” and actually do better the next time.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
Compounded impact. Meaning, that what I’m most proud of is not the impact I made, but the impact of the people who’s lives I’ve had the privilege to touch. Let me give you two examples. I’m proud of how I helped one particular employee and seeing him grow and achieve. But I’m more proud of the impact he’s made on others and the leaders he’s now cultivated. I’m proud of my daughter and my part in her growth in success. But I’m more proud of the impact she makes as a Special Education teacher to her students. And if they are great leaders, they will make more great leaders down the line, and there for creating a legacy of leadership is the legacy I aspire too.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn. You can find me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/abbiemirata/
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!