Autumn Manning on the Importance of Self-Awareness

I liked the independence of having money, because we didn’t have a lot growing up. So starting when I was 13, I would work at least 20 hours a week. I was a dishwasher. I bused and waited tables. I would clean the church every Sunday. I will say the best job was waiting tables. It teaches you so much about serving people.

Because my mom worked to take care of five kids, the girls were usually in tow with me, whether I was at a job or at practice. I was acutely aware of having the responsibility of three kids, while trying to be a kid myself, and creating an environment that wasn’t completely just horrible for them, sitting there doing nothing. So I tried to set a good example for them, but I also knew that I was a kid, too, so I wasn’t really sure what that example should be.

What did you study in college?

Psychology. I know this sounds really simple, but I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior: Why is someone the way they are and what inspires them or compels them to change?

What have been some key leadership lessons for you?

One is ensuring that you’re doing a really good job communicating the big-picture vision of where you’re going. It’s about setting that North Star for everybody and then breaking it down so they know their specific role in achieving that goal. Otherwise, people start moving in their own directions.

You also have to make sure you can measure every part of the business, and then have a conversation very publicly across the entire company about those metrics and how we can adjust and get better. That requires a lot of trust and transparency. Just when I feel like we do it well, I realize people still feel siloed. It’s something I work on a lot.

What else?

To be an effective leader, you have to have self-awareness. I’ve always known that I have a lot of intensity and a lot of passion. And that can be my greatest strength, but that can also be a big weakness of mine.

If applied the wrong way, it breeds the wrong behavior, like people not speaking up because I am so passionate and so intense about what I believe. So I have to go out of my way to communicate my intentions.

I tend to dig in and pepper people with questions. It may feel like an interrogation. But a lot of it is just so I can understand what’s actually happening — the full scope of the problem and the potential solution.

And I’ll tell people, “I’m just going to go in my mode now where I’m just going to ask a bunch of questions in the hope that we identify some areas where we can improve.” That helps a lot to make sure people know why I’m doing what I’m doing.

What are some specifics about your corporate culture?

We have M.U.B. meetings every quarter — it stands for “make us better.” So we ask people, how can we be better, and what could be better.

I also do what I call “stay” interviews. I’ll just…

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