Saqi Mehta knows a thing or two about leadership. The career coach-turned recruiter leads the university recruiting team at Square, where she oversees a team with whom she travels across the county to help find the next generation of talent. Having worked at Square for five years, she’s seen the company grow from 300 employees to 2,000, and she’s had the chance to build her team from scratch.
The nature of Mehta’s work has allowed her to hone her skills as a leader — and she credits Square with giving her the space and tools to do so. She recently spoke to Fairygodboss about why Square’s been such a wonderful place for her to grow as a leader; among many perks, the company offers some pretty incredible training programs that help managers focus on their team members’ individual strengths and motivations.
A Square team collaborates in the San Francisco office.
Mehta’s the kind of leader who likes to pay it forward — so it’s no surprise that she so readily shared with us her top tips for all the lady bosses out there:
1. Unify your team by understanding each individual.
When Mehta was building her team a couple of years ago, she said she wanted to unify them in mission and values — but she realized the only way to do that was to make sure she understood each team member as an individual. “I think it’s important to know what drives people; what I value can be different from what someone else values,” Mehta explains.
“It’s important to listen to what motivates people and to understand why we do the work that we do.” While the purpose of your work may seem obvious on a superficial level, Mehta suggests drilling down the why and the motivation behind team members’ efforts so that everyone can collaborate and align.
There are all kinds of management styles in the workplace — but you have to realize that your style of leading might not jive particularly well with what everyone on your team needs. “I’m a pretty hands-off manager,” Mehta says. “I tell my team, ‘I’m here to remove obstacles out of your way, but I don’t want to be a micromanager. If you’re hired to do a job, you’re trusted to do it.’”
But she adds that she’s realized that one-size-fits-all management doesn’t work for everyone. “Some people want you to go through every single thing they’re working on; some keep a document; some just want conversations. You have to listen to what people on your team want and adjust your style accordingly.”
3. Set goals, and check in regularly to track progress.
Set goals with your team and individual team members, and set aside dates on your calendar to check in on how much progress you’re making. This will help keep everyone on track when you’re trying to reach longer term goals.
4. Manage both up and down.
In addition to managing your team, with whom you talk about obstacles and challenges they’re facing, it’s just as crucial to use your skills as a leader when you approach your own manager and executive staff.
“It’s important to communicate and make sure the work your team is doing is visible to your manager and executive staff,” Mehta says. “We’re so in it day-to-day, but there’s value in making sure it’s a bit more formalized. Market what you’re doing and make sure it’s visible and transparent.”
5. Have regular conversations about career development.
It can be hard to step back and get some perspective beyond your teammates’ day-to-day job functions, but being available to discuss career development is a crucial part of being a leader. You have to encourage your reports to be vocal about their wants and needs as well, Mehta explains.
“I can’t read someone’s mind; they have to tell me what they want. They know what the like vs. what they don’t like, and I think that’s something every person should be proactive about. You have to advocate for yourself and you have to earn it. At the same time, I think it’s just helpful at least once a quarter to talk [with your team members about their] goals and what [they] need help with.”
6. Have empathy for your team.
Work is work. Hopefully it’s fun for you sometimes, but chances are there are plenty of days when you feel overwhelmed and excited for your next day off. “It’s easy to forget that work is hard; it’s not supposed to be easy,” Mehta says. “We have a beautiful office with nice perks, but we do face some challenging things.”
She says leaders must let their teams know that they get that most days aren’t easy. Having empathy can go a long way in making people feel comfortable and appreciated, and in turn more productive.
7. Lean on other managers.
Mehta says she finds it very helpful to talk to other managers at Square. “Sometimes you feel like you can be in a bubble, so understanding how other managers operate can make a world of difference.”
In fact, Mehta says her #1 piece of advice for leaders is to be vocal and find a supportive network of people they can talk to, even if it’s just one person to start. “I used to feel like I had to fix everything myself,” she says. “But you have better ideas when you talk to others and collaborate, and you feel like there’s someone who understands. Be open to leaning on other people, because it goes both ways,” she adds. “If you ask for help,” she says, chances are you’ll forge a connection with someone who might lean on you later down the road.
Mehta says part of what she loves most about her job is the insanely welcoming and inclusive community that Square has cultivated. If that makes you jealous...we get it. And we’re not leaving you hanging. Square is hiring, so check out their openings!
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