Management and Leadership Lessons with David Niu and Brenda Williams

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives. TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are David Niu, Founder of TINYhr and Brenda Williams, Communication Coach and Founder of Your Coaching Solution. To hear the entire show, click here.

Both guests are walking testaments to the value of paying attention to your employees – whether measuring and improving employee satisfaction or using coaching to drive awareness for behaviors that lend themselves to strong management and leadership.

David Niu leadership

David Niu is an entrepreneur and an angel investor based out of Seattle. He dropped out of business school to start his first company NetConversions — eventually sold to a local company that is today owned by Microsoft. His entrepreneurial journey took another twist when his co-founder and he started another venture together – Buddy TV. In 2012, Niu then broke out on his own and founded TINYhr.

Just how did TINYhr come about? Toward the end of his career at Buddy TV, he decided to take a career vacation, or as he calls it – a ‘careercation.’ His wife and he sold off everything they owned and bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand to travel for six months along with their daughter who was just a few months old. He set out two goals for this adventure: first, to create great family memories, and second, to interview entrepreneurs and CEOs wherever he went to learn about their best practices for leadership, culture and managing people. “The hardest part for a company is when it comes to people. If I can’t compete for talent, then I am never going to be able to win against my competitors. So I decided to go and find out from actual practitioners about the lessons they learned in the trenches versus reading from a book,” explains Niu. He put together his learnings from interviewing 35 CEOs along with his experiences from the family trip into a book called Careercation.

Don’t Raise Money, Make Money

Niu learned his first entrepreneurial lesson during the dot-com crash when he was with NetConversions. The company was running out of money and their first reaction was to raise more money. Instead of focusing on their customers and increasing revenue they were running after raising more money. The lesson he learned? “You got to delight customers and generate sales so that they’ll pay you, which is…the life blood of any company.”

Getting a True Pulse

While interviewing CEOs worldwide, Niu asked them about how they measured their company’s culture. Most people said they did employee surveys. These surveys are pretty long and at the end of it all, you get three high level insights which are pretty dated in most cases by the time they are shared with the employees. This is where TINYpulse, TINYhr’s  first solution is changing the way companies get insights on their people and culture. TINYpulse gives one tiny question to employees on an ongoing basis either weekly or monthly basis. It makes it easy for the employee to answer and for the manager to analyze. The answers are anonymous so that the process can be honest. The idea is to share the feedback with the employees and open it up for discussion.

Happiness Trend

The happiness trends which are measured from directly asking employees to rate how happy they are on a scale of one to ten establish a benchmark at the beginning. The idea is to aim to achieve better results over a period of time. Niu asks his clients to be open to the feedback that comes out of the exercise and use it for positive change. It typically takes six to twelve months to see ongoing sustainable changes.

Niu uses the happiness trend for his own employees too. His company had a tough patch three months back when the happiness score was very low. He has made it a personal goal to make sure that the happiness score improves. “High camaraderie, high morale, high recognition.. are all very important,” advises Niu.

Equal Parts Motivation & Training

Quoting Andy Grove, Niu says that there are only two ways to increase output from your team; one is motivation and the other is training. He feels he has done a good job on motivating his people but needs to make more investment in training. He encourages his leadership to take up courses and keep learning new things. He often organizes brown bag lunches where he invites experts to share their stories. He also encourages his team to attend meet ups to seek opportunities and be very self-directed. He admits that he needs to provide more training so that they can collectively increase their output as a team.

What are You Reading?

Niu is currently reading The Challenger Sale,” a very interesting read since sales is always considered a dirty word in the MBA world. But from his experiences he feels like it is the number one competency that should be taught in the MBA program but is not.

How Can People Connect With You?

Follow David on Twitter at @davidniu or find him on LinkedIn.

Brenda Williams leadership

CEO of Your Coaching Solution, Brenda Williams is a leadership communication coach and a professional speaker. After spending years in the corporate world providing IT consulting services and working with HR managers and C-level executives, she took a step back and reflected on what really was her purpose in life. She realized that she loved to inspire and motivate people and a big portion of that was communication – something she had already been doing for years.

Williams feels that coaching has become much more prevalent these days. “Certain skills aren’t really taught in school. They are a part of becoming a leader and being successful,” she explains. She believes that everybody from a top executive to a junior-level worker has strengths and gaps. If we look at them closely, “we can make a choice as to who we want to become and where we need to focus next to reach for our greatness.” Williams helps people gain clarity, get focused and remove obstacles that are in their way of success. She helps them create awareness so that they may see things differently.

Ah-Ha Moments

Williams has practiced what she preaches and that has transformed her world. She says it’s important to look at the mirror and really see the good, bad and the ugly. There are things in our personality that we don’t necessarily love. As a coach she helps people identify these things and get rid of them. “I get a high by helping people create that awareness and have that ah-ha moment and find the skills, the tools, the resources to create that communication pathway to having the life they want,” explains Williams, echoing her passion for her job.

Embracing it All

Williams believes there are two types of people. Some look closely at themselves and accept who they are while focusing on changing a few things in their personality, their communication style or maybe their skills. They embrace the reality and look forward to changing what they don’t like. Then there are others who judge themselves and find it difficult to embrace the truth. Williams stresses that people who are able to master her coaching are the ones who are willing to embrace everything that comes their way. These people transform their lives, become happier, release stress and embark on a journey of self-discovery. They are able to have a “complete and fulfilling life.”

Striking Balance

Williams draws an interesting comparison between the traditionalists, baby boomers, the millennials and Gen X’ers. She explains that the traditionalists and baby boomers tend to be workaholics and they give everything to their career. On the other hand, the Gen X’ers and millennials take the opposite direction. Their personal life is their top priority. She believes the key to happiness is to find a balance between these two extremes.  During her coaching, Williams creates a wheel of life, a leadership wheel, a communication wheel and so on. She makes her participants take a look at the pieces of the pie in the wheel and what facets they need to focus on to have a balanced life.

Energy Leadership

Energy Leadership is a program Williams offers to help people shift their thinking. It teaches leaders how to be better at leadership, communication, self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Leaders are often extremely busy and they are running from meeting to meetings. Sometimes they forget to pay attention to how they are showing up for the meetings – whether they are the ones who excite and engage everybody or are they the ones that people dread to meet. Williams helps them create awareness to mold better leaders. She encourages them to be more aware and to spread enthusiasm throughout the organization.

What Are You Reading?

Williams is currently re-reading Energy Leadership as says she loves reading about the little nuances that help people grow. Another book she enjoys is The Mindset by Carol Dweck.

How Can People Connect With You?

Visit her website, or contact her on LinkedIn.

Remember, do what you love….and show the world how talented you can be, today.