Level Up Leadership: Adam Fingersh

Listen to the podcast (FULL TRANSCRIPT):

Level Up is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.

You can subscribe to The Level Up Leadership podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, we spoke with Adam Fingersh, Senior Vice President and Head of Strategic Transformations. Adam joined Experian in 2005 and has served in a variety of executive leadership roles. He is currently the senior executive responsible for several critical enterprise level strategic transformations in North America.

Here are a few takeaways from our discussion with Adam:

Take the time to get to know your colleagues.
This will help establish trust among your team and create stronger workplace friendships and collaboration. Adam is a firm believer in being able to bring your whole self to work every day, and he says, “Both the professional and personal sides of a person are worth knowing.” Here are ways you can get started with learning more about the people you work with:

  • Ask your coworkers what their plans are for the weekend, then follow up with them on Monday
  • Remember the names of their loved ones and be sure to ask about them once in a while
  • If time permits, take a few minutes at the beginning of your meetings to ask the attendees how they are

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Adam makes sure to always prepare ahead of big meetings on his calendar. The better prepared he is before he enters the room, the more efficiently time is spent in the room. Here are practices you can employ to make sure you are maximizing the efficiency of your meetings:

  • Schedule “pre-meetings” beforehand if you foresee any topics or questions from certain colleagues that might derail the conversation and take time away from the main meeting
  • Come into the meeting with specific goals that you are set on achieving before you leave the room
  • Study the attendee list and ensure everyone belongs at the meeting and take notes on what you might need from or be able to contribute to each person

Humility is key to being a good leader.
Humility is what allows leaders to be great mentors, empower their employees and best contribute to their companies. To practice humility, Adam likes to remind himself, “There is not a single project that I have been a part of where I can say, ’This would not have been a massive success if I had not been in the room.’” Regularly remind yourself these things to stay modest and humble:

  • Every employee at Experian has something amazing to contribute, regardless of business unit
  • There will always be someone smarter in the room and that’s OK

Leadership can be learned and modeled anywhere. 
Adam is proud to say he learned a lot of his leadership skills from his mom, and that he is hoping to pass on the same skills to his own children. Whether it’s at work or in your personal life, good examples of leadership are all around you.

Trust is important when it comes to mentoring. 
One thing all of Adam’s mentees can agree on is that Adam is someone they can fully trust—whether it’s as a friend or as a leader delivering constructive criticism. Part of what makes Adam such an effective mentor with these professionals is how good he is at building trust. Think about these things the next time you take on a mentee or are asking for feedback from a mentor:

  • People usually do not open up easily; building a foundation of trust will help you collaborate in the workplace better, as well as gain valuable friendships
  • You will be more likely to take constructive criticism seriously if it is coming from someone you can trust to guide you in the right direction

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Adam for Level Up.

Check out interviews with other Experian leaders.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hey everybody, welcome to the level of leadership podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.

Patty: My name is Patty Guevarra.

Mike: This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.

Patty: In this podcast will talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work life balance, mental health, diversity, inclusion, and so much more.

Mike: We hope you enjoy the show. We’re very excited today to have Adam Fingersh here with us. So before today’s session, Adam, we had a chance to talk to Brian Ward. And talking with him was a blast. So just let everybody know, we set up a time to talk to Brian about 15 minutes, which turned into like a 40 minute conversation about Adam, and his leadership style. And a lot of really cool themes emerged, a lot of questions will be asking Adam today are based on that conversation with Brian. So I think that the very first thing that came up, Patty, that I felt was that there was like a very strong connection between Brian and Adam. Adam, nurtured a very good relationship with Brian, is what I’m going to ask you, Adam, why is it really important for you to build strong connection with your team?

Adam: That’s a great question. I think that a lot of issues rely on trust and the belief that you have to have the trust of the folks that you work for, and then the people you work with, and the people who support you in your organization. And for me, trust is based on relationships, it’s about knowing people, knowing things about their background, their family, the way they work, how they choose to interact. And a big piece of that is I think, as a leader is knowing how to interact with people in the way they prefer to be interacted with. So there’s a lot of discussions around, Myers Briggs leadership styles and those types of things, I find it really helpful to understand people and understand how they prefer to be interacted with. And not just do they prefer email versus texting versus phone calls.

Adam: But how do they receive information? How comfortable are they with critical feedback versus positive feedback? How do you frame your messaging to individuals, and I found through my career that different people respond differently to feedback and guidance and advice, and coaching and mentoring, and direction. And I think it’s really critical for you to understand how best to work with each of the folks on your team, and how best to work with the folks that are your peers, and even your boss so that you know how to get the most out of those interactions. And so I think that those early contacts that you have with people. And the foundation you lay as you build kind of that corporate relationship, or that personal relationship with an individual really helps in driving those future interactions.

Mike: So can you give us like a practical example of how you kind of are building that relationship? Like how intentional are you with your time with that person? And are you like, taking notes? Like how are you like keeping track of … Because you’re meeting so many people every week. How do you keep track of like, what motivates somebody, what are ways to like, provide criticism, but in a positive way.

Adam: So I think of it kind of from an archetype perspective. So I actually do have kind of models of different interaction methods that people prefer that my experience has shown, people prefer. And as I get to know the people I work with and work around, I begin to understand which archetype they most directly fit in. And then there are certain people that don’t fit in a previously observed archetype, obviously, the first interaction you have with somebody becomes your learning opportunity. And the more that you interact with them, the more you understand their particular interaction methods, it’s also interesting to note that, I think a lot of people come at interactions that they have, maybe with their boss or with a peer, or even somebody on their team with a different self, they might exhibit different personality and interaction methods than their natural interaction preference.

Adam: And that takes time to understand, to drill into and test as you’re interacting with people. And for me, the reason that it really matters is I’m a people person, so I want to understand who I’m interacting with, I want to understand what their background is? What motivates them? What’s their passion? Why are they here? We talk a lot about the what and how, of what we do at work. And there’s a lot of clarity that most people have around what work they’re doing and how they do that work. And I think it’s important to understand the why we’re all here, what is it that drives each of us to be at Experian, and to do the work that we do in the roles that we’re in. And Simon Sonic from the TED Talks, has a great session on why and what that purpose is that individuals may have for being in the roles that they’re in.

Adam: And he talks a lot about companies who have a very clear understanding among their employees and among their corporate culture of their why tend to have greater success. And you can understand that, because that purpose is what drives people. And so I think getting to understand who you’re working with, and who you’re working around, and why they care about what they care about, why they’re passionate about the work that they’re doing is critical. And if you encounter somebody that doesn’t have that passion, helping them find that passion, helping them understand what that passion is, and how it contributes to the success of our company and as their careers is really important.

Patty: I think it’s one thing to really understand the people you work with. But it’s another thing to be able to understand if that person would be able to work with other people around you. So one thing Brian did mention was, you’re really good at connecting him with people who are like minded, and people who help him further his career as well and work well with him. So when I first started, I started in November, I’m pretty new. Mike, the very first thing he did was connect me to someone who would later become my informal mentor. And I’ve made a lot of friends to be that person. So I think Mike just knew exactly who I needed to meet when I first started here. So what are some things that you look for when you’re trying to connect your mentees or just your colleagues to other people?

Adam: That’s a great question. So much of the work that we do is relationship based. I have found in the years that I’ve been an Experian, my ability to get things done depends heavily on my ability to work with other people around the organization, we’re such a broad and diverse and interconnected business, that our ability to drive success whether it’s in our products in a specific opportunity for a client, whatever the objective is, almost always is dependent across multiple groups of working together. And we can see this in a lot of the step strategies that Brian cast and rolls out around our one experience framework, you’re seeing it in some of our key initiatives that are underway right now around Nike and Athena, both being very focused on how we drive interactions across the business and leveraging our assets to be the most valuable that we can to our clients.

Adam: And I think that goes right to the individual, right down to helping people understand how to navigate the interactions with people across the organization. And so, this concept that I shared around the archetypes of people and their way that they prefer to interact. Oftentimes, I might identify that someone I work with or work around, might have an innate ability to connect with somebody else, because they have very similar working styles, or they have similar passions for the business or even similar passions outside the business, hobby that they both enjoy, can become a connecting point for an individual. And I think that mentorship and connection across the organization is critical for the individuals growth, but also our ability to grow our business and provide quality services and capabilities for our clients.

Adam: Mentorship, and you touched a little bit on this can take so many different forms. Often we think of mentors, as that designated individual who is your mentor, and the company says, “Sally, your mentor is John.” And that is a type of mentorship. And often is an important type of mentorship, especially depending on how you’re paired. A lot of the programs that the company runs, actually put some thought into who they pair so that the individual growth from that interaction. But mentorship takes the shape of a formal mentor, just like that it takes the shape of an informal mentor. I’ve shared in the past, I often I’ve learned from mentees, people that I’ve mentored, who I view as mentoring me and my ability to understand kind of an a new lens of visibility into the business.

Adam: So I think that there’s a really powerful approach to … It’s kind of a strange concept. But collecting people in their ability to help you understand our business more broadly help you grow your skill set, help you understand a specific client need. And so I’ve throughout my career, collected people who are formal and informal mentors, many of whom probably don’t even know that they were mentors of mine, or who have helped build my career. And I have been fortunate enough to be able to connect people like Brian shared, but others as well with people in the organization that might help them see a new angle within the business or help them progress their skill set in a specific area, or learn from that individuals successes and failures to help build out their argument in a specific space.

Patty: Yeah, I think there’s this misconception that mentoring is just like formal mentors, like when I first went into it, I thought, like, oh, they’re just going to teach me about the business and be my professional mentor. But the person that he connected me with has become like a pretty good friend of mine. And I had to get used to her asking me like, “Well, how’s life outside of work?” Like, we don’t need to always talk about work, like how are you? And I think you really touched on that well, because when we talked to Brian, he was saying that you’re much of a colleague and a mentor as you are his friend. And I think that’s the ideal mentor mentee relationship.

Adam: Yeah, I think that’s right. Sometimes people put this formal barrier between the business and people’s personal life. And the reality is, there are some people who are very comfortable sharing their personal life, I talk a lot about my children, and our activities on the weekends. And those things are uncomfortable with that. And I share maybe too much. But I share about the successes that my kids have had, and the excitement that we have outside of work, because it’s me bringing … Justin talks about bringing your whole self to work, it’s me bringing my whole self to work is a huge.

Adam: The biggest part of me is my family. And some people aren’t comfortable sharing that. And so it’s understanding to what extent is somebody’s comfort sharing that side of them relevant for the conversation and building the relationship. And then in what circumstances, isn’t it? And I think that’s understanding how the person wants to interact. And so I might ask a question about, “Hey, any big plans this weekend?” As a gauge to understand, does that person want to share, if they come back and say, “Oh, no, just relaxing?” Or do they say, “Oh, yeah, my brother and I are going to go see a hockey game. And the last time we went and saw the Kings play, blah, blah, blah.”

Adam: It gives you a much better sense as to how much they want to bring that portion of them into the conversation, and that that evolves over the term that you have that professional relationship with an individual. So I do think it’s a big part of relationship development, mentoring, being a mentee is about understanding where those boundaries exist, and how flexible are they? So I find that the deeper I understand the person, the better I am able to interact with them, because it helps give a lens on who they are and how they perceive things. But some people don’t want to go in that direction. And you kind of have to be sensitive to both preferred interactions.

Patty: Great.

Mike: Yeah, I think, to your point like the small talk is actually super important. It’s a gauge to let you know if someone want to open up, because even talking about the weekend, they’ll be kidnapped in some way. You were in a chat room, you’re talking about how do you build relationships with remote workers. And thank you for sharing up, they actually are intentional about setting up times, like 30 minute water cooler talk, like not a business objective, but literally lives can act and forming that bond was like really helpful for those teams. You mentioned your children, your family. And something else I heard Brian touched on, was that work life balance that you have. Can you talk about how you’re able to do that? Because you’re super busy executive? Emails going on 24 Seven, your family. How do you balance that?

Adam: Yeah, that’s such an interesting topic. And a lot of people ask, so for me, I don’t think of it so much as balanced as incorporating the various elements. So because you can never be fully balanced. When I’m at work, I’m focused at work, I’m focused on the things. But if I get a text from my son in the middle of the day, my son doesn’t text me in the middle of the day. So I will divert my attention to that, because it’s not common, I got one for my son just before the session, because he knocked the test out of the park and he wanted to share that. So, I think about it as kind of incorporating, and what your boundaries are. So in our household, there are no phones at the dining room table.

Adam: I don’t get interrupted by work when I’m having dinner with my family, because we want to have conversation about our family, not be distracted by our phones. Now, does that mean that it never happens? Sure, we’ve had circumstances we’re in the middle of a family event, and I’ll get drawn away because there’s a critical issue going on. And one of the things that I do is I share with my kids, why I got drawn away, maybe not the details of the interaction, but that sometimes there are items that are critical at a specific point in time, and they have to be dealt with then. And it’s not just that I’m not interested in the conversation at the table. So, we just like most people have a very, very active calendar, with soccer games, and gymnastics competitions and so forth. And there are times when I’ll be on the sidelines responding to a text or a specific item.

Adam: And then there’s other times when my phones is on airplane mode, because I don’t want to be distracted when my daughter is on the silks 20 feet off the ground. In doing gymnastics, I don’t want to be distracted by a text that comes in or when I’m recording something, I don’t want to be distracted by a phone call or an email that comes in. So I think it’s a matter of incorporating it and recognizing that there isn’t … As for me, at least, there’s no longer this nine to five boundary, there are work things that come into my evening and weekends. And there are personal things like texts from my son about tests that come into my day. And I think it’s always a journey, it’s always kind of making sure that you’ve got your priorities set right and checking back in to make sure that no one pieces is out of balance in those interactions.

Mike: I love the fact that you bring your kids, and you’re explaining to them. I’ve got to go take a call, here’s why. I think that’s really good, like modeling leadership at home. Allowing them to see that so they grew up thinking, remember, this is what dad did. I think that’s a really good balance.

Adam: And I saw that in one of my models is my mom, and it might seem kind of trite. But my mom started her own business and ran a very successful business, my whole childhood and was the CEO of the company and very actively engaged and grew it from one client to hundreds and hundreds of clients. And so one of my models for engagement and being present for work and for family, I get from my mom and seeing how she was able to balance those things. And so I’m fortunate that I have that model. And I try and model that back to our kids. My wife does the same thing. My wife is incredibly engaged in our community. She’s our school, PTA president, she ran our Relay for Life activities in their ranch, like she’s incredibly engaged in the community, and our kids are able to see how we are able to do that.

Patty: Basically, leadership runs in your genes.

Adam: Yeah.

Mike: Being in the company, raising a family? Were there anything that stands out to you about your mom, like some skills and things you took away? You practice now.

Adam: Wow! Yeah, I mean, one of the things is integrity and being yourself and who you are, one thing my parents always told me, and I was telling my kids is, your integrity is who you are, when no one’s watching. They didn’t make that quote up, someone else did. But I think it’s very true. It’s around having the integrity to interact with people the right way, doing things the right way. And my mom’s work ethic, and her integrity are some of her top skills and things she prized the most. And I try to emulate that in my work life. And in my home life as well. I think integrity is critical, making commitments, following through on them, not giving two different versions of the truth to different audiences.

Adam: Because sometimes that’s hard, you might have news that’s not well received by an audience. And you might be tempted to change that truth for them. So they receive it better, but it never works. It always creates confusion. And it never plays out the way that you might hope it would. So I definitely think probably integrity is a key one, and dedication. My mom and my father as well have a high sense of urgency, there’s a recognition that sometimes waiting on things, most times waiting or delaying doesn’t add value.

Adam: There are certain times when you need things to breathe. But I pride myself on having a high level of urgency. And I think around this company, you see that most people who have had strong success have a very high level of urgency wanting to get things done and respond to especially if it’s client related, reacting, and an acting in a way that you as an individual would want to be treated. And that that high level of urgency is another skill set that I think I got from both my parents.

Patty: Just a side note, before we move forward, I think you’ll just want to know that Brian said that one of the biggest lesson to time was how to be a good father. So I thought that was really admirable. Again, like your relationship became just from the formal mentor to just being friends in general. So I thought you’d want to know that.

Adam: That’s very fine.

Mike: That’s beautiful to see that as you grow. What advice do you have for leaders? Who maybe they haven’t invested the time into their team? They’re listening to you and they’re like, “Yeah, I was right. I need to start being intentional. But I haven’t done it. So it’s kind of like how do I even start doing this when I haven’t been doing it?”

Adam: Yeah. Well, first, it takes work. It doesn’t happen … For me, at least it doesn’t happen automatically. And by that I mean, I will often start conversations with my teammates with discussions about personal life or questions about how people are doing. And so it’s not work like I have to work at it. It’s working that you have to make it a priority. You have to have those conversations, you have to understand I’m terrible with names. But I work really hard to try, and learn my colleagues significant other’s names, their kids names if they share them. Because I think that matters. We all like to have people repeat back to us what we’ve told them about ourselves.

Patty: Prove that you were listening.

Adam: Prove that you’re listening. And so that’s the second piece. So it takes work, and the second one is be authentic about it. You’re going to ask a question about somebody, don’t just give it airtime, like actually internalize it. If you ask somebody, “Any big plans for the weekend?” And they say, “Oh, yeah, my daughter has a big soccer game this weekend.” On Monday or Tuesday, ask have the soccer game go. I mean, it seems so straightforward. But people actually care when they see that you’ve internalized it and that you see them as an individual, not just as their 2:00 pm meeting.

Adam: And to your question was some leaders who may not have started it? It’s never too late to start, you could have an employer appear that you’ve interacted with for years, and you don’t know anything about their style. And it may not be personal lifestyle, but even kind of their preferred interaction mode. You can ask those questions anytime in your interaction with somebody.

Patty: We do have a question from Sarah on the WebEx.

Adam: Okay.

Patty: She says, “Adam, what’s the most important factor you consider when hiring someone?”

Adam: The most important factor? Well, there’s two. So if I’m not breaking them, I think something I look for is resilience. And resilience takes the form of understanding how to learn from setbacks, I will always ask questions during an interview about failures. And I know that becomes a hard question for people that answer. And I find that if somebody can’t think of a failure, then their resilience is low. Because all of us fail regularly. Some are big, and some are tiny. But I think resilience and understanding how you grow and develop from those times that you’ve tripped or fallen. That’s where you get the greatest growth.

Adam: When you succeed at something. It’s very rare that you look in the rear view mirror and take stock on why you succeeded. It’s human nature to kind of bask in the glory of the success. But it’s quite common if you fail to think through what happened, and why did that failure occur. And those are learning moments, those are great opportunities for growth. So resilience is one. And the other one and I think this goes for work or outside of work is just curiosity. People who have an unending level of curiosity that want to learn more, that want to press the boundaries, that want to push to the next level.

Adam: I think those two items, curiosity and resilience, and they play a little bit together. So if you’ve had a failure, an insatiable curiosity about why did I fail? What were the circumstances that created that failure, so that you can learn from it the next time you see it again. So curiosity and resilience, I think would be the two that I like most at.

Patty: Okay.

Mike: So, failure really hurts. Especially if you’re trying to be a perfectionist. Maybe a perfectionism plus anxious. Failures is like, I don’t want to touch that. What’s your advice for somebody who is just stressed, like they have a perfect image of what they want to accomplish. But they’re feeling like, I don’t want to even try it, because I’m going to fail.

Adam: So its interest. So I’m a perfectionist. And it’s something I deal with constantly trying to not let perfect get in the way of done or in the way of progress. And I’m also type A, very detail oriented. So I kind of fit the description of the individual that you were just speaking to, I think you have to work at it. People often love activities that they’re good at. People who are really good at golf, love golf. People who are horrible at golf, are either hate golf, or they have to push themselves to continue doing it. Because by our human nature, we don’t generally love things we’re not good at. And so the advice that I would give on that, and something I do constantly is overtly push myself into activities that feel uncomfortable. And that goes for opportunities for roles.

Adam: I’ve been at Experian for 15 years, and I’ve been in nine roles over 15 years. And people would often say how have you stayed engaged and excited about being an Experian. And the two items are the people we work with. I mean, there’s just an incredible set of talent here that I learned from every day, but also the diversity of types of work that I’ve been able to do here. Because I’m curious, and because I want to learn new and different ways to help our business grow. That’s been one of my engagement mechanisms. And without this desire to push into areas that you aren’t an expert at. And it’s hard to grow, you can stagnate if you don’t push yourself over the edge of that anxiety about failure, it’s healthy to not want to fail. That I’d love all of our employees to not want to fail.

Adam: But in regard to that, you also don’t want to be paralyzed by the fear of failing. Because we all fail. We all have small and big failures throughout our lives. And those are the areas where we grow from the most. So I would just say push yourself towards the discomfort, embrace the discomfort. And if you are a perfectionist and a type A person, draw that into the discomfort and build ways where you can learn quickly and adapt to the challenges.

Patty: So you’ve been across a lot of different bews, and you’ve been here for a while. So what was it like transitioning from a contributor to a leader from one business unit to the other or from another?

Adam: Yeah, well, I’ll take those maybe in two separate pieces. So one of the biggest transitions that emerging leaders have is that jumping the chasm from an individual contributor to a people leader. And it seems very straightforward. But if you’ve spent the first half of your career being known for what you can do, like your skills, your technical skills, and I don’t mean technical, like coding an application, but I mean, your ability to create a PowerPoint, your ability to communicate via an email, those specific activities that have gotten you recognized, you’re recognized at that level for what you personally can contribute. And then you move into a leadership role, where you become … Your success is based in part or in whole, on your ability to get other people to bring their best self to the task and to deliver the highest level of quality through their activities.

Adam: And I think that’s one of the biggest transition changes that individuals have as they move into leadership. And I talk a lot with folks that I’ve been fortunate to mentor about that transition. And recognizing that it is a transition that you can’t just do more individual contributor work and be viewed as a leader, you have to find those ways to get the most out of the people that you work with. And so earlier on in our conversation, that was a key topic. For me, it’s about the relationships and understanding who I work with, and what motivates them so that I can get the output, and the goal that we’re all striving for from that individual. And so I think that, that’s a key portion of that transition from management to leadership. And then the second half of your question, remind me it was about?

Patty: From business unit to another?

Adam: Business unit. So for me, it’s the curiosity of understanding how our business is held together, we have such a diverse set of capabilities that we take to market. And when you spend time in our credit services business, or in our Decision Analytics Organization, or in our corporate group, you get a completely different perspective on how the business comes together. And not until you sit in all those roles. And no one could have this, could you possibly have a full and complete view of every angle of our business. So I’ve been fortunate to be able to see our business from a lot of different perspectives and a lot of different lenses. And it helps I believe in understanding how an individual business contributes value to our clients.

Adam: And Experian I can think of countless examples of folks who have moved around the organization in different roles, experienced values, that acumen growth tremendously. And it’s more than just lip service, you can see it in the people who move from one view or one division to another. And that cross pollination that we’ve seen over the last, I don’t know, eight to 10 years, is what allows us to strive for that one Experian and mindset. Because until you’ve sat in Credit Services, you can’t possibly understand all the nuances or enough of the nuances of how that business works.

Adam: Likewise, in Decision Analytics, or consumer services, or marketing services, or in our corporate functions, how all those pieces work together as a whole to drive value for our clients. So I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to get those experiences. And quite frankly, it’s one of the things that keeps me engaged and excited about being an Experian.

Patty: Just a quick question to touch on what you said earlier about being a contributor to a leader, as a type A personality and someone who’s a perfectionist. Did you have trouble with trusting your employees once you became a leader?

Adam: Sure. Yeah. I mean, delegation is a big part of that transition to leadership. And it’s a skill that I’ve honed, because I love being micromanaged. Throughout my career, it’s one of those things that I have hated the most and makes me the most uncomfortable when you feel micromanaged, because it makes you question your value to what you’re contributing. So I work very, very diligently not to micromanage, which as A type a person requires work. It requires thinking about what questions am I going to ask? How much am I going to dive in? And giving people the space to be successful.

Adam: And recognizing that in almost every circumstance, I am not the smartest person in the room. In almost every circumstance, there are other people that know way more about a given topic than I do. And so how could I possibly micromanage their work, because we’re engaging them to do their work because they’re an expert, or they have background or experience that I don’t have. So I think as A type a person, I have to step back. And remember, everyone that surrounds me, if I’ve done a good job of hiring key talent is better than I am at their job. So-

Patty: I love the humility.

Adam: So let them do their job. And if they can’t do their job, then that means I put the person in the wrong role. And then it’s an opportunity for me either to help coach them into being in the role or find the right role for them. And that’s happened. I’ve worked with folks where they have been in the wrong role, but are highly capable individuals. And we’ve helped move them into other roles that more accurately take advantage of their skill set, and they flourished and their careers have skyrocketed as a result of being in the right role for their skill set or their capability at that moment.

Mike: We could talk for an hour.

Patty: We could.

Mike: Easily. So many things are raising. So one of the things is humility. Like that’s something that Brian brought up too, you exhibit not only confidence, business savvy, but then also humility, having that combination is rare. Can you talk to how you do that, because it’s easy to pretend to be confident. Fake it till you make it, just go into a room and read your read earlier about things to go together before like ignorant people who are confident, like that goes together a lot.

Patty: Unfortunately.

Mike: Unfortunately. You have that weird combination, can you speak to like how you exhibit both of those like confidence and humility?

Adam: I appreciate that, that’s a very kind statement. Humility, I think is a hallmark of the leadership and experience. I mean, you think about the folks in our business who’ve had tremendous success. And I can go back in the history of my journey and experience and think of folks like Chris Calero and Don Robert, these people that have had tremendous success in their professional lives, but are still incredibly approachable and who I learned a lot from. And I was fortunate enough to be in the CEO forum, when Don was was CEO, at Experian, and we asked him that exact same question. Because he had tremendous humility. And I asked the question in the session, “How do you have so much humility with all the great success you’ve had?” And he said, “Why wouldn’t I?” And I think it’s an element in people’s kind of psyche, and their being.

Adam: I’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of great programs, and with a lot of great people in Experian and a lot of the work that they’ve worked on with me has been very successful. So we’re lucky as an organization that we’ve had a lot of success in the organization. But I know that that success, while I may have been around, it was not mine, it was the whole group’s success. I can’t point to a single project, where we’ve had tremendous success in the business, that I can say all that would not have been successful if I personally weren’t in the room. I can say that wouldn’t have been successful if our team wasn’t running that project. And so I think it’s a recognition that there’s so much important surround the team and the group and the people that are at the table, and never to get too full of yourself.

Adam: Because each and every one of us contribute. And we all bring a lot to the table. But we bring a lot more to the table when we come as a team. And so, I appreciate kind of the comments. But I guess I’d give the same answer back. Why wouldn’t be humble? We have had great success but we’ve bet not do the one individual. It’s all been because of the shining team that we bring together. And you can see that in our current leaders. I mean, Crackdown D. has a lot of humility and is very humble, but incredibly successful and skilled in his leadership. You can see that across our leadership teams. We’re very fortunate that, that’s kind of a hallmark of the type of leader that we draw to our business.

Patty: Well, like Mike said, we could talk for an hour. But I think just to wrap things up, do you have any last advice for any current and future leaders on the WebEx?

Adam: Any specific advice, I would just say, find your passion, make sure that you understand your why? Why are you here? What drives you? What matters for you individually? Because when you understand that, it will help you drive the passion of the organization. And if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, find a role that you’re passionate about, make sure that you’re not stuck in the wrong role. There’s so much opportunity across this organization to be in a role that drives value to our clients, value to our shareholders and value to you as an individual where you feel that you’re making a contribution and helping this business grow.

Mike: I just want to ask him a question because he’s brought up something. If someone feels like they’re not in the right role, what advice do you have for them to like, move out and try to find. Somebody are in the wrong role, but they don’t know what’s the right role.

Adam: A big part of it is your network. So having conversations with your formal and informal mentors, or your colleagues whose advice you respect or who have a role that seems exciting and interesting to you, understanding the full breadth of what experience has to offer, I think is important. I think having an advocate in the organization is important. It’s not absolutely imperative. But it’s important that there’s somebody who understands your skills, and what the skills across the enterprise are, what needs are out there. So they can help drive you in that direction, and can be your voice, maybe when you’re not in the room.

Adam: And I think that matters. But if you feel like you’re in a role that doesn’t suit you, I would definitely be open about that conversation, talk to your manager about it, talk to your HR business partner about it, talk to other employees and other leaders across the organization who sit in organizations or roles that are of interest to you. So that you can begin to understand what’s out there. We have 17,000 employees in Experian, who all do different types of things to drive value for our clients. There’s certainly a role within this business for any personality type, any skill set. So if you’re not in the right role, it’s hard to be passionate about your work if you’re not in the right role. So you should definitely make it a key priority to find a way to get into a role that drives your passion.

Mike: To me, that was a powerful thing. But that leadership event that I went to was like listening to you and other leaders talk was like, then you get these stories out of this little room. Everyone should hear these stories. We can help elevate the whole organization. And so some of the feedback I’ve gotten from this series is then to sell to humanize the leaders. They’re like, you see leaders walking around the hallways with like, they’re too busy, I can’t bother them on. I don’t know what to say. But there’s like, “Oh, they mentioned this.” Like he has kids.

Adam: And it is true. Some people don’t want to talk about their personal lives. I have colleagues who I’ve asked, and they don’t answer and that’s fine.

Mike: Talking to Brian, he talked a lot about getting things done in the organization. And like, you have just moved around, because you usually get things done. You impact teams, even people who don’t even report to you, you can get them to do things, because the way you present ideas, and the way that you’re very collaborative, and you build teams. So one of things that you mentioned, was around your preparation for meetings. And he said, “You’re really good about when you have a certain agenda in a meeting coming up your preparation.” So I was kind of curious about the certain agenda. Some of you want achieving in a meeting, you invited certain people. What’s like your process? As you think about that kind of meeting?

Adam: It’s like my secret song. No, I’m just kidding. No, I’m happy to share. So I think a lot of people go to meetings, just kind of like, “Oh, there’s meeting on my schedule.” It’s time for me to go to that meeting. And I don’t have the luxury to do this for every meeting. But for many meetings, the evening before or between meetings, I will do preparation for that session, like what are my objectives? What am I hoping to get through? Because a half hour an hour can go by very, very quickly. And if you don’t have clarity around what you hope to get out of that session, it will have been a waste of everyone’s time, and the more senior you get in the organization, invariably, a lot of your meetings are with very, very senior folks whose time is incredibly valuable. And not that one person time is more valuable than the others.

Adam: These are just people whose calendars are scheduled that every minute, all day, every week. So it isn’t that they’re more valued, it’s that your opportunity to go back for a second round of meetings is difficult, because it’s just impacted. And so on many meetings, actually think about who I’m meeting with? What my objectives are? Who’s going to be in the room? Is there someone else that I should bring to the room? Is there someone that’s going to be in the meeting that shouldn’t be in the meeting? Because it’ll take us in a direction that isn’t going to drive to the result that we’re trying to get to. And I think some of that for thought really matters. So I will think about what our agenda is going to be even if I don’t publish an agenda, I would think about what we’re going to go through.

Adam: Like I said, in a lot of meetings, I like to have some small talk at the beginning, because I think it humanizes the meeting and it brings people’s guards down and you begin to feel like you’re part of a team, even if you haven’t worked together. So if you are going to do that, and you’re being respectful of people’s time, you need to recognize that that might take five minutes out of the meeting time. And you need to make sure that the remaining 25 minutes or 55 minutes or whatever it is, is value added and that you’ve got to the result, the worst scenario is when you get to the end of the meeting, and the objective you are trying to achieve hasn’t been met.

Adam: That’s for me, that’s such an enormous failure. And so I do spend a lot of times thinking about the content, the people that are in the room. So this whole conversation about meeting people on their terms and interacting with them, the way that they choose to be interacted with, I find to be really critical. And where that can become challenging is if you have five people in the room and all five are different archetypes and different types of interaction, you actually have to think about how you’re going to draw the conversation out. Some people are more on the Myers Briggs introverted versus extroverted. And it doesn’t mean they’re introverts, it just means that they think talk think, whereas extroverts might talk, think talk, and you have to plan how you want to pull the right content out of folks.

Adam: So the right voices come in, we’re such a key item, we’re such a distributed workforce, that most meetings now have somebody on the phone, or on tele video. And I think it’s critical that you think about how to engage them, because it’s very easy for that individual to become silent, either because they’re distracted, because they’re sitting in front of their PC, and they see emails coming up. Or it’s hard sometimes when you’re on the phone to be the voice that interjects because you might feel like you’re interrupting or because of the delay in the call, you actually are interrupting every time you start to say something, the room has moved on.

Adam: So I try very hard to pause and ask for feedback from the folks that are on the phone, like to draw them into the conversation, or someone in the room that hasn’t shared their perspective. And that takes prior work and preparation. I don’t do it for every meeting. It’s not possible to do it for every meeting. But for critical meetings or meetings where I need to have an outcome from that meeting that’s going to drive a meeting, two days later, I do put some forethought and planning into how the conversations can transpire.

Mike: When you are going into a meeting, and you might expect some challenges to an idea or something you’re trying to go with. When you know to push and when to kind of back off. Like you’re reading the room. And you have a certain agenda, you’re trying to achieve something, you’re trying to get approval on something, you think is going to come from an Experian. You’re passionate about it. You make your case, you’re sensing some challenges. Because these are the review, you write it down. When do you know when you shouldn’t be like, we need to be this guys. Trust me on this. Versus I hear you. Let’s wait on this.

Adam: So some of that’s in the preparation. So depending on the the meeting, you often need to have meetings before the meeting, in order to draw those concerns out and excuse me, and incorporate them into the discussion. So I can think of a good example, we use a process at Experian called the Strategic Projects’ Committee, the SPC process, which is how you get budgeted capital released for an initiative that you need capital on. And those sessions when you go into an SPC meeting, you are looking for authorization or not authorization, but hoping for authorization to release the capital, the funding for an existing specific initiative.

Adam: You don’t want to wait till that meeting to address a controversial item. So oftentimes, I will map out where I think the controversies might be, who might have a concern about a specific topic, and you meet with them before to draw that out. Because in a shorter meeting, if they have a concern, you’re not going to be able to draw it out or to derail the rest of the conversation. So I will often have a pre-meet to address their issue. And if their issue isn’t addressed, you might not be able to have that meeting until it’s addressed. So in some sense, it’s a bit of pre work to make sure you’ve got everybody’s perspectives Incorporated, so that when you do have the meeting, you don’t get derailed by items that might have been a sticking point that are no longer a sticking point.

Adam: Sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes you get into a meeting, and you’ve either misjudged somebody’s concerns, or a concern may have come up that you didn’t think of, or you did pre meet on it, somebody now it’s new information that changes their perspective. And I think it comes down to having respect that everybody comes at it from a different vantage point. And their view matters. So how do you incorporate their view? How do you come to a general understanding? I mean, we’re fortunate, we work in a company where most of the time those types of issues aren’t politically motivated.

Adam: They’re not an individual’s preference. We have very customer consumer centric people in our business, generally whose objections have to do with their view on how we serve our client or the consumer. And so those are easy to work with, right there. It’s around, how do we make sure we’re doing the right thing for consumers, and the right things for our clients? And so if those do come up, they’re generally workable, or they have a legitimate concern that needs to be addressed before we take in a capability to market or change a product or something like that.

Mike: That’s super good.

Patty: Just one thing. This is super quick. What is your Myers-Briggs personality?

Adam: ENTJ.

Patty: Oh okay. That’s good, I figured.

Adam: Strong NTJ. Like if you know the scale, because like on to 30 on N, T and the J. And my E is very slight. So I think my E has gotten less through the years.

Patty: That’s so interesting so you’ve changed throughout. I’m going to take mine again.

Adam: I’ve taken it probably four or five times, and my E gets less dominant. I’m still like a five or six on the E. But if you actually understand the E versus the I, you know that one of the hallmarks about an E is somebody who gets our energy from being in big groups, and they absorb that energy, whereas an I, expels that energy in big groups, and they actually have to recharge in much more. And that my energy I actually, that’s me. I get my energy from being just with my family or very small groups. And while I enjoy large group interaction, it takes energy. It’s not energy creating, its energy releasing. And so I think I’m probably more of an I in that regard. But I definitely enjoyed being around groups and interacting with people. Just my wife is the opposite, she gets her energy from big groups. We always laugh.

Patty: She’s PTA, president.

Adam: Exactly. I always laugh whenever we need to leave a party. I have to give her like the 45 minutes.

Patty: To say goodbye?

Adam: When I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go. When she’s ready to go, there’s about 45 minutes of goodbyes and new conversation, one more glass of wine or whatever the event is, and my kids and I always tease her about it that there’s no one my wife meets that she doesn’t already know.

Mike: That’s so cool. That’s bonus content. Thank you so much.

Adam: Thank you guys, this was fun.

Patty: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Level Up.

Mike: If you’d like to see a summary of today’s show, you can go to the Experian blog, the short URL is just ex.pn/levelup.
Patty: If you found any of the information today helpful, please consider supporting us by hitting subscribe or leaving us a review. Thanks for dropping in and giving us a listen and we hope to see you again for our next episode.

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