Lisa Myers is founder and CEO at Verve Search. She founded the business in 2009 and sold it to Omnicom in 2017. The team at Waypoint Partners provided growth advisory support as well as advised on the sale of the business.
As well as running Verve, Lisa is a prolific conference speaker, trainer and consultant, as well as a mum of two.
We asked her to share her lessons on more than a decade as a woman at the top. Take it away, Lisa…
1) You might be their boss – but you can’t be their friend
“Being the boss is a unique role. You want to have a great team, and you want people to like you – but I learned the hard way that for your employees, you need to be their boss and not their friend.
If you behave like someone’s friend, it’s very difficult to lead them. It’s hard – you’re fighting your instincts – everyone wants to be liked and reach out to people.
But instead, as a boss, you need to be empathetic and caring. You can still be warm – a great, supportive, trusted and admired boss. But that’s different to being their friend.”
2) You need emotional support
“It’s a cliché to say that it’s lonely at the top – but more accurate, perhaps, is that it can be exhausting and lonely to lead. It’s vital to recognise that, and in my experience, the best way of getting the emotional stability and maturity you need to be a leader is through therapy.
No one will care about your company as much as you do – especially if you’re a founder. Your work can risk becoming your identity, and everything feels personal. Having therapy can help you work on that; so that if things fall apart professionally, you can mitigate how that impacts you personally.
Everything you learn about yourself and others through this sort of personal development is extremely useful for leadership and will put you further ahead than then any training courses or books on management.”
3) You can’t do it on your own
“Relating to the point above: when geese migrate and fly in formation, there’s always one at the front. But it’s not always the same bird – it’s hard work, and so they each take a turn.
It’s pretty impossible to be at the front, leading, without some really good support and a great team to take the pressure off you.
No one is superhuman, and it’s an extraordinary amount of pressure and strength needed to be the leader, the figurehead. Get good people around you and focus a lot of attention on building and maintaining this team so you can do your job better.”
4) Accept that even doing everything right, you may well still fall apart
“You might do everything right and still have times when you feel like all the spinning plates are about to come crashing down. There may be times when they in fact do.
This is when having the great team and investing in the time for balance all show their real worth – things are in place to help you get back on track.”
5) Trust is the way to get through
“This is really something that underlies all of the above advice. You need your employees to look up to and trust you. You need to develop trust in yourself. You need a great management team that you trust implicitly. And when things go wrong, you need to trust in everything you’ve put in place; the investments you’ve made in your team and yourself to get things back up and running. When something feels wrong in the business, so often, trust is what’s missing.”