Get to know your team on a personal level. People don’t want to feel like they’re just another cog in the wheel. They want to feel valued, appreciated and know that you’re invested in their growth. Giving both positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis is an important part of this. The millennial generation especially demands this type of regular interaction from their leaders.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Herring, CEO at IMPACT Group. Lauren propelled IMPACT Group into a global career development leader. As a second-generation female business owner, she is uniquely positioned to help future women leaders succeed. Lauren is passionate about building a better world and helping people reach their career goals. She serves on various boards like Boy Scouts, Washington University’s Women’s Leadership Forum, Connections to Success which helps people in the cycle of poverty gain economic independence and St. Louis Regional Chamber, which supports the economic growth of the St. Louis community.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many, my career path has taken various turns. My mother founded IMPACT Group in the late ’80s, and although it has been part of my life since I was young, it wasn’t my initial career choice. I didn’t realize how much I loved helping people build and grow their careers until I was working on a couple side projects for the company. The stars seemed to align, and I knew I wanted to be a part of this inspiring business my mother had built. So, I joined the company, and my first role was expanding our global presence and capabilities. Over the next seven years, I focused on learning all areas of the business working my way up the ladder. That’s one leadership lesson I was lucky to learn early in life: perseverance. My mother exemplified this “never give up” attitude. Eventually, after gaining experience and proving my abilities, I was promoted to CEO upon my parents’ retirement.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s been interesting to see how our Women in Leadership development program has blossomed. We had a client ask if we could build a platform for developing their female employees. They wanted a program to develop their leadership skills and take their female employees to the next level. As a woman having a passion for leadership and as a female-led career coaching company, we were honored and excited to be a part of such a meaningful endeavor! Women bring new perspectives to an organization, yet still, are severely underrepresented in the corporate world. Our clients who partner with us on our Women in Leadership development program are experiencing higher retention rates for female employees, promoting more women and watching those women help spread the magic so to speak across their organizations. It’s been an amazing journey and such a wonderful thing to be a part of!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This story might not be funny to others, but looking back, it’s funny to me. When I first started leading a team, I made the huge mistake of thinking I had to know everything. I thought my team would think I was incompetent if I didn’t. Looking back, it sounds crazy. What I learned from this was that my team is my most valuable asset; they fill the strength gaps I lack. Since realizing this, I ask my team more questions and look for their feedback on projects. This makes everyone feel valued and appreciated. Plus, this approach has helped us grow!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re not afraid to evolve our services and fill the gaps our clients need. We take pride in the close relationships we build with our customers. We can support them at any point through the career life cycle. For example, we have organizations come to us with new problems asking if we can help because they’re not finding what they need elsewhere. Our Women in Leadership program is one example of this. Our team steps in, creates a plan or program and helps solve the clients’ pain points.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are launching a new executive coaching program called High IMPACT Start. It’s a process for on-boarding new leaders to an organization to help maximize productivity and effectiveness as quickly as possible. Our coaches implement a strategic transition plan focusing on key areas during the leader’s first 100 days. High IMPACT Start decreases on-boarding time and helps the executive understand their role, develop key relationships and build confidence in their position.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I would tell other leaders to be clear about their strengths. Leverage them when working with your team and be sure to surround yourself with people who shore up some of your weaknesses. Knowing and understanding the strengths of your team will not only allow you to assign projects to people who will be invested in the work, but it also shows you value them as individuals. I recommend taking a StrengthsFinder, assessment test or having a conversation with direct reports to identify your team’s strengths.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Get to know your team on a personal level. People don’t want to feel like they’re just another cog in the wheel. They want to feel valued, appreciated and know that you’re invested in their growth. Giving both positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis is an important part of this. The millennial generation especially demands this type of regular interaction from their leaders.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I and the company wouldn’t be here without my mother, Laura Herring. She made this all possible. If it wasn’t for her tenacity and perseverance, IMPACT Group would have never been created. She worked hard, made sacrifices and turned this organization into a successful business with an inspiring purpose. Without her guidance, I would not be the woman or leader I am today. She has been more than a role model; she is the person I looked up to and the woman who instilled in me a passion for making people’s lives better by helping them build and grow their career. Even now, she supports me, mentors me and guides me through challenging decisions. I owe her the world!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

IMPACT Group could have stayed in the U.S., but our dreams and goals were bigger. We wanted to help people everywhere live fulfilling lives through their work. That’s why we offer our services world-wide. We’re moving careers forward across the globe, even in the most remote locations. When people love their careers and are happy with what they do, they leave the office and have more positive relationships with their family, friends and new acquaintances. Having a great career impacts your entire life in a positive way!

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Value Your Employees As Individuals

Productivity increases when your employees feel valued. I regularly meet with my team members to discuss their lives, career aspirations and anything else they want to talk about. Showing your employees that you appreciate them as individuals makes them more invested in moving the organization forward. For example, I host a Birthday Coffee Talk each month for our local and remote employees who are celebrating birthdays. This allows me to hear feedback and have relaxed conversations with employees across departments, levels and countries!

2. Be Clear

Clarity is one of the most important aspects of being a leader. Whether it’s talking about your core values or giving constructive criticism, your message needs to be direct. There have been times when I’ve tried to be overly nice while giving criticism and my message was lost because of it. Clear communication benefits everyone. This is especially important in our quarterly All-Hands Call. When you have the majority of your team members from all over the world taking an hour out of their day, you’ve got to be clear in presenting current financial metrics and goals while recognizing the teams’ achievements.

3. Give Recognition When It’s Due

As a CEO, the workday is very busy. I have a never-ending to-do list that I can easily get caught up in. While this is true, I remind myself to take time to recognize my team’s efforts. If someone goes above and beyond to perform for a client, it’s important to congratulate them. If an employee finishes a large project ahead of schedule, they need to know how appreciative I am of the hard work they put into it. In our quarterly All-Hands Call, I take time to recognize employees who meet our values — Be Kind, Team Up, Do Right and Unlock Potential.

4. Never Stop Improving

Career development isn’t something you should ever stop. To this day, I regularly seek the guidance of mentors and sponsors. These individuals guide me through tough decisions. On the flip side, CEOs and leaders should be discussing their team’s career development as well. Regular and timely feedback is important to today’s employees. They demand and expect interaction from their employer. At IMPACT Group, we recently launched an internal High IMPACT Leadership cohort. We have 20+ new and existing leaders participating in the program. They’re so excited about the opportunity to grow themselves while experiencing one of our programs for themselves. So far, they’ve rated it a 4.8/5!

5. Ask Powerful Questions

You want to empower your employees and pull the greatness out of them. One of the best ways to do this is by asking powerful questions that will enable team members to develop their critical thinking skills. At IMPACT Group, we follow our High Impact Leadership framework that guides leaders to be more inquisitive. Some of those questions include “What are the benefits or disadvantages of your suggestion?”, “What other perspectives might be useful?” or “How can you build on the learnings from this (a recent project or experience)?”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire millions of people to do work that is fulfilling personally and professionally. When you are happy in your career, your whole life takes a turn for the better. If we could all do work that fulfills us while leveraging our strengths, the world would be a much happier place.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love this quote, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Ayn Rand an author and a philosopher that, while sometimes controversial, takes a stand on the power and value of the individual that I think is inspiring. This quote has always stood out to me, and I think is especially powerful for women in leadership. By empowering ourselves, we are able to accomplish greatness. Don’t wait for permission– go find your opportunity!

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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I think it would be fun to sit down with Brené Brown. She’s doing great work in the space of leadership! Her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, was a turning point for me. Through it, I was able to recognize my natural introversion and embrace it. I would love to ask her how she found her passion and about her transition to becoming a worldwide icon.

Connect with Lauren on Social Media:

On Twitter @laurenherring

Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn