Lessons for up-and-coming leaders in fast-paced environment

There are a few definite takeaways to share with leaders and young professionals in today’s rapidly changing workplace environment, especially if engaged with a startup enterprise.

The company I’ve been involved with the past three years, behavioral health providers evolvedMD of Scottsdale, Ariz., faced several headwinds as it grew into a mature company, including the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in an industry that encourages in-person interaction, public health policy changes of a new governor and U.S. President, two capital raises, growing our employee base nearly 10-fold, and moving to three different offices as the company exploded in size. 

The lessons for leaders that stand out:

The Power of Relationships
No matter the opportunity or challenge, relationships are the driver and solution. From growing and scaling a team, to adding blue-chip logos to our portfolio, to raising $20 million in venture capital, it has been clearer than ever that cultivating a network is the key to success. Strong relationships are the best validator, they’re how credibility is built and to truly take an enterprise to the next level, you must work with and through people.

Spend time developing, understanding, and leveraging the ecosystem around you because I guarantee you your next game changing opportunity will come from someone you know (or who knows someone).

Focus is Key, But Flexibility is Required
Creating our company’s first strategic plan was a fun feather in my cap but I quickly realized that while I am quite adept at keeping the team and company aligned with our strategic pillars and focused on the goal, that approach can and will always change for leaders. If you are in an ever-changing and continuously growing industry, you will be frustrated if you think your strategy can be static. Learning to be flexible has kept me sane and understanding that things will change, approaches will pivot, but focusing on the bottom line can always be your north star.

You are going to have a plan but that plan will quickly go awry and that’s ok. Root yourself in a north star and always understand the ultimate goal and be prepared to pivot accordingly. Leaders should always be in strategic motion (I’m trademarking that).

You Must Keep Learning and Growing
More so than ever before, I have made it a requirement of myself to continuously learn. You can probably tell from my LinkedIn that I spend a lot of time reading, reviewing, and reflecting on pieces from HBR, MIT Sloan, Inc, and Fast Company to better understand strategy, culture, leadership, management and best practices in rapidly scaling companies. I have also surrounded myself with a strong personal board of directors, an amazing executive coach (shoutout to David Gerber), a wonderful therapist, and great friends that teach me daily and help me grow, develop, and elevate. I also look at a bunch of fun memes and videos on Instagram that are actually quite insightful. There’s wisdom all around you. Make sure you’re taking it all in.

No matter where you are in your career, what you’ve done, or your pedigree – there is always room to learn more. True leaders embrace it.

Connection + Collaboration
A value of evolvedMD, I truly believe in connection and collaboration. To build a cohesive and high performing team, you have to foster connection and collaboration, that is, people have to genuinely like and care for each other (connection) and not only want to but be equipped to support their teammates (collaboration). My role is inherently overarching, and I get intimate insight into every department in our company and from that I’ve been able to facilitate cross functional conversations and drive connection among teams. I believe that’s our secret sauce: building camaraderie coupled with competency. I sort of realized this before in previous gigs but there is so much research behind having a “work bestie” (thank you Kim Ho for being mine) and I’ve learned that you can go further, faster, together.

For your overall work satisfaction and to help you in your role, it’s imperative that you connect with your colleagues and work closely with them to solve problems.

Work is Hard
Doing intentionally impactful work, working with purpose, is perhaps thoughtfully hard. There’s no shortcut to helping a population receive transformational services and there really shouldn’t be. I want everyone who is committed to social impact to understand what I knew growing up in the sector but was cemented in this role to know: this ain’t easy and you are privileged to be part of the solution.

To be clear – I am not and would never advocate for working until burnout (in fact I think as an executive I have one of the more balanced schedules of anyone I know) but while we have made intentional strides for boundaries, balance and self-care, the inherent truth of work remains: you will have some late nights, you will be frustrated, you will be overwhelmed, you will turn to your significant other and say “I’m not doing this anymore.” And then you will realize that no matter what you do, what company you work for, how they appreciate you, what role you have, who your coworkers are: you will always have those moments. I’ve been lucky, fortunate, to help lead an absolutely amazing company with a great mission, some of the best colleagues I’ve ever had, and a renowned culture and even with the amazing ethos, work can sometimes still be hard. That’s okay because it’s supposed to be.

We should normalize that work is hard sometimes. Some workplace cultures can make it easier, and some teams can make it fun, but at the end of the day, work is work. Leaders realize this. When I realized that my company is not supposed to solve every one of my problems, I truly embraced the importance of balance.

Keep these suggestions in mind as you climb the ladder in a rapidly changing employment landscape. Onward!

Best known as an award-winning company culture whisperer and strategy guru, Sentari Minor has spent more than a decade cultivating new businesses, building brands and moving people and ideas at several category-leading enterprises and nonprofits in the Southwest. He received 40 Under 40 recognition in 2022 from the Phoenix Business Journal and is currently Vice President of Strategy and Chief of Staff at evolvedMD in Scottsdale, an Inc. 5000 firm. SentariMMinor.com.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

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