Our first leader to be featured in this ‘Taking Leadership to Heart’ series is the Kabbagehead, Rob Frohwein. His title is not just a play on words; it’s part of the Kabbage culture. There are no titles at Kabbage unless you are the head of a functional area. Then you get to be the ‘Head’ of that area. The philosophy behind no titles is that Kabbage is a community – a family if you will – of individuals from all walks of life. All races and religions, including atheist and agnostic, are represented and embraced equally. They are not ego-driven or competing against one another for credit. To that end, they have a ‘No Asshole’ policy which supports people not just tolerating each other, but genuinely embracing, accepting and respecting each other regardless of their differences. What a great example of empathy in action.
The weekly town hall meetings demonstrate one of their core values – transparency. “Kabbage is a bullsh*t free zone. We’ve established trust as the foundation of our open environment. ..”Employees know what’s going on with the company – successes and struggles – and have honest, authentic conversations about them. It takes courage and impulse control to be completely transparent; it’s so much more tempting to keep bad news to yourself or avoid conflict.
Trust is an EQ competency defined by many as the absence of fear. Stephen MR Covey says it’s the one thing that affects everything in business. Trust is reflected not only in their authentic, transparent conversations, but also in the Kabbage vacation policy which is, ‘be reasonable’. “We treat people like adults,” says Rob. Employees are encouraged to take the time off they need but be reasonable about it. What better way to show you trust your employees than to give them complete control over their PTO?
While Rob will be the first to say it’s a team effort to create their culture, his fingerprint on it is unmistakable through his leadership style. Many consultants, authors and researchers have studied leadership and concluded that a willingness to be vulnerable is essential for strong leaders. And Brene` Brown has turned vulnerability into something other than a four-letter word. Rob demonstrated his willingness to be vulnerable by recently apologizing to the entire company for some comments he made in a political conversation that gave the wrong impression. That requires social awareness (to recognize your negative impact on others), self management (to resist becoming defensive and self-righteous) and relationship management skills (to genuinely apologize).
The Atlanta Business Chronicle featured Kabbage as one of the ‘Best Places to Work’ and it’s not hard to see why. They boast great salaries, daily catered lunches and snacks and even beer on tap. Yep, and they get to drink that beer in comfy chairs. (See their website for the comfy chairs). And they offer cool rewards for outstanding performance like getting a bobble head super hero in your likeness or six weeks off and $6k to spend for every five years of service. But those things are not what create the great culture; they are simply a reflection of it. The culture comes from living their core values, specifically like caring deeply. “It’s not enough just to care; we’re committed to helping each other succeed…” It’s that mindset that creates an environment where people want to come to work. One that has single digit turnover and double digit growth. Amazingly, only one customer service representative has left the company in four years and that was due to her relocation. She had a Kabbage tattoo permanently emblazoned on her arm to show how much she loved it there. Kabbage attributes these statistics largely to a very intentional hiring process to get the right people on board. “We hire people who are self-aware and understand their strengths as well as their weaknesses.” This is accurate self-assessment 101.
So yes, emotional intelligence – whether they call it that or not – is making a huge impact on the Kabbage bottom line. To see more examples of EQ at work, visit www.Kabbage.com.
If you know a leader who demonstrates emotional intelligence and would like to have them featured in Taking Leadership to Heart, please email Dawn@DayBreakEQ.com.