Stay optimistic when challenges arise. As I’ve stated previously, maintaining a well-balanced environment and a calm headspace has instilled trust across the UserEvidence team. Knowing that no problem can’t be handled has allowed for our team to do some of our best work.

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 Evan Huck.

Evan Huck is the co-founder and CEO of UserEvidence, an AI-powered customer voice platform that automates social proof for go-to-market teams. At UserEvidence, Evan and his co-founder Ray Rhodes have created a platform to help businesses quickly and efficiently capture customer feedback and — leveraging the power of AI — automatically create customer-evidence assets, removing a source of friction from modern go-to-market teams’ sales motions. Prior to founding UserEvidence, Evan served as Director of Sales for TechValidate before it was acquired by SurveyMonkey, where he continued on in enterprise sales leadership roles. UserEvidence is Headquartered in Jackson Hole, WY.

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?

Right now, there is an amazing confluence of new technologies. I’ve been involved with B2B sales and the customer success space for many years and I’ve never been more excited about the advancements that have been made and the innovation that is transforming the marketplace today. Customer feedback — both good and bad — is the crux of what influences and accelerates the B2B buying journey. It has become a critical factor as the push to focus on efficiency becomes top-of-mind for businesses. As the future moves towards increasingly more and more data collection, companies are realizing that in order to use feedback to their advantage, it needs to be unified, dynamic and optimized for each specific function of go-to-market (GTM) teams. AI is starting to unlock serious potential for this, allowing businesses to leverage huge datasets and have them produce digestible, understandable insights.

We also just got through planning our first company offsite at our headquarters in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This was the first time a good chunk of the company met each other in person — we have six people in Jackson Hole, five in Nashville, four in Denver, and the rest are remote. We used this offsite as an opportunity to start to build and codify our culture. In our Zoom-first world, these opportunities to have authentic connections and allow team members to ponder company purpose and values are invaluable.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

My long-time boss and CEO at TechValidate, Brad O’Neill. He taught me the power of overinvesting in a young team’s development and growth. I knew that training was important for helping people get better at their jobs, but at the time, what I did not yet know was how transformative the power of a development-centric culture could be. The motivating effect of team members seeing a credible path to advancement is palpable. Furthermore, the development culture allows for peer-and team-based training so management doesn’t become the bottleneck — development culture enables true scale.

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 in my leadership tenure, I made the mistake of hiring people that were incredibly good at their jobs, but were rougher personalities and not fun to work with. While their skills provided short-term benefit to the company, the cultural collateral damage over time was huge. I’ve learned over the years not to compromise at all on your culture when it comes to hiring. Though leaders may feel pressure to hire in the face of big growth goals, we have a rule here at UserEvidence — if you don’t come out of the interview with a big smile super excited, keep looking.

Through any hardship or challenge, I have learned to stay optimistic and work through challenges as they arise. My philosophy in both business and life is that no challenge is too hard that it can’t be figured out. I work hard to approach every situation with a calm mindset as that is the place where I have found I do my best work.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

Initially my impression of leadership was a person that directed, had answers and experience to solve problems, and drove their employees to do more work. Over time I’ve realized that a leader can only have so much individual impact, and the core responsibility of a leader is to create more leaders — whether in title or not. One of my goals as a leader now is to create a culture where employees have explicit permission and encouragement to solve problems outside of their role. I work hard to encourage my team to take risks and take on initiatives that have a potentially outsized impact on the company. A great leader will magnify the efforts of a dynamic growing team, and will let that team shine.

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 worrying about office hours, and I worry much less about specific activity metrics. This stuff only created negative opportunities for feedback (i.e. you were late to work, you didn’t do your specific metrics). Team members do amazing work with they feel autonomy, and they feel trust from leadership. If someone wants to ski from 8–11 AM on a 10” powder day, and work later at night that night — that’s awesome. That person comes into the office amped and stoked and beaming, and they are excited to work. That’s the culture I want to work in.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

I believe in hiring people early on in their careers and placing a lot of value in training. Building a company that helps young and inexperienced people grow into their careers while providing tons of support has empowered our team members to become proficient at what they were hired to do quickly. Leaning into the trust we have that they will accomplish what is needed has proven extremely valuable. Maintaining this perspective has been useful to myself as a leader, and our team members are happier and more productive.

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?

Try it. Let go. I understand that failing predictably can sometimes be the preferable path to succeeding unpredictably. Give yourself the space to make some mistakes and iterate. Listen to feedback. Listen to your employees and have them participate in the creation of the culture. There will be much more mutual ownership and buy-in if culture and expectations are co-created.

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?

I received great advice and mentorship from Steve Norall and Brad O’Neill at TechValidate. One piece of advice Brad used to share, and I think is valuable to pass on: you can’t do everything as CEO. The most important thing I’ve learned along the way is to relinquish control and lean into trusting my team. Delegating responsibilities to others so I can give my full attention to specific functions of our company has been transformative in the way I lead and in the way our UserEvidence culture has been shaped.

I am constantly reminding myself that the work we do — although important — is not life or death. I am allowed to pass along tasks and allow my team members to try something new. And if they make a mistake? So be it. In the end, it helps tie back into our overall philosophy on focusing on learning first and foremost as an organization.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now?

  1. Be intellectually motivated. What drives me is feeling challenged and intellectually stimulated by the things I am working on. Using my brain to solve complex problems and consider strategy has always kept me effective in leading my teams forward.
  2. Take chances on younger and more inexperienced people when hiring. I think it is important that leaders invest in individuals who are early on in their careers. We have found that these team members — when empowered — become proficient in what they do very quickly.
  3. Stay optimistic when challenges arise. As I’ve stated previously, maintaining a well-balanced environment and a calm headspace has instilled trust across the UserEvidence team. Knowing that no problem can’t be handled has allowed for our team to do some of our best work.
  4. Keep an open-mind. Creativity is not one-size-fits-all, and I’ve recognized as a leader that I need to give my team the flexibility to exercise that muscle in order to innovate. Providing a space for team members to incorporate their interests or allowing them to work on a project that is completely new to them has proven to deliver effective results for the company as a whole.
  5. Provide a healthy work-life balance for all employees. I touched on how important flexibility is in leadership, and with that comes the understanding that your employees have lives outside of work. Leaders often forget to consider this delicate balance, especially when remote work is involved, so keeping that top-of-mind always is a critical piece to being effective and creating a healthy environment.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

I believe you can totally just show up to work and put in a bunch of hours and have mediocre results, but while you are here, you might as well treat what you are doing like a craft that can be mastered. Every interaction is an opportunity to grow. As an example, one thing I like to model is that it’s ok to make mistakes, and I do this by making cold calls with our sales team. It’s tough — my heart is racing when a prospect picks up the phone, and though I’ve said the pitch 1,000 times, I stumble, get hung up on and fall on my face often. Even with all of that, I’m still working to master the craft right alongside our sellers.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I hope to leave a legacy of creation and development. I measure my legacy as the sum of the legacies for the people I’ve led. One of my proudest accomplishments is the incredible achievements I’ve seen from people that were once with our team after they’ve moved on from UserEvidence.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

They can learn more about UserEvidence here or visit my LinkedIn account.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!