I’ve always been passionate about developing and leading high-performance teams. Leadership starts with understanding every individual on those teams. At NewRocket, I oversee a Crew of nearly 200 people — offering the same blanket advice to everyone wouldn’t work.
Instead, I focus on investing in their career journey and skill growth as a leader. I promote positivity without adding stress, ultimately building a culture of excellence. Here’s how you can take a similar approach.
Pursue excellence by leading with empathy
We believe company success starts with empathy. Both Excellence and Empathy are two of our company’s core values, and it’s critical to view things from customer and employee perspectives. Implementing a stopgap solution for a problem is one thing but try diving deeper. How do you get closer to customers and understand the importance of each challenge? From the very start of our engagement to the ongoing relationships today, we want to get closer to their problems so we can strategically solve them.
So, how do we get there? By leading with empathy. One Crew, one mission following our 3 Es: engage, engineer, and excellence. Our onboarding program is a 60–90-day plan — Star Brigade to Mission Launch. While we have frameworks and reference points from other customers, we know everyone is unique. What worked for one business may not be the right move for another. The different pillars within ServiceNow give us strong building blocks, but without fully understanding our customers, we’re not maximizing their potential.
Collaboration is another key element within empathy. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of only talking with “certified” candidates on a topic, particularly when hiring and interviewing potential new employees or vendors. Go further and speak with your partners, employees, and other stakeholders to get the full picture. Those people have the grit, courage, and results-driven mindset required in a technical world for enterprise customers.
Create moments that matter
Over a 12-month span, NewRocket acquired six companies. With those acquisitions came an increased awareness of culture and discipline to embrace our core values when creating programs or proposing solutions. Our goal is to be better together, and our Global Community has worked hard to create moments that matter.
For example, I created the SHEngineers Employee Resource Group to offer a welcoming environment for our female engineers to ask questions and share ideas. While it’s encouraging to see more women entering the engineering world, it’s still primarily male-dominated. Taking an empathy-first approach to the situation led to the creation of SHEngineers. One of our first sessions, “Let Your Light Shine Bright,” hosted by Crew Member Candace Chadwick, highlighted how to present ideas on innovation and creative customer solutions. Attendees learned how to overcome adversity, continuing to create and influence when times get tough.
I also set up team boosts, which are monthly skip-level meetings. I share announcements and status on programs I’m working on for them. My team can share something with me, like a go-
live update or a cool solution they built. I always invite feedback with a Q&A at the end. It’s helped uncover areas we can improve, such as making roles and responsibilities clearer for our Project Crews. Additionally, our business consulting Crew Members looked for guidance on how to develop and reach new levels, which led to the creation of the Business Consulting career pathing plan. We implemented 32 competencies, five key areas, and five job levels with examples at each stage, plus revamped training plans that included soft skill, industry, and specific ServiceNow skilled training.
Thought Leader Thursdays allow our Practice Capabilities Leaders to present proposals to our executive leadership team board. These leaders are responsible for our practice capabilities and global Delivery team performance. By participating in these sessions, leaders gain experience crafting strategic ideas and presenting them in a public forum — key skills they’ll need to continue honing throughout their careers. Our Architect Council allows Chief Master Architects (CMAs) and Chief Technology Architects (CTAs) to drive a quality level of excellence and share their best practices. It’s easy to get siloed off among your own teams, so having a forum like this offers additional collaboration and knowledge sharing.
We’ve also got a Global Flight Club, which is for developers, by developers. They share tips and tricks, and so many of their insights are applicable across team functions. Combined with specialized training programs in NewRocket University, we’re building a library of content that helps us better understand each team’s great work — and how we can create similar moments that matter in our roles.
What makes for a great Crew?
Great Crews have a culture of excellence that share many characteristics. Here are some of the things we look for at NewRocket:
- Optimistic aspiration to greatness: Strong performers don’t wait and ride whatever waves come their way. They seek out excellence on their own.
- Shared vision: People and Crews align around the same vision and goals. This vision minimizes conflict and wasted effort while giving everyone a clear path toward success.
- The best ideas win: All too often, a company falls into office politics, which typically stifles strong ideas. It shouldn’t matter who makes the initial suggestion. The top ideas stand due to their merits, not who’s presenting them.
- Acceptance of mistakes: Baylor football coach Dave Aranda talks about self-mastery and how it helped his team go an entire game without a penalty. No one pointed fingers or made excuses; they had self-awareness, discipline, and support to master their craft along the way, which doesn’t come without risks or mistakes. Yet this is a prime example that we shouldn’t criticize those mistakes. Instead, use them as a learning opportunity. Doing so allows us to perfect our craft as a team by testing our character and mastering our sense of self.
- Inclusive and collaborative: A Crew must be welcoming and supportive of all new members and collaborators, regardless of their backgrounds. Clear, warm, and effective communication fosters inclusion and collaboration.
- A meaningful flow of work: Without the proper systems in place, most businesses will limit their potential. With a steady workflow, a Crew regularly delivers products, services, and other accomplishments that get the business closer to its goals.
Whether someone has been with the company for ten years or ten days, they should feel welcome and free to express ideas. By creating a culture of excellence, you’ll reach new heights across your business.
Teresa is a purpose-driven servant leader with over 20 years of experience transforming organizations, projects, and teams. Follow her on LinkedIn.