How Prioritizing Authenticity, Empathy and Curiosity Helped Me Grow My Career to the VP Level

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How Prioritizing Authenticity, Empathy and Curiosity Helped Me Grow My Career to the VP Level

Photo courtesy of Mindbody

April 23, 2024 at 4:56AM UTC

Hema Prakash and Jaimie Fucillo may work in different functions, but the ways they approach leadership have a lot in common. Namely, both believe that trust, compassion and honest conversations shouldn’t be rarities in business dealings; in fact, they can be the tools that drive a company’s best results. 

At least, that’s the case at Mindbody, a fast-growing health, wellness and fitness company where both women are VPs. Centered as they are in the world of wellness, it makes sense that for Prakash, Mindbody’s Vice President & Managing Director of Asia Pacific, and Fucillo, VP of Global Partnerships, intentionality and emotional intelligence are more than buzzwords. They’re part of what’s made them successful as leaders. 

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“Open doors” and “honest dialogue” are two terms Prakash uses to describe her leadership style. Meanwhile, Fucillo says she’s “always working on increasing the frequency of authentic, meaningful recognition for the members of my team.” Another similarity? They’re both deeply committed to developing and advancing the careers of the women who report to them — a mission that Mindbody as a whole shares as well. 

Recently, both women shared with us how else they’ve cultivated and defined their leadership styles, their superpowers at work, and the top six qualities they look for in candidates. 

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

Hema Prakash: “I have been at Mindbody for 26 months and was with an Australian education technology firm as Head of Partnerships for the region prior to that. I have been in the world of tech in go-to-market leadership roles over the last 20+ years across the globe.”

Jaimie Fucillo: “I’ve been leading the partnership ecosystem for Mindbody for just over four years. Prior to Mindbody, I spent 10 years in various roles and leadership positions at Genentech. The single common thread has been my enduring core value and commitment to health and wellness and its intersection with technology.”

Describe what you do in one sentence.

HP: “I am responsible for all aspects of Mindbody’s Asia Pacific business: People, Operations, Revenue and, Strategic Growth, along with all the roads that lead to those key verticals in order to fortify our continued market leadership.”

JF: “My job is to amplify Mindbody’s mission to connect the world to wellness. We do this through the network effects of a thriving, global partner ecosystem.”

What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?

HP: “I am a very early riser. Most of my work days start with a pot of tea, Bach/opera in the background, and a quick scan of my phone for any urgent items that may have come in from overnight. The end of the day gives me a moment of pause, to take stock of the day and scan of my to-dos, which allows me to hit the ground running. I prioritize this list over most as it gives me a chance to look at my OKR’s and allows me to move items around to align with priorities. I must add that there are days when it’s not about Bach and pots of tea, it can be a scramble, which usually involves me balancing a keep-cup, dog lead trying to maneuver a little Westie Puppy whilst on a work call at 6 a.m.” 

“COVID has added a number of unexpected and added layers to the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of my day. My priorities over the last many months have been our people and our clients, which has meant being hyper-connected to my local leaders on a daily basis. This allowed us to be agile especially as the world continues to shift through the pandemic.”

JF: “I put a note at the top of my calendar titled “Today’s Priorities,” make it red and create a numbered list. At the end of the day, I score myself on how many items I accomplished and how many items are rolling over to tomorrow. It helps me to articulate to my team where I’m spending my time and to gauge how realistically I’m setting my capacity for making progress on key priorities each day. I then create my list for the following day and revisit it in the morning.”

How would you describe your leadership style?  

HP: “Open doors, honest dialogue, and driving and delivering accountability by hiring and retaining incredible team members.”

JF: “I recently read that the word ‘coach’ originates from the idea of a horse-drawn carriage, or — since this is the Fairygodboss — the idea of Cinderella’s ‘coach.’ I love this metaphor of transporting people from one place to another. My leadership style generally centers around four key principles: 

1. Start with trust

2. Communicate where we’re going and how we’ll get there

3. Focus on disciplined, intentional execution, and 

4. Continuous coaching.”

What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about your company? What about those who are in a more advanced career stage?

HP: “Mindbody is a firm with a robust platform, built on a base of extraordinary values, that’s going through a metamorphosis. It’s an incredible time to be a part of this evolutionary period.”

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work? 

HP: “Being open to an honest dialogue with anyone who seeks it. There have also been times when I have reached out when someone has been identified for a promotion but is fearful for whatever reason. This provides me with an opportunity to explore options and to share my life story and how I got here – warts and all. We underestimate social and familial conditioning and the impact it has on women and our decision making process.”

JF: “Simple answer: I schedule it. I have multiple mentees who I talk to monthly. I also have several high-potential women leaders on my team. I try to spend a lot of time with each of them, simply listening, coaching and learning from them. I believe these connections and growth opportunities come from building trust and sharing our stories, across all genders. What I’d like to devote more time to is developing this same level of connectedness across the women leaders at the Exec and Director levels — that’s the next area I plan to try and tackle.”

What’s something you’re really good at work?

HP: “I coin this a ‘superpower’ I see myself as a conduit for the greater teams success, this begins with people and allowing them to be brave and empowered to thrive in the right environment.

JF: “Asking questions. My team teases me about it. I can generate questions to ask a partner prospect or to evaluate a project or to build an externally facing FAQ in seconds. The reason I do this is that leading with curiosity helps my team think many steps ahead. I don’t ask questions just for the sake of it, but to make sure I have a deep, tangible understanding of the problem or factors, and to push for options, creativity, and contingency plans. It’s made my team better prepared in that they’re anticipating what I’ll ask before I ask it. I also see them asking inherently more sophisticated questions with our prospects, partners, and internal stakeholders.  I had a direct report tell me: ‘You’re always making us look way out in front of the car. Our old boss just had us looking at the hood ornament.’ That was the day I knew I was onto something.”

What about outside of work?

HP: “I love experiencing new things and sharing that with my friends and family, bringing various groups together.”

JF: “I’m a writer. Well, that sounds more official than the reality. I’m a mommy blogger. I’ve been blogging regularly for almost 11 years, mostly about the random things my two boys say and do.  It’s one of the most precious things I do for my kids — capturing the daily stories and moments of their childhood, the good, the bad and the mostly funny. It pushes me to be more creative and to take risks.”

What are you trying to improve on?

HP: “Having a consistent exercise routine! I have consistently had this on my must-improve list for some time now.”

JF: “I’m always working on increasing the frequency of authentic, meaningful recognition for the members of my team and our extended team members. I have to focus on being more intentional about it and have found the remote work environment has made it harder to do well.”

What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate? 

HP:  “1. A good human. 

2. A growth mindset, which means the individual is able to drive value and create the best possible outcome through: 

a) Vulnerability and humility to seek advice, allowing for a learning pathway

b) Continuous innovation

c) The courage to explore and expand

3. A sense of civic duty,– how they have interacted in their communities tells me a lot about their personality and levels of compassion.

All of the above, of course, only applies if they have the experience and knowledge to be considered for the role.”

JF: “1. Grit, sometimes referred to as resilience.

2. The ability to influence without authority.

3. Hustle, or what some might call work ethic.”

Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women?

HP: “As leaders, we are hyper-focused on EDI and are focused on ensuring we have the right pathways for women to be hired and retained. This is certainly continuously evolving in order to drive the best viable outcome. We are committed to continuously better ourselves by seeking ways in which to add to the suite of tools that particularly serve women.”

JF: “Mindbody serves predominantly women-owned businesses frequented by women (88%). This creates a special opportunity for women to bring their unique perspectives and tangible, real-life experiences to the key decisions that drive our business.”
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