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Put People First and Success Follows with Kyle Lacy

Leaders are meant to serve. It’s not an ego trip. It’s how you serve your team.”

When Kyle Lacy, now CMO of Jellyfish, took on his first leadership role, it was all about him and his performance. But over time, he’s learned to check his ego at the door and focus on pouring into his people instead to achieve more success than he ever thought possible

In this episode, Kyle shares his insights on investing in team members’ career growth, managing stress, and understanding how to effectively lead and motivate people. Listen in for a deeper understanding of what servant leadership looks like and how to put it into practice.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Take the ego out of leadership and focus on serving your teams
  • Work to understand how your team members work best and what motivates them
  • Go big picture: to best support your people think about their careers, not just their daily tasks

Things to listen for:

  • [18:23] Kyle’s advice for his younger self
  • [05:30] Mentoring your team for their career growth
  • [12:04] Understanding the weight of leadership
  • [15:55] Navigating constant change without getting burnt out
  • [18:23] Kyle’s advice for his younger self
  • [19:07] Craig’s takeaways

Kyle’s Transcript:

[00:00:00] Craig P: The last thing I wanted as I was making my way out of the office was a big deal event. And then I got one and something hit me harder than ever in my career as to the impact that you can have on people.

Welcome to Executive Evolution. I’m Craig Anderson. I’m an accidental leader who found himself with a 20 plus year career in corporate America and ever-growing leadership roles, and I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, and I created this podcast so that you don’t have to.

[00:00:34] Craig P: I’m not one for celebrations. I’m not one to be the center of attention, although some people may disagree with that. But as we were in the last days after the business I was leading was sold, my assistant Terry, was good enough to pull together kind of a going away event for me and it was fine and we went through all the things and tears were shed.

[00:00:57] Craig P: But what came out of that [00:01:00] is over the years in that leadership role, running that business, we placed a real emphasis on our people, cuz we belizeve that was important. I believe that was important and. Sidebar, I’m a huge geek. Big comic book, fan comic books. Before they were cool, before there were movies being made and one member of the team actually made a painting of The Avengers and it says, not all heroes wear capes.

[00:01:24] Craig P: They brought me that painting at the event, and as I looked, everyone on the team had signed and left a message for me on that painting. And what I realize even looking at it today, is the impact that. I had on people’s lives in the leadership role and today’s guest, Kyle Lacy of Jellyfish talks a lot about what our role is as leaders in impacting the lives of those around us.

[00:01:50] Craig P: So if you really want some great insights on how leaders can make a difference in people’s lives, jump right into this interview with Kyle Lacey.

[00:01:59] Kyle Lacy: [00:02:00] Jellyfish, easy way to think about it is it’s, a sales force for engineering teams. So it’s, it’s using data to focus engineering efforts on highest priority initiatives so that, teams can actually measure their impact to the

[00:02:14] Kyle Lacy: business. So it helps CTOs align their exec teams on what the r and d team’s doing, and it also helps the engineering manager manage their team

[00:02:23] Kyle, are you ready to jump into the lightning round?

[00:02:39] Kyle Lacy: Yes.

[00:02:40] Craig P: All right, so question number one in the lightning round. What is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:46] Kyle Lacy: Do Better Work by Max Yoder. It’s a book that we produce at Lessonly. I still read it two, three times a

[00:02:52] Kyle Lacy: year. it’s the perfect guide to. how do you communicate appropriately? How do you lead with empathy and how do [00:03:00] you, basically manage, personal with professional life? I was very lucky that I was involved in that, project at Lessonly, but it is, it’s the one book out of all I’ve ever read that I go to. I go back regularly.

[00:03:12] Craig P: Just all those things, right? Communication, empathy, and then just balancing your life because it’s easy for all those to get off track when you’re so overwhelmed in that leadership role with things coming at you.

[00:03:23] Kyle Lacy: Absolutely. it’s a great leadership book cause a lot of this stuff can apply to your personal life as well.

[00:03:28] Craig P: No kidding. All right. We will add it to the book pile and to the book list. Okay. Question number two, who is your leadership crush?

[00:03:37] Craig P: there’s a guy named Joe Staples, who I met when he was CMO at Interactive Intelligence. He went on to be CMO of a portfolio company, OpenView, where I worked, he encompasses all the values that I want and strive for as a leader, which also is pretty much what Do Better Work talks about in Max’s book. He is somebody [00:04:00] that has lived a value set for his entire life and hasn’t changed that value set his entire life. And I have a lot of respect for people who have that strong of a foundation, So it’s interesting cuz sometimes we get the leadership crush and they’re kind of these external people that they don’t really know. They just read the books and followed everything.

[00:04:19] Craig P: Rarely is it somebody people know personally. So within that context, for someone like that is how was mentoring part of that?

[00:04:27] Craig P: Is that part of the value set that he had to help people kind of grow around him and how did that help you?

[00:04:31] Kyle Lacy: For me it was, his focus on values known him since 2010 And his value set hasn’t changed

[00:04:40] Kyle Lacy: and. I have a lot of respect for somebody thatknows what they want, knows how to work, and knows how to live. And, I have a lot of respect for people who have that type of foundation, both in their personal and professional

[00:04:53] Kyle Lacy: life.

[00:04:53] Kyle Lacy: but he would say it’s because of his Mormon faith Thatwhere a lot of that foundation came from. I just have a lot of respect for people that,[00:05:00] can live that

[00:05:00] Kyle Lacy: life in a way that’s meaningful.

[00:05:02] Craig P: When your values are really strong and solid, it becomes just kind of the guide rails for everything that you do. It makes decisions so much easier because there is a clarity around how you wanna live your life or run your business or whatever it is.

[00:05:13] Kyle Lacy: He’s always open to those conversations. I think that somebody that lives that openly with the way that they think is definitely

[00:05:21] Kyle Lacy: somebody to follow.

[00:05:22] Kyle Lacy: and he’s a great marketer,

[00:05:23] Kyle Lacy: which helps.

[00:05:24] Craig P: All right. Last question in the lightning round is In 10 words or less, how do you define leadership?

[00:05:30] Kyle Lacy: I think it’s mentorship. the teams that I lead, one of my, statements to them is, when you leave this company, you shouldn’t have to use your resume to get a job. Because we have, spent time and energy thinking about your career, not just what you’re doing on a daily basis.

[00:05:47] Kyle Lacy: And I think that’s leadership. How do you support your team? both from a career perspective as well as roadblocks that they’re experiencing in companies. And then making sure you can share that value set with people in a way that helps them think through,[00:06:00] how they’re performing or their own values as well.

[00:06:03] Craig P: I think it’s interesting how you bring that up though, right? Because for so long it seemed like if somebody left us, it was a panic attack. when your good people leave, you don’t look at it as a celebration that they were able to go on to something bigger.

[00:06:15] Craig P: You’re talking about it, looking at it from the them perspective, and this is a great celebration for them. And is it almost an honorific for you that they were able to grow under you strong enough to move into that next role?

[00:06:27] Kyle Lacy: Leaders are meant to serve. it’s not an ego trip. it’s do you serve your teams and a way you serve your team is making sure they’re thinking about their career.

[00:06:35] Kyle Lacy: Especially in high grow software where I’ve lived for a

[00:06:37] Kyle Lacy: while. I’m gonna work for four or five more CEOs in my lifetime, not in my career. The career paths are just a lot shorter. So it’s very, very, very important that the people that really matter,

[00:06:49] Kyle Lacy: you’re spending time mentoring them to where they move on to the next best thing. And the next best thing might be at the company you’re

[00:06:57] Kyle Lacy: currently at. But if it’s not, you should be [00:07:00] the one guiding them, not they’re leaving because they got a better

[00:07:02] Kyle Lacy: offer.

[00:07:03] Kyle Lacy: A big part of leadership from your perspective is, growing people. So they’re thinking not only about their job, but their next job and seeing what they’re

[00:07:10] Craig P: able to do.

[00:07:12] Kyle Lacy: Two words, growing people.

[00:07:13] Craig P: Growing people. all right. Lock and load. We’ve got it.You said you’ve had a couple different jobs and you expect to have several more, but let’s go back to that first leadership role. What was the first leadership role that you had?

[00:07:26] Kyle Lacy: I started an agency about two years outta college, and I had worked for a local agency called Roundpeg, which was run by Lorraine Ball. She took me under her wing, she was actually the one that encouraged me to start an agency. So

[00:07:39] Kyle Lacy: was my first leadership role because we hired people At the apex of the agency, we were six or seven people,

[00:07:47] Kyle Lacy: that was definitely first leadership role for sure.

[00:07:49] Craig P: So if you look at it, how did you do?

[00:07:52] Craig P: A lot of my self-worth was built in my career because that’s what I did. I thought about business and my career 24/7. [00:08:00] Early on outta college, you know, you’re single. You just graduated, tried to make a living. Like that’s what I was doing. the ego side of this was definitely primarily what drove me. And so the reason why I rate my performance so low is because I didn’t really care about anything or anyone other than

[00:08:18] Kyle Lacy: myself

[00:08:19] Kyle Lacy: You know, that’s not leadership.

[00:08:21] Kyle Lacy: What were the big lessons you took away from that as you moved into the future?

[00:08:25] Kyle Lacy: You got to bring people with you, number one. if you want to grow something, it can’t just be you. People have to believe in you, whether that’s your customers or it’s people you’re

[00:08:34] Kyle Lacy: hiring.

[00:08:35] Kyle Lacy: The second lesson is, I was really good at selling. We weren’t great on delivering what I was

[00:08:41] Kyle Lacy: selling.

[00:08:41] Craig P: The delivery portion of that’s really important as well, especially as a,

[00:08:44] Kyle Lacy: business owner.

[00:08:45] Craig P: That’s always the challenge, especially I think when you’re young and, if you’re running your own business like that, it’s good to be magnetic and get out there in the community and reach and pull all these people in, but at some point as a business, you’ve also gotta make sure you’ve got everything to deliver.

[00:08:59] Kyle Lacy: Someone [00:09:00] said to me once as a kind of early business starter, that only had 10 hours a week to deliver, cuz the rest of the time you were outselling.No, I was selling 40 hours a week. there was no 10 a lot of the time was spent selling and when we got something, I’d spent less time on the delivery of it.

[00:09:16] Kyle Lacy: Cause I was just going to sell the next

[00:09:17] Kyle Lacy: thing.

[00:09:17] Craig P: And then did you have the team behind you delivering?

[00:09:20] Kyle Lacy: I think a lot of it, we didn’t know what we were doing. Right. I mean, that was, that was part of it. But for me it was, I cared more about the getting the sale than delivering on what we

[00:09:29] Kyle Lacy: were selling

[00:09:29] Kyle Lacy: I did a lot of presenting and speaking and training as part of this agency, and I enjoyed that more.

[00:09:36] Craig P: Yeah. So then as you think about that, what did you learn about yourself through that then that you know, cuz clearly there were parts of that role you really enjoyed. You went into it thinking, I wanna own an agency, and what did you come out of it saying, this is what I’m really good at.

[00:09:49] Kyle Lacy: What I learned from it was, I was good at inspiring people and bringing people along, but then I realized that you have to invest in these people [00:10:00] both emotionally as well as financially, and you’ve got to really drive, the initial, “Come with me because we’re excited about what we’re doing.”

[00:10:08] Kyle Lacy: Only lasts so long.

[00:10:09] Kyle Lacy: And those people, if you’re not investing in them, when you have difficult times in the business, people don’t

[00:10:16] Kyle Lacy: stay, right?

[00:10:17] Kyle Lacy: You know, for me it was, hey, you don’t have a team to make sure Kyle has speaking engagements.

[00:10:22] Kyle Lacy: You have a team that’s delivering value to customers. We just realized it too late, and so I tried to bring that as much as I could to exact target, which was my next

[00:10:31] Kyle Lacy: role.

[00:10:31] Craig P: Fast forward into today, CMO at Jellyfish. . Talk to me about some of those lessons learned, how is that impacting you in this most current leadership role?

[00:10:42] Kyle Lacy: I always try to check myself on, the ego side

[00:10:45] Kyle Lacy: of this. I’ve gotten a lot better and I think that it’s, you know, just getting older but also working with people that I have of learned by watching the way they interact. I am definitely more servant leadership [00:11:00] oriented than I was ever in

[00:11:01] Kyle Lacy: the past. I learned that mostly at Lessonly and at Seismic and even at Jellyfish, right? I think that you evolve as a leader. You are there to hire great people and make sure those great people have the resources they need to do their job.

[00:11:16] Kyle Lacy: That’s what you’re there for. Especially in the role that I’m in as a CMO, there’s a lot of strategy, but it’s really removing roadblocks and making sure people are

[00:11:24] Kyle Lacy: inspired and, I didn’t realize that until Lessonly

[00:11:27] Kyle Lacy: to where I was in a true exec role at a company that was

[00:11:31] Kyle Lacy: growing.

[00:11:32] Craig P: Yeah. So much of leadership is not about you. You kind of go from that, “My value is what I produce” to my values, the decisions I make, the way I’m driving people,

[00:11:43] Craig P: the things I’m doing to let them succeed. And that’s a hard pivot I think, for a lot of people moving into those leadership roles because we have a tendency to say, you’re a successful individual contributor, therefore you will be a good leader.

[00:11:55] Craig P: and that is not necessarily the pivot.

[00:11:57] Craig P: How do you help if you think like people under you [00:12:00] who are moving into their first leadership roles, what, how do you help them kind of figure those things out?

[00:12:04] Kyle Lacy: I frame it in terms of time

[00:12:06] Kyle Lacy: spent I think there’s the work and then there’s the thinking, the strategic elements of

[00:12:13] Kyle Lacy: this.

[00:12:13] Kyle Lacy: And if an individual contributor comes to me and says, “Hey, I want to be a manager,” “Hey, I eventually want to be a VP or a CMO”, we have long conversations about what that means cuz some people love the work that they do.

[00:12:27] Kyle Lacy: They love the grind, they love doing paid search or they love doing organic search, or they’re a great writer and they don’t want to be sitting in 14 meetings a day putting on a bunch of fires, trying to manage budgets, as well as trying to manage a CEO and a

[00:12:45] Kyle Lacy: board And when my team comes to me and says, I, want this, that’s the conversations we have.

[00:12:51] Kyle Lacy: Like I walk them, this is what this

[00:12:53] Kyle Lacy: means. I happen to enjoy all of that, which I think makes me good at my job. and I never really [00:13:00] enjoyed the grind of doing, doing,

[00:13:01] Kyle Lacy: doing right? You have to do that in order to lead teams. and I’ve had some conversations with people where they’re like, oh yeah, that’s not, really what I, what I want.

[00:13:10] Kyle Lacy: Because the only reason they wanted to lead the team or it’s one of the main reasons because they wanted that recognition they thought that that’s the only way to transition in a career is to take on ownership of people and managing and, sitting in an exec

[00:13:25] Kyle Lacy: team. And

[00:13:26] Kyle Lacy: I think a lot of times when people burn out quickly is because they didn’t take the time to think through that, or they didn’t have a mentor that told them that.

[00:13:34] Kyle Lacy: So as a leader, how do you look at it and say, all right, how do I keep those people motivated and make them feel like they’re progressing while they’re still kind of doing the same thing?

[00:13:42] Kyle Lacy: I am a huge proponent of personality profiling it is important to understand how people work and how people are motivated and have those conversations with people because somebody might just want a shout out. Somebody might care a ton about title. They might care about the

[00:13:58] Kyle Lacy: industry that

[00:13:59] Kyle Lacy: right? But[00:14:00] from a manager perspective, they don’t take time to understand how people work and how people are motivated because

[00:14:05] Kyle Lacy: doesn’t define people totally, but it is so helpful to try to understand how people work in order to lead

[00:14:12] Kyle Lacy: them. And you need a mixture of everybody, right? So, that’s definitely something I rely a lot on is how do I make sure I’m motivating people based off of, how they want to be motivated, both subconsciously and consciously.

[00:14:26] Kyle Lacy: You know, when I do my leadership training program, the first three sessions are figuring out who you are. Because if you know who you are and you have that self-awareness and you know what makes you going and what slows you down and what tick you off and what makes you happy and where your mindset is, it’s gonna make you such a better leader if you’re self-aware of what’s driving you.

[00:14:45] Craig P: You know, we talked about Joe Staples. That’s what makes him so good at what he does is that he understands himself personally and it applies to how he leads. I sure as hell did not understand myself at 25 years old. And it showed [00:15:00] because it was a mess,

[00:15:02] Kyle Lacy: because I was a mess, right? And you mature and you learn and you still figure out. And there’s transition and there’s pivots and all this stuff, but I think it’s just as important to try to understand yourself, be able to lead

[00:15:14] Kyle Lacy: people.

[00:15:15] Craig P:

[00:15:15] Kyle Lacy: personally and professionally, cuz there’s so much

[00:15:17] Kyle Lacy: overlap.

[00:15:18] Craig P: I think if you can lead in business, you can probably lead in life pretty well,

[00:15:21] Craig P: but you, you’ve gotta have those core skills. Right. and I think something you said too, right, is you can be a leader without having a title.

[00:15:28] Craig P: If you think about like fixed mindset and growth mindset, right? The fixed mindset is, well, I don’t have the title, so I don’t have the responsibility to lead. Growth mindset is whatever my title is. I can lead in certain areas where my strengths are and I can bring value

[00:15:39] Craig P: and difference, right?

[00:15:40] Kyle Lacy: Absolutely.

[00:15:41] Craig P: Kyle, a lot of what you’ve done is kind of these, I’m, I’m not good at this, but early growth stage companies, companies that are kind of growing fast software development. What’s unique to leadership in that setting from your perspective?

[00:15:55] Kyle Lacy: the learning curve.

[00:15:56] Kyle Lacy: venture backed software, they’re raising massive amounts of money.[00:16:00] And you’re dealing with a speed of change that’s unlike any other industry.

[00:16:05] Kyle Lacy: the leadership’s differ because you have to pivot and change constantly. You are learning constantly, and that’s why you see people burn out. So quickly where you look at somebody’s resume and they had six months, a year and a half a year, nine months at jobs because things change so dramatically all the time.

[00:16:28] Kyle Lacy: Cuz you’re adding, if you’re doing it right, you’re adding millions of dollars in revenue month or quarter.

[00:16:34] Kyle Lacy: that’s what makes the job so difficult. It’s also why I

[00:16:37] Kyle Lacy: love it, it’s very hard to, be reactive in those type of environments, and I think proactivity in careers just makes things more enjoyable in general.

[00:16:47] Craig P: Yeah. So with that rapidity of change and things moving so quickly as a leader, you know, some of the things I, I talk about here at the end of every podcast, this idea of leadership, competence, confidence, and calm.

[00:16:59] Kyle Lacy:

[00:16:59] Craig P: With that [00:17:00] kind of speed, where do you find the calm?

[00:17:03] Kyle Lacy: It takes a lot for me to be like massively stressed out. I’m pretty laid back, mainly just because I’ve been dealing with this for the past 15 years of my career. other thing is just making sure thatmy mindset’s

[00:17:16] Kyle Lacy: right. I’m a huge fan of Dale Carnegie, his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, where you de-risk your mindset by thinking of the worst thing that could possibly happen. I do that all the time,

[00:17:29] Kyle Lacy: it helps me stay calm because I know what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to this one decision?

[00:17:35] Kyle Lacy: So it’s partly my personality type, which is I power through everything,But it’s also the worst thing you can possibly do is stop

[00:17:43] Kyle Lacy: moving. You’re gonna fail all the time daily, but you cannot

[00:17:48] Kyle Lacy: stop moving.

[00:17:48] Kyle Lacy: It’s the most important

[00:17:49] Kyle Lacy: thing.

[00:17:50] Craig P: I love that idea. And I’ve not read that book, but just driving that perspective by saying, all right, well this is absolutely the worst thing. you know, there’s a part of it over time too that you said I think is interesting and maybe [00:18:00] hard for newer leaders is you also have the perspective, right?

[00:18:03] Craig P: You, you can say, all right, I’ve seen this before. I kind of know how it’s gonna shake out. But if it’s the first time you see it, it can be overwhelming.

[00:18:10] Kyle Lacy: There’s a lot of value in just making sure you understand the risk and the decisions you’re making, and if you’re okay with the risk, just move forward. Some people just get so terrified, there’s so much fear that they don’t make

[00:18:25] Kyle Lacy: decisions.

[00:18:26] Kyle Lacy: and that’s when you are not a leader.

[00:18:30] Kyle Lacy: I think great leaders make choices. They make decisions.

[00:18:33] Kyle Lacy: So Kyle, put yourself in a time machine and go back to that Kyle running that agency. What is the one piece of advice you would give him that would help him the most?

[00:18:45] Kyle Lacy: put people first,

[00:18:46] Kyle Lacy: and that

[00:18:47] Kyle Lacy: that pertains to personal and professional life. Just put people first.

[00:18:50] Kyle Lacy: The only thing that makes you relevant as an individual is the experiences that the other people are having

[00:18:55] Kyle Lacy: with you. So put ’em first and move forward.

[00:18:58] Craig P: Excellent. All right. Well, Kyle, [00:19:00] thank you so much for being on. If people want to find you, what are the best places for them to find you?

[00:19:05] Kyle Lacy: Twitter,

[00:19:06] Kyle Lacy: LinkedIn, search my name.

[00:19:07] Craig P: Kyle, thank you so much for being on Executive Evolution and I know that this advice is gonna help our listeners quite a bit. So thanks so much.

[00:19:14] Kyle Lacy: Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate it.

[00:19:16] Craig P: I really appreciated Kyle’s perspective on so many issues from mentoring to developing your team to how to kind of build perspective in your career, especially in the fast-paced world that he finds himself. But I always like to leave you with my thoughts on the three leadership areas of confidence, competence, and calm that I pulled from our interview.

[00:19:39] Craig P: And when I think about leadership confidence, I pulled a lot from Kyle. Run that competence comes from. Not being all about your ego. When he talked about how ego-driven things were in the decision making was in that those early leadership role, that he had and how he grew out of that and really started to pivot his competence around realizing that he gained [00:20:00] confidence by building the people around him.

[00:20:02] Craig P: And I think that’s an important lesson for everyone to take away in their leadership. In the area of confidence, what I really took away is all the investment he’s made in reading books to develop his own leadership skills, and we even talked about that there’s very little leadership training that people are provided, so seeking that out for yourself.

[00:20:20] Craig P: Podcast, books and some of them are the great old books. and there’s also new books as leadership has evolved. But really investing yourself in yourself, not waiting for someone else to bring leadership training to you is how you start to develop that leadership confidence. And probably the favorite takeaway for me today was in that area of calm Where he talked about that Dale Carnegie book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Where You Imagine for yourself what is the worst possible outcome of this decision that I’m about to make. and if you can live with that worst possible outcome, you go forward and make that decision because leadership [00:21:00] is about making important decisions.

[00:21:02] Craig P: So what a great perspective on how to stay calm. So thanks for listening to Executive Evolution. If you would like to develop your own leadership skills and strengths, I would love to have you join a seminar that I put on every month on key leadership skills, and you can find more information about that at

[00:21:23] Craig P: And remember, you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader. All it takes is building your leadership. Confidence, confidence and calm.