In our continuing “On Workflow” series, we hear how Connectors and clients tackle their day and get things done. This month, we speak to Jesse Soleil, Global Director of PNConnect.
What are your tips for leading teams?
Be open. Be honest. Be friendly. Communicate early and often. Tell people, nicely, when you don’t like what they’re doing, and help them meet your expectations. What people produce isn’t always going to be what you imagined, but that’s OK. When the right people are working with you, the results will be good.
My whole strategy towards management is to be someone who tries to guide success for everyone, because that’s what I want out of a leader, too. My smartest and most effective mentors are also my friends — they really care about what happens to me. There’s a mutual respect.
I have a weekly, 30-minute meeting with every individual on my team. That helps build relationships and others’ trust in me.
Tell us about your office setup.
I took down the shelves in my office and put up a whiteboard so I can do more creative thinking, and it actually gets a lot of use. I have a refrigerator under my desk where I keep my water and green juice and probiotics. I try to keep my desk pretty clean because that’s where all the magic happens. I have a few books, but mostly I have toys and stuff: a Tribble, a Mario hat, a raygun. I have a great view out my window. I’m on the 36th floor, so lots of natural light.
What’s your most productive time of day?
Between 9 a.m. and noon. I’m able to get a lot of stuff knocked off in the morning while it’s quieter. I’m a morning person — I’m up at 5:30 or 6 every morning. My afternoons are more reactive.
What’s your favorite app?
Honestly? Scrabble. I find if I don’t take periodic breaks I get totally burned out, so it forces me to take ten minutes away and process a different kind of problem. I play the computer, on “expert” setting, because that’s how I roll.
What do you always do at the beginning of a new project?
A ton of research, just immersing myself and the team in all the information. Going through search results, and learning both what the brand is doing and how people are responding to it. I want to learn who the target audience is and what they care about, apart from the brand. I take every approach — data analytics, talking to friends, reading social profiles, and then trying to synthesize what it all means. Ultimately, people want to be entertained, they want some kind of helpful utility, or they want to be educated, so we have to figure out how to plug into that. It feels great to create content people really want, not just content that communicates a brand message.
How do you handle email overload?
I get about 300 to 400 emails a day, just on my work email. (I also have six personal email addresses.) I try to get to everything the second it comes up and respond right away or else it piles up. I still think in the mode of the old days of actual letter-writing, so I try to avoid one-line emails and reread everything I write to make sure I’m saying what I mean to say. I forward really important emails to my personal email so they’re surfaced there too, and sometimes I schedule important responses in my calendar. The ultimate escalation is when I write a reminder on a paper sticky note and stick it to my monitor until I respond.
After I’ve read and dealt with email, I delete it. I can’t stand having extra emails in my inbox.
How do you take notes?
I write everything manually. I don’t have a little Moleskine, I have a giant notebook. I’m not a neat writer; I scrawl and write all over the place. It helps me remember things better than typing would. I don’t use my notebook as a reference very often, but the act of writing helps me synthesize knowledge and use it more effectively.
What do you do that everybody else thinks is crazy?
I can get incredibly enthusiastic. I like to get excited about things! And I like to share that excitement, which people don’t always expect from someone in a professional environment. Right now what I’m excited about is this concept of the customer journey — how we provide value to customers throughout their interaction with a brand. I’m so invested in that process I’m trying to apply it everywhere. It probably looks insane.
What’s your advice for collaborating across different offices?
Overshare. Invite people to talk. Bring people in as early as you can. Sometimes we get really focused on what we can do in our own office and we forget that someone 300 miles away can really help us on something. We try not just to extend our network, but to get people invested in shared success. For that, you have to pick people you can build relationships with. Choose a buddy! I’m trying to build connections with point people in several other offices, having regular meetings to share updates and build the relationship.
What are your strategies for work/life balance?
I try really hard to get home early enough on weekdays so I can spend at least an hour with my kids before they go to bed. It’s important to me to get time with them in both the morning and the night, even if I have to get back online after they’re asleep.
Also: Use all your vacation time. You don’t get a medal for not taking your vacation time, and you have to take ownership over your work-life balance. Make sure you do something AWESOME on your vacations. Every year I do a car race in Kenya to raise money for a national park to protect the last remaining rhinos. We drive a Range Rover, point-to-point. That’s coming up June 1st.