Name: Susan Mazza
Organisation: Random Acts of Leadership
Susan Mazza is the founder and CEO of Random Acts of Leadership which helps leaders elevate their leadership and amplify their impact and influence in their workplace.
For over 25 years she has worked with companies around the world to transform their performance, relationships and work environment. Her client’s results have ranged from executive coaching clients getting their dream job or hard-won promotion to coaching a team that added $1 billion to the bottom line of their company.
She is known for her ability to make the complex simple and theory actionable, especially when it comes to leadership. Susan is the Author/Founder of the highly acclaimed blog RandomActsofLeadership.com that has earned her recognition as a top Thought Leader and Leadership Expert in places like Inc. Magazine and Trust Across America/Trust Around the world.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Susan's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
My biggest challenge has been overcoming the pull to do too many things myself. I have learned that just because you can, doesn't mean you should. For example, as a former IT professional I too often felt compelled to handle technical tasks that weren't the best and highest use of my time.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I quit a soul sucking job to start my own business in 1999. The same year I got married, renovated a home, quit my job to start a new business and two weeks later discovered I was pregnant. Had it not been for the pregnancy I think I might have just found a job because I quickly realized I had no idea what I got myself into. It was a blessing that I couldn't get a job because it closed that "back door" for me.
My business has evolved quite a bit through the years. I started su-contracting and consulting. In 2009 I started the Random Acts of Leadership blog. That marked the beginning of creating my own body of work in Leadership Development and led me to running a business that truly aligns my passion, purpose and skills.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
First I am not a very structured person which is one reason why running my own business has really worked for me and allowed me to raise a child and care for sick and aging parents along the way while still doing work I love. So rather than a daily structure I follow a few simple practices.
1. Take care of my body first - when I wake up I drink a big glass of water, eat a super healthy breakfast.
2. Use time blocking to structure my time for my best flow and the best use of my energy each week.
For example, I block at least 2 hours and ideally 4 every morning to work uninterrupted. Block time for my availability to others 3 weeks in advance at a time. Offer availability no more than 2 mornings a week. I set most of my available time to be in the afternoons because the interaction with others fuels my energy and is a good use of my time. In the mornings I am most creative and productive on my own.
3. Take at least one FULL day off of work every week. I learned the hard way that trying to work 7 days a week even if it was just a few hours on the weekend set me up for exhaustion.
4. Plan exercise and fun every week. I play at least 10 hours of Pickleball every week. I also walk while on the phone and use a stand-up desk as I am very kinesthetic and need to move for my energy to flow and my mind to work at it's best.
5. I target starting winding down at 9:30 and in bed by 11. When I can't do that consistently I will take naps as I need them.
6. When business and life demands throw me off this schedule I take extra time off to allow for recovery, fun and exercise.
7. I set one big goal for myself and my business quarterly as I prefer to work in sprints with a primary focus on one thing. Everything else I am doing gets organized around that one thing.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Aspirations/ambition that is not in service of your dreams is a recipe for too much work and too little satisfaction. I'm in a business mentoring program and one of the exercises they took us through was to imagine our future in vivid detail.
I realized my aspirations had been diluted into goals that were missing meaning and a sense of possibility for my future. My energy, focus and sense of play and optimism in my work raised rapidly when I allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to dream again.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Leadership and the New Science by Meg Wheatley. in this book she explores what we can learn about managing and leading organizations from scientific breakthroughs, specifically the shift from a Newtonian model of cause and effect to a Quantum model that honors the complexity of our world.
This has led to many breakthroughs in my own thinking and approach to consulting and leadership development and I believe has been fundamental to the capabilities my clients say they value greatly - the ability to transform theory into practical action and the ability to bring order to chaos.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
You focus more on what leadership looks like in action than on the theory of leadership. The theory is of course valuable, but SME's wear many hats and often have incredible workloads. To develop their leadership you need to give them easy access to tools and skills that can make an immediate difference in their work and their workplace.
My Leadership in Action System focuses on skills such as how to commit acts of leadership daily that make an immediate impact, how to create accountable relationships and an accountable culture, and how to be strategic in everything you do.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I am officially a business of one that leverages the services of other companies and individuals to build my business and deliver to clients. I have been saying for a very long time that I am tired of doing this alone but hesitated to take on a partner.
Something magical happened when I actually started saying out loud that I was ready to no longer be alone in my business when the pandemic took hold last year even though I didn't know what that looked like. Now I have 2 fantastic strategic partners I am collaborating with and it has been so rewarding and great for my business growth.
I am reminded that what you focus on grows, but when we speak that focus out loud we invite others to support us in ways we couldn't predict or plan for yet make all the difference.