I'm halfway through Salesforce's new executive development program, Leading Ohana (Ohana means family in Hawaiian), and I can confidently say that I have never felt more vulnerable. But I'm all the better for it.
The program, which started in June, has made me completely rethink and reevaluate my approach to leadership and, truly, my life. The first module of Leading Ohana consisted of two and a half days of reflection and coaching in Carmel, California. The second module was a week-long trip where my group volunteered in Detroit, Michigan (another group went to Nairobi). Both left me with a renewed sense of clarity of my purpose and values. They also showed me how I can use my values to enact meaningful change.
Throughout Leading Ohana, I've learned numerous lessons. Some of what I learned is personal to me, but other lessons I think are useful for any leader to consider, so I wanted to share a few here:
During the first module of Leading Ohana, we were given a deck of 50 cards with a value written on each card. In the exercise, we were tasked with cutting our values down from 50 to 25 cards, which was easy. It got harder when we cut the cards from 25 to 10 — and 10 to 5 to 3 was just brutal. But, thinking through those values was enlightening because it made me think about how I prioritize my day.
I now know that on those days where I am feeling dissatisfied, it's because I didn't prioritize my most important values: Personal Development, Family, and Fun. Prioritizing these values is how I show up as the best leader, teammate, mom, wife, and person that I can be. It also, quite simply, just makes it easy for me to be happy!
Sometimes we get so caught in our day-to-day — the endless emails, the fast-approaching deadlines, the frustrating commutes — that we forget we're all very human. Getting clear on my personal values helped me not just prioritize my life inside and outside of the office, but it also helped me realize how to connect with others on a more human level.
Leading with my values, and starting an open dialogue about values with my team, has been superbly rewarding. I have connected in a more meaningful way with my teammates, deepened trust in my personal relationships, and taken risks with new friends (who I'm confident are now lifelong friends).
In Detroit, I volunteered at The Downtown Boxing Gym, which empowers Detroit students through education, athletics, mentorship, and intervention. As a nonprofit, the gym has almost no budget or resources, yet the employees get so much done with so little. For their students, they have achieved a 100% high school graduation rate since 2007!
Working for a Fortune 500 company, it's easy to forget how much you can do even when you don't have the ideal resources or budget. One person with conviction can have a massive result. Be scrappy. Be innovative.
During our three days at the gym, we were only allowed to speak when asking or answering a question. Three days! As an intensely, solution-oriented person, I found this to be particularly hard. I had to learn how to ask good questions: not leading or rhetorical questions — actual questions. Asking instead of offering challenged me to really understand the gym's challenges (maybe even more so than problems I have been working through in my own job for years). It also ensured that their employees felt heard and respected, created a much more collaborative and insightful experience, and ultimately lead us to a very meaningful outcome.
I'm incredibly grateful that I work for a company that is willing to invest in its employees as much as Salesforce does. Leading Ohana has been an immensely difficult experience, but I feel all the better for it. Ripping back layers, opening yourself up, and reevaluating your outlook is a risk. But, there's no reward without risk. I'm confident that Leading Ohana will continue to reward me for years to come.
Want to learn more about our #SalesforceOhana culture? Check out the “Salesforce Ohana Culture” module on Trailhead.
Jody Kohner is the Senior Vice President of the Employee Marketing & Engagement team at Salesforce. The span of her work ranges from managing the employer brand reputation and recruitment marketing initiatives through onboarding new hires and all sorts of awesome programs designed to make employees love their jobs. Connect with her on Twitter at @JodyKohner.