Why You Must Be Brave Enough Not to Live in Last Year's World
In this series, Open Every Door, Entrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.
When you join a team, you get on board with the faith that you’ll be able to make an impact and take your company to great heights.
Liza Landsman was a member of Jet.com’s executive team from the beginning. And when Walmart bought the company in 2016 after just a year in business for a whopping $3 billion, as president of the company, Landsman followed that opportunity, becoming one of the highest ranking female leaders within the Walmart corporation.
Before joining the team at Jet, Landsman held leadership roles at financial institutions such as BlackRock and Citigroup developing strategies to bolster those organizations digital tools to help customers manage and make sense of where there money was going.
And prior to becoming president, Landsman was Jet.com’s chief customer officer, a role that allowed her to focus on marketing and advertising, and utilizing data to make consumers want to return to the site again and again.
Since 2012, she has been on the board of directors for the GO! Project, a New York City-based nonprofit that works to bring educational opportunities for kids in need, and she also serves on Choice Hotels’ board of directors.
Landsman shared her insights about how to ask for what you want and how to build teams that last.Related: These Are the 5 Questions All Entrepreneurs Should Ask Themselves If They Want to Create Real Change
Can you talk about a moment in your career that you had to advocate for yourself? How did you approach it?
It was the first moment in my career where I decided to ask for the job that I wanted rather than receive a job that had been offered to me. It was when I was working at Citigroup, I'd been running kind of a terrestrial channel -- phones and statements -- but I had a very deep digital background. And the guy who was my peer who had been running the internet and digital pieces [of the company] left to join another bank. My boss at the time asked me if I wanted to take that job. I thought about it, and [rather than siloing digital and physicals channels] it made more sense to pull these channels together into one organization.
So I pitched my boss on doing that, and my argument was this is the right structure. I think I'm the right person, but if I'm not, should you find the right person, I'll work for them. Let's not make the mistake continuing to live in last year's world. It was a great experience because they did think I was the right person to run it and I got to reshape the structure of that whole business in addition to getting to take on a much broader and more complex role myself.
What was a mistake you made and how did you move forward from it?
There was a person working for me who was really talented on the subject matter but who was kind of an organizational blocker and a my-way-or-the-highway type of person. I was young enough in my career as a people manager that I really thought that with enough time invested in their development and talking about these issues, I could create some change.
I finally realized that was not the case, and we needed to move the person out of the organization. It lifted the productivity of everybody around them. Almost all of the real mistakes I have made as a hiring manager are about not moving the wrong people out of the way soon enough. The blows to productivity and morale can have lots of ripple effects. You have to be decisive about moving those people out.
How have you grown and changed as a leader throughout your career?
Early in my career as I thought about creating teams, I thought a lot about the importance of having -- and this is my one and only sports metaphor, so somewhere my husband is smiling -- about the necessity of having a utility infielder. If you work in a dynamic industry and company, having people who can play many different roles and shift agilely over time reduces a lot of stress on the organization. I still believe that to be true. And I think that as I have evolved as a leader and executive, I've realized that you need an ensemble cast. Someone with deep subject matter expertise is equally important to accelerated growth and sustainable growth as having great general athletes.
I've also become more empathetic. I think this is a common failing of type A personalities is earlier in our careers we tend to view everything through the lens of "that's how I would have done it." But as you mature, you realize, the way I would have done it is not necessarily the best way to do anything. Giving people the space to do that and also understanding their motivations and experience that have shaped them really does drive better, more highly performing teams.Related: This Founder Explains Why Success Isn't the Biggest Valuation or Fastest Growth; It's the People You Help
Over time, how has your view of success and failure changed?
About 10 years ago, I came to realize that I do not not derive my self-worth from work. Obviously when you work in quantitative businesses, you have committed to your shareholders. Those results are really important. But I think for me, now I'm doing it more through a lens of I'm trying to leave every place or person a little bit better than before.
Is there a piece of advice a mentor gave you that you still take to heart today?
My mom gave me this great advice: You can get anything done in this world you want as long as you don't care who gets the credit. But the other thing, and this is sort of conventional wisdom -- if you are always doing what is right for the consumer and you have a long enough window of time that you're looking at the business, you're going to be doing the right thing for the business. It's a cliché and certainly easier said than done, but it's actually a really important decision-making criteria that I use every day.