Always uplift the team vs yourself — there is never a single winner from a true team.
Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jim Liefer.
Jim is the Chief Executive Officer of Ambi Robotics where he is responsible for all facets of the business. Jim brings more than 35 years of operational leadership and technology development experience from established Fortune 50 companies to high-growth Silicon Valley Startups. Prior to Ambi Robotics, Jim served as CEO of Kindred AI which was acquired by Ocado Group.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
Many opportunities come to mind when I think about the experiences that shaped who I am today. I had the opportunity to lead technology teams and the resulting platforms we developed led me to migrate to the world of operations. Due to that experience, I developed an appreciation for interesting solutions that bring value to a business and a company’s employees. Since then, I have leveraged this knowledge to always ensure the customer and their needs are met first, while using technology to enable positive change.
Next, I transitioned from one of the largest companies in the world to the exciting world of fast-paced, successful startups. Through this big transition I found a way to carry forward the critical structural aspects of a large company format while applying that discipline to my startup life without surrendering the “speed to market” mentality.
These experiences have developed my most prominent characteristic to behave as a “servant leader” and interact with my team from a position that we all act as one. Together, we build systems that provide real value to our customers, and we treat every person with respect, empathy and gratitude.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
One myth is that success is measured by your personal performance. But success is not measured by your performance; rather, success reflects the performance of your team. Success isn’t about how I feel when I leave the office, but rather, how my team feels when they come in to work each day. Motivation, ambition, participation, and customer-feedback are how I define the success of my team.
Another misconception about success is that a person needs to have a level of ruthlessness in order to be successful. While it is true that you need to be focused and determined, it’s not necessary to disregard always doing the right thing! As long as you build and nurture the right team, and are focused on building a quality product that fits the customer’s needs, you will succeed in business.
How has your definition of success changed?
When I was younger, it was my perception that only the most incredible minds can lead successful companies. Since then, I have come to understand that the most successful leaders surround themselves with the brightest minds. Good leadership is about building the best team to support a powerful product. One single person cannot define a company’s success. When everyone has the opportunity to do their best work every day, that is success.
The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?
Broadly speaking, as a society we need to move away from our personal and profiled views of the world at large. We have sadly drawn battle lines in all things, and we need to recognize that we are all human, and have the same basic needs. This applies to what I said above about respect, empathy and gratitude and applying that to all our interactions, albeit one-to-one, at your local town, and toward humankind across the globe.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
The pandemic sparked curiosity around the definition of meaningful work. People wanted to bring their full-selves to the work they are doing and grew a desire to contribute beyond the mundane, repetitive tasks.
As opportunities are created through digital transformation, new roles that amplify human-thinking and ignite human potential are becoming increasingly attractive. This new work for people will give them greater opportunities to be creative and solve problems that are interesting to them, that fuel their curiosity and ambitions. For the other levels of work, the pandemic accelerated the creation and implementation of systems such as autonomous robots and automated work cells.
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”
- Gravitate to the work that inspires you and feels meaningful to you — don’t wait.
- Always uplift the team vs yourself — there is never a single winner from a true team.
- Make every moment count, stay present, and celebrate often.
- Praise others, daily.
- Understand that ‘success’ is not the same for everyone, and recognize when you’ve had yours.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
Our lives would improve greatly. If success was seen as a collective accomplishment, the chances are infinitely greater to get there — whenever that happens to be. And, it’s much less lonely along the way.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
The greatest obstacle is the nature of humankind and letting go of historically taught beliefs about success. As a way to overcome this tendency, one can look for heroes to emulate who are champions of the team winning versus touting their singular accomplishments.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
I look at teachers and coaches who inspire their students and teams to develop them and guide their success. But mostly, I watch those around me, including my current team at Ambi Robotics because they are an inspiration to me each day. They embody selflessness, striving for success, and uplifting everyone around them. I learn from them each day and am grateful to be here with this incredible team.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.
That person has to be Michelle Obama (yes, I know many people must say her!). She’s my best example of someone who dedicated her life to uplift others while achieving great success. In all that I have seen of her work she is smart, to the point, humorous and humble. It would be fascinating to hear her observations of the world and how we can continue to make it better.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.