What steps can you take to accelerate your career growth as a manager? What skills do you need to become one of the best managers at your company?
We recently spoke with Jeremy Brown of Traveldoo - in the last 6 years, he made the jump from Lead of Sales Engineering to CPO and CTO, all while using Lighthouse to help him.
In today's post, Jeremy shares his thoughts about what made him a better leader during that time. Even more importantly, he explains why helping other managers at his company thrive launched his career forward.
Jeremy has been a customer of Lighthouse 1:1 meeting software since all the way back in 2015. He has employed it at three different companies so far.
We'll be showing you how Lighthouse helped develop both Jeremy's and his teams' skills - and how you can use it to propel your career growth as a manager, too.
Making Himself and Those around him Better - Jeremy Brown's Continued Growth with Lighthouse
As mentioned, Jeremy Brown started using Lighthouse over six years ago. He has worked with three companies since then:
"I thought it was just two (Red Hat and Traveldoo) companies, but it's been so long, I forgot I also used Lighthouse at Apigee. I have even paid for Lighthouse personally when I've not been able to expense it.”
Like many of Lighthouse users, Jeremy tried our software to work on the most important skill in any manager's arsenal - his 1:1s:
"I've always been a believer in 1:1s and I really like how Lighthouse has helped me structure and organize my 1:1s with good questions, a shared agenda, and clear follow up actions.”
After personally using it, Jeremy came to the conclusion our software could also help his colleagues. That was especially the case when he became the CTO at Traveldoo.
As it turns out, his managers reporting to him loved Lighthouse as much as he did:
"Not all of the managers at Traveldoo used Lighthouse (3-4 didn't while nearly 30 others did), but those that did all wanted to keep using it and renew after our first year - that was a really positive sign to me.”
Why did Jeremy and his team like Lighthouse so much? And how did it specifically help them?
1. It took his 1 on 1s to the next level
The most fundamental skill Lighthouse focuses on is helping managers have more valuable 1:1s. Using our software, Jeremy Brown learned how to structure them to get the most out of every check-in:
"[Lighthouse helped me] move away from a haphazard approach that worked for some reports and not for others. My 1:1s now lead to real behaviour change and progression in all my reports - though all at different speeds.”
A few useful features contributed to this:
- Lighthouse's calendar integrations and actionable reminders in apps such as Slack, Teams, etc kept Jeremy well prepared and organized without a lot of overhead (crucial for his busy schedule).
- Quickly and easily creating an agenda before each 1:1 thanks to our integrations to tools he already used and our Suggested Questions so he always had things ready to talk about.
- Improved accountability and more progress because he had a written record of action items for follow up for next 1 on 1 in an easy and organized way.
Jeremy highlighted our suggested questions as one of his favorite ways Lighthouse helped him:
"The suggested questions are really important for better 1:1s. Even five minutes of scrolling through Lighthouse's suggested questions is crucial for digging into important topics - especially where things might start to feel stale and repetitive.”
Thanks to these features, Jeremy was able to transform his meetings. They became so much better than status updates. They have been transformed into truly meaningful conversations about how people are doing and progressing.
Bonus: Skip level 1:1s helped Jeremy and his managers improve
Since 2015, Jeremy has gone through quite a learning curve as a leader. As his responsibilities grew, he had to learn to manage other managers. He was able to do this by mastering skip level meetings, among other things.
As a reminder, skip level one on ones are where you – whether you're a senior manager or the CEO – sit down with the direct reports of all your managers. This helps you keep a pulse on how things are truly going at your organization and where your managers need to improve.
Skip level 1:1s are a key tool for senior leaders. As Jeremy puts it:
"It was really through Lighthouse that I started using skip level 1:1s - as a leader of a larger organization, this has been really transformational to reach deeper into an organization to understand what is really going on. I can't say I have perfected any of this yet, but I have seen the impact.
I have introduced this to the managers who work for me. I have been able to model how a good 1:1s should look through Lighthouse. And they have been able to replicate that with their reports. In many cases, they do a much better job than myself.”
1:1s are the most valuable investment you can make as a manager, and by investing in Lighthouse, Jeremy was able to always make the most of these meetings - whether meeting with a direct report, or someone deeper in the organization in a skip level 1 on 1.
2. They created a key feedback loop with Lighthouse's Manager Score
An important part of Jeremy's journey with Lighthouse involves our Manager Score benchmarking survey. We designed it based on research from Google, Gallup, Deloitte, and others.
It lets team members evaluate key behaviors of their managers anonymously. The idea behind this is to encourage open feedback. Jeremy told us:
"Another killer feature for me is the Manager Score process. It helps not only the managers, but individual contributors feel heard.
It ensures that their manager is getting feedback from them in a safe/anonymous way. As a result, we know what to work on, and I know what to focus on in skip level 1:1s”
The Lighthouse Manager Score includes specific, actionable advice on how to improve. Additionally, you'll receive further reading to help you and the managers at your company address potential weaknesses.
This includes a manager's ability to:
- Give feedback
- Build rapport and trust with their team
- Retain their team
- Develop and grow their team members
For Jeremy, the Manager Score has been a key part of his team's evaluation process for managers. As he puts it:
"I wish I'd had the Manager Score at the beginning of my career. It offers a palpable way of knowing you're doing a better job.
It gives you the feedback loop you wouldn't have otherwise had. Most importantly, it tells you where you need to improve and shows you how to do it.”
While using Lighthouse software isn't mandatory for Jeremy's team, all of his managers are required to receive feedback through bi-annual cycles of Manager Score.
Jeremy told us that all of his managers - even the ones who were making no progress in the beginning - benefited from receiving this kind of anonymous, highly focused feedback:
"I'm so proud of how my team embraced the feedback from their Manager Scores to help their personal development.
For example, we had a manager that scored low the first time we ran the Manager Score. I would say the biggest improvement for him came from stopping using 1:1s as status updates to a real conversation centered around development and feedback (which showed up as areas to work on from their Manager Score results).
"After we did a reorganization of our teams around user personas, that manager was able to quickly bootstrap their new team into a cohesive team even though none of the folks had worked directly with each other.
This only happened because they changed how they managed based on the feedback they received from their Manager Score results.”
By mixing in bi-annual surveys along with the week to week usage of Lighthouse software, Jeremy and his managers have been able to get a pulse on how they're doing, and find ways to continually improve how they lead and motivate their teams.
These surveys, which included a report for Jeremy and the rest of the executive team, helped them spot patterns across the organization to see how they commonly were managing well and where to work to improve.
They then used these insights to choose the right program to participate in from our Lighthouse Lessons program, to help teach all their managers how to improve through weekly, bite-size lessons, and leader-led group discussions about the lessons.
All of this, Lighthouse Software, Manager Score, and Lighthouse Lessons is part of Lighthouse Pro, which gives you a comprehensive solution to help you and your fellow managers build the right habits, measure how they're doing, and learn how to be great leaders.
You can learn more about Lighthouse Pro here, or email us at pro at getlighthouse dot com to talk about getting Pro for you and your team.
3. Everyone built rapport and better engagement with their teams thanks to Lighthouse's actionable reminders & tips
To inspire your team and bring out their best, you need to be genuinely interested in them. This means building rapport with them, and remembering key details about their lives, anniversaries, and interests.
Not surprisingly, this gets extremely difficult as your team grows. This was also the case for Jeremy:
"I'm terrible at remembering personal things about people like their partner or children's names etc. That's why having the rapport tab is really helpful.
I can be forgetful on a busy day, so it's perfect to be able to hop over to it and jot those things down. Then I use that to ask a better question in our 1:1s.”
Jeremy told us that writing things down in the rapport section of Lighthouse has helped him be more thoughtful and stay on top of what means the most to his team:
"I took all the anniversaries and dates from other apps and transferred them to Lighthouse. Lighthouse does a better job not just reminding you of important dates, but also sending actionable reminders you can react to immediately.”
While most reminders only happen the day of the event, Lighthouse also reminds you ahead of time. That way you can plan a gift, or other recognition, instead of scrambling the day of to do something for your team members.
We've written about the impact of building rapport with your team many times on the Lighthouse blog, and for good reason: It drives employee engagement, helps build loyalty on your team, and makes your team more receptive to feedback and input from you.
It's one of those so called "soft skills” that often gets overlooked, but can make you truly stand out as a manager.
4. Lighthouse made remote management easier
Lighthouse was created to help you get the most from your 1:1s, so you can be a great manager. This goes for both when you're working remotely or in an office together. Jeremy has benefited from Lighthouse in both of those scenarios. As he puts it:
"At two of the three companies I worked, my teams were distributed. Where Lighthouse really shines is enabling remote work. It makes it much easier to take and review notes from one place.
Additionally, having remote-specific suggested questions is very helpful. Alongside the Rapport and Goals sections, they help me engage my distributed teams in a structured way.”
Jeremy also uses Lighthouse for 1:1s when he's working from an office, albeit in a different way:
"For me, when you're face to face with someone, electronics can get in the way of your conversation. I'm not the type of person who's going to be typing away while talking to someone.
That would also be difficult because I usually have walking 1:1s in person. This is where the Lighthouse mobile app comes in handy. I can easily take a glance at my agenda and know what to talk about on that day.”
After his face-to-face meetings, Jeremy usually schedules time for writing down notes in Lighthouse, so he has the reference later and remembers what's important.
Whether you're meeting your team members in an office or remotely, having all your information in one place is key for keeping you prepared and noting everything quickly when you think of it. Don't let yourself get bogged down with dozens of documents spread across your team that are never within reach when you think of something.
Lighthouse can help regardless of you and your team's location. It supports managers of distributed and in-office teams with context-specific suggested questions and organizes your notes to make it easy for you to review them at any time and any place.
The measurable impact of Lighthouse on Jeremy's team at Traveldoo
Since Lighthouse focuses mostly on your soft skills for managers, its effect can be difficult to quantify. However, Jeremy shared two areas where Lighthouse produced a measurable difference for his team at Traveldoo.
In his words:
"Like every company in the travel industry, Traveldoo was severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite that, we found that our employee engagement scores were higher than in other parts of the business under Expedia's umbrella. [Ed note: Traveldoo is owned by Expedia Group.]
People explicitly wrote they loved where they were. We were able to retain employee engagement and increase it. We even improved the average Manager Score over the crisis. In terms of turnover, we had a surprisingly low number of people leaving given the circumstances.”
Jeremy also stressed how even those who were struggling to perform on his team made progress thanks to Lighthouse:
"It's hard to put a number on it, but we saw our lowest performers in our Lighthouse Manager Score go up to a good range. There's no price you can put on that in terms of quantifiable value. But there's certainly a measurable difference for the people working at our company.”
Another important consequence of using our Manager Score was making the right decision on who to promote:
"The Manager Score helped us decide who to promote based on tangible criteria."
But for Jeremy, the best part about using Lighthouse was seeing everyone on his team grow:
"Maybe it was a bit of luck, but every person at Traveldoo showed growth during my time here. Even if it was slow and took a lot of effort to happen, everyone made progress.
Seeing that growth in somebody has been the most rewarding part of my job. And Lighthouse is a big part of that story.”
Since 2015, Lighthouse has accelerated Jeremy's growth as a manager in a number of ways.
In the beginning, our software helped him structure his 1:1s to drive positive changes in each of his team members. This meant transforming check-ins from simple status updates to quality, ongoing conversations. Jeremy also relied on our suggested questions to ensure 1:1s never got stale or repetitive.
As Jeremy's focus shifted to leading other managers, Lighthouse enabled him to have great skip level meetings. He was able to uncover what's truly going on at different levels in his organization and understand how he should coach and improve the managers reporting to him.
Best of all, Jeremy's direct reports who were managers started copying his process for 1:1s, which consequently created a positive ripple effect throughout his organization.
As the number of people he led grew, Jeremy benefited from Lighthouse's actionable reminders about anniversaries, birthdays, and other key dates from the Rapport section. This was crucial for maintaining engagement, especially among his remote team members.
Then, when Traveldoo purchased Lighthouse Pro, they were able to use Lighthouse's Manager Score to gauge how he and other managers at his company were doing in key leadership areas.
The feedback from the company-wide report as well as the individual guidance each manager received helped him and the other managers understand how they could improve, and assisted Jeremy in determining which of his direct reports he should promote.
Making managers better - even during COVID
Even in 2020, when COVID-19 had a severe impact on businesses across the world, Jeremy's teams recorded an extremely low turnover rate.
Even more importantly, each of Jeremy's team members was able to make visible progress.
Some managed to do it more quickly than others, but no one was left feeling hopeless about their career and future.
This is the most rewarding part of being a leader for Jeremy - seeing long-term efforts produce results, even among those who were struggling to perform.
If you want to be a truly great leader that keeps improving and drives his team to become better, sign up for a free 21-day trial of Lighthouse. We'll provide you with everything you need on your journey to becoming a great manager, no matter what stage of your career you're in.