Insights from Suzi Sosa, Verb founder and CEO
Today we bring you another special edition of the For You Leaders Podcast. This episode was taken from a live Q&A we did in our Private Facebook Group for the executives we work with. Suzi Sosa, the founder and CEO of Verb, joined the group to explain her unique perspectives and approach to leadership – especially in this uncertain time. She covers a wide range of topics from how her leadership team has responded to how her customers are responding to how she’s changed her focus from managing her time, to managing her energy.
Verb is one of the top leadership development platforms for companies. Verb’s customers include category leaders such as Facebook, Whole Foods, CHANEL and Bumble. Verb enables companies to offer leadership development to all employees and creates a culture of leadership across the organization.
Verb has also put together a collection of resources to help during this uncertain time here.
- Management was a “toothache,” now that we are remote, it’s become an “emergency root canal.”
- How are you “being” – vs. what are you “doing?”
- Your state of “being” drives what you “do.”
- Time management vs. energy management – they are very different. Manage your energy more than your time.
- 3 Buckets Leaders need to focus on: Financial Health, Physical Health and Mental Health
- Experiment with working fewer hours.
- Stop muscling your way to success – you may be able to accomplish more by being flexible.
Any other key takeaways or observations?
Chip Hanna: [00:00:00] Hi, my name is Chip Hanna, and this is another special edition of the For You Leaders podcast featuring Kirk Dando. This episode was taken from a live Q&A we did in our private Facebook group exclusively for the executives we work with. We interviewed Suzi Sosa, the founder and CEO of Verb. Verb is one of the top leadership development platforms for companies.
Verb’s customers include category leaders such as Facebook, Whole foods, Chanel and Bumble. Here’s Kirk Dando to explain more as he introduces Suzi for our private Facebook group.
Kirk Dando: I’m really excited to, have Suzi from Verb. She’s a CEO and founder of Verb. And so, just real quickly, I know that I’m getting a lot of time to talk to a lot of people, and I know that probably all of you, like everyone else is consuming a massive amount of information. If you’re like me, you know, you’re experiencing some level of fatigue, you know, just from the massive amount of decisions are having to be made. The mental, physical fatigue that can be setting in. And one of the things that we’re starting to recognize and looking at just even historically kind of, we can’t go and compare what’s happening during this time to any other time necessarily, but we sure can the crisis and stuff, and some of you heard me say this is, we’re not going to manage our way through this. We’re going to lead our way through this.
And that was really evident earlier in the week, one of the largest online advertising agencies in the world had a webinar where they were just talking to their customers, just find out what’s going on, everything else like that. And it really has to do with online advertising. But the whole conversation navigated towards, we need to really figure out how to lead better because we’ve got to lead these people well. And there was a sentiment of, you know, we’re not great at leading and managing when we’re all sitting in the office and now we’re all dispersed everywhere.
There’s a real need for that. And I thought, that is so, so true. And what Suzi and her team at Verb do, they’re just exceptional at really getting this into the hands and they’ve come up with even something specific to kind of what’s going on inside this COVID pandemic and the virus that’s going on and what’s happening inside of teams and stuff. .This is, once again, this is by no stretch of imagination is this a sales pitch or anything else like t hat, but once again, it’s just about trying to help people in our community. , what things that we know that they’re facing, and we know that there’s people that are smart and have got great perspective and great products and services.
So, as we talk about this, you know, and talking about accelerating need for leadership because we’re all saying right now, like, we can’t download, you know, 30, 15, 20 years of leadership experience into people. And so, we can’t do it all by ourselves. We’ve got to elevate our teams.
We’ve got to elevate leadership so they can help us accelerate through these times and make good, wise decisions. And, although we always are trying to do that at some level, the need to do it in a more effective and efficient way is even more significant. We’re recognizing that during this time.
So that’s why I wanted to have Suzi on to share a little bit about what they’re doing, both at Verb as well as what they’re hearing from their customers, like Facebook, Chanel, Whole Foods, Bumble, and you don’t have to be, you know, that size of company to really get the value from what they have, but, I wanted them to share.
So anyways, I’ll quit babbling here and let Suzi talk a little bit. But first, before I do that, Suzi is a very, very capable leader. Very articulate. Leads both from the head and from the heart, and like many of you do or all of you do. And so, first of all, Suzi, I’d just have you share just a little bit about, you know, what you’re doing to kind of want to lead yourself well, and then also kind of how you’re thinking about leading your team and you know, and all these, you know, the kind of the things that are going on.
Suzi Sosa: [00:03:38] Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me here. And it’s nice to meet you guys.
KJ said to me last week something that ties in exactly to what you were just saying. She said, as she’s talking to companies about the leadership crisis that they’re facing right now, and she said, “Suzi, what once was a toothache is now a root canal.” And I think that sums it up. , very well that, for a lot of companies, they’ve known that their employees aren’t really activated as great leaders and they knew it was something they were going to kind of work on one day when they got around to it.
And now it’s like, “oh shit, we don’t have enough leaders. And I think really what we’re seeing now is where the distinction between management and leadership really shows up. Like management is something you can rely on when things are in place and people are kind of following the normal structures of day to day.
But when all goes to hell, what you need to guide people and companies through it is leadership. And so I think it’s really becoming plain for companies where there are gaps in employees being activated as leaders. Kirk asked me to share just a little bit about kinda my experience leading Verb and what the last few weeks have been like.
First of all, so that you know, why I started Verb and what I’m passionate about is actually the democratization of leadership development. I really do believe that everybody can be a leader. You don’t have to manage people to be a leader. Being a leader is really a lot about taking responsibility and taking responsibility for yourself as the starting point, and then taking responsibility for people and outcomes around you.
And what I’ve seen in the workplace is that a lot of leadership training just gets concentrated on managers and senior executives , but I really think we have an opportunity to transform, you know, not just our companies, but actually our entire country by democratizing this leadership and leadership mindset. That if people had that in their families and their communities and their companies, in the world, we would all benefit from that.
So that’s why I care about this. And my passion in the leadership world has also been around opening up kind of a new part of leadership that we call “the being”. So if you think of being a great leader, if you could, say it’s both what you’re doing and it’s who you’re being. And that’s something that I personally have been super passionate about.
I don’t know if any of you guys have done landmark forum, but that was really influential, in shaping my understanding of what it means to be a great leader. And one of their concepts is this idea of who you’re being shapes what you do, which then drives the results you get. So they have this kind of short phrase of “be, do, get.”
And so, at Verb, as we’ve built our leadership training for employees, we focus a lot on these underlying states of being. So like, how are you being today? You know, are you being calm? Are you being open? Are you being anxious? Are you being tired? Are you being curious? Are you being decisive? You know, these are all states of being that drive different sets of action or the doing, which totally shapes your results.
So, for me over the past couple of weeks, as I think about what’s happened in my world, I usually start by looking at how have I been being. And what I saw was a really big shift for me this week. Pretty much starting on Monday from a state of being that was really very full of anxiety and a lot of resistance.
Like the first few weeks of March. My blood pressure was up at about 150 over a hundred. I was measuring it. I could feel it like my whole head, I felt dizzy. I could hear it throbbing in my ears. I just could not sit. I couldn’t even really work, you know, like I just had this buzz about my whole body the whole time. And I couldn’t think, I couldn’t really make decisions. I couldn’t sleep very well. The results that I got from that were not that great either. And, and I was reflecting on that because that’s shifted for me. That I think those first couple of weeks were a lot about, you know, being in denial and a little bit of resistance to what was really happening.
Like, you know, I just kept going around in this conversation of, you know, I can’t believe they’re going to shut down the economy. How can this be? I thought, you know, at most maybe it would be a week or two. I just didn’t want to acknowledge, and more importantly, accept what was actually happening.
And so I feel like in the last week, I’ve had a big energy shift from kind of like denial and the trying to pretend it wasn’t happening, to now, acceptance and then getting into action. A lot of my emphasis now has been on, how do we navigate that space of making prudent decisions to make sure that, you know, I put my business in a place to weather this storm, but not overreacting.
So today, for example, I had a long talk with the team about fear and scarcity, and how we’re in a moment in time when there’s just so much fear and scarcity all around us. Like every time I open up my phone to read anything in the news, it’s something that taps into and cultivates a fear and scarcity mindset and what does it mean to operate from a place of trust and abundance and how to do that responsibly?
That’s one of the things I think about a lot. Okay. If I have a commitment to living and leading from a place of trust and abundance, I can’t just naively think, well, everything’s going to work out, so I don’t need to make any changes. Like, what are the changes that I should make?
Where is that fine line? That space between leaning into abundance, leaning into trust, and not staying open, but also being responsible. And so that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. The last thing I’ll say, just about my experiences that I’ve been really super focused on what I call energy management.
So that’s something I learned several years ago was the difference between time management and energy management and how, as a leader, energy is contagious. And my number one responsibility, especially in times like this, is to manage my energy. And it’s really hard, you know, especially the past couple of weeks when, I was really having a lot of resistance and that was showing up with this high blood pressure and high anxiety.
I mean, sometimes in between meetings, I would walk over to my living room right here and I would just jump rope. Like, just keep jumping rope. Just trying to get to some state of calm. Sometimes I would go walk into my bedroom and just lie on a yoga mat on the floor and stare at the ceiling and breathe.
Or I would have to stop work in the middle of the day and do a workout, because I could feel my energy was coming down and I wasn’t in a peak, powerful energy state. And so, I’ve just been trying to develop kind of a little toolkit of different things I can be doing around my house to help maintain that high energy.
And I’m really conscious about, especially if I’m showing up with my team in a all hands conversation or with my executive team, like making sure my calendar that time is blocked so that I can get myself to a peak energy state before I show up for that conversation. We know that this is just going to be up and down, up and down, and, and there are sometimes moments when I’m just completely overwhelmed, you know, with what’s happening in the world.
10 million people that don’t have jobs, and $5 trillion economic impact, and how do I have space to go through all those thoughts and emotions, but still show up as a leader in a powerful place? So I’ve been trying to teach my team a lot about energy management. So for example, today we agreed that we’re going to change our working hours.
We’re actually going to work shorter hours than we do under normal conditions, which seems paradoxical. Because right now we’re feeling this crunch, like we’ve got to keep selling. We’ve got to keep our customers happy. We’re actually about to raise a Series A investment round, and so the pressure is on, but I can see in the energy of my employees how tired they are.
You know, they’ve got their kids at home. They’re just having to make so many more decisions right now than they normally would. So we’re gonna shrink our working hours, so that I can keep my team’s energy at a higher state for a longer period of time and not have them burn out.
When I think about what does it take to make it through this, I think about three buckets.
You know, there’s the financial health of the business. There’s also the physical health of the business. And I actually wrote a long post to my team about inflammation and how you need to prepare your body to get Coronavirus. And if you can reduce inflammation in your body, you have a better chance of making it through being sick, with minimal damage. So the physical health. And then the third thing is the mental health, which ties to this energy management. And I really feel responsible as the leader for all three of those things for my team. And for guiding them. You know, I had a little hesitation before I wrote this big long post about inflammation because that’s a topic that I’m personally very educated about, but I don’t really preach to people what they should be eating and shouldn’t be drinking.
And I thought, you know what? Like especially this was about 10 days ago. I really felt like we’re all gonna get it. And so, if I want my company to survive this, I need to make sure my employees can survive Coronavirus. And if they’re having endless Zoom happy hour s , the probability of making it out the other side is going down. And I could see that happening with them. I was like, guys, I’m out. You know, what you really need to be doing right now is fasting and eating super clean and exercising. So, I really felt that I had to take responsibility for that in a way that I wouldn’t normally have done under ordinary conditions.
Kirk: [00:14:32] Yeah. And I appreciate you sharing all that. I think it’s one of the things that I wanted people to kind of recognize because I’ve talked to several of you is just about that, giving yourself permission to kind of take care of yourself. And it’s counterintuitive, but I think it’s super, super important. And I think the healthy part of that discussion was, as you also pointed out, like we’re normal in life. We’re just used to having normal transitions. The drive to work, the drive from work, the lunch that you go and do, you know, and some of those normal transitions are just getting taken away. And so part of that healthy discussion was just having the discussion.
Suzi: [00:15:07] Yeah. That’s exactly right. I think that’s what’s happening. I think my team right now is easily working 10 hour days every day and almost like without a break. In the normal world, a lot of folks would go for a nice lunch together and I would see a group of them leave and they’d come back 90 minutes later or, you know, there was just a little bit more ebb and flow in the daily cycle. And I think one of the things that was kind of exciting in the first week is like, “Whoa, look at our productivity.” You know, everyone was like, “Wow, we’re getting so much done.” But then it was like, “Oh my God, I’m exhausted.” And I think, you know, people’s necks hurt from trying to sit and look in the Zoom camera and all that stuff.
So we did have a debate. And of course, you know, some of my executives were like, you know, this sends the wrong message. We can’t say we’re going to work fewer hours. This is a life or death situation. We have to sell. You know, how are we going to manage this? I just have a point of view that, the way you win in business it’s not through muscle, it’s through strategy and relentless prioritization, is actually going to be serve us better than working more hours. I always think of the analogy I was into rock climbing a little bit when I was younger and I would go on these group social climbs, and there would always be these really muscular guys who just were so strong and some of the little skinny ones of us could make it up the rock face faster.
And so I think sometimes we try to muscle our companies to success by working more and pushing more. But actually. having people rested with a clear mind and stopping and taking that time to focus, I believe can get to at least as good of results. So I’ve had to kind of, you know, tell my team this is what we’re doing.
Because some people are scared like, well, if we work less hours, what if we fail? But I am telling them, no guys, like we just have to commit to this focus and this discipline and make a smaller number of hours really impactful and get rest. Right. That rest is really important. So, it wasn’t easy.
There was a lot of debate about how to enforce it, and what structures, should we all take one day a week with no meeting? Should we start later, end earlier? We debated a bunch of different strategies. So I think that’s about finding what works for your company. But I think it’s really about leading with that point of view.
We’d love to show you. I’ll have KJ just put on a demo here in a second. So you know what our product is it’s leadership training for employees. It’s delivered in 15 minute or less micro-learning modules. And we work with companies like Facebook, Bumble, Chanel, you’ve heard the names, and we work with employees at all different kinds of levels, from individual contributors up to directors. So, we just released a brand new resource library all around the kind of skills or the challenges that employees are facing right now in the last two weeks. So KJ, if you just want to show what it looks like, I always feel like it’s easier to get something when you can see it versus when I’m trying to describe it to you. So KJ, if you want to take away and just give them a quick little three minute tour of Verb.
Kirk: [00:18:32] I know if you’re listening to this on the podcast, you’re not able to see the demo that Suzi shared inside of our private Facebook group for the executives that we work with. However, I want to strongly encourage you to go and check www.goverb.com. Or reach out directly to Suzi, and it’s Suzi (AT) goverb (DOT) com. You can tell by listening to Suzi, I said it at the beginning, she really does lead from the heart and lead from the head. And I think she had some really fantastic highlights and points in today’s discussion. What are a couple of things that you took away from today?
I really liked how Suzi talked about being versus doing, about really the thought of managing our minds and managing our energy through these times and how we need to be prepared to propel ourselves and lead well and in through these times and over a longer period of time.
So again, I want to thank Suzi for coming on. I want to thank KJ for her help and the demonstration. And I want to thank each of you for listening to the For You Leaders podcast.
I hope you have a blessed day.