The Moment | Laura Appleton
5 MINUTE READ
We believe that life is a collection of Moments. Some ever so big, some fleeting, some small. It is in these Moments and the choices we make within them, that shape the people we become and what our lives will stand for.
We are reaching out to the most interesting, inspiring & successful leaders around the world to ask them about their Moments. In the spirit of our number one value, collaboration, our goal with this series is for you to experience development and enrichment from today's most inspirational leaders.
Laura Appleton is the Senior Manager, People & Culture for Arc'teryx Equipment. Laura is an investor, her currency is people. Believing that everyone should love their job, she looks for the amazing potential of those she meets and asks how can she support their growth and development. Laura began her craft with the award-winning recruitment agency Propel London, England where she fell in love with Talent Acquisition. Having immigrated to Vancouver, Apples joined a yoga company that would teach her how to downward dog and how to expediently grow lululemon athletica without sacrificing culture through core value based leadership, purpose and vision. When not talking about talent, Laura is laughing, riding one of her bikes, snowboarding or planning the next adventure in nature. Laura lives with her wife, teenagers and Kingsley (dog) in beautiful East Vancouver and is the founder of @PurposeStories.
Laura, tell us about The Moment
…..You realized you were in the presence of a great leader/teacher
I didn't realize at the time that Norm my football (soccer) team coach would become my benchmark as a leader today. Norm was far from the norm when it came to leadership, he coached my team with the qualities I believe generate great leadership.
Clarity - we all knew our roles on the field, we understood the game plan and I was always clear on the impact and expectations placed upon me before and during a game.
Decisiveness - Norm was committed to the game plan, and he knew with confidence and command when to throw on a sub to elevate the game or when the usual corner taker needed to be switched to distract the opposition defence.
Courage - I'll never forget a cup final, we were the underdogs and Norm's rallying pre-game speech was designed to remind us all our courage and commitment to get to the final. That we could be bold, that we could choose how we wanted to show up on the field and choose the words our internal dialogue generated. It's a pep talk I still give myself today.
Passion - If you don't love what you're doing, how can you inspire your team? Norm's passion for football was infectious and uplifting on dark rainy winter training nights!
Humility - Humbleness connects people to the opportunity to learn from our failings. I learned to own my mistakes and misses and it was safe to do so because he did.
Fun - Team's that laugh together, will want to spend more time together and work harder for each other. This starts with a great leader who can laugh at themselves, and who knows when a joke will break an awkward silence.
…..You knew you were on the right path in your career
Feedback solicited or unsolicited. I know what it feels like in my body when I've landed a game-changing leadership development workshop, had a coaching moment that has led to a spike in an employees performance or when I see our culture strategy working for the better of employee experience. I get goosebumps. However, feedback is what supports my choices in my career, whether its formal review or data from an engagement survey. Data supports investment opportunities and the illuminates blind spots into bias's I might have that can lead me down the wrong path. I use to be scared of feedback, I hid from it and ignored it. Now, it guides me and reassures me that I'm on track.
It was the spring of 2005, I was recruiting digital designers for agencies and brands in London, England. I met a very talented designer, we'll call him Ben. Ben had a wishlist of agencies he wanted to work for, they were my favourites because they I was a proud design snob. A few months went by, and Ben was getting nervous that he wasn't getting any interviews. I was hustling hard and Creative Directors didn't see the spark that was required in his portfolio which meant doors were not opening up. On our first meeting, I asked Ben who 'would you love to work for' and 'who would you hate to work for'. The agencies on his hate pile were all 'commercial' they made their pounds (dollars) through fast marketing and boring websites (some of these were my clients). I jumped right in with judgment on those less than desirable commercial agencies and that was that. Fast forward a month and my jaw dropped when LinkedIn notified me that Ben was now employed by one of the 'hate to work at’' agencies. I called him up to find out the wtf had happened. Ben ignored my calls. He would later email me, letting me know, 'I know what your thinking and I'm sorry if you think I sold out. I have to pay rent and it's actually quite nice here. Thanks for your help, all the best, Ben'. Two failures here, number 1 I failed to hit my quarterly sales target by not placing Ben. Number 2, the more important failure, is that in my judgmental banter I had failed to create psychological safety for Ben to feel like I would support him in his career choices if things got financially tough for him. It would take me years to actually understand number 2 and learn from it.
…..You chose something different than what was expected of you
For years, I labeled myself a talent acquisition (a.k.a recruiter) leader, then I added talent development (training and coaching) and met people's expectations. This year I had the opportunity to say yes to a role at Arc'teryx that would involve leading the business partner functions and operational side of the people and culture department. It's been a learning curve and it surprised people that I took the role, what I'm unlearning is living through others expectations. Instead, getting curious and committed to my vision and goals and connecting the opportunities to reach them and paying gratitude tips to the people who take a chance on me.
….You wake. And the ritual you have to start your day
I'm a night owl and I need 8 hours sleep to be 100% the best version of myself. I wake, depending on the snooze allowance, I hit snooze then stretch and set an intention for the day ahead with a cup of tea.
….You made your best hire
After twelve years of recruiting, this is a hard one! Can I switch best for most best gamble hire? I took a chance on hiring an educator from the West 4th lululemon store when I managed the Product Recruitment Team at lululemon athletica. I saw raw talent, and on her resume, you would see no recruitment experience and no HR experience. She listened, learned on the job and grew into her role fast. Tayissa is now hands down one of the best technical product recruiters on the West Coast. What's rewarding with this story, is the reminder you have to look past the resume to see the potential.
….You felt the most successful in life
I just came back from an incredible volunteering trip to a super remote part of Mozambique. I was out of the office for 3.5 weeks and it was really satisfying to walk in on a Monday and see how successful my team had been without me around, setting them up for success and then getting out of their way (literally) is a positive sign that I'm doing something right. I struggled in previous manager roles to delegate and empower my team, choosing to hang out in the weeds and sometimes get in the way and then get frustrated that I wasn't working on strategy or future-focused projects. I highly recommend if you're agreeing to this last sentence, go offline for 15 days and seeing a whole new ball game.
….You received feedback that was hard to hear but worth listening to
"How you leave a company, is how you start at your next company". Priceless feedback, I heard it a little late in my career (see question 9) and suffered the consequences. You are always leaving a legacy, and it takes time to rebuild that legacy if you let your lower personality take the microphone in those final two weeks and that infamous exit interview. People forget your successes when you leave, they remember how you made them feel, through your words and your tone in your final weeks.
….You chose to walk away from someone or something
I walked away from lululemon athletica through what I thought was choice, however with hindsight, it was a reactive tantrum powered decision. I LOVED my team, I loved the work and I unconsciously needed to walk away to grow up and learn more about what type of leader I wanted to be. When I realized how good I had it, I asked my old boss for dinner and confessed I'd made a terrible mistake, followed by the question 'can I come back?'. Redlight, and it was a tough and invaluable lesson.
….Bit of more than you could chew
Ha! This happens regularly, pushing myself out of my comfort zone is how I learn best. However, there is a stand out memory where I joined a company for all the wrong reasons (title and salary) that I now advise people to really considers before making their next career move. Those key considerations include alignment with the companies core values, a personal connection to the purpose and of course, inspiration through the company's vision. These were all missing for me, and I realized it would be an uphill battle for me to motivate myself and deliver. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty and it was short lived.
….Saw yourself & your true potential
I think I'm still learning, and discovering this. Today, I feel very fulfilled in my work at Arc'teryx and I take that an indicator that I am on track with my personal purpose and being of service with my leadership, strengths, and talents.
….You understood advice your parents gave you (what was it?)
If you ain't crying, you ain't trying. I kid ;) They have always said to me "Do the best that you can do" since I remember. I thought I was doing that for years, turns out I was measuring myself against the best of other people and paying the price of having to win at all costs. That was a losing game and conditioning from growing up in competitive sports, ultimately I realized it was not fulfilling. After some serious self-reflection and work, I now understand what my best actually is, and choose not to play the comparison 'best' game. It's sound advice that I trust and makes failing forward fun and validating.
Say hi to Laura on LinkedIn at: Laura Appleton
Instagram: @purposestories + @laura.appleton