Liora Dudar Shares Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Liora Dudar from oVertone Haircare for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.
I’m Liora Dudar, Co-Founder of oVertone Haircare. If I had to narrow down two recent accomplishments to highlight, one would definitely be the successful launch of Rose Gold for Brown Hair. It was our first color conditioner made specifically for people who have darker strands but don’t want to bleach their hair to achieve an on-trend hue. A key part of what we look for in our employees is great communication, and this launch absolutely relied on that. Every department had to be working together to pull this off, and there was no time for micromanagement. It was an excellent example of how our teams work harmoniously, and was extremely rewarding to be a part of. The whole launch was carried out really beautifully with everyone pushing for the same goal, which made the fact that our community embraced it all the more satisfying.
Another milestone accomplishment is the rollout of our ongoing campaign called #MyHairMyStory, which centers around a docu-series chronicling personal stories of self-expression and empowerment from real oVertone clients. Intersectional feminism is a personal value of mine and, while I wasn’t the person who came up with the campaign or produced it, I was so happy that the culture we developed allowed this project to flourish. I love that our values (mine and Maegan Scarlett’s, my business partner) are a part of what our company has grown into.
Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?
Liora Dudar: Tough love; intentional introspection; and honesty & clarity.
Krish: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”
Liora: As a millennial, my experience is that this generation knows anyone can add value to the conversation — regardless of status. Making sure that we’re bringing diverse views to any discussion is a key way that we generate internal dialogue which not only improves our outgoing messaging, but also makes our company a more vibrant and inclusive place. Most of our employees are inside the millennial range and the key to working with a group like ours is to understand collaboration makes things better. Intersections of points of view can only help. Management is about embracing the personalities and ideas that are around you, instead of forcing everyone to adapt to a certain kind of mindset.
Krish: What are your “5 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Culture” and why.
· Be transparent from the beginning. Be public with your core values — to do so is to make clear the expectations your company has on individual team members and how they are expected to interact within the company environment. We didn’t initially list out our company values but as we added more employees, it was impossible to set expectations — and hold people to them — without making each one known.
· Participate. Don’t set core values then leave them to collect dust. If you’re a leader in a company, you absolutely must be a leader in its culture. That means no one is above those values — including the CEO. If your “culture” is all talk and no action, it’s not authentic. I’ve seen other companies where leadership considers themselves above the standards they’ve set for the team and that creates a huge rift, distrust, and a lack of respect. If the values you lay out are truly your values then, as a leader, you should embody them.
· Project a genuine appreciation for employees. Reach beyond the transactional nature of the traditional employee/employer relationship. No one wants to feel invisible or micromanaged. Take steps to make everyone feel valued. Early on in our company, our first employee was everything to us — we relied on them for so much and the realization that they chose to spend their days and time helping to build our business was an incredible feeling. I try to remember that and extend the same level of appreciation to each new employee as the company grows.
· Trust your team. Being a leader of a company does not translate to expertise in every facet of your business. Trusting your team to know what tools they need to play their position effectively is essential. If you’re in a position to provide it, get your team what they need to excel. I’ve been in many situations where employees have brought needs to my attention, I’ve trusted their judgment or recommendation, and it has worked out to the benefit of everyone.
· Individualize communication. There’s no one-size-fits-all policy for effective communication. Ensure you’re checking in with your team members and understanding how they prefer to receive information. For example, if someone needs me to do something, I need them to send me a list via Slack or by email otherwise I know I won’t get it done. Being honest with yourself and open with others about it fosters productivity and better communication.
Krish: Strong company culture is something that everyone likes to think they have but very few have it. Why do so many organizations struggle with creating strong, healthy work environments?
Liora: From what I’ve seen in my personal experience, leaders tend to struggle with culture when they hold the reins too tightly and don’t let the organization develop organically — it creates a sense of distrust among employees.
Krish: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?
Liora: Mistaking perks for culture is a misstep. You can have beer on tap, ping pong, and a host of other things, but if no one around you is motivated to work by intangibles like trust or respect, all you’re left with is perks. Trust is much more meaningful to employees (and employers) than a free beer.
Krish: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?
Liora: Don’t be afraid to trust your employees with their responsibilities. Train them, get to know them as much as appropriate, and then get comfortable delegating to them quickly.
Krish: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?
Liora: One of the largest influences I had surrounding company culture came from my own former employers. Specifically, the ones who trusted and valued the ideas I brought to the table enough to let me act on them. That concept, of valuing and trusting the people who come into your organization to do a thing better, has been a really crucial message in building our company. It grows dedication to the business and empowers the team to use their unique skills in a meaningful way. If there’s a project my employees want to chase, I’m completely open to exploring it. I can’t always green light everything, of course, but a dialogue is always welcome.
Krish: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?
Liora: If your boss is unaware that there is a problem or issue, try having a conversation with them to see if things are fixable. Or, if you have an HR department, get them involved. They might have information about improving communication with your employer or have recommendations for a path to inspiring positive change. While having a conversation may seem impossible, making sure that your employers are aware that there’s an issue is always an important first step.
Krish: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?
Liora: At oVertone, we do a thing called “Struggles and Successes.” Every week or every quarter, we have every individual say one thing they’ve succeeded at and one thing they’ve failed at. Celebrating successes is the easy part, but having a forum to say “I’m struggling with this,” encourages conversation and collaboration to create a solution. It encourages people to talk about their struggles instead of hiding them or being ashamed of them, which can cause problems down the road. It also acknowledges that there’s no perfect person, and that the culture supports asking for help over hiding an issue.
A note to the readers: Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization. If you learned one thing in this interview, please share this with someone close to you.
A special thanks to Liora Dudar again!
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