Photo courtesy of KinderCare Learning Companies.
“I cannot feel good about myself unless I am leading with friendship and community spirit,” shares Alie Pierce, the Director of Application Development at KinderCare Learning Companies.
“My goal is to create a trusted relationship with every individual so that we can help each other succeed,” she continues. “I am honest about my mistakes and transparent when I don’t know something. I share our successes and failures with my teams and wouldn’t want to lead any other way than as myself. I am also genuinely dedicated to the career growth of my team members and really enjoy seeing them progress, and so I will do whatever I can to facilitate that for everyone.”
These leadership goals align with Pierce’s self-described style of a “democratic-visionary-style leader,” where she wants to keep her teams excited and help them in charting their professional courses.
But, of course, Pierce wasn’t always the established leader she is today. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Pierce’s career journey, her best advice for other leaders, greatest career misstep and more. Read on for career inspiration!
Pierce came to KinderCare after 10 years at a previous company because she was ready to take the next step in her leadership journey. “The opportunity at KinderCare to design and handpick a team and build support structure around the technologies I was responsible for meant that I could really leverage my experience, but also grow and learn in areas of both leadership and technology was (and is!) too exciting to pass up,” Pierce shares.
And the role turned out to be just as exciting as she hoped for! At KinderCare, Pierce says that her position has provided a “unique and invigorating challenge,” with the best part being that there “are lots of strategic decisions to be made, or iterated and many tactical choices to keep the train on the tracks, which makes for very interesting and engaging work.”
At the core of this work, is Pierce’s relationship and support of her teams. “As a leader, I still see my role very much as that of a facilitator,” says Pierce, “and I enjoy the ability to do this at a more strategic level and to build teams that can take on that work to optimize business outcomes.” In order to achieve this goal, Pierce had to figure out both how to lead an existing team at KinderCare as a new manager — as well as how to integrate new employees into the team.
“I came in with an open mind and tried to see everyone through fresh eyes, rather than taking on the history they had with their previous managers,” she tells Fairygodboss about how she approached leading her new team. “I built relationships with my team and made myself available to help in any way they needed, and I didn’t change anything until I understood how it was working and could confidently establish whether a change was valuable. In bringing in new team members, I focused heavily on culture fit to protect the amazing culture we have created.”
All of this hard work paid off, and Pierce is currently leading a high-performing and collaborative team that she helped grow and change herself. During this journey, “I have already learned several critical lessons in patience, adaptation, targeted influence, compromise and careful collaboration, and I have some clarity now on my own strategic ‘immovable objects’ such as people-care and informed decision making vs. the ‘flexible objects’, such as my own opinions on how to solve specific problems which can be changed by those around me or due to urgent demand,” she states.
And this is only one of a plethora of lessons Pierce has learned about leadership. Let’s take a look at some of her other top tips for leaders in the next section…
If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, Pierce has these top four tips for you:
“Always be true to your authentic self and trust your instincts.”
“Embrace your mistakes and try to exercise self-awareness as much as possible.” In doing so, “you will build trust in those around you and can always feel good about how you show up.”
For example, Pierce’s most valuable career mistake was leaving a people leadership role for an individual contributor one when she became a mother. “I felt I didn’t have the bandwidth to manage a team while also raising little kids,” remarks Pierce. However, “since coming back to people leadership, I realized that it wasn’t ‘easier’ having an individual contributor role, it was just different work. Having a team does not mean taking on the work of many people, in fact, it allows me to trust my team to deliver the work at hand today while I work on the future stages of the work, which is where I think I can contribute the best.”
Always be on the lookout for opportunities.
In Pierce’s case, she was able to advance in her previous two jobs, which she worked at for over seven and ten years, “by identifying an opportunity for improvement and being able and available to take on that improvement myself,” she tells us.
However, Pierce emphasizes that you don’t need to try to get every opportunity available. As Pierce says, “not everything has to be solved today, and not every sip of juice is worth the squeeze!”
In practice, “I am always trying to improve my balance between short-term/tactical and long-term/strategic decisions, including which problems or decisions to focus on now and which to let play out longer before wading in,” she explains. “The path to success (or whatever it is I am aiming for) is always rocky and, at the end of the day, that tricky, negotiation-filled journey is actually the whole point!”
Interested in learning more from the amazing women who work at KinderCare? Check out previous articles on their profile.
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