MM interview №5 — Kimberly Lochhead

Kimberly is the Marketing & Communications Manager at ME to WE, an innovative social enterprise that provides products that make an impact, empowering people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices.

MM: How many direct reports do you have?

I’m currently managing five people.

MM: What is the hardest part about managing people?

I don’t like briefing my direct reports without having full clear direction, and it’s really difficult to brief people when you don’t have complete information yourself — when you have to wrangle other people and other stakeholders for information. Because it’s not worth it — it’s a waste of time — if there are holes in the brief, it’s going to come out in the final product.

When it comes to managing my direct team — it’s challenging that everyone has a different personality and different things that make them tick — and you have to really adjust to someone’s personality.

MM: How do you motivate your team?

It’s hard to keep people motivated everyday on projects because some projects are a lot more sexy — way more fun, whereas others can be more dry, with strict parameters to work in.

You’re not going to have people be just as excited on every project, but you have to encourage them to find ways to always do their best work. Sometimes it’s referencing other work they’ve done in the past that was really great, sometimes it’s sending inspirational videos, and sometimes it’s as simple as bringing in chocolate.

I’m also a yoga teacher, and sometimes I’ll get everyone to stand up and do a few light stretches, just getting people up and moving — to get some blood flowing. Nothing intense.

I also share a lot of articles for inspiration.

MM: Anything else?

We do things outside together. We do the regular team building things like going for drinks together, but we’ll also do things like going to see the WE store. The store is something we all collectively help create — they love going in there. It’s motivating to go in there together and see all the stuff we helped design and create and to see it in the marketplace and to know that consumers are interacting with things that you did — it’s very gratifying.

MM: What is the biggest change when becoming a people manager?

I basically go from being responsible for my work to now being responsible for everyone’s work.

I also have a higher level overview of the business than I used to. Before, I used to just execute on things, but now I’m driving these projects with a lot more understand of the organization as a whole.

This is going to sound cheesy, but it was going from “me” to “we”…(laughs) more of the collective thinking.

MM: How do you know what people on your team are interested in working on?

If I’m being briefed on a project, I’m already thinking of how I’m going to assign work based on what I know people are interested in.

And I usually know right away in my head which person I will want to put on each piece — and it’s not on their skill level, but it’s based on what they’re interested in.

There are a few ways to figure out what your employees are interested in.

First, I think it’s about being very observant — taking note of things like how long does it take people to complete certain work, what is the quality of that work, if they ask you a lot of questions, and you can usually tell if they are inspired by the work. Also, just sitting down with them for a post-mortem after a project and asking them how they liked it.

I also try to get to know my employees as people — because we do work so closely together — we all Snapchat each other and follow each other on social media, and so that helps makes us all very much aware of each other’s style and interests.

I do consider them my friends — I have a very unique working environment where we are very close and I’m very thankful for that — I know that it’s rare and I’m very lucky.

MM: How often do you talk about growth with your employees?

As a manager, we’re mandated to do this annually, but I try to make time for this at least every couple months because I think it’s really important.

Of course, I don’t want to hear someone on my team say, “this sucks” but they are human, and they need to feel comfortable enough that they can approach you. But also, as somebody that they can confide in.

And you want them to be happy. And in order to do that you have to be willing to have more personal and uncomfortable conversations.

And sometimes they are venting a bit and saying, “I’m not really happy with this…” or “I didn’t like doing this,” and I always want to foster an environment that makes room for that.

I can tell when they’re stressed out, or overworked, or tired, or when there is something else going on.

And when that happens, I tell them “I’m here to make sure that you’re happy and that you’re successful — that’s my job.” I remind them that they can talk to me.

We also know that things happen, that’s life, and we are really accommodating and we all work really well. I think it works because we don’t want to let each other down. As a team, we all want to help each other succeed and we all know our overarching goal for the organization is. Not only to promote our brand, but to build a better world — and everything we do is connected to that.

MM: How do you make your team more productive?

I guess I try to balance the amount of unstructured chatting, with enough “heads down” time.

Obviously you want your team to talk to each other, and have relationships with each other, and that can mean a lot of random conversations — which are great, but sometimes you need to put your headphones on and just get stuff done — and so finding the right balance of those two things is something I try hard to do.

I also bribe them with sugar.

MM: What’s the best part of being a manager?

Definitely the people. It’s amazing to get to watch people grow as professionals but also as individuals. And also how much I learn from them — and the things they teach me.

I’m extremely lucky to get to work with such a brilliant, creative, inspiring team.

It’s so unique to be able to be a two way relationship — where you’re learning about yourself as much as about other people — and I really love people. But who doesn’t want to grow as a person? And to have other people who you see every day, more than your spouse, more than your family, to really help contribute to that — it’s beautiful. You can’t ask for a better thing- or a better way to work.