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I’m excited to finally have received Amy Vernon’s answers… I’ll admit it was like pulling teeth, the ongoing joke became known as the “inquisition” granted we took it beyond that when discussed on Twitter. That’s the beauty of working with like minded people. They use the same social networks, and if you do your homework, you too can make some great connections in the social sphere.
As a matter of fact that’s how I met Amy. We came close to meeting face to face once on her visit to San Francisco but I soon found out, she’s as good about remembering days of the week as I am about losing my sunglasses. A Wednesday date, was confused with a Thursday date which ended up being a total fiasco. But that’s the beauty Amy, she has umpteen projects going at once while raising two boys, co-founding Predictable.ly as their CMO. She’s been on Mashable, the Huffington Post and so many Twitter lists of social media mavens to follow that has given her a rock star qualifications when it comes to being our Women in Tech this week. Oo and last but not least she’s also known far and wide as The Bacon Queen.
I can go on and on about a day in the life with Amy Vernon but I want to let this interview speak for itself.
1.What are some of your “rules” for effective leaders?
I used to joke with my reporters that I was a s*** buffer. I took all the crap they needed to express and couldn’t say to the powers that be and extracted what was important from it. Whether it was an issue of not having the resources they needed or not liking their beat, I would work to fix what I could and absorb the rest. When poop rolled downhill, I’d be honest with my folks about it – ensuring they knew what was going on and why, to the degree that I could, and helping them manage whatever situation there was.
At the end of the day, it means you have to work with your people if you want to be an effective leader. You don’t have to be their friend, but you absolutely must be their ally. They need to know that if they disagree, they won’t be punished for it; that if they have a problem, they can come to you with it; that if something happens to the company, they won’t be thrown under the bus. When your staffers know this, they will bend over backwards to do the best they can for you, because they know it will be appreciated and rewarded.
This doesn’t mean coddling anyone, and it doesn’t mean giving people what they want all the time. But it does mean being honest about what’s going on and why things are happening.
2. Are you doing what you love and getting better at it? How? What skills allowed you to start?
Some days I’m doing what I love. Some days I feel as if I don’t even know what I’m doing. I feel as if I’m a work in progress, shifting and changing almost daily. I do feel as if I’m moving in the right direction.
What skills allowed me to start? Oddly enough, I’ve found myself becoming more flexible and less set in my ways as I get older. The opposite of what one would expect to happen.
3. How do you empower your team?
I believe in leading by example. When your team sees that you’re willing to do the work they’re doing, they’re more motivated to do it. Of course, you need to make sure that you’re spending most of your time doing the things you need to be doing, but when you’re up against the wall on deadline, you need to roll up your sleeves and help get things done.
4. What will I do today that will matter one year from now?
As a mom, it’s teaching my sons to be good people.
As an activist, it’s amplifying the voices of other women.
5. Delegating is not an easy task… what do you delegate? Is it something you need to go back over…just in case.
I’m better at delegating once I trust the people I’m delegating to. I have to see that they know their work. It’s virtually impossible for me to not review work that involves editing, because it’s almost impossible to edit too much. There’s always *one more* error.
6. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
The best way to encourage creative thinking is to show that you value it and use it. If someone comes up with an unworkable idea, you often can find an element of it that is usable, or sparks another idea.
Look at it like editing. You can’t have a well-edited story without having a good base to start from. The research, the reporting, the fact-gathering, the writing – all have to be solid for you to end with something that is worth reading after it’s edited. The end result may have little resemblance to the original, but it wouldn’t be possible without the original draft.
When I’m writing, I often just spit something out that I know is horrible, but I have to get that out first. Then I figure out why it’s horrible and pull out the little pieces, the words that are worth saving, and build on those.
Creative thinking works the same way. The end result may bear no resemblance to the original idea, but that idea served as the seed for what came after.
Does that make any sense?
7. Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
In all organizations I’ve worked in, the great ideas could come from anyone. Experience is extremely important, in many ways, but a fresh set of eyes can bring a whole new perspective. The important part is to listen with an open mind.
8. You have two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
I rarely find that two candidates are equally qualified. Perhaps on paper – degrees, or years worth of experience – but when you dig down and you start asking questions, you can nearly always find the person who’s more qualified.
9. Your number one advice to someone in a new leadership position?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, so long as you fix those that need fixing.
10. If you could have lunch with 3 great women in history alive or dead, who would they be and what would you eat?
Ada Lovelace, Annie Oakley and Michelle Obama. I’m not exactly sure what we’d eat, in all honesty. I feel as if I’m supposed to say “bacon,” but that seems so cliche. I like mostly anything, so I’d probably ask them each to choose their favorites.
11. Are you doing what you love, would you do things differently to get there?
I think I finally am doing what I love. But would I do things differently? Probably not, because if I’d done things differently, I might not be doing what I love. Our paths constantly twist and turn, and taking a left somewhere I actually took a right might lead me to an entirely different destination.
12. Your favorite story about a success or a failure you have learned from. Could be a stalker, could be a failed client… we want to know about your process.
Early in my career as a journalist, I was too headstrong and too sure that I knew better than everyone else. I got myself in trouble and even ended up on probation for a short time. Honestly, being put on probation was the best thing that ever happened to me, because it made me sit straight and really focus on what was important.
I stopped worrying so much about everyone else and focused on doing the best job that I could do.
13. You are well known in your niche, how are you helping other women (if you are) and giving it forward.
I try to be a strong advocate for women across industries. When younger women ask for advice or to meet and pick my brain, I try to make the time. We can only expect those who come after us to achieve more if we don’t expect them to have to scale the same walls over and over again.
14. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I like vegetables as much as I like bacon.
15. How can we as women make the world a better place?
We can treat everyone as a human being and not assume we know their story. Everyone carries his or her own baggage. That doesn’t make their troubles less than ours – just different.