How to Refresh Your Personal and Professional Brand
Guest Speaker

Leela Srinivasan

CMO of Momentive

Leela Srinivasan’s journey to marketing leadership has included significant stints in sales and management consulting. Along the way, she learned from and contributed to the amazing cultures at organizations like Bain and Company, LinkedIn, Lever, OpenTable, and now Momentive. Leela also serves on the Board of Directors at Upwork and as Chair of the MBA Advisory Council at the Tuck School of Business.

Even brands need makeovers. Here’s how to do it smoothly.

It’s natural and sometimes necessary for a brand to outgrow itself, but changing a beloved company into one that’s a stranger to employees and customers is a daunting challenge. Luckily, there are ways to make the process smoother for all who are affected by the big change.

In this episode of Real Creative Leadership, Adam chats with CMO of Momentive (formerly known as SurveyMonkey) Leela Srinivasan about the Momentive rebrand journey — and why it was important to bid their old brand adieu.

Watch this episode to discover:

  • How to know when your brand needs to transform
  • 3 questions to ask yourself and others before refreshing your personal brand
  • Why you should always rewrite “your story”
mentioned in this show:
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Adam Morgan
Executive Creative Director Adobe
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The Stoke Group
Digital Marketing and Full-Service Content Agency

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Transcript

Leela Srinivasan:

None of us want to be boring blue and personality less. Every brand will find itself a different point on that continuum and really, you just need to figure out what makes sense for where you are in your journey.

Adam Morgan:

Welcome to Real Creative Leadership, a place where creative leaders can find insights and practical guidance on the day-to-day job of being a creative leader. We focus on real issues, topics, and insights of creativity in the business world. Join me as we explore the best strategies for developing your team, getting others to embrace your vision and generating amazing experiences. This webinar series is produced by the Stoke Group. I'm your host, Adam Morgan, Adobe executive creative director, an author of Sorry Spock, Emotion Drive Business and this is Real Creative Leadership.

Adam Morgan:

Hello and welcome to Real Creative Leadership. This is Season 2, episode 10 and what an interesting topic we have for you today. So as marketers, as advertisers and branders, there are a lot of companies that we've helped rebrand over the years, I'm sure. Many of you may have gone through an exercise of helping your company, changes name or change the new look. I know at Adobe we went through a rebranding about a year and a half ago. So it's something that a lot of us have dealt with, which is really interesting.

Adam Morgan:

We have a special guest today. We have Leela Srinivasan and she is the CMO of Momentive also known as SurveyMonkey. We're going to talk about their journey and their story and then here's the interesting part, then we're going to relate it back to how do we as individuals rebrand ourselves, maybe some of you are at a company and you want to try something new and sure it's easy to jump ship and go to another company, but it's really challenging to try and change the point of view of others around you at a company that you currently work for.

Adam Morgan:

So we're going to talk through that and we're going to try and find some parallels. If not, we'll at least have an interesting conversation about the topic. So that's our plan today. First I want to start with Leela, if you would like to just introduce yourself and give some people some background, a little bit more about you and your company and how you came to be in the position that you are, and then we'll get going from there.

Leela Srinivasan:

Sounds great. Thank you, Adam. So again, my name is Leela Srinivasan and I am the CMO of Momentive, the company formerly known as SurveyMonkey. We'll get into that in a lot more of that soon, I'm sure. I grew up in Scotland. I have been in the states for 20 years and have spent the last 12 or so of those in a marketing role, working first at LinkedIn, then at OpenTable at Lever, which is recruiting software and then ultimately here at Momentive.

Leela Srinivasan:

Now, before that prior lives, I had a career in sales and also in management consulting. There was a little business school in the middle of there somewhere. So I meandered my way to marketing, but really it turns out really like marketing for multiple reasons. Then my journey to Momentive was an interesting one. I joined the company almost three and a half years ago, and my journey in some ways is a microcosm of the reason to rebrand.

Leela Srinivasan:

When I got the cold email from Tom Haller, president, I didn't respond to it at first because I didn't think it was relevant for me. I had to use SurveyMonkey tools and technologies throughout my consulting and marketing career to that point. I loved the technology. It was super cool. It was useful. It helped me uncover insights from key audiences like customers and team members and event goers and so forth. But to my mind, I bought an online self-serve solution, basically tool, and I was a B2B marketer and sought of myself in the enterprise space. I just didn't think I would be the right kind of marketer for a SurveyMonkey. It took a head hunter pulling me aside and saying, "Yeah, I need to talk to these guys. You are exactly what they want. They're on this journey to the enterprise."

Leela Srinivasan:

It took that conversation for me to return Tom's email and ultimately engage in discussion and then realize actually I was the CMO that they needed to begin that journey to the enterprise. So the last three and a half years have been about helping, moving through IPO, making a couple of acquisitions that really cemented some of our enterprise capabilities and then going through this rebrand journey to help the company identity match the company that we are today. So I'll stop there and I guess we'll see where that takes us, Adam.

Adam Morgan:

Well, I love there are two things that I pulled out of that, that I think are fascinating. First of all, awesome, glad you finally made it to the marketing side. We need great people like you. That's awesome and the fact that you didn't think that you were the right fit for this other brand, I think that's a huge telling notion that maybe sometimes we need to widen our view of what we think things should be. Maybe we don't need to be a niche into B2B or B2C or whatever. It could be all things and we can jump from department to department. That's a good part or a good way to start the school conversation.

Adam Morgan:

As you're building a brand, you need to take away all the assumptions that the brand only stands for one thing, or you only stand for one thing and that we can start to look and explore new options. That's pretty fascinating. That's awesome. Let's talk about some history. Let's talk about Momentive and the rebrand that you just went through. So take us back and maybe tell us a little more about this journey. What was the catalyst that pushed you to do a rebrand? Did they know this three and a half years ago when they came after you that they're like, "We're going B2B and we're going to enterprise." Or what were some of the steps or the milestones along the way that pushed you along this journey?

Leela Srinivasan:

Sure. So the company at the time definitely knew it was striding toward the enterprise. We knew that would be a huge part of our future, but the conversation I had three and a half years ago was not, "Hey, we need to rebrand the company" and that is not the first place that you go, especially when you have a brand like SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey has been around for almost 22 years and really created and defined the online survey category. The brand and I know this because we are good students and we are in our own restaurant, if you will, we're continuously tracking our brand and understanding awareness all the way through the funnel, but also people's perceptions of it. So we knew this.

Leela Srinivasan:

So the SurveyMonkey brand was very well known and 30 percentage points ahead of its nearest competitor in the space and also beloved from main research that we had done and all of the success that we had in that self-serve platform over the years gave us the runway to develop these enterprise offerings based on customer feedback that they were looking for enterprise grade functionality.

Leela Srinivasan:

But as we continued gathering feedback from our stakeholders, our customers, and so forth, we also had to be cognizant of the fact that when we asked people to and specifically business buyers who were an increasingly important audience to us, when we asked them what words came to mind in association with our name, there were certainly some great positive attributes in there like intuitive, easy to use, powerful, but there were also words like cute and fun.

Leela Srinivasan:

What we saw when we delve into our win-loss surveys and reports was that our brand, while it could be an incredible door opener for us, because people did have these positive connotations of SurveyMonkey, it was also starting to pigeonhole us as a specifically and exclusively a survey tool that people associated with this small business or individual use case. So the capitalist was somewhere in getting this data on an ongoing basis working through our strategic planning cycles as an organization and thinking about how our business was evolving. Now today 30% or more of our revenues actually come from the enterprise and that number is continuing to climb up at a rapid rate.

Leela Srinivasan:

Also I think critically in the last 15 months or so going through everything that we've just been through as a society seeing and hearing firsthand from our customers, how they were using our technology for these mission critical use cases and needs that you just wouldn't associate with this sort of cute and fun individual usage survey tool. So today looking at across our almost 9,000 enterprise customers that we have, names like Carrefour, the giant French supermarket chain, IBM, Intuit, Allbirds.

Leela Srinivasan:

The decision makers at those companies are turning to us to shape what's next for their businesses. We knew ultimately that based on all of the feedback. I think in the process of the rebrand, we had 10 distinct pieces of research that were run [inaudible 00:08:52], 22,000 perspectives gathered as part of that journey. The evidence was clear. What we wanted to do was almost have our cake and eat it. So today's SurveyMonkey remains a really critical brand in our portfolio, and it is an excellent brand for a self-serve product, but Momentive will come to the fortnight as our brand for the enterprise and we could not be more excited about that.

Adam Morgan:

Oh, that's excellent. It's interesting when you mentioned the words of cute and fun. I've also noticed that's certainly, I guess, kind of a macro trend on a lot of startups or smaller companies often have a brand that represents more rebellious, fun freewheeling type of a feeling and then as you mature as a company, you get to a point where you're like, okay, we've had the same problem with the word creative at Adobe. Some people take that as too silly for enterprise. It's more, it's not like walking away from those routes, but how do you tell a story in a way that still holds onto that good baggage, but then also lets you mature a little bit more. But I think it's also probably true for people. As we get moving up our leadership skills, we can't be as silly and foolhardy as we were in college. We have to have some seriousness to us, but not so serious that you lose all that fun.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, it's so interesting. When I look out on the landscape of enterprise companies out there, many of them are trying to figure out how to become more approachable and how to become more fun because none of us want to be boring blue and personality less. We were going a little bit in the opposite direction of wanting to find a more serious and aspirational and dynamic site, but really again, would speak to the enterprise. So every brand will find itself a different point on that continuum and really, you just need to figure out what makes sense for where you are in your journey.

Adam Morgan:

Oh, excellent. Maybe tell us what are some of the roadblocks that you had to overcome or obstacles? I'm sure there were some more than brand recognition that we're moving away from.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah. Well-

Adam Morgan:

Like brand recognition that we are moving away from.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah. Well, first off, not a roadblock, but the timing had to be right. I will say for probably two and a half to three years of my time at this company, this was something that I at least had conversations about with our CEO, for example. We debated pros and cons and there wasn't a critical mass of evidence or real impetus until some point in 2020. So I think part of it was this is not a straightforward exercise. It is a labor of love, it is a massive undertaking, and you need to be sure that it's the right direction. So that was a little bit of the internal obstacle, but I think the right obstacle, the right consideration.

Leela Srinivasan:

What I will say is the internal stuff when you rebrand a company. So one of the things I probably underestimated in the initial discussions around this is right for the business was okay, rebranding a company means soup to nuts. Rebranding so many touch points that are both with our external customers, but also with our internal employees. So you know, the name of our Workday instance, for example, will shift ... shifting to Momentive. Our email domains just shifted last week to momentive.ai, which is our new domain. And so I never dreamed I would be working so closely with our business systems lead, and our IT lead, and our HR partners to just think through all of the systems ramifications. So, less of an obstacle to overcome, we knew this was the right move for the business, but more of a consideration in terms of the timeline of how things actually play out behind the scenes to make this rebrand a reality.

Adam Morgan:

That's so interesting. I think the other part of it is changing perception of people, not just outside, but inside the company. Is everyone on board for this new change?

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah.

Adam Morgan:

Is everyone on board for the new brand and what it represents?

Leela Srinivasan:

Yes.

Adam Morgan:

I'll share a funny, really an old story. Before Adobe, I worked in the ad agency world for 20 years and there was one brand, it was a car dealership that was regional. And they were going through this rebrand. Back in the old days, it was like high pressure sales and everything. And when we went through a rebrand to this company, I remember there was one general manager of one of the stores who said, "Well, that's it. If we're now going to stand for listening to the customer and just doing what they want, then I'm out." And he quit that day. And then we were just so shocked. We were like, "What?" There are people that are really set in their ways on what the old brand was all about and they may not be willing to move to something new.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, yeah. Wow. Imagine that, listening to the customer. Mind blowing, right?

Adam Morgan:

Yeah.

Leela Srinivasan:

What I will say is in those 10 pieces of research that I mentioned, one of those was a fairly comprehensive employee survey, which we launched under the guise of informing our employer brand, which clearly we want to do both then as SurveyMonkey and now as Momentive. But really also to just listen in and understand our employees perspectives on the name and their level of attachment to it, whether they in their heart of hearts felt it really measured up as an enterprise brand and so forth. So we gleaned enough insight from that particular survey to feel confident that in fact, the vast majority of employees were going to be with us. And once they understood the rationale and the fact that SurveyMonkey remains a really critical and beloved brand in our portfolio, but the vast majority were going to be really excited about this change as well because they too, recognize the limitations of the name SurveyMonkey for our future direction.

Leela Srinivasan:

I won't pretend that a hundred percent were on board on day one. There's almost like a sense of loss or mourning that can happen when you've been so attached to a specific identity for, in some cases, a decade or more as I look across our employee base. But again, as we've continued to discuss this internally, our team gets it, right? They're on the front lines and often, in many cases every day. They hear the customer stories, they hear their customer's reactions. And I think what's been so gratifying is hearing how customers have continued to react post-rebrand and continued to share how positively their feeling about this direction, because it much better aligns to the direction that we're partnering with them.

Adam Morgan:

Yeah. Fair enough. And so here, let's segue a little bit. So we've talked about all right, there was a lot of work you put into this rebrand, a lot of conversations, surveys, name changes, getting people on board, everything that goes into a rebrand and I, from firsthand experience, I know it's so much work. It's a lot of work, but then you get to that moment of, okay, we're going to share this with the world. And the big part of that is what is the story? You've got to come out with a new story and share the important elements of that story to the outside world.

Adam Morgan:

So talk to me about crafting that story. And, and there are a few things that I've just picked out. You can talk to me if this was true or not, but it's almost like you've got to show where it's coming from, the past, hooks to the past, where you're going in the future and why this matters. Why this makes you different, why you're doing it, any of those questions that you kind of anticipate people might have. So talk to me about the process of creating the story that went out.

Leela Srinivasan:

Absolutely. There's also sort of creating the story in parallel with coming up with the right name, because there's a whole naming thing, which we can talk about separately, but as far as the story was concerned, yeah, you're absolutely right. Especially in a situation where we are not ditching the old brand by any means, we're holding onto it and continuing to celebrate it. It's important to create those hooks into the past and help customers, employees, other stakeholders understand that evolution of why now, from that name, while still making it clear that that name is staying in the portfolio.

Leela Srinivasan:

Another thing, just going beyond the name of course, what you'll see with our Momentive brand. When you look at the logo, you'll see that the choice of shapes in that logo is very deliberate, very intentional. We have basically positioned Momentive at the intersection of humanity, which is represented by the curved yellow quarter circle and technology, which is the blue up into the right triangle. And what happens when you add yellow and blue? Well, you get this very pleasing shade of green, heritage green as we call it, because green is a color that speaks directly to SurveyMonkey's heritage and roots. And we really love to celebrate the color green. And so that was one very visual hook to the past I would say, that we had in there.

Leela Srinivasan:

In developing the story to the future, a lot of it is inspired frankly, by our customers. Right? So, one of the things that I don't think you mentioned in the elements of the story is, how is this true in the world today? And when you go to momentive.ai, our new site, the first thing you'll see in that hero spot, the top of our homepage, is a woman by the name of Tamara Beresford who runs digital transformation at Nasdaq. And Tamara is quite literally the poster person, if you will, for this rebrand, in that she has been leaning on our technologies, in this case our customer experience solutions, to shape what's next for Nasdaq digitally. And when you click through to the customer section of the site, you see other stories like that. From Jonathan Estes at LG Electronics, for example, who relies on our employee experience solutions to shape what's next for the employee base at LG, and stories from other companies like Allbirds and PUMA and so forth. Again, it's these empowered decision makers who are shaping what's next with our technology.

Leela Srinivasan:

So, one of the most critical elements of the story for me was absolutely, okay. We can say something, we can share a story, but how can we bring that to life and help people understand that it is happening today? It is happening through the voice of our customer. This is how this is playing out at thousands and thousands of companies globally. So that was super important, I think, to the development of the story.

Adam Morgan:

Well, you talked about how these people are the real world example of that brand coming to life and you get to share their stories and your website, but I'd like to hear your story, let's talk about you. How has this experience shaped your career? How has it changed you? What have you learned from it personally? Let's dig into your journey as you went through as a guide to this rebranding effort, what it's done for you and your career and your life.

Leela Srinivasan:

Well, I will say it's still very early days, right? The ink is still drying on the logo as it were, but you know, one of the things that attracted me to Momentive in the first place, and one of the things that I believe to be true as I continue to develop as a professional is just the importance of having a growth mindset and leaning into learning and thinking about how you can continue to expand your set of skills and experiences and capabilities. And I will say being at Momentive for this shift is probably the greatest professional privilege of my career in some ways, right?

Leela Srinivasan:

What a learning experience, soup to nuts. Everything from even thinking through the strategy up front and having those conversations all the way up to the board level, to working closely with our agency partners to vet names and think about, okay, from this sea of names, we can go in any direction at all. What is the direction we're going to choose? Which name are we going to go for and why, and how can we develop that story alongside it? To thinking about how to bring that to life, to working through some of these behind the scenes challenges and things that we needed to work with internally to just make this happen, both for our employees and externally. To thinking about, okay, well, what's the campaign that we're going to run with to blow this out, to how is this going to flow through our sales team? I mean, there are so many surface areas of this problem, if you will, that it's hard to really distill the learnings that I've had. I can tell you, it has been 15 months of nonstop learning both for me, for the team, because this took a village to pull off. And it's the kind of thing that you could almost imagine writing a book about down the road, because the learnings have been happy not rich, I would say.

Adam Morgan:

And sometimes that's hard. It's hard to see the learnings when you're in the middle of it, right? After you pause, you can look back and go, oh yeah, I can see where I learned this and this and this and that. And that's definitely a part of that experience that you have as a professional and just training your brain to understand those different things of, if I had to do it all over, how would I do it again? That's awesome.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, one of the things that I decided to do, Adam was like, keep almost, not quite a journal, but this is my notebook for the last four months of the rebrand. Just so I could remember some of the details, some of the minutiae that came up. Again, there are so many different aspects to a project like this and you just can't possibly.

Leela Srinivasan:

Different aspects to a project like this and you just can't possibly contemplate all of them at the outset. So a lot of it becomes about, okay, how am I going to solve problems on the fly? How am I going to deploy a mini team or get to the bottom of something that's become a blocker for us? Because this is the one thing that's holding us up. So, I hope that I can make sense of these notes down the line, but, I think to your point, like when you're living in the moment, sometimes it's just really hectic and it's hard to retain all the details otherwise.

Adam Morgan:

Well, now you're talking my language. I want to see those notes. That'd be fun. It's kind of [inaudible 00:22:36] share them out, that'd be kind of fun. I've done something similar. I have the same type of notebook here, since 1996 and I labeled them all. I know it's like from the movie seven, like I'm a little crazy, like people going to find my notebooks be like what's going on, but I think it's helpful. It's like good to take those notes and look back and look at all the ideas or things you've learned along the way. I think it's fascinating. Sorry.

Adam Morgan:

That was totally not on the plan, but we're definitely talking about notebooks now, but let's transition. Okay, we talked a lot about, the rebrand of Momentive and SurveyMonkey, and now let's try as best we can to relate that back to a personal brand. But before we get into that, you said that you mentioned that you've taught some classes on building a personal brand as well. And I'd love you to just, just explain a little bit about that. Like maybe some of the highlights or some of the key things that you teach in terms of building a personal brand and what's important.

Leela Srinivasan:

Absolutely. So not to, not to overplay the classes I've taught. So what happens at a moment at one of the things that we do as leaders of the company is, we periodically volunteer to lead what we call curiosity chats. So, our mission is to part of the curious, so that they can shape what's next. And one of our employee value proposition, why would you join Momentive? We talk about Momentive as the place where the curious come to grow, so embedded in that is this notion of a curiosity chat where a handful of our executive team will sign up each quarter to teach a mini class. And the class takes the form of three sessions that are almost like workshops, where a small group comes together to workshop through an idea. And the one that I stepped up to say, "Hey, I'd love to, to have some discussion around this notion of personal brand".

Leela Srinivasan:

That was the class that I mentioned. So, as I think about some of the elements of it, I mean, we begin by just thinking about, what even is brand? What is your personal brand? And it was a bunch of, I'm sure a scholarly definitions of what, what brand is, but for me, and in this personal context as well, it's sort of like, it's what people say about you when you're not in the room. That's true at the company level, and it's true at the individual level.

Leela Srinivasan:

In some ways it's a little harder to read at the individual level because people, aren't always honest with you, even when you ask them for feedback. And one of the things that we've noted in the last several years, we talk about how organizations have been navigating the feedback economy, where you've got this combination of the web being super transparent and people having really heightened expectations of experiences and just this age old desire of consumers to be heard and to feel like their feedback means something that's led to just this explosion of feedback about products, services, experiences, and you see that whenever you tune into a social channel or customers, sorry, companies rather pulling their customers all the time, that sort of thing.

Leela Srinivasan:

So, feedback is flowing thick and fast into companies, on the personal level it's a little different, you don't have that constant influx of feedback. If you're lucky, there might be a performance review or something at work. If you're really lucky, it includes 360 feedback, but even that is not enough. It's not enough for you to really understand how you are perceived and what people say about you when you're not in the room.

Leela Srinivasan:

So the point of the class was first of all, to encourage people to go out and actually, maybe find some of that information by launching a quick, simple survey and asking people they trusted, what are the first three or four words that come to mind when you think about me as a professional and stewing on that information and then spending some time reflecting on how they want to be seen, what are the aspects of their persona that they want to dial up and be known for. And resolving to find a path to creating more stories around that, to moving in that direction. But I think with personal brand much like the corporate brand, it has to be based in reality, right? It can't just be, well I want to be seen as a world-class tennis player when there's no like they're there. So, I think that's the thing we were encouraging people to do, was be really realistic about what authentically can they bring to the table as they are thinking through their brand.

Adam Morgan:

This is great, this is fascinating. So, if we look back at what you did for the rebrand of Momentive, you started first with research, you started first with understanding yourself, understanding what you stood for, and you're right. I don't think we get good feedback as people because we don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Like we don't want to say something directly to your face, but there are perceptions in this world, of what people see you as what your skills are and what you're good at. And that is an excellent first step before you go rebranding yourself at all is find out what you're really, what you stand for. And I think you nailed it when you said maybe a little survey, I've been toying with an idea for creative leadership of like this 50 point thing of all the different values and skills of a leader, of a creative leader and what they stand for and then the scale of where you are on that journey.

Adam Morgan:

But I don't think you have to be that complex, but digging at... Yeah. What does trying to find those perceptions and trying to find what people really, really think about you. That is an excellent first step. Do a SurveyMonkey, go out there, send it to not just friends or blind or whatever it may be and they don't know who the person is, maybe. And then it can be a little more real, rather than knowing that it's about you. But I think that's-

Leela Srinivasan:

I actually have a tip, so I have to give a shout out to Morgan Molnar on my team. She runs product marketing for our global insights business. She has a post on LinkedIn, which I can shoot over to you afterwards, where she details, how she went through this process. She may even share the survey, I'm not sure, but it was a super simple survey. I think that's the point, is you can keep it really simple. The other thing I would do is pair that survey with more qualitative feedback. And I think the key here is to go to people whose opinions you trust and couch, the whole conversation. And look, I'm looking to grow as a leader, I'm looking to grow as a professional. I know I need feedback to uncover blind spots and to take things to the next level. So with that, as the backdrop, let's talk about where you see me today.

Leela Srinivasan:

I think giving people almost permission to be constructive, I think is an important part of that dialogue, because to your point, people are typically going to be kind to your face and want to soften the blow. But if there's something that is a blind spot for you, I think you need to give people permission to open up that conversation.

Adam Morgan:

And that's a good segue into what I think is the next step, which is some real self-reflection, it's probably just human that we all think, "oh, I'm doing the job already of the position I want", "I already am as good as the leader is above me". And it's so funny in my experience going through the same thing recently, it's like, I can look down my team and see people who are ready or who are not ready. And I have a perspective as to why from different data points.

Adam Morgan:

But, we're often blind to that same thing looking up. So, if I think that I'm the best ever creative leader in the world, I'm not, there's a good chance I'm not, and there are a lot of blind spots. So uncovering those gaps, I think are critical before you can even grow. You have to find out what those gaps are.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, there's a level of humility that you just have to have as a leader. I think back to my conversations with the great Mike Gamson, who was one of my favorite all-time leaders at LinkedIn, and I remember once asking him "you're so good, how do you keep getting better?" And his response was along the lines of that he took some time at the end of every day to just reflect on what could have gone better. And the reality is it doesn't matter how good or bad you are. There are always things you could be doing better. And this is, coming back to that notion of a growth mindset where, let's just be honest, by the fact we're not nailing each and every thing that we tackle in our lives on a daily basis. I often come up with meetings going, ah, I could've done this or I should have brought up this point or I should've signed it less defensive, or I should've.. there's all that. But I think you have to learn from that.

Leela Srinivasan:

You have to just resolve to be conscious of it and know that it's okay. Like, this is all part of your personal growth is just documenting and thinking about these areas of opportunity that you have.

Adam Morgan:

Oh, excellent. And I think it's really, once you have all the information, once you've got a good, some research, some good qualitative by talking with some people, getting some good gap assessment, I think it really comes down to a decision. And, I wonder if this is something you all, certainly you had to cross this bridge, which is as your personal brand, you have to decide looking at what the perception is, is it? Is there a way that we can change the story and there is an opportunity? Or is it best to just try something new and jump to another company? Obviously it's a lot easier to just, as we were talking about story and narrative, I want to dig into that a little bit of, as you, as Momentive went out, you had this amazing big blog post that you had to go through that whole narrative of like why, what you're doing, how this is better for the future.

Adam Morgan:

And I think if you jump ship and you go to another company, it's easy to go to your LinkedIn profile, your resume and rewrite that story. In fact, some people probably need to, I think a lot of people that had been looking for new jobs, they just keep the same old story and assume that that's the best step to the next job. And it's not, you've got to rewrite that story in a way that reflects the new brand of you, the new position you're looking for, right? So, that's one decision. Do I not rebrand and stay at this company? Do I just start a new company? Right? Do I start a new brand for myself and go somewhere else? Or the harder choices is, if I stay, how do I change that perception? And how do I tell that new story?

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, well, let's step back and just think about, I said, brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room, but what are the elements that constitute that brand? I think it's a few things, it's your words. And that could be words on your LinkedIn profile, your words in an email or whatever it is, your actions, and then also how people experience you, basically. So, it's one thing to say, I'm going to change my personal brand, but that has to show up in your actions and your interactions with others, right? So, I think anything is possible. And, I know the zeitgeist is very much to go find your next play outside, and sometimes that's the right decision. Sometimes it's not, but I always encourage people to look at the opportunities that are in front of them within the organization, because if you've been building that brand over time, that brand can really accelerate your internal career development. I look at Ryan Rose, Laskey CEO, back to LinkedIn again.

Leela Srinivasan:

... your internal career development. Now, look at Ryan Roslansky CEO, back to LinkedIn again. I mean, he's the CEO of LinkedIn. I remember him from when he was just a product manager in a room with me and a bunch of other people in monetization on Monday mornings. And he stuck with LinkedIn. Do you think he would be CEO of another company? Maybe he would, but he developed that reputation over a period of many years. In as part of that, self-reflection, you have to just be really honest about, 'Okay, how am I showing up?' It's one thing for me to want to be XYZ role or be perceived in a certain way, but I have to follow that up with my actions and the way I treat people because people will always remember how you made them feel. It can be done.

Leela Srinivasan:

One other thought here, Adam is I think about some of the career transitions I've made and the thing that was... Now seem so obvious that probably wasn't at the time was that your boss is not a mind-reader. They may be many things, but they don't actually know what matters to you and how you're looking to evolve your career and your brand as part of that.

Leela Srinivasan:

So I think back to my career in sales, I worked for a company called Business Wire, a commercial newswire service is part of Berkshire Hathaway these days. And I remember going to a sales conference we had every year. And at the time I was account executive, I carried a bag. I had my territory, I was having conversations with customers day in, day out, and I was enjoying the work, but I had this desire to pursue and explore people management, which wasn't part of my role at the time I was in IC and I happened to sit next to a VP of sales at a dinner.

Leela Srinivasan:

We were just chatting away and he was just shooting the breeze and asking me how things were going and how was I thinking about things? And I said, 'Well, I'm glad you asked Frank, actually I've been... What's something I'd love to do and it doesn't have to be tomorrow. And it doesn't have to be even this year. But I do want to, at some point in my career explorer people management. It's just something that I have a desire to try.' And he's like, 'Oh, that's interesting.'.

Leela Srinivasan:

And then what he didn't know was he was going to go back to his office a few weeks later. And the woman he had planned to promote into a people role was going to be leaving the company. So I came to mind because I said something to someone I met and it was just serendipity, but I would never have expected him to just think of me if I hadn't actually voiced that desire. So it's lay the foundations of being just a really good employee and delivering on your promises and gaining a reputation as being somebody that people want to have on a team and perform and do what you need to do, but don't be afraid to also voice what you'd love to see in your future, because only when you voiced that can somebody potentially help you get there.

Adam Morgan:

Oh, that's totally fair. And what you talked about before was akin to what you'd mentioned on the earlier call with me was, your insides have to match your outsides and I think that's a good catch phrase to remember. That even if we have all these big ambitions and hopes, and dreams, and you think you just changed the story by putting on a new shirt, it's not necessarily the answer. Your insides, how you treat people, how you react with them. I think that's critical.

Leela Srinivasan:

Yeah, absolutely. And especially in this day and age, I talked earlier about the transparency of the web. It's almost anything that can be known will be known. By the way, if you don't have such a great personal brand and reputation, don't think that's going to disappear just because you jumped ship. Because there's such a thing as back-channeling, there are just different ways that people can get context on you. Know that life is long and if you've made mistakes in the past, that's okay. Everybody grows, everybody learns. The point is to show how you're learning from those mistakes and keep growing up.

Adam Morgan:

And that's what I've noticed on people that I've managed that one of the most important things that you can't give them is that hustle, that desire to keep growing and growing. Many are happy and comfortable, but even if there are people who are missing skills or lack... Have big gaps, that desire and just communicating that desire, whether there happens now or not, that's fair, but just, I think rewarding understanding that they're really going after it.

Adam Morgan:

And the last thing I want to talk about in this journey is, we've talked about assessing yourself, finding your gaps, getting feedback, all those things, making a plan, looking for it. But how do you activate that? Let's say I've done all my homework. I know what I want to do. You started to talk about a little bit about asking or at least helping your manager know, so they're not mind reading. What other advice do you have on once I've got this new, personal brand figured out, how do I put that into play?

Leela Srinivasan:

Well, I would make ties back to the momentum of rebrand and in some ways you're flipping the switch when you make a company, a rebrand, but still we talked about having that hook to your past and maintaining ties to your heritage. I think that's in the personal world as well, that's true. You are the same human being tomorrow that you are today. It's there are things you can do to 'Activate' but I think they happen over time. You evolve over time. I think even your personal brand evolves quite a bit over time. I think back to what I want it to be known for when I was at a couple of years into my marketing career.

Leela Srinivasan:

I wanted to be known for being really good at certain aspects of my day job and for being a good cross-functional collaborator and someone who could work well with others. There are elements of that of course therein importance to write your career, but I was probably less thinking about how I wanted to be known as a strategist or a leader or a people manager, or there so many other different dimensions of leadership that are important to me these days.

Leela Srinivasan:

And it's probably less about the specific skills and the nuts and bolts of marketing. Your personal brand will continue to evolve. I think you... These things don't happen overnight. It's really hard work, rebranding. You've probably heard the phrase that trust is consistency over time. I think brand is also consistency over time and really delivering on the promises that you lay out there. And just think about how, again, your words, your actions and the way that others experience you're coming together to deliver on the promise of that personal brand.

Adam Morgan:

Oh, that's fantastic. Well, we're getting close on time here. So I think we'll just end with that. That's some great advice of just focusing on all of those elements of what you say and what you do and how you act and all of that. Thank you so much, Leela, for joining us here on Real Creative Leadership, I'm sure we'll have some follow-up on this on more details on how you as a creative leader can rebrand yourself or build on your current brand and become a better person in the future. So thank you everyone for joining us. This has been great. Great real-world advice from Leela. [crosstalk 00:39:48] Thanks for being on the show.

Leela Srinivasan:

Thank you so much, Adam. It's been really fun.

Adam Morgan:

And now before we part, I do want to give an opportunity. So if anyone wants to follow you or catch up with you, what are the best ways for them to find you? What platforms are you on or where can we learn more about your awesome career as you Continue to grow?

Leela Srinivasan:

All the usual places, so LinkedIn, I'm pretty find-able I guess the hot tip is it looks like you can't connect with me. I think you have to click on another button and then you can send an invitation to connect, not my doing I'm sorry. Something happened at LinkedIn and then Twitter as well. I'm Leela Srin, L-E-E-L-A S-R-I-N. So feel free to reach out on either platform. I love to connect with like-minded folks.

Adam Morgan:

Excellent. Thank you so much. And then as always, you can find us@realcreativeleadership.com. You can find me at adamwmorgan.com. Thestokegroup.com is where you can get help from... If you need to scale or get some more creative juices into your flow. They're awesome partner in making this happen, so all the different ways that you can reach us. And the big ask at the end here is just to get involved with us. We would really appreciate it. Go out there, share like, respond, follow whatever you need to do to give us some feedback, so we know if this show is worthwhile in your career growth.

Adam Morgan:

So thank you so much, and we will see you on our next episode. Thanks for listening to real creative leadership. I'm your host, Adam Morgan and this series was brought to you by the Stoke Group. For the most effective marketing used both sides of your brain to align your strategy, creative execution and analysis, connect with the Stoke Group for help designing each step of your marketing plan and creating a coherent vision. Visit TheStokeGroup.com to learn more.