Lessons on Developing Daily Leadership Practices from Inside Twitter

“I lead from the heart. First and foremost, I lead with the idea of servitude. Focus on customer first and do this work, not only for our customers, but also do it for the employees who are working day in and day out to make it happen and quite frankly delight our users,” says Donald Hicks, former V.P. Operations at Twitter, in my most recent LinkedIn Live. Donald was in charge of overseeing CX, content moderation enforcement, product support engineering, data analytics, and more.

Donald Hicks has had what he considers, an “unconventional path toward the idea of customer experience leader,” and he shares incredible insights regarding his leadership role at Twitter, which was built upon a foundation that he gained from his education at the HBCU Clark Atlanta University, and from his leadership roles at Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other reputable organizations.

Donald and I discuss various tenets of his approach to leadership at Twitter, the importance of employee engagement and support, and some of the behind the scenes operations that happens in order to keep the platform enjoyable for users. You won’t want to miss this episode!

Develop Daily Leadership Actions for Yourself

Have you created a dedicated strategy to elevate your leadership role? Donald shares the following three actions to keep him on track, daily:

    1. He spends a lot of time assessing how Twitter is doing as an organization. For him, this is looking at where his team currently stands regarding strategy on the journey, the vision, and plan that is put in place. He says, “you always have to have the shopping mall map of where you’re going, and then you play that back to your people so they know as well.” This strategy helps remind Donald and his team to not get consumed by the day to day battle.
    2. “I focus on trying to truly understand and keep a pulse of my organization globally,” says Donald. Leading a global organization means having an understanding of the hearts and minds of everyone who is working with him around every corner of the world. He says, “Are we trying to focus on driving ethos, and a positive ethos in the organization? So I wake up every day thinking about that, how are we doing?” Donald checks this pulse by spending one on one time with employees, conducting surveys on a quarterly basis, and doing his best to remain connected.
    3. “The one that gives me the most energy is continuing to keep my eye on voice of customer,” Donald shares. He tells that he takes time each morning to read the emails that come in or take a look at how many users have reached out to the organization. His goal is to try to engage with that user, or try to engage with his team to spot what the trends are. It’s incredibly important for Donald to keep a close attachment to the voice of the customer.

As a leader, you have to constantly assess how your organization is doing and stay close to the voice of the customer. - @DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

Do the Work of Connecting the Dots to Get CX Buy-In

We know that it can be tough to get CX buy-in within an organization. Donald shares that to push through some of the challenges, you have to make the connection between the benefits of CX and its effect on growth and revenue. You have to show that consistent dedication to CX will be a big driver of success.

Additionally, Donald explains that you need to fortify the idea of voice of customer (VoC) and consumer experience. Explain that this is a mechanism to help deliver feedback to leaders. He shares that by leveraging VoC data, they’ve been able to improve the product and user experience to improve Twitter user satisfaction.

Lastly, Donald says that having the ability to use CX as an element for external empowerment is important. For instance, when users become the advocates for the experiences they’ve had, it encourages others to be interested. “Whatever we can do to really fortify that ability to have users speak on our behalf; I think it’s just going to create the buy in internally,” he shares.

To get CX buy-in, you have to make the connection between the benefits of CX and its effect on growth and revenue. -@DHicks, Former VP Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?

Donald says:

“When I think back to my earlier self and what I would tell myself, the first one is, truly resist the labels that your management and others want to place on you. Instead, focus on being the best version of who you believe you are. I spent a lot of time enveloped in perhaps the quarterly review or the year-long sort of review I got, and I would just spin on that, versus focusing my time on who I felt I was, and how I want to show up every day. So that’s number one, resist the labels.

The second one, and I think this one, the sort of what I would say younger professionals get very well, lean into the idea of marketing yourself. And it’s okay. In my generation, it was sort of sort of put your head down and deliver, let your delivery Speak for yourself. And what I have found is while that is important, it’s also okay to market to leadership, what you’re doing, and how they’re making an impact.”

Resist the labels that your management and others want to place on you. -@DHicks, Former VP of Global Ops @Twitter Click To Tweet

About Donald Hicks

Donald Hicks is a Silicon Valley tech executive, industry thought leader, consumer experience architect, and operations veteran. Creating harmony between unparalleled consumer experiences, and operational strategies is where Donald’s passion lies! Donald understands the hidden power that lies within dreamers and the responsibility we have to empower all people while fostering a sense of belonging.

His relentless pursuit in shaping the way we approach and improve technology platforms has led to his distinct leadership style and unmatched success at tech heavyweights such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and now Airbnb.

Interested in hearing more from Donald Hicks? You can find him on Medium, where he writes content sharing his great insights.

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