‘Time Is an Investment, So Be Intentional With How You Spend It’: Advice From a Chief People Officer

Sponsored by Qualtrics

Julia Anas

Photo courtesy of Qualtrics.

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Over the years, Julia Anas has expanded her leadership skills through a variety of HR roles, eventually joining Qualtrics, an experience management software company. Since joining Qualtrics, she leads the People organization for the whole company — meaning that she’s responsible for strategies affecting their over 4,000 employees in more than 25 countries!

But how does someone manage leading so many distributed people? For Anas, she took this change in stride, noting the need to switch up her leadership skills due to her now broader influence. “As my scope has increased, I have adjusted my approach to ensure that others have what they need from me,” says Anas. “As a result, I can continue to prioritize actively investing in the team's development and success.”

A part of ensuring that her direct reports are heard is to regularly check in with them. Asking, “What do you need from me?” and “How can I help?” are key to creating opportunities for reports to “share instead of them having to ask,” explains Anas. “It’s a minor but meaningful tweak.”

This is only one of many pieces of advice this experienced leader has. To learn more, we spoke to Anas about management strategies, moving into leadership and how to make sure your reports feel supported...

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective?

I have to get to know employees — what motivates them, what their aspirations are and how they like to be recognized. There’s no template there. Listening and leading with empathy is key. You can do that personally with a handful of employees, but, across large teams and the full company, you have to ask about these needs and then take action on what you find. 

At Qualtrics, to build diverse high-performing and engaged teams, it has been a big benefit to me in this leadership role that we use our software to regularly listen, measure and act on overall engagement and run a regular 360° process.  

How do you make sure your direct reports feel supported?

At Qualtrics, our culture is grounded in our values. We call them TACOS: 

  • Transparent

  • All-in

  • Customer obsessed

  • One-team

  • Scrappy

The “One-Team” value means that there is only one team at Qualtrics, and, like any team, we win and lose together. If you think about the times when you have been a part of a team, I bet the ones that have performed the best are those that actually knew each other. Successful teams understand individual strength and opportunities, individual roles and how the team works together. 

For Qualtrics, it’s all about listening and connecting with employees, and we use our own products to do just that. Understanding what is important to them and asking how you can help is important to taking action on what they need. No two individuals are alike, and by having this level of understanding, I am able to address an employee's individual needs and hold them accountable to being true to themselves. 

Also, modeling work-life-integration has been essential for me. I speak to the team about what work-life harmony is for me and how finding that place is different for each of us. If I have to drop off or pick up my kids at school, I share this with the team and sometimes take a call from the car. 

COVID-19 has spotlighted how important flexibility and integration are in our lives: our homes became offices overnight as well as the place where we lived through this. We’ve learned that life doesn’t shut down between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., so we ask the teams to have grace with each other. And, as a result, our employees are doing phenomenal work with that flexibility.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership? 

Establish a personal board of directors. It is incredibly valuable to have a third party weigh in on key decisions as you move throughout your career and in life. My personal board of directors is a group that I can present situations to and gain their perspectives. In fact, I consulted with them as I was considering the role at Qualtrics. 

How you create this group is entirely up to you. When forming my board, I made the conscious decision to never include someone who I’m currently working with, and I actually haven’t worked directly with all of them. In fact, not all of them even have an HR background.

One is a Chief Human Resources Officer I used to work for and another is a General Manager I used to partner with. I purposefully selected leaders who I have engaged with throughout my career, regardless of their business focus. They are all individuals I respect and who don’t have a stake in my current projects. They can be candid with feedback and advice.

What’s been your most valuable career learning opportunity?

Time is an investment, so be intentional with how you spend it. I wish I would have learned earlier to treat time like money. I share this with my team, emphasizing that we have to be focusing most of our energy on the things that will make the most impact. 

In addition to the impact they will make, it’s important to consider opportunities for projects, assignments or extracurriculars by asking: “Is this in service of my overall career goals?”, “Is this something that I have the capacity to take on? and “Can something else flex in order to create the space for this new project?” 

If the answer to these questions is “yes” and (this is critical) your manager agrees, then lean in and say, “Yes, I’ll do it.” You still have to be disciplined and honest with yourself, but there are many things I would be better at if I had the foresight to prioritize them differently and earlier in my career. Embrace the opportunities that present themselves.


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