On the first episode of OneHaas Alumni High Impact Teaming (HIT) Series, hosts Sean and Brandi chat with Haas alumni Dutta Satadip, EWMBA ’09. He is the Global Head of Customer Operations at Pinterest. Before Pinterest, he was the Director of Customer Success for the Americas region at Google.
Dutta has more than 20 years of industry experience and has held various senior leadership roles in most key operating areas. He frequently speaks at major conferences, including TEDx, on management topics such as Change Management, Customer Success, Operations, Leadership, and Building diverse teams.
He talks about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and creating a real need for change and innovation, especially now in a global pandemic, how to develop empathy and build relationships, and the impact of technology on empathy within teams and people.
He also shares the techniques and strategies he used or found to help build dynamics inside massive teams, particularly teams that are spanning boundaries across time and space and the globe.
“When you’re working with teams, you need to cut them up into manageable bite-size problems. You need to enable everybody to work on those problems and eventually bring it back together to deliver the outcome for the business.”
“I realized a lot of success that happens in the world is not just because of the knowledge you have. It is how you can translate that knowledge into value. It is both a function of competency but also others believing and moving forward with it.”
“So, I’d been very mindful of introducing something around failure, something around learning, in these conversations. Because without that, as a leader, you’re not setting the tone from the top that it is okay to fail. Failure is part of building something, and failure should yield in learning.”
[00:00:00] Sean Li: Welcome to the OneHaas podcast. We have a special episode today as part of our miniseries on high impact teams. And joining me is my cohost, Dr. Brandi Pearce, and our guests and Haas alumni, Dutta Satadip.
[00:00:26] Sean Li: Brandi is on the faculty in management of organizations and the faculty director of teams at Haas. Brandi, I’ll let you introduce Dutta.
[00:00:36] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Thanks, Shawn. It’s wonderful to be here today. Dutta, welcome. We’re so delighted to have you here and kicking off the first in this series of really thinking about high-impact teaming particularly with a global twist. So, as we get started, would be great to hear a little bit about you, where you’re from, your background, your connection to Berkeley.
[00:00:58] Dutta Satadip: Thank you so much for having me. Where do I start? That’s a lot of questions. Maybe I could start with a little bit of where I’m from and a little bit of my journey, right?
[00:01:08] Dr. Brandi Pearce: That’d be great.
[00:01:09] Dutta Satadip: So, I was born in India and I came to the US a little bit over 20 years back to basically do my graduate degree in computer science. My background in undergrad was also computer science. So, I wanted something a little bit more. And I really enjoyed my time not only studying computer science but the career that followed after that. I love computer science because I always thought it was a fascinating subject.
[00:01:42] It had this element of looking at problems that are very abstract, figuring out a way to structure them, break them into little pieces, solve them, and then put them back together. I didn’t realize it at that point in time. However, as I look back, most business problems actually share many of those same attributes. They tend to be abstract that the knee needs some form of problem framing.
[00:02:22] When you’re working with teams, you need to cut them up into manageable bite-size problems. You need to enable everybody to work on those problems and eventually bring it back together to deliver the outcome for the business. Something that was a lot of an individual effort and expertise eventually translated into something a lot more of business skill, I would have to say.
[00:02:49] So that’s where I started. And, I worked at several companies along the way. When I was at HP, I went to the evening and weekend MBA program at Haas. And it wasn’t a great time. I was thinking a little bit more about I’ve done this engineering thing, I want to experience other things. And I’m gonna be honest like I was a little bit boring doing the same things and I was very curious about what was going on elsewhere in the organization because I would hear about these titles, these organizations, and I didn’t know what they did in the overall functioning of the business. And that was my original motivation for coming to thinking about an MBA program and coming to Berkeley to sort of pursue that desire to learn more. And yeah, after Berkeley, lots of other things happened. I ended up at a startup that was, I would say, not doing very well.
[00:04:07] However, it was a startup that I really credit a lot in terms of learning, in terms of understanding business, because this was right after the 2008 recession. The company was a software as a service provider, which was just kind of burgeoning. I was also in the area of customer feedback management.
[00:04:31] However, both of those elements eventually played out a significant portion and how it shaped my career. So, yeah, it was a little bit of a lot of things that converged, I would have to say.
[00:04:45] Dr. Brandi Pearce: As I’m listening to you, it’s making me curious. You were at HP before coming to Haas, which is geographically proximal to Berkeley. Was there anything else that drew you to this program and how do you think it informed your evolution as a leader afterwards?
[00:05:06] Dutta Satadip: So, what are some of the couple of things that really attracted me to Berkeley, proximity and all of that aside. I did the usual scouting of different B schools. So, they’re both and applied to both full time as well as, yeah, evening weekend MBA program, which at that time there were only a few options in the Bay area.
[00:05:30] Now they have a lot more. And when I was evaluating, there were a few things that I’m really struck out. One was the overall composition of the student body which I thought was extremely diverse. Number two, it seemed to me that unlike many other programs, there was a lot of focus on the core values.
[00:05:56] What did Berkeley stand for? Those values not only resonated with me but I also believed helped me make decisions around what things I wanted to pursue more of. In the neck talk a little bit also around one of the things that really attracted me was Berkeley had some very direct focus on international experiences.
[00:06:31] Berkeley also had this, I forget, I think it was work at Haas or something like that. It was this program, Haas at work. That’s right. So, Haas at Work was one of those things that, it was the first year of its inception or when I was going to school and it was such a great way to learn from the real world.
[00:06:58] How you go about transforming business models. We did a project with Cisco at that point in time around figuring out how to take their channel programs and have more of a social field to their channel programs. And again, those little bits of experiences eventually ended up adding to something a lot more concrete down the road.
[00:07:25] So it was a combination, I think, of the values, in addition to like the, you know, the faculty and the good curriculum, this focus on experiential learning, and obviously, the people that I felt were going to be part of the program.
[00:07:44] Dr. Brandi Pearce: I really want to circle back to the experiential component and the values as we move forward. But I would love to just dig in a little bit to you personally before we jump into thinking about your work and your career and where you’ve gone since you’ve been at Berkeley, mostly because as I started to look at your Vita and listened to your Ted talks and found things and information about you, I really came to like you. And I hadn’t even met you. And I realized that we actually share a lot of common interests ourselves. If you were to look at my bio would share that I love to travel and I love great food.
[00:08:21] And I love collaboration, which is a proxy for helping others, which were the three things that I saw in your bio. And so, I actually have clicked for you, which and I am curious if you think about your travel experience and places that you’ve been, is there a place that you’ve gone that you feel really pushed you outside your comfort zone and maybe encourage you to question the status quo.
[00:09:05] Dutta Satadip: Yes. I was in China right when COVID was happening. I didn’t know it was COVID but it was that time. It was in December of 2019. And, one of the things that really struck me and really I was amazed by is the seamless e-commerce they have in China and just reflecting back at our own systems and realizing the number of friction points we have.
[00:09:42] So here I am. We are in Shanghai, it’s cold. I’m a big fan of Boba tea. So I obviously…
[00:09:51] Dr. Brandi Pearce: So are my kids.
[00:09:53] Dutta Satadip: So, I have to partake in the Boba tea experience in China. So, I find this place, supposedly it’s very good. I don’t speak any Mandarin. And I go to the store and I realize there is literally no cash or credit card being exchanged.
[00:10:16] Everything is on the phone. People are ordering on the phone. People are getting a notification or something. They’re scanning their phone and they pick up their drink and it took me a little while. I fumbled through the process. Eventually, I asked for help. I didn’t have the right payment mechanism but they were very generous and kind to let me pay with credit cards which also took two tries because Apple pay wouldn’t really work.
[00:10:50] At the end of the day, I successfully completed the transaction. But the important part that I want to talk about is it really forced me to think about when you tie in technology and create great experiences, it has many side effects.
[00:11:11] One, on the customers. You are operating at the pace that the customer wants to. You are making things much more efficient in terms of delivering the service.
[00:11:27] And you are also instantly transacting with financial systems in a much more organic, seamless way. And when I compared my experiences going and getting coffee or Boba tea here, it is, I would say, very 1990s. It hasn’t evolved much beyond a reader that accepts the chip and pin card. So, I would definitely say that has definitely sort of pushed me outside my comfort zone and really gotten me to think like, how can we use technology to make things a lot more seamless here?
[00:12:11] Dr. Brandi Pearce: As you think about that and you think about where we are right now, what do you think the implications are as we’re facing being a global pandemic here within the US and the fact that we are one or two steps behind and that’s almost 30 years.
[00:12:29] Dutta Satadip: I think the great part about any sort of a global shakeup like this is that it pushes and creates a real need for change and innovation. If you look at, buying online and pick up on the store, which is called ballplayers, this was originally I would say perfected or at least implemented in the best possible way by Walmart. Now everybody has to do some version of purpose, whether you are Best Buy, which rolled out effectively that in test service within a few weeks of the pandemic starting and had been preparing it for a while. But then every single small business owner now has to go through that transformation, whether they like it or they don’t like it because foot traffic is going to be on some version of a decline in the foreseeable future.
[00:13:31] I think the pandemic is gonna, in my opinion, accelerate a lot of these changes and these behaviors, and I will say consumer behaviors are hard to change unless there is a real need to. If you think about something like China, in many of the emerging countries, they didn’t have an existing system.
[00:13:59] So they built everything with the latest and the greatest. So, they jumped forward to what was tomorrow. We had existing systems. I think the pandemic will help accelerate us in a good way.
[00:14:15] Dr. Brandi Pearce: And interesting in so many spaces. So, I think about that from the angle of education. So, I think for many years we’ve been trying and working towards building online platforms for education. And because there was already a very successful model, it felt risky, I think, for faculty and students to really invest so in some ways it’s interesting as you think about that, what external shock can do to create space for innovation, as well as collaborative thinking. Even as we think about all of us coming together to do this podcast, which is a new vehicle. So, thank you for that, Sean. I’m curious, Sean, from your perspective, because you’re too thinking about innovation and you’re an entrepreneur and in some ways, you’ve created a whole new on-ramp through Haas, through this platform. So, I’m curious how you think about this.
[00:15:14] Sean Li: I actually, my thoughts revolve around a question, some questions I have for Dutta in that as I was listening to your talks online and consistently what I found across your talks is this idea of empathy, right? Empathy is a very important trait not only for yourself but for the people that you hire and bring on. And so, two questions roll over on this. One is that I’m curious because when I have classmates that are engineers, a lot of the quants come into business school to learn the soft skills. I’m curious, is this an innate personality trait of yours or was this something that you developed at some point in your career?
[00:16:01] Dutta Satadip: I had to develop it. So, this was one of those things I really realized as I came to business school. Let me give you a story. I think I’ve said this a few times but I’ll go with it anyway. So, I start my first day at Haas and I look at all these amazing people. They are all very accomplished and they’re very articulate.
[00:16:22] Everybody’s very articulate. And immediately I am like in full imposter syndrome like, Oh, I think they made a mistake having me here. And that sort of lasted for a while I have to admit. The other thing I observed was people seem to have lots of friends and I just didn’t know how to make that happen.
[00:16:49] People were very courteous and very nice and very helpful, but people just seem to gel on things. And that was a very hard thing for me to come into this environment and learn, contribute, and build relationships at the same time. I actually did something in retrospect, which I think I was just trying to have a good time and I figured out that was my closest thing.
[00:17:19] I actually signed up for almost every international course, whether it was the international business seminar or the class trips. And my first class trip was to Israel and it was an amazing experience. It gave me a chance to actually engage with people, ask questions, and actually say, how do you build relationships?
[00:17:52] You seem to be amazing about it. And that was probably the first real effort I had made to understand because I realized a lot of success that happens in the world is not just because of the knowledge you have. It is how are you able to translate that knowledge into value of some sort. And to translate that knowledge into value, it is both a function of competency but also others believing and moving forward with it.
[00:18:31] So I felt I could ease the competency but I really had a lot of work to do with the aspects of leading building relationships, et cetera. So that’s where the journey started. One of my friends recommended I read the book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi which was personally for me a game-changer in observing and learning about simple things.
[00:19:13] I thought this was some sort of a complicated procedure. It turned out it was actually very simple. So, yeah.
[00:19:22] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Once you had a little structure, which I think is something you said in the very beginning, that structure with flexibility.
[00:19:30] Dutta Satadip: Yes, absolutely. So that’s how, um, that was my beginning into doing this. And I would say it definitely has evolved significantly as I have led larger and larger teams, cross-functionally globally, running larger books of businesses, it’s been probably one of the bigger things that I have had to continue and continue to work on.
[00:20:02] Sean Li: So to bring the conversation back full circle to the original question, Brandi, around my thoughts on technology today, I was really curious to hear your thoughts, Dutta, on the impact of technology on empathy within teams and people.
[00:20:32] Dutta Satadip: I think it’s a great question. Technology has really allowed us to broadcast a lot of information. There are so many ways to connect, to engage with people. And it is not lost upon anybody that deeper, meaningful relationships, the empathy that comes from those relationships are harder. Personally, my belief is that a lot of this lies with the individual itself. Technology is simply an enabler.
[00:21:10] Let me give a quick story. Something that happened very recently. I saw this article on Forbes shared on a social media network. That was Facebook. And, I reached out to the author, Alyssa Cone. And Alyssa and I have met a few times. And, I commented on how I enjoyed the article cause I really did.
[00:21:36] And how I saw some connecting points. Alyssa, along with her friend Dorie Clark, who is the author of many bestseller books including Stand-out Entrepreneurial You, they do a happy hour every so often. And quickly said, Hey, would you be interested in joining our happy hour?
[00:21:59] It’ll be great to reconnect. See what’s going on. And also, in this process, connect with others. I thought it was a great example of, there are so many ways to reach out but it is the personal initiative on both sides to want to engage a little bit deeper beyond the likes and the followers. And, as that connection happens, I think it is easier to build relationships even in a virtual way and develop empathy, develop an appreciation for things and viewpoints that may not be where you stand.
[00:22:44] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Often we think about empathy as something that connects us to another person. In leading high impact teams, one topic we explore is how to cultivate the socioemotional intelligence of a team, which really translates to a team’s emotional intelligence. I’m curious as you think about the kinds of teams you’ve led, especially those teams where people are distributed geographically and culturally.
What are some of the techniques or strategies you’ve used as a leader to help cultivate the socioemotional intelligence of these complex dynamic teams?
[00:23:36] Dutta Satadip: Let me give like a real-life example because this is a real challenge. And every leader is going to solve it differently but maybe I can talk a little bit about my own experiences and what I did in that process. I was at Google. This was maybe like 2014-ish timeframe. We made a decision to unify all of our both sales customer-facing, non-sales organizations under one umbrella.
[00:24:25] The team was global. And going back to your point around, how do you bring a team together in a more distributed setting. First and foremost, you have to create a real understanding of why this change was made, and we made that and we communicated that. Interestingly, as we start to execute on these changes, I found that my Latin teams were consistently behind or I would find out about problems probably two weeks too late.
[00:25:07] So I did one tank watch, which was, I did some skip levels, not just my direct managers but managers of managers. And I asked them, Hey, we’re trying to do this. How much do you know, what do you think is going on here?
[00:25:26] Uh, what’s working, what’s not working, and quickly, I realized there was a very big disconnect between how things were being interpreted, priorities, and how people felt about these changes. So, one of the things that people said very quickly was these things work in the US; they don’t work in Chile.
[00:25:54] They don’t work in Brazil. They don’t work in Argentina. I then quickly did a little bit of triangulation and I checked in with the Canadian teams also. And they were saying, some version of it, not exactly the same. So, I knew there was some gap going on. When I started to unpack this, one quick thing I observed was my team was extremely diverse, lots of people from different backgrounds, et cetera, but most of the team had an alignment around American communication expectations.
[00:26:35] People spoke up. If people didn’t agree, most of the time they said something. If they didn’t say it in public, they would shoot an email later on. Yeah, I was thinking about it. Yeah. Can we just discuss that later in our one-on-one? I didn’t actually receive almost any of that from either the Canadian teams or my LATAM teams, which is like everything from Mexico to Argentina and Chile effectively.
[00:26:59] So, I did a little bit of a deep dive with those leaders and obviously the issue of communication style came up. But something else came up which I had not anticipated. The leaders in the ladder very clearly said, English is not our first language, so it takes us time to participate.
[00:27:27] And the meetings are so fast-paced, it becomes hard to contribute. And then we are plus five hours and we have all these things. And then we feel a little bit off the imposter syndrome working with everybody else. Like, is this just a dumb question? Maybe I should not ask that question.
[00:26:39] Dr. Brandi Pearce: As you reflect on this, what were some of the steps you took to support your team’s development, given the challenges you identified in your exploration?
[00:26:55] Dutta Satadip: So, one of the big changes I immediately made was going back to the basics of doing good meetings. We always had agendas but we made sure that we presented questions that we were going to discuss upfront. Yeah. So that people could come prepared to the discussion, not just with the pre-read but specific questions. We’re going to make a decision.
[00:28:16] I’m hoping to get input on X, Y, and Z. Please read the options, come with pros and cons, and we’re going to have a discussion. So, at least everybody knows we’re expecting pros and cons before they show up. Just that little thing, 24 hours before changing the dynamics. The second thing, making sure everybody in the meeting has had a chance.
[00:28:40] And number three, summarizing everything at the end of the meeting and saying you may not have. the meetings are short, they’re only an hour-long with two to three topics in them. Some of these things you may think about things, later on, I would like you to bring it up to our one on one and resolve any open questions.
[00:29:07] And if they are not resolved, we will consider this matter closed and up for decisioning and kind of execution in a week’s time. And so, we built cultural norms about execution but also created space to participate during the meetings, but also have a little bit of a feel safe around doing additional conversations so that people were all agreed upon how to move forward and what moving forward actually meant.
[00:29:42] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Yeah, it’s interesting to hear these reflections because I think as we think about global teaming, one of the things we often overlook is the impact of language, which is such a massive part of communication. And then when you add on top of it, distribution of time and space, this need for structure becomes really important.
[00:30:08] I love to call it structured flexibility for allowing teams to be able to create space, to know how to show up in a meeting. But the flexibility then to be able to share their perspective and also capture their thinking afterward as we’re on this 24-hour cycle.
[00:30:41] I’m curious, in addition to that, was there anything that you did to actually support the relational connection between members who might be distributed in different places and spaces and time?
[00:30:55] Dutta Satadip: One of the things that I have found very useful, this is not just at Google, even at Google and Pinterest, I’ve done, there are lots of these great tools available that help you understand working styles, that help you understand communication styles, just like, you know, everything from the color test to a communication preference test.
[00:31:20] And, I find them extremely helpful bringing teams together because working, whether you’re working in person, especially in a distributed environment, it is very important to understand how you foster the diversity of backgrounds with the diversity of thought, but really channeled that into something productive which creates business problem-solving. And to do that, the more people understand what people’s preferences are, how they like to communicate, what their values are, how they approach problems. I find it has really helped accelerate this process of building that level of comradery, understanding that happens normally organically when teams are core-located.
[00:32:16] You know, in the past, what I have done is do periodic in-person offsites and this would be one of those offsite pings that you would do and you would get everybody together, you would do the tests, kind of discuss the stuff, and that would be like a half-day or three-quarters of a day exercise that helps everybody get to know each other a little bit on a personal level.
[00:32:39] I think similar things have to be done in a virtual setting to accelerate the understanding of who likes what in a team, because without understanding that, it is very difficult in my opinion to create a sense of trust. And without that element of trust, it is simply very hard to execute because either two things happen, people question each other a lot or people passive-aggressively choose to execute, which is some people execute on and some don’t. So, either of those are not the best outcomes. I think these rubrics and tests have done wonders for me and the teams that I have worked with.
[00:33:26] Dr. Brandi Pearce: One of the observations I have is sometimes we tend to think about these assessments as perhaps pigeonholing someone into a position or a place. But I think as I’m here, hearing you share and explore, is that this is actually a strategy to help teams explore. What they share in common while simultaneously valuing where they may have differentials and really just getting to know each other and creating some space for being able to have those conversations.
[00:34:02] Dutta Satadip: Absolutely. I would a hundred percent agree with that. It creates a sense of what makes somebody individually. It gives a sense of what are the common things. It also outlines preferences, things that are likely to bother someone or maybe outside their comfort zone, and being able to talk about that level of vulnerability is a big driver of building trust.
[00:34:39] We are all here to solve something bigger than none of us could have done ourselves. But as a combination of each of the things we bring together, we are in a better place to do that.
[00:34:54] Dr. Brandi Pearce: It’s really interesting to me because when we think about trust, trust is really about the desire to monitor someone else’s behavior versus psychological safety, which is the degree to which we feel we can bring our authentic self to the table and actually ask for help and report errors.
[00:35:19] And in many ways, these techniques afford the development in both of these zones.
[00:35:24] Dutta Satadip: Both of these. Yes. A hundred percent. I would agree.
[00:35:28] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Yeah. Interesting.
[00:35:31] Sean Li: By the way, TRT is one of my favorite acronyms from you. Trust results and transparency. Right?
[00:35:39] Dutta Satadip: Yes.
[00:35:40] Sean Li: Um, I, as a layman, I have to ask both of you, have you guys in your experience found these tests to be accurate across borders internationally?
[00:35:50] Dutta Satadip: I’ve done this with international teams, Europe, Asia, Latin America, pretty much everywhere, except I take Africa. I think they are directionally correct. And if there is an error, it’s the same degree of error that exists everywhere. I almost see these tests, not as an assessment of who people are but to develop a common language, to talk about what their preferences are.
[00:36:23] We’ve done the color test many times and what I’ve found is when somebody says, yes, I am more action-oriented and I tend to sort of not consider XYZ when I’m doing decision making that involves a lot of people, what they’re saying is that is their initial instinct that they’re not saying they’re not able to do it, they’re not wanting to do it, but in many cases I have had people including myself say, aye, I tend to have a very rosy view of the world and I believe things can dissolve and things are absolutely always solvable, so I do need somebody every so often to tell me what is the cost of making that possible?
[00:37:19] So, how are you going to help me look around my blind spots? So, I have always used these tests not so much as an assessment, like, Hey, if this means you are an introvert, hence you can do this. This just means this is how I am. If there were no external circumstances, we have all learned skills, we have all learned ways to be successful, being who we are, how do we support each other in the best possible way to create the best collective outcome?
[00:38:14] Sean Li: Thank you for explaining that.
[00:38:24] Dr. Brandi Pearce: It’s interesting I think from my perspective, many of the tests that we have assessments that we have, have not totally been validated globally. But I think what due to saying, which I think is really important, is this idea that how do we create mindful and intentional space and time, whether it’s through an assessment or some other structured activity that creates the opportunity for teams to build what Crampton and Heinz refer to as mutual positive distinctiveness, which is a team’s ability to value differences and similarities while simultaneously orienting towards shared objectives. And I think in global teams, this just becomes even more critical. It’s critical in all teams because we’re so susceptible to misattribution, which is our tendency to attribute a behavior. We don’t understand the person versus their context. And I think these kinds of activities allow us to know the person better.
[00:39:28] So when we don’t understand behavior, we’re more likely to reflect with that individual or come back and try and understand versus defaulting to our assumption state.
[00:39:41] And I’m curious after you had this moment with this team and this incredible learning of realizing, gosh, I’m not getting all of the information that I need across all of these levels.
[00:39:55] And that there seems to may be a disconnect between leaders and teams. Were there any steps you took to try and keep the teams in alignment?
[00:40:06] Because it’s likely they’re going to come out of alignment. But how do we continue that over time?
[00:40:10] Dutta Satadip: Yeah. So, one of the things I have always done and I continue to do is we do monthly all-hands where everybody is required to attend. As a part of monthly all-hands, we do a few things. One is the typical kind of business metrics, what’s going on numbers, all of that kind of good stuff.
[00:40:35] The other section I have always really sort of work towards establishing and doing a lot of, is to talk about specifically failure, and things that are not working. You return them as when one learns or hashtag fails. And the reason I have been a big proponent of doing this, it models a few things.
[00:41:02] One, things are not going to go well but we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to learn from it. Number two, a lot of times, especially when they’re younger team members, they’re trying something and it’s not working, it’s very easy to feel, Oh, I am failing. And what the reality is, most business problems if they’re big, hard, hairy problems, success is a function of all the failures that came before it. But people are so used to the “Instagram life”, where only a success was shared and the journey isn’t, it’s very easy to get demotivated very quickly because you’re putting effort and you’re not seeing outcomes.
[00:42:00] So I’d been very mindful of introducing something around failure, something around learning, in these conversations, because without that, you are not, as a leader, you’re not setting the tone from the top that it is okay to fail. Failure is part of building something and failure should yield in learning.
[00:42:29] What was the learning that we got? How do we distribute it and build on top of it? So that’s probably one of the biggest things I think I have done. And yeah, it seems to resonate pretty well with folks because people want to know the successes and everybody’s talking about that, but people also want to know the journey of what it takes to become successful in projects, in initiatives that are going on at work.
[00:42:56] Dr. Brandi Pearce: It’s interesting because I feel like in many ways, what you just described is the punchline for what I think of or imagined high impact team, which is a team’s ability to build those structures and dynamics over time that allow them to not only meet their collective performance targets but also develop the members inside the team, which actually brings me into one of my next questions, which is, as you think about your experience as a global leader, a leader who’s managed very large complex teams and as we consider our current moment where we’re facing a global pandemic, unrest broadly across the globe, as we examine some of the systems we’ve created that have resulted in opportunity for some at the expense of others, are there things that you think about in terms of your own development that have uniquely positioned you to lead during this time of such uncertainty?
[00:44:21] Dutta Satadip: I would go back to a little bit of something I experienced or very early in my career. I talked about going to Israel. Right after that, I got this opportunity to do this very large MNA integration project. It was with, I was at HP like I was mentioning and HP had done an acquisition of a company called Mercury Active, which was based in Israel.
[00:44:51] And this all happened literally, I went for the trip and like maybe in five months, this acquisition was announced. I raised my hand to help do the MNA integration specifically around product strategy. And, here I was sitting across a team. I’m based in Israel, in Prague, Czech Republic, and in the US. And it’s a very hard a time when folks have to go through any kind of an MNA process, because people who have worked on projects, they’re worried if that project is going to continue, people are concerned about their personal careers.
[00:45:35] People are concerned about, Hey, if they’re going to there’s a lot of it’s like you said, it’s not a psychologically safe environment and you can’t force things like psychological safety on people. It has to happen organically. Now in this particular case, one of the things that I ended up doing was taking, working with our sales counterparts, and doing a customer listening tour.
[00:46:04] And that really helped us have a good understanding of the problem. But more importantly, what I think it did was it allowed all of us to elevate and create a shared purpose on what should be the direction of this product portfolio. Translated forward, this is a lot I think that leaders really need to work on, especially now, is to have a clear team vision. What is the purpose? Why are you doing this? Without a true North, everybody is going to have some sense of interpretation and pre-pandemic you could have corrected a lot of them because you had a lot of physical signals to see if things are progressing, not progressing, all of that good stuff. But now those signals are gone.
[00:47:04] So now those signals have to be created. So, the second thing I feel, which I have learned a lot at Google is the power of transparency. It’s one thing to say, I do this. The second one is to really connect the dots actively and talk about it, whether it is via newsletters, whether it is via Slack, really taking that effort to make that vision come alive with stories with day to day actions and so on.
[00:47:34] And so for them, it’s a lot of work that takes to build that connection but that is the next level that needs to be required. And the third piece, this has been something that I did not expect but I realized that I have to really be much more mindful of than I ever have been before. In the past, working with distributed global teams had one big difference.
[00:48:01] There was a delineation between work and home. Meaning people came to work and you did everything in the context of work but pretty much it was a zoom that once you went back from work, you know, you’re, you know, sure, people did emails and completed something every so often but you know, there was a delineation between work and home.
[00:48:22] What’s now happening is that delineation does not, no longer exist. People’s personal lives and professional lives are colliding in many ways. And you have to give a lot of space for people to adjust and figure out what works for them. So, it’s not just, Hey, these are the goals. It’s also acknowledging you may have to do something specific at a certain time because you have kids at home and while it’s totally okay for all of us to go grab a salad and do a working lunch. When you have kids, you actually have to prepare a meal, feed them, clean them, and you need dedicated time. You can’t multitask over a meeting. That was absolutely okay back when it was at Wendy’s at work.
[00:49:18] So you have to accommodate for those types of things. And that’s definitely been a journey, learning in progress.
[00:49:27] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Love to just follow up on that question a little bit more because I think it’s a new space, it’s new territory. Could you elaborate a little bit on maybe a challenge that you observed in a team or in part of your team that you feel really needed your empathy in many ways to create space for this and what that looks like and what it might look like for other leaders as they really think about this capacity of creating space for adjustment and uncertainty?
[00:50:02] Dutta Satadip: So, one of the things that happened, we had this very major initiative at Pinterest. We had to accelerate customer acquisition and as COVID happen, things went South. The team was extremely worried because it was a top-line goal and I sat the team down and I had an honest conversation around what do you think is possible? Not what the goal is. The reality has changed.
[00:50:43] What do you think is possible? And how are we adjusting to these new realities? So, tell me what’s not going to work, number one. Tell me what’s working that we should be doubling down on. And what are things we should be trying differently? And by reorienting the conversation from the hard goal of X number of customers to how do we make this work with these three pillars, very quickly, people talked about things like, Hey, customers are not engaging because they’re themselves worried. They’re worried about their jobs. Their budget has been cut, a whole bunch of reasons. But they also said, Hey, when we do this, we seem to get good responses. Maybe we should do more of X.
[00:51:35] We also got a lot of ideas. Hey, we haven’t done this. Should we do this? Should we try and reaching out with an email, should we engage people with a request that they could schedule directly if they’re interested some time with us versus us emailing them. And we executed on a lot of these ideas. And the great thing is for the first month, a month and a half, it wasn’t looking good.
[00:52:05] But then things started to turn around. Some of these ideas started to stick and I did what I should do as a leader. I made sure like I’d set expectations that we may not get to the goals, things have changed. But here is why, here’s what we are doing about it. So, being absolutely transparent not only with my team but the same message with the executive team around what are the challenges and what are we doing against those challenges?
[00:52:35] So, I think the transparency goes both ways but I think coming with a more positive problem-solving mindset, really focusing on what are new things we should try and knowing full well that of the 10 things you try, probably only two of them are going to somewhat work and making sure people understand that.
[00:52:55] And so they’re continuously coming up with great ideas is something that has really helped us not only accomplish those goals but also create a sense of I would say harness the collective creativity in the team, the collective problem-solving power of the team in the form of these new ideas.
[00:53:18] Dr. Brandi Pearce: It’s interesting because as you’re talking, there are so many things going through my mind but I think the thing that emerges most is this idea that we have a vision so we have some structure of what we’re orienting towards but we have flexibility around how we’re going to get there.
[00:53:36] Which brings me, I guess, to one of my last questions. Several years ago, you did a talk here at Berkeley where you discussed that data was the new oil. And I would love to just build on that metaphor a little and ask you, as you think about our globe and our world and being a leader in this very complex moment in which either you’re leading nationally but a distributed team or you’re leading globally and you’re working with a team spanning time and space and countries and all kinds of different boundaries. What do you think is the new oil of leadership?
[00:54:22] Dutta Satadip: I think the ideas of this concept of what is the leadership capability that I would really like to build as I move forward, it started a long time ago. I’m not sure it’s the new oil. It is a concept that was first introduced to me by somebody I met during the TEDx Berkeley event, Karissa Anderson, and she has this amazing, a TED talk on mutuality. And I’ve known Karissa since 2013 or so whenever I did that and we’ve talked many times and I’ve really fallen in love with that concept. And I really believe it is one of those things that really define the true leadership capabilities that will be required moving forward which I would say is embracing mutuality, which is, which it talks really about is being very open about sharing strengths, acknowledging weaknesses, and really partnering with each other to core-develop solutions.
[00:55:37] And I think at least, in my opinion, that is the sort of skill that all of us really need to work on. It’s not to say listen to everybody and take no action. As a leader, it is all of our responsibilities to have a good vision, to understand the parameters of success, how it drives overall business impact. But the way you execute this, I think the more we can embrace mutuality, the more we are going to build diverse allies, encourage words within the organization.
[00:56:24] Those allies will give us different ways to look at the problem. And as you said, see the problem in different facets and different ways, the overall solution you’re going to end up building, both the business problem that you’re solving but also how people participate. I think it’s going to be a lot better.
[00:56:44] So that’s probably my biggest thing that I feel very strongly about is embracing mutuality and developing that as a mindset to accelerate team performance, business delivery, but also creating trust and safety within the teams.
[00:57:05] Dr. Brandi Pearce: I really appreciate that vision because in many ways it encourages us to think about the what and the how, that it’s partly what we’re trying to accomplish but that how we go about accomplishing it can make a big difference in terms of what we can possibly accomplish, but also how people feel as they’re striving towards that accomplishment. So, for me, I love that idea, mutuality. I will carry it with me.
[00:57:54] Thank you, Dutta.
[00:57:55] Dutta Satadip: Thank you so much for having me. This was a wonderful conversation. And as always, I love all the work that Haas is doing and absolutely happy to help.
[00:58:06] Sean Li: Thank you so much, Dutta.
[00:58:08] Dr. Brandi Pearce: Thank you. It is amazing to have incredible alumni like you and Sean and it is what makes being a part of this community so special.
Since Dutta provides actionable insights on this vital topic it is well worth listening