As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Laloup CEO of Mobile Growth Association. Jen has over 15 years of experience developing content, running operations and organizational management for mission-driven organizations. She is passionate about creating positive work environments, developing others and delivering results.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Before I began at Mobile Growth Association, I worked for a non-profit online academic publisher. It was a dynamic, fast-growing company at the time and because there was so much change it offered me many opportunities to learn and grow professionally. There I spent several years scaling operations and managing teams at PLOS ONE, which became the world’s largest online academic journal.
I was also able to build off of my journalism background and launched their media team. In 2016, I met the founder of Mobile Growth Summit who was looking to expand into content. I decided to come on board and apply my previous experience to build out an ecosystem dedicated to supporting mobile app marketers. Last year, when it was decided we were going to transition into an Association, he felt I would be a better fit to lead the company as CEO and so I transitioned into that role in June of 2019.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I bet everyone you ask this question of lately says the COVID-19 pandemic but it’s especially true for us at MGA. I had just finished with the transition of Mobile Growth Summit into Mobile Growth Association when we began to hear about COVID-19. Fortunately, we finished our flagship MGS 20 event right before “Shelter In Place” took effect, but I was suddenly in a very different world. I had to step back for a moment and process what was happening and what it meant for us. There were many decisions to be made as to how we should move forward. What were we going to do with the remaining events? Do we pivot to virtual? For how long? It was a very challenging time. Fortunately, I have an amazing team who were extremely adaptable and able to jump into this new challenge, determined to be successful.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on many interesting projects. Currently, we are in the thick of planning MGS GVC 2.0 which is a multi-day, multi-geo, virtual event featuring speakers from North America, LATAM, and Europe discussing a variety of topics like professional development, marketing strategies and tools and tactics needed for a mobile marketer to be successful. We are also looking forward to starting our Deep Dives, which is a series of one-day events that focus on a particular topic. Our first Deep Dive event is coming up, and focuses on IDFA and the upcoming iOS 14 release. We also continue to work on our MGA community, and Mobile Growth University. Our mission is to provide quality content and up-to-date information to support mobile marketers in their careers and to help them grow their businesses.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
Uncertainty, fear of job loss, long hours, lack of appreciation, and lack of professional growth are some of the reasons why people can be so unhappy in their careers. Especially now, in this post-pandemic world companies are laying off, furloughing, and/or cutting back while still needing to produce the same output. This type of environment causes a lot of uncertainty, which can cause people to hold off on making the changes they may be hoping to make.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
It’s crucial to maintain a positive workplace, because unhappiness in your company has an adverse effect on staff, productivity and profitability. Companies are only as good as the people that work for them. You cannot have a successful company if your staff is miserable. An unhappy workplace has been shown to decrease productivity up to 30%. It has also been linked to an increase in turnover.
I remember having to consistently hire for an entry level position. When I looked at why we were losing people quickly, I realized it was because we were hiring bright talented and ambitious people out of college who were looking to advance in their careers. Though the work had to get done, we changed the role so that people would have a clear progression. We also implemented a “Sifu” onboarding program where we onboarded new hires in cohorts and provide the more experienced staff with an opportunity to mentor and train the new staff. Through these changes we were able to decrease our turnover rate and increase our productivity. This experience allowed me to see that by supporting your staff’s professional growth and wellbeing we were able to create a more engaged, collaborative, and productive workplace.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
Here are five things I’ve learned that have helped me create a positive work culture.
Listen. Encourage your team to contribute to the conversation and listen to what they say. Leaders and managers should look to understand what their team is telling them. This means listening to verbal and non-verbal communication. Tactics that have worked for me have been to pose open-ended questions; but also to make sure to absorb what people are saying and demonstrating that you’ve heard them. You could say, “What I’m hearing is…” or repeat what you think you heard and confirm you are understanding it correctly.
Communicate. Open, fair, and transparent communication is a great way to develop trust and allow for people to feel comfortable to engage. No one person is perfect or has all the answers, and leaving the doors open for people to communicate with you or each other helps keep the workplace positive.
Be adaptable. Things change. Organizations have to adapt to the marketplace, but that also means your team may have to adapt. You may have to adjust your management style, to help your team adapt too. Whenever you implement a new process or policy be willing to make changes and adjust based on team feedback.
Support growth. No one wants to stay static in their career. If a team member comes to you with a request to help them grow in their role, support them. This could mean finding tasks within their current role to help them take the next step. It could mean suggesting a new role within the company that may help them achieve their career goals. It could mean sending someone to that conference or provide them an opportunity to go back to school. It may also mean having the honest conversation that what they are looking for, you can’t provide. In that case, supporting them could mean providing a reference or giving them advice.
Do not tolerate toxic behavior. Nip it in the bud. Find out what the issue is quickly and address it. One toxic person can ruin a perfectly good team. I’ve found one way to help mitigate toxic behavior is to spend the time to hire the right people.
These things are simple but can be very effective if done consistently. Whether you are in an office or working with a remote team, listening, supporting , promoting growth, and taking a stand against negativity will go a long way in improving your work culture.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
Broad change starts at an individual level. Executives set the tone for their organization, and their staff looks to them to model the values of the company. One way to change the culture of the workplace is to start with yourself and your organization first. Leaders can lead by example and abide by (and uphold) the values they want their teams to exhibit.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I tend to be people-centric when it comes to management, and I would describe my style of management as servant leadership. I focus on helping my team use their strengths and interests to be successful. Professional growth and development is also really important to me. During my interview process I always ask people what their five-year plan is, so I have an idea of how they can benefit from their role as well as us benefit from their strengths. I also try to hire for the long term. So I am looking at this person not just as who they are now, but who they want to become. I also find great joy when they are successful while realizing their professional growth goals. Results are also important though, and I’ve found that when people are doing something they enjoy or have purpose, the results of those efforts can be quite impressive.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been lucky to have had many people support me and help me get to where I am today. I’m grateful to my previous managers who offered advice and gave me the space to try new ideas. I’m grateful to my family who have always stood behind me. And I’m grateful for the staff I’ve worked with (past and present) who I have learned from, and continue to learn from every day.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Helping people achieve their professional career goals and then watching them go on to great things has been extremely rewarding personally. But then hearing how they’ve helped others based off of how you helped them is priceless.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Something I heard a long time ago, while I was in high school, and I think it was said to get me to study, but it has stuck with me till this very day was, “They can take your money, and your things, but they can’t take what you know.” This advice has always stuck with me and has encouraged me to keep learning. Knowing that you can always rebuild based off of what you know brings a lot of confidence. Especially, in times of uncertainty.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
If I could inspire a movement, it would be for companies to look at their roles from a professional growth perspective. How can your role help someone achieve their goals so that both company and employee can be successful.