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7 Questions with Erin Balsa
7 Questions with Erin Balsa
Name: Erin Balsa
Current title: Marketing Director
Current organisation: The Predictive Index
Erin helped create the talent optimization discipline to support The Predictive Index's talent optimization platform. Companies can use talent optimization—and people data—to build dream teams, hire the right talent, inspire employees, and create award-winning company cultures.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
We released our annual talent optimization report and found that people managers were the most burnt out. Makes sense - they are balancing individual contributor work and coaching/developing their employees. When I was a manager, that was my biggest challenge. Since becoming a director, the biggest challenge is the shift from "How can I improve my team" to "How can I improve the business" - and that requires a much deeper understanding of the business as a whole.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I switched careers at age 30 to become a magazine editor. When I was 35, someone gave me the chance to lead a team of 15 content writers at a content marketing agency ... even though I didn't know anything about content marketing at the time. But I did know writing and editing, and I had managed employees in a previous life. And that's how I found my passion for content marketing. Sometimes people might lack the skills but have the right behaviors - they just need someone to give them a chance to shine.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I work from home 5 days a week right now. Get up around 6, get my kids fed, dressed, packed, and off to two different schools, then return home by 9 a.m. During the work day, my time is split between Zoom meetings and "other stuff" (building project boards in Asana, managing creative resourcing, sprint planning, leading brainstorm sessions with my team, etc.)
I take breaks as needed to take a walk, pick my up kids, etc., and I stop working for the day officially around 7 p.m.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The importance of clear roles and responsibilities. What happens a lot in companies is that people are shifted into new roles ... or their role changes over time ... but they're never given a new job description or a RACI chart ... and this can lead to a lot of confusion - both for the employees affected and for everyone else. Leaders should be creating job descriptions and redefining job descriptions for their people everytime job duties change significantly ... and employees should be requesting this from their managers if it's not happening.
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?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni. We kick off our marketing meetings with a walk through the trust triangle so everyone remembers that trust is the foundation of any good team. And the absence of trust is suspicion. Team members, when having differences of opinion, need to have the courage to speak up and resolve those issues vs. letting them fester. Because that can erode trust, erode engagement, and lead to missed results.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
You can, and should, build leadership capacity in everyone - from individual contributors to senior leaders. The idea of "leaders at every level" is fundamental to talent optimization. Start by helping each individual build self-awareness. Get comfortable with your strengths and your potential pitfalls .. and have a plan for where and how you'll stretch beyond your comfort zone to grow and help your company. Additionally, we use a leadership rubric. There are shared leadership principles everyone in the company is expected to embody ... and then there are examples of what "embodying" that principle might look like for an IC vs. a manager, or a manager vs. a director. It's something that should be co-owned by the employee and the manager. Want to move up the ladder? Let's align on where you're at right now in terms of leadership capacity and where you'll need to grow to be ready to step up into that role.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
Before I discovered PI and talent optimization, I managed by the golden rule: treat everyone the way you want to be treated. The problem is, not everyone WANTS to be managed the way I like to be managed. About 5 or 6 years back, I invited all of my employees out to lunch (one on one). One of my remote employees told me "No thanks!" I tried again: "What if I come to you?" He told me again, "No thanks!" Looking back, I realize what an uncomfortable situation I put him in by pushing that second time. I figured, "It's awesome to go out to a nice lunch with your manager, so maybe he's saying no because he doesn't want to commute into the city." If I had been a bit more aware of his behavioral style, I might have realized he had no desire to interact with me in that type of setting, and I wouldn't have pushed him after he told me no the first time. Having awareness of self AND awareness of others is so critical.