“If you truly put your people first, you will set yourself and your company up for success.” Words of Wisdom from Jim Barnett, CEO of Glint
“Leading a company isn’t about racing around and getting tasks done. It’s about inspiring people, co-creating the right vision and leading.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Barnett, the chief executive officer, co-founder and chairman of Glint. Jim is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur, having built and run several successful companies.
What is your “backstory”?
When I was 30, I was working in private equity and had to step in to run a portfolio company, Petco, on an interim basis. I was tasked with taking over for a CEO and stabilizing the business which was experiencing a cash crunch..
While I found I really enjoyed the leadership role, I was young and inexperienced. But, even then, I knew the key to success was surrounding myself with exceptional people who had a lot more experience than I did.
In the 25 years since then, I’ve spent my professional career building teams, products, brands, and companies, from AltaVista to Turn. Through it all, I recognized my passion lies in building high functioning teams. That’s why I decided to create Glint, the people success platform that tells the true story of what is happening below the surface at organizations and really gives the employee a voice. The company’s name stems from the glimmer that leads you down a certain path, and really encapsulates the mission of our organization. We want to create a world where people are happier and more successful at work, and it is what we at Glint work towards, day in and day out.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
At one point, we went to pitch Glint to a large enterprise company. About five minutes into the meeting, the company’s head of people told us they had no need for our platform because they already knew what was going on with their people and teams and didn’t have the time to respond to any more feedback. Flash forward two years later, and the company has a new head of people and a new CEO — and they’re now a Glint customer. What was once the worst sales call we ever had ended up being a great partnership.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It starts with our people. Truly. What makes Glint stand out is the people who work here, and their commitment to our mission: a genuine desire to help people be happier and more successful at work.
We also have an incredible product. Glint’s software enables companies to understand what is really going on with their people, what’s driving it and how it is impacting business results. For a start, our platform enables on-demand surveys, anytime feedback, and always-on pulses in addition to regularly scheduled programs, allowing data to be gathered frequently and easily. The analysis happens in real time. As results come in, the platform begins to analyze all populations and provide insights and recommended actions immediately. As a result, we are able to identify the top opportunities for issues to be addressed and where the negative and positive areas are. We also prompt for prescriptive answers, so employees can share their ideas that could be useful to consider and develop.
Additionally, we have invested significantly in machine learning and artificial intelligence to enable insights and help managers take action.When it comes to using AI for HR, Glint is the gold standard.
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?
The list goes on and on. I can think of dozens of people who have mentored me, taught me, supported me and, most importantly, gave me breaks along the way. But, when it comes to the driving force behind my success, the answer is clear-cut: my wife, Annie. She’s my partner in every way. Her love and support make everything possible. Nobody else compares, no-one even comes close.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Over the years, I’ve realized that people who live their lives in service of others are often genuinely happier than other people. Both in my work and outside of it, I feel a strong pull towards service. As a daily practitioner of Vipassana meditation for 28 years, I felt called to give back to Southeast Asia and Myanmar where the practice of Vipassana meditation, that helped me find such joy and peace in my life, is most common.
Through research of the region and our partnership with Partners Asia, my wife and I discovered that many people living with HIV or AIDS — particularly women and children — had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn after their diagnoses. Working with Partners Asia, we established a residence for HIV patients — a safe, nurturing space where they could live for two to three years while improving their health and developing the work and life skills they need to live independently.
The facility houses 50 people with another building just added. It helps pregnant women with HIV deliver healthy babies and works with others until they are healthy enough to return home.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
1. Get the right people on the bus. At the end of the day, your business is only as great as the people you surround yourself with. Look for people who embody your mission and go above-and-beyond to see the company succeed.
2. Remember: your job is to inspire and lead. Leading a company isn’t about racing around and getting tasks done. It’s about inspiring people, co-creating the right vision and leading. This is something I learned earlier in my career but really took to heart while at Glint.
3. If you truly put your people first, you will set yourself and your company up for success. This means creating a people-driven organization, one that focuses on the growth and success of your people before anything else. This type of organization focuses on training and honors the diversity of people and thought. It centers around giving and getting feedback; it is underpinned by coaching. By putting your people first, you create an environment of inclusion, trust, and belonging. If you invest in your people, and people thrive in your organization, you’ll be more successful as a company. It’s a direct link.
4. You need to get timing and market right. No matter how good you are or how good your team is, if the timing is wrong or the market is small, you’re not likely to have a big success. For example, If we had started Glint 10 years ago, large enterprises may not have been as receptive to the importance of feedback and growth and the connection to business results. However, we now have the data to show that more engaged employees and more inclusive and diverse environments lead to better outcomes. Ten years ago, this was an abstract concept to many people, today we have a responsive workplace and hard data to back this notion up.
5. Pursue a path of personal development and growth so that you can be an effective and conscious leader. Purpose-driven leaders are those who recognize the higher vision of their business and the interdependence of the stakeholders in their business, and who lead from this awareness.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Oprah, she’s pretty cool.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series in Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.