Treat Operational Debt like Tech Debt — Leah Sutton on Elastic’s Distributed Work Playbook
Episode 13

Treat Operational Debt like Tech Debt — Leah Sutton on Elastic’s Distributed Work Playbook

Today’s episode is with Leah Sutton, SVP of Global HR at Elastic. Leah’s been in the HR space for over 20 years, and now leads everything from HR operations to recruiting and employee engagement for Elastic’s fully-distributed employee base.

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Today’s episode is with Leah Sutton, SVP of Global HR at Elastic. Leah’s been in the HR space for over 20 years, and now leads everything from HR operations to recruiting and employee engagement for Elastic’s fully-distributed employee base, which includes over 2,000 spread across 40 countries and 48 states. 

In today’s conversation, we look closely under the hood of what Leah calls Elastic’s “distributed by design” company DNA. She walks us through her learnings tackling challenges companies now are paying close attention to — including how to interview for leaders that can manage well remotely — and even dives into the nitty-gritty details about payroll and compensation across regions. She also outlines a few of the tactics Elastic has leaned on to smooth over some of the language and cultural barriers that often trip up global leadership teams.

Leah zooms out even further to discuss Elastic’s source code, which she describes as not so much a traditional list of values but more the things that make Elastic, Elastic. Finally, she sketches out her pitch for why companies should talk about operational debt as much as they do technical debt.

Today’s conversation is a must-listen for HR leaders and founders — and for folks on the hunt for a more systematic approach to the new challenges of distributed work.


Learn more about Elastic’s source code here:


You can follow Leah on Twitter at @leahesutton


You can email us questions directly at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter and 

EP.14 - Leah Sutton

Leah Sutton: [00:00:00] While those barriers have been coming down, they've really been shattered. But again, understanding how do you speak to that talent in a compelling way, as opposed to, well, now I can just hire anywhere. So I'm going to do that because having that infrastructure, having the understanding, having the tools, having people that truly know what it means to work lead and manage in a distributed way is different.

Brett Berson: [00:00:25] Welcome to in depth, a new show that surfaces tactical advice, bounders and startup leaders need to grow their teams, their companies, and themselves. I'm Brett Berson, a partner at first round, and we're a venture capital firm that helps startups like notion, roadblocks, Uber, and square tackle company building firsts through over 400 interviews on the review.

We've shared standout company, building advice. The kind that comes from those willing to skip the talking points and go deeper into not just what to do, but how to do it with our new podcast in depth, you can listen into these deeper conversations every single week. Learn more and subscribe [email protected]

today's episode. So to have in-depth I am thrilled to be joined by Leah Sutton. Leah is the SVP of global HR at elastic, which powers open source software for search and data analytics and what public back in 2018, Leah's worked in HR since 2001st cut her teeth working at bloom energy. She's perhaps best suited to talk about the challenges and opportunities.

For HR departments in our current moment, elastic has been a distributed company long before 2020, and currently has over 2000 employees spread across 40 countries and 48 states, Leah joined elastic back in 2016 and she said she was drawn to the company in large part because of the unique challenges of scaling culture across a distributed company.

Even though at the time she was signing on to be a team of one in today's conversation. We look closely under the hood of what Leah calls elastics distributed by design company DNA. She walks us through her learnings, tackling challenges. Companies now are paying close attention to including how to interview for leaders that can manage well remotely and even dives into the nitty gritty details about payroll and compensation across regions.

She also outlines a few of the tactics. Elastic has leaned on to smooth over some of the language and cultural barriers that often trip up global leadership teams, Leia zooms out even further to discuss Elastic's source code, which she describes as not so much a traditional list of values, but more the things that make elastic elastic.

One of her favorites is be humble. Be ambitious at elastic. We are both. And she's got plenty of stories of how this mandates starts with elastic CEO, Shay Bannon. Finally, she makes her pitch for why companies should talk about operational debt as much as they do technical debt. Today's conversation is a must listen to for HR leaders, of course, but also for folks on the hunt for a more systematic approach to the new challenges of distributed work, whether they be operational questions, crossed wires or management stumbles, I really hope you enjoy this episode.

And now my conversation with Leah, thank you so much for joining us. 

Leah Sutton: [00:03:36] You're welcome. Happy to be here. Wanted 

Brett Berson: [00:03:37] to start by maybe talking at a high level. We were talking about this a little bit before we got started, but for all the obvious reasons, there's been a lot of writing and sharing about running distributed companies.

But just wanted to start by having you share some of the things that you've come to learn over the past five years about successfully running a distributed company that you think. Aren't talked enough about, or maybe I'm sure lots of people over the past months have reached out to you for advice. And you know, you leave the calls, there's Nunes and you're like, oh, I'm surprised they didn't ask X or, or they should really be asking why and thought that might be a great place to start.

Leah Sutton: [00:04:14] I mean, I think one of the things that will be interesting is as we snap back to hate the new normal, the next normal, whatever you want to call it, companies saying, oh, now we've just shifted right now. We're distributed. We know how to do it. And the fact of the matter is it's intentional. Like we always say distributed by design.

And I think there are a few things that there's a point of difference there. In that for five years, we've been screening people, particularly managers and leaders to say, have you worked in a distributed fashion before? And. If so great. Tell me about that. If not, tell me about your communication style, help me understand how you would approach leading a distributed team.

And so this very intentional focus on finding folks that have the experience or fundamentally understand the difference. That's not the same thing to leave a team where you're not getting into a conference room, or you're not co-located in an office than it is to in that situation. And so I think that the thing I, I was counseled people like, listen there, you're doing it because you have to right now.

But that doesn't mean that people are going to be great at it or that they even want to do it that way. So I think that there's a real intentionality about how to think about leadership and management in particular. When you are distributed, the assumption is, well, we didn't think we could do it because we hadn't done it now we're doing it.

And it's just, we've done it because of force of necessity. It's not actually what it's going to look and feel like when people can get back to an office. So I think that's one thing. I think the other thing is just really thinking about the tools and who is working for you and how you can extend your reach.

And I think one of the things that we've always. Worked on, perhaps not even as best as we could at elastic is thinking about who are the populations that you wouldn't reach if you're just focused on having your engineers in the bay area or having your finance team in the bay area or having sales is interesting, right?

Because sales is more typically distributed, right? You're selling regionally. You've got folks out in the field regionally, but core functions where they have more typically been office based companies for a long time. They've lost that on talent that perhaps required flexibility. Didn't want to make a terrible commute who.

You know, live in a small town in the mountains or in the Midwest or wherever, but that's a lifestyle choice, right? Their family's close by. They want to be there. And there've been struggles because they haven't necessarily had opportunities or options in terms of career paths or growth because of geography.

And I think that while those barriers have been coming down, they've really been shattered. But again, understanding how do you. Speak to that talent in a compelling way, as opposed to, well, now I can just hire anywhere. So I'm going to do that because having that infrastructure, having the understanding, having the tools, having people that truly know what it means to work lead and manage in a distributed way is different.

And so I think that's something that will be interesting is how companies start to access talent pools that they didn't formally have access to. And can they do it successfully? And I'm not talking about like, well now we just, we don't need to have it in the bay area. So we're going to set up a, an engineering center somewhere else, or we're going to do it.

We're still going to do it in a node kind of way, as opposed to in a really distributed way. So I think that will be an interesting thing to watch as well. 

Brett Berson: [00:07:07] So one of the things you just talked about was this idea of hiring people that understand, or maybe are built for this idea of distributed leadership or management, and would be great to talk about what are you looking for to assess.

That someone would be a great person running a remote team versus a great manager in general. And I'd caveat by saying it would be very easy just to go and interview somebody and say, oh, you worked at envision. So you manage people remotely and we're through your own experience. Obviously you had never done this and you've obviously been hugely successful in running very large team now.

And so what do you look for in somebody who has not done it before, but gives you conviction that they could be exceptional. And what is different about that person than just an exceptional manager? 

Leah Sutton: [00:07:54] Communication is that was key from my perspective with great leaders, great managers. They by necessity must be great communicators.

Now, can they do that in a written way? Can they do that over video? Can they do that on the phone? And so I think it's one thing when you can sit in a room with someone and have a conversation and you know, what did they say? Like 80% of communication is body language. You've just lost 80% of your cues, right?

So, are you able to pick things up and Intuit these things via these other forms of communication where you don't have the luxury of being able to sit six, six or eight feet away from someone? Right. So I think that's very different. And I think just that when you are communicating, this is the path we are on, this is the direction we are going, being able to do that in an incredibly crisp, articulate way for us in particular, because English is the language that we work in, but we have people.

Across the world for whom it is not their first language, that precision of language and being really clear and communicate patients becomes even more important. So I think there's that piece. But at the end of the day to meet great managers have to be able to connect. And so if you are not able to connect in these ways that are perhaps different for you or not comfortable for you, that's going to impact your ability to inspire a team.

Get good feedback to a team connect with individuals and ultimately have them be their best selves at work. So I think that that communication piece, but not the, we just sort of take for granted that, oh yeah. I meant like I managed people. I'm going to be able to see them every now and again and connect with them.

Right. So I think there's just a, there's a shift and I think it's elastic in particular, I would say we're very, heart-centered human centric in terms of how we lead people so that you're not just getting down to business. Right. You're figuring out and. I've been saying this for a long, long time, but like ultimately when you're distributed and you're working over zoom, it's very intimate, right.

You're in a person's home. And so that's not traditionally what has happened. So I think really reading cues in a different way is going to be really critical and that can be very difficult. Perfect. So 

Brett Berson: [00:09:55] how does that map to the interview process for a manager or a leader? Can you talk a little bit about that in some detail?

Leah Sutton: [00:10:02] Absolutely. So I think there's a real focus on that behavioral situational set of questions. Walk me through that. What worked, what didn't, what have you learned? Funny enough? Like, I don't think the fundamental way you interview effectively has changed, but it's really cuing in on. The things that didn't work and focusing more on the great.

So you had that great experience with your team. What team member weren't you able to take along and why, and how did you correct that? I don't believe anyone just gets us out of the gate. Right? It does take work and it does take patience. Right. And testing and learning. People are individually motivated.

It's doubly hard over in kind of a remote environment. So really. Understanding through your, the questions that you're asking are they wrote or are they going to really figure out a more individualized, like, can you come to an individualized way of communicating and connecting with people as simply asking questions around how they've done that and ensuring that you're getting good examples and continuing to push.

Cause it's, it's like, yeah, everyone can give you the good example, but you want to really understand like where it's gone awry and how they've course corrected from that. So I don't know that it's wildly different. From how we would communicate or ask questions normally in a behavioral interview, but focusing specifically in, on those communications, both the written piece and the verbal piece, and then also we're doing more, um, case studies.

So giving people an example of something that's going on and asking them to react to it real time. That's been really telling for us, we're doing it on the HR side. Obviously we do that in sales kind of stand and deliver, but really doubling down and making sure for our managers and leaders that we understand their communication style coming in and trying to see how that will translate in a remote.


Brett Berson: [00:11:40] you walk through one of those case studies or an example of what that looks like? 

Leah Sutton: [00:11:45] On the HR side in particular, one of the things that is always tricky is like, if you have a performance management issue, how do you deliver tough feedback or terminate someone, right. When you're doing it over zoom, that's a very different experience.

So asking a person to kind of walk us through, okay, you've got a difficult situation. Take us through how you would run this fear interview in a business partner. How would you run this through with the manager? And so asking them very specifically, here's the situation. You've got an employee who, even if it's not terminated, they won't turn their video on.

They're very terse and emails. They're not on slack. How do you get to the bottom of what's going on? So asking them to kind of walk through when you've got someone on the other end, who's not being communicative. How do you get them to engage? And how do you dig in to understand what's going on from a personal perspective?

Right? So giving them those situational pieces. And I think the performance one is often the most difficult one because they haven't necessarily done that before. So you get a pretty good assessment of how someone is thinking about. What would I do if I was only able to do this over zoom and I can't sit down with someone in a conference 

Brett Berson: [00:12:47] room, given you're operating in different states and different countries around the world.

What have you learned about how different people from different places behave differently? 

Leah Sutton: [00:12:59] Yeah. So I think one of, one of the things I always tell people is like, context is wildly important. And so at elastic, we have folks from 97 different nationalities, and I love that stat because it's just, it blows my mind in 40 different countries.

And you can imagine the dozens of different languages that our employees speak, which is amazing. That said styles of communication. And this is where things can get really tricky. So I would tell people if you see something over slack over zoom, that doesn't feel right to you. Part of our source code is don't assume malice, right?

So assume positive intent and a lot can get lost in translation. There's the culture map. There's a lot of different books that sort of go into great detail about different cultures and how they communicate differently, right. Or how they would prefer to communicate. One of the conversations I had, this is several years ago that really opened my eyes to this.

I had a colleague, quite a senior technical person who is Japanese, and he's like, listen, if I had my way, I would always prefer to raise my hand in a meeting and have someone call on me. It's culturally difficult for me to. Just interject, like you're having this rollicking conversation about a technical issue and it's, I'm uncomfortable.

It's just sort of. Jumping in. And I think that gets exacerbated over zoom. So how do you ensure that folks that culturally may not find it appropriate for just jumping in the conversation? And let's see, you've got stereotype for a bunch of noisy Americans that are just going and going. You can totally lose voices in that conversation because you aren't paying attention.

One of the best things. Recently, we had a session on power and privilege and tech, and one of our engineering leaders, a woman who is Indian. And she said, I encourage people to respect the pause. She's like, because in my mind, I'm formulating what I'm going to say in a different language. And then I have to translate it to English and then I'm going to say it.

So it might take me a moment. So when I pause, it's not that I don't have something important to say or something powerful to say, it's just, I need it. I needed a little bit more time. And so that's kind of been, our new catch phrase is just respect the pause because it doesn't mean that someone isn't.

Going to say something they just might need a little more time. So that's, I think one of the biggest takeaways for us around just how people want to participate and communicate that can create conflict. It can create misunderstandings. And so really, I tell people two things like give people time, call on people as a manager, like be aware of how different folks on your team want to communicate.

But then also if something comes across and it feels insensitive or it feels a little bit off. Just say, Hey, I'm not sure what you were trying to get at there, as opposed to assuming that they were being malicious or had, you know, had poor intent because that context of where you come from and how are you used to communicating and even the language in which you're used to communicating are super, super important.

So that's probably the biggest thing that we'll bump into that we're trying to coach managers on being a lot more aware of that. Are there 

Brett Berson: [00:15:45] other rituals or habits that you've developed. It could be in meetings. It could be in the way that you communicate across the entire company, like respect the pause that you found useful.

I would just think it's such an interesting problem. You have cultures that are hierarchical culture that are direct. You have cultures that are more oriented around the hours I work than the output that I have. I mean, there's just so many things. Even when you, when you have a diverse group of folks, That all live in the same city, let alone different countries.

And so I'm curious what other habits or practices that you've developed over the years that you think help enable people to be super productive for people to feel welcomed and for people to feel like they can do their best work? 

Leah Sutton: [00:16:34] I think there's a couple things related to communication. And then a couple of things just in terms of how we work.

In addition to that, respect the pauses, really encouraging people. To as much as possible use very plain language. So in written communications and in verbal communications, I tend to speak very, very quickly. So we always joke that a lot of our engineers will listen to things, whether it's a podcast or a book on tape, or, uh, you know, a meeting playback on zoom, they'll speed it up.

I was like, yeah, they can't when they get to me, cause I'd sound like a chipmunk. I speak very quickly normally. Right. So really encouraging people to. Be clear use plain language and everyone does this. It's pervasive. Don't use analogies, whether they be sports, particularly sports analogies, move it up the field.

There's a zillion of them because not only does not everyone care about that particular sport, but they very often do not translate. Globally. So there's, there's things like that to be very cognizant of. And I think one of the things just very open, so have the opportunity. Often once a month, we do an ask me anything forum with all of our executives and a lot of companies do this.

So this is not rocket science, but I do think it plays to ensuring that folks understand what's going on and feel comfortable about what's going on. And I always encourage, there's sort of nothing that's out of bounds for those. And if it is out of bounds, we're really clear, like for various reasons, whether it's because we're public or this or that, like, we're not going to answer that right now.

So I think that we just over-index on the transparency and clear communication piece, and then we've got our source code and I don't know if you've ever seen the elastic source code, but it's not a set of values, but it's a set of statements and sort of ideas. That really, I think make elastic elastic.

And so we try as much as possible to tie the things that we do back to that source code when we are rewarding people or acknowledging a job, well done, tie it back to like, Hey, you're really, this is really emblematic of that piece of our source code. So things like come as you are humble, ambitious, simple progress, simple perfection, right?

These are things that we try to live and breathe. And that having those baseline things, I think really enables us people know when they come in. I don't think I've talked to a candidate in recent history where I'm like, Hey, did you like the source code? They're like, it was definitely a reason I decided to join elastic.

We're very clear about the things who we are and what those things are. Can you talk a 

Brett Berson: [00:18:47] little bit more about the source code and maybe how it differs from sort of standard values or well done employee handbooks or what have you. 

Leah Sutton: [00:18:56] For sure. I mean, I think when we went through it, like I said, they're not S you know, people say we value authenticity, right?

They're not a set of statements. They're sort of more around ideas. And I always tell people they're are both aspirational, true and aspirational. Right. We live in that tension between that. And ultimately they sit on top of a phrase, which is speed, scale relevance. Right. Unless. We can operate at speed. We can scale and we are relevant to our customers.

None of the source code stuff matters. Right? So we tie them together with this is all about. A great business, as opposed to just some fluffy words on a wall that people are like, okay, fine. And I think one of them that I love is, oh, one dot oh two comma backslash format, and it's all about being distributed.

Right. And so I always ask people when I do new hire training, like, oh one dot oh two, like what's that date? And everyone's sort of chuckles because it could be different things depending on what part of the world you're in. So we talk a lot about that. We have to really be intentional because. Even a date can cause confusion, depending on your location.

There are things like that. This idea, like empathy has to be the center of all that we do that idea of a diverse elastic is great, but that is also hard. And so how do we make sure that clarity is part of what we do, but. Also not assuming malice also be an empathetic. So I think that what I love about them is like, if it's a set of ideas, as opposed to like words or statements and they're really open for interpretation, right?

So everyone looks at the source code and takes different things away from it. You know, there are pieces of it that for me, I'm like, yeah, that doesn't totally resonate with me, but I love the rest of it. And so I don't expect people to be adherent to a set of things. It's more like, do you believe in that idea?

And if that idea is exciting to you, then this is a great place for you. And I think that is how people engage with it and get excited about it. But it's definitely something that we spent probably a year and a half really creating because it needed to feel very true to who can you talk 

Brett Berson: [00:20:50] about maybe a story or something that comes to mind where.

The source code or the way in which you articulated your values was particularly impactful or shared them. Kind of living in the real 

Leah Sutton: [00:21:03] world. Yeah. That really popped for me. And I think one is humble. Ambitious. I was teasing our CFO about this before earnings call this week because we're doing great things in the world and we have amazing people here, but everyone is incredibly humble.

And I always use like shy or CEO. I love to tell the story where he was on a flight sitting in coach next to some guy they got to chatting. And it turns out that the gentleman who was sitting next to you was a product manager at another tech company. And, you know, the guy asked him like, oh, where do you work?

He's like, oh, I work at elastic. And so they were chatting and this guy was unloading about what he thought about elastic. Good bad and otherwise. And you know, she has like, oh, that's really interesting. Have you thought about this? And so they had this very engaging textual conversation. And at the end of the flight, the guy's like, oh, sorry, I didn't introduce myself.

I'm John. And I said, oh, I'm shy. And this, the guy realized like, he'd been talking to the CEO for a couple of hours in this flight. And she never said, Hey, I'm the CEO. Or I'm the, I'm the guy who actually wrote the original code. And, and he would never do that. Right. He's just a very humble guy. And I think that sort of humility at the top really permeates through the organization.

The source code that the humble ambitious is the tag, but ambition drives us to challenge ourselves and the people around us to do better. It's not an excuse to be an asshole. And that is literally our source code. Right. Be humble, be ambitious at elastic. We both, and I think that people get that because I think a lot of people have worked at companies where the brilliant jerk exists.

Right. And that just. Doesn't fly at elastic. I mean, I think for me, early days, we had an engineer who was brilliant and kind of top of his game in a particular part of our stack. And he was a tyrant and it was very public. It was on GitHub. He was making comments, he was sending emails and no one thought we would fire the guy cause he was so good.

And we did. And I think that just sends a really strong message. Early on about like, listen that that's not going to work. Right. You can be great at what you do, but you also have to be good to the people that you work with. We've added several new leaders over the course of the last year, and that's really, as we're looking at these very senior C-level folks, we really push on that.

Right. Cause that's the tone of the top from my perspective is extraordinarily important. In fact, perhaps the most important with some of these things and we've got it in spades, which is really 

Brett Berson: [00:23:10] great. How do you interview or evaluate if someone's humble? And have you ever thought someone was humble in the interview process?

And you hired them and they turned out not to be. Yes. 

Leah Sutton: [00:23:20] Uh, we certainly have done that. I always tell people like to use a sports analogy. You're never going to bat a thousand, so right. You're never going to be perfect. No company is no matter how structured, how process oriented your interview processes.

It's not perfect. We're humans. It's so it's happened. I always ask people, what are you proud of? And it's always very interesting to me where people take that question and. If it's an I centered statement, or if it's about the team or if it's about their family, where do they go? And I always sort of use that as a little bit of a litmus test to understand how they orient their success.

And it can be very telling. Are 

Brett Berson: [00:23:53] there any other ways that you. Evaluate. If somebody is humble, I 

Leah Sutton: [00:23:57] think we always particularly senior folks will ask our recruiting coordinators. Hey, what's your experience been with this person? How do they treat the folks that are perhaps not as visible? I know I've interviewed hundreds of people over the years, so you, you start to get a sense for your meter for what's.

How does personality come through? Gets pretty good. But I think there's also, you know, we've absolutely had people that were rude to coordinators or rude to our EAs and we're like, yeah, that's not going to fly. Like these folks are the heart of what we do. They make the wheels turn. And if they can't.

Behave well to them in this process. Like, so I think we spend a lot of time, just how are you engaging with everyone that you're touching along the way? Cause you, you know, you have people that can kiss up and kick down and that's, that's also not going to work. And like I said, it's not perfect. I can't claim that we haven't hired people that do that.

And I. I feel pretty confident that for the most part, it's like, yeah, that's, that's not going to stay long. Right. It's not going to work long. And if you can't adjust it, you won't be here. 

Brett Berson: [00:24:54] Moving back to the earlier conversation we were having about building distributed company. Are there things that have surprised you most or stories that come to mind that.

Kind of were unlocks for you when thinking about how to effectively build a distributed company. I mean, I 

Leah Sutton: [00:25:09] think one of the things was our sales leader saying, cause you think, gosh, this is something so new and something we've never done. And he's like, yeah, but I he's like I've literally always had distributed teams my entire career because our sales teams are regional and it was like, oh, well, why have we not thought about it for, um, you know, we build distributed systems.

Why not? Teams. That was like just a big aha. Just from an overall. Like, oh, right. This isn't groundbreaking. Lots of teams have done this. We just are thinking about it and talking about it in a different way. But for me, I mean, I don't think there's a particular, like, I just, it was a bit of a leap of faith to say, I'm going to go as a people leader, go do this because I, you know, I hadn't been working in tech.

I had never heard of envision, you know, these companies that have done it for a long time, but I'll, I'll think about that. I don't know that there was one like, oh, aha. I had to build a team virtually from scratch. I do think the idea of like, can I do this successfully was a scary one. My first hire was.

In the bay, but then they moved to South Carolina because we had such a strong connection. I'm like, oh, I get this. Like, w we, I know you. Right. And so for the next hire that wasn't here, it was again, that very personal, like how do we connect? And are we going to be able to communicate effectively? So it was just that I think for me, the unlock was like the importance, that critical importance of those one-on-one relationships in your key roles.

Is paramount. And before it was like, yeah, this person, you know, like they're good. And I think, you know, I think we'll do fine, whereas it, there can't be any doubt. So that was something that was really important to understand. Like if you have a doubt, trust your gut, and we've seen this play out where people leave in less than a year and you go back and you look at the scorecards from recruiting, there was a doubt.

There, there was a seed of like, well, not sure about this aspect, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Because I, you know, like we've been looking for this role for so long and then it doesn't work. So it just is I think, reinforced, trusting your gut, having a great process. But then if something doesn't feel right on 

Brett Berson: [00:27:03] your point about building human connection, are there things you've learned about how to do that virtually, other than starting with somebody who's deeply empathetic and communicates?


Leah Sutton: [00:27:14] I think realizing that will probably take more time than it would if you were going to see them in person on a regular basis. So I think it can draw out sort of these timeframes of getting to know a person. But then I think in parallel is that like being very. Thoughtful about taking time that isn't work time.

So, Hey, you know, we're working together. That's great, but let's get to know each other personally and let's have a happy hour. Everyone's like, ah, no more zoom, happy hours. Like we're over it. But pre COVID really making that effort to say, how do we ensure that we're also taking time to just bond as humans, right?

As opposed to going over the presentation or going over the numbers, let's just make sure that I know who you are. Right. I know what's going to make you tick because ultimately that's going to give you a better outcome and when something does go wrong, you're also going to have a better sense for like something seems off, you know, what's going on.

How can I help again? These are things that even if you're not distributed, like. Without a foundation of trust. You're only going to get so far, but if you have that foundation of trust and the people that work for you or that work on your team, believe that you care about them, that you have their best interest in mind that they're not just a cog in the wheel.

You will have a better outcome. And that doesn't, I mean, that's whether you're a distributor or not, but I think it is even more critically important now where you have to create the experience of getting to know one another. Are there specific 

Brett Berson: [00:28:34] topics or questions that you tend to utilize too? Build trust or connection faster, you know, other than maybe checking in on somebody or before you started meeting, 

Leah Sutton: [00:28:45] like, you know, if you had another hour in the day, how would you spend it going back to, like, what are you most passionate about?

What are you most proud of? If you didn't have to work, what would you do? Right. Just understanding what's behind the person, right. That's behind the email, that's behind the slack and it's interesting. Right? Cause some people don't want to have you in their business. Right. So elastic engages a certain kind of person.

I think people that are here tend to share a lot. We tend to share a lot as leaders. We are very open. We're very transparent. Um, my team loves to joke that like, Everyone's seen me cry because I'm kind of a crier. I get really passionate about things or really deeply engaged in things. And I'm okay with that.

So I think just asking them the questions about what makes them tick, what are you doing this weekend? Eventually, if they have a family, what are your kids into? Do you have a pet, you know, all of those things. And I think that that level of connection, simple things, right. It doesn't have to be complicated.

It builds that 

Brett Berson: [00:29:36] trust. What are the rituals that you have at elastic that you find are most impactful? It could be the way that you communicate something or the way that you run an all hands or anything 

Leah Sutton: [00:29:48] or Amazon, or ask me anything. I love them for a couple of reasons. So we're an open source company because we're open source.

There's an ethos that sort of permeates everything that we do around being open. And so ask me, anythings started really at our user conferences. There's a booth and it's an AMA booth and you can go and you can ask our engineers anything. And so this idea of AMA. It's something that we've then poured it over to.

Meetings. Right. So we do an AMA with our leadership team and the whole company. Every month, I do an AMA with my entire HR team. And a lot of leaders do this on a monthly or quarterly basis, but this idea of just openness, that is something that is a ritual. If you will, for us. The other one that I think has turned into a really cool ritual is something that during COVID times we've started and it started as kind of a weekly update from the CEO on like, here's, what's going on.

Here's our office closures. He started as kind of a rote. Thing that we sent out to just kind of keep people posted and then we sort of space it out to every two weeks and it's become this really wonderful vehicle for shy to just share something. He'll pick a topic often, very personal, very intellectual, and it's just, it's become like this really.

I think people really, you know, like there's the COVID update, but then there's like, what's Shai going to talk about in his life. That's really interesting. Whether it's about a podcast or books or movies, or how is he thinking about recharging his batteries? Like it's become a ritual that folks, folks are really am like, okay.

It's time for the COVID update. And I, we work with our incident management team and we get kind of the nuts and bolts, but it's like, I was, you know, when we started this, I was sort of ghostwriting a little bit and I'm like, Nope, he's just going to write something really powerful. And so I think that's a ritual we've gotten into that I think is really cool that I hope.

Brett Berson: [00:31:27] Are there any other rituals that come to mind or little things that you do that you think have out-sized impact on the way that 

Leah Sutton: [00:31:32] you work? A great question because rituals become habit. And so you don't always recognize that they are rituals until someone new comes in as like, wow, that's so cool that you do that thing.

I think the other. You know what I would call it. A ritual that we have is since the beginning, we've had, um, X school, which is our one week of employee onboarding. And obviously for a long, long time, we flew everyone in to mountain view for a week when their first month or two. And we've had to pivot that ritual to totally online.

And how do you translate a four day in person experience into a four day virtual experience? And I really love, I do think it's, we've pulled out kind of like what are the important pieces of that ritualize effectively? And I think one of the great parts of that is every one of our executives presents, we ensure that our folks get exposure to, you know, it's one thing when you're 300 people, it's a whole different thing.

When you're 2000, like everyone's getting exposure. All of our new hires to our entire executive team. Each executive has kind of their own piece that they present around the business. But also we do separate from what we do for the whole company. We just do kind of a round table for just our new hires.

And it's a really intimate gathering. We always have the same questions and it's run who is a mentor, what are pieces of advice? And I feel like that's become a really cool new ritual that I hear our newer hires talking about. Like I've never been in a company that. Has its executive spend so much time with new hires.

And I think that just speaks to leading from the top and tone at the top and culture. So I love that ritual of our new hire onboarding, because it really does help people understand. We weave that source code through all of it and having our executives be very open and transparent, I think is a really special place.

Brett Berson: [00:33:07] Can you talk a little bit more about what the four days looks like now? 

Leah Sutton: [00:33:11] Sure. We sort of have an arc. I want to make sure I articulate this right. So I want to get the, the agenda because I think it's, it's really interesting how we've started to structure it. Cause we had to get a lot more thoughtful about how do you condense all this stuff into four days.

And so really each day sort of fanatically is about understanding that there's sort of three goals for it. Right? Understand our company and our solutions and what makes us elastic. So we've got the piece around sort of product and business, really tying that source code piece in. And then the third piece of is how do we work and be successful in this environment?

So I think having. Having each day be specific. So Monday is about what makes elastic elastic. So it's really focused on the source code and who we are Tuesday. We talk about connecting the nodes. So how do all the pieces of our business tied together the next day is the elastic. However, like what's the strategy of the business?

Like where are we going? And then to wrap it up, we talk about kind of mindset and how do you be effective here? And then we do a virtual volunteer session because as virtual volunteering is a really important part of who we are. So each day has become much more thematic. And condensed. So before were a person might've had an hour, we're like, okay, you've got 15 minutes.

What are the critical things? So it's really forced us to distill. What's critical to ensure that people understand the business, the how of the business, the how of elastic and how to be successful here. And I think that it's been. Really cool to watch that transform. So I think now we've thought about like, Hey, if we could do this again in person, how could we expand that?

But we really love the red thread that we've woven through it, that we didn't feel like it was as cohesive before sometimes, you know, necessity is the mother of invention. So I think we've really took something that was already really cool and just really made it extra space. So 

Brett Berson: [00:34:53] going back to the broad theme about operating a distributed company, can you share how.

Organizational design team structures, map to locations. Anybody can do anything anywhere, or there's an approach to how teams are structured, what time zones they need to be in what functions they're in. Is there like a certain time that everybody's working in the back? That that would obviously be impossible if around the world that there's all sorts of considerations, different 

Leah Sutton: [00:35:21] companies do it differently.

For us, it's a bit mixed. There are functions like regional marketing, where obviously they are originally based because they are aligned to regional sales teams. And you wouldn't have a, you know, a regional marketing person for EMEA based in California, obviously. And there's language considerations, all of those things.

So there are teams that are specifically regional engineering is probably the most interesting one where our teams and engineering have been the most distributed for the longest time in terms of we've never had intact engineering teams. With the exception of where we've been acquisitive and we've perhaps joined forces with a smaller company, and then they've had a team in a place, but as they grow, we also ask them to hire outside of that place.

So they become more distributed. What we're finding from a management perspective is we want to ensure that it's can be very difficult to manage. If you have a team spread over, let's say 12 different times zones, right? When do you sleep? So we are definitely thinking about certain teams like customer support, right?

We have a follow the sun model. So ensuring that we've got managers that are regionally based. So their span of time zones that they have to manage through. There's some bound on that as teams are growing and designing, like where are we going to grow? We always encourage managers to say, Hey, where are your people based now?

And is that next best hire? They're like, oh, we found this, you know, our team has all, you know, they're on the east coast of the U S and in Europe, and we found this great person in Australia, and you sort of asked the question, like, what is that experience going to be like for that team member who is in a time zone that is not compatible with virtually anyone else in the team.

So we try to be very conscientious. Although we have this for most jobs, you can work anywhere, be very conscientious about what is that experience going to be like for that team member, if they are not within three to four times zones of anyone else. That becomes really, really important. What we're seeing now, as teams get bigger and bigger and we're hiring, you know, additional managers is thinking about, does it make sense to have, we've got a huge engineering team and they are really distributed.

Does it make sense to have a manager be more regionally focused versus being maybe focused on a specific part of the team or a specific product within the team? Because we've seen some burnout happening where. You know, just like, uh, I start my meetings at 7:00 AM and then I'm working through dinner or I'm getting back on really late and it's just, it's not sustainable.

So being very conscientious of that, there's a lot of things you can hack time zones are not one of those things. And that makes a huge difference in terms of org design. So that's, that's something that as we've grown, I think we've become better at, and we're thoughtful about it. 

Brett Berson: [00:37:47] How do the nuts and bolts of payroll and employment law?

Work when you have people in 40 

Leah Sutton: [00:37:54] countries, they're real complicated. 

Brett Berson: [00:37:57] Certainly if you're a a hundred thousand person company, you have the very core HR infrastructure and you have offices around the world, but when you're a few hundred or 500 people and now busy or a couple thousand, it seems mind bendingly complicated.

Leah Sutton: [00:38:12] I'm not going to lie, bruh. It is organizationally and operationally challenging. And honestly, I spent probably my first two and a half, three years just trying to figure out how do we dig ourselves out of the operational debt. People talk about tech debt all the time. They don't necessarily talk about operational debt.

So my CFO and I talk a lot about that. We grew really fast. We're in all these places. What's the optimal entity structure. What's the right payroll provider. And those are not easy questions to answer nor are there. Necessarily awesome solutions in the marketplace for some of these things. I think that, you know, I was encouraged companies that are thinking about that strategy.

Like don't just like, oh, we're just going to hire and we'll figure it out later, go into it with a more proactive operational mindset, because that's the stuff that can trip you up. Particularly payroll, like people not getting paid as the one thing you really, really do not want to happen. In fact, our Canadian employees, they still.

They still call it the payroll lottery because we weren't set up with a bank in Canada. We were having to pay our folks in Canada through a bank in the Netherlands. And there was a wire and it was, I was delayed. And so it would hit different banks at different times. And it was like an ongoing joke in slack about like, Did you get paid?

Did you get paid? Did you get paid? Like who won the payroll lottery today? Like that is not something as an HR leader you want to have. Right. So I think the operational pieces are tricky. And going back to that, I was bring it back to what's the experience that an employee is going to have if we are so distributed that our operations are in chaos.

Right? So if you want to deliver a really exceptional employee experience, you have to be thinking about those operational aspects ahead of time. That's not easy. Are 

Brett Berson: [00:39:39] there any specific providers or pieces of technology that have helped you with these operational payroll in all these different countries?

Leah Sutton: [00:39:48] Would heartily recommend, recommend? Honestly, we have a blended employment model, so we have people that are direct employees. We have entities in like 25 different countries. We use POS in a number of countries, and then we have people that we contract with directly for a variety of things. And. This is probably one of the number one questions I get asked by other people like, Hey, do you like your PO?

And I'm sure you've heard this, and I'm sure you have portfolio companies looking for this. And there, there's not an awesome solution. So I think for us, because we are in so many different places, we are actually in the middle of going through a huge payroll implementation to get a better payroll provider, to ensure that we can better service our employees.

So we're moving to a company called TMF. And they've got a strong reputation. I think for us, we went to Workday about a year and a half ago. They integrate with Workday, which is incredibly helpful to us and they have local payroll teams. And so some of the times what you'll find is like the PO is like, yeah, we serve all these countries, but then they've got a third party working for them in that country.

Agree. And so you it's to get to the actual person that's going to be able to solve your problem. It's really tricky. So we've now found what we believe is a better global payroll provider. We've got a roll out plan for all the countries that will be shifting to TMF over the course of the next nine months.

It's not easy, it's really not easy. And so understanding, I think for particularly for small companies that are growing fast, thinking through all the implications of. Hiring a person and not even in, just in a different country, in a different state, in the U S you have different payroll taxes, you have different local taxes, you have different all these different things that you have to think about corporate taxes.

So being, being really thoughtful about, are we able to do this thing in that place? And can we get people paid? Can we employ them in a compliant and legal way? It's fine to run fast, but also I would emphasize that the cleanup you may have to do is not insignificant. So being a little bit more structured in your plan for being distributed or plan for working remotely upfront is going to save you a lot of headaches on the backend.

How have you 

Brett Berson: [00:41:48] chosen to approach compensation 

Leah Sutton: [00:41:50] worldwide and a very hot one in the market right now we pay locally. So for example, in the U S we have two pay zones. We have a premium pay zone and a national payer zone, not surprisingly premium pay zone is the bay area, New York, LA there's a few cities, and we look at it on an annual basis globally.

Similarly, we have regional pays zones, so typically by country, but there are countries like. The UK where London is in a premium zone. Paris is in a premium zone in France. So we have this kind of global model. And similarly with equity, it's not quite as complex, but we have six equity zones. And again, it's based on the market data.

So I know it's like the hot topic of like, well, why don't you pay the same, same work, pay the same. And we don't believe that that's an equitable way to pay. So if you think about the, you know, the cost of living in the cost of labor, in different places, paying someone, a bay area salary in. Someplace in, let's say Bulgaria or Slovenia that you're paying them a disproportionate amount relative to the, what you're paying the same person for the same work in the bay area.

So it's a very hot topic. I think companies land in different places, but we've been really consistent about our pay philosophy since the get-go. We have a published, like we have shared our compensation philosophy with all of our employees and all the different aspects of it, where we pay from a market perspective, our approach to equity, our approach to cash.

How we think about it on an annual basis. So we're pretty transparent about that, but definitely have a, a regional model from a pay perspective. Yeah. 

Brett Berson: [00:43:18] It's interesting. How, and maybe because so many people are thinking about remote this question of, do you sort of pay locally or not? And so what I'm hearing you say is that the reason that you've chosen to sort of not just pay everybody the same thing for the same work as that you actually believe that it's unfair to do 

Leah Sutton: [00:43:32] so.

Yeah, it's not it's that is not equitable pay. If you think about what does your dollar get you? So thinking about it in a regional way, it's tricky. And I can appreciate that the other side of it, but I think what's important for companies is like pick a philosophy aligned to it and be super crisp and clear and stick to it.

The last 

Brett Berson: [00:43:50] few topics I wanted to hit on one is are there mental models or frameworks that you've come to rely on? Most either as an HR and people leader, or as somebody who thinks a lot about building distributed teams, are there things that you repeat a lot or stories that you tell a lot or things that you feel like a broken record or important to the way that you run the company?

Leah Sutton: [00:44:17] Yeah. I mean, I think that the thing that I'm becoming more of a broken record, broken record on is. Process having been at several high growth, small startups that have become bigger companies that free like, oh, we're just going to, we don't need to have a process for this cause we just get it done and everyone, so to talk to.

And so I think that that is the one thing. I mean, I even heard myself saying this yesterday to my leadership team. Like I recognize that it's a small group and we're talking, but I, I want the same structure and process on this project as my. Head of ops and systems. And like the kind of operational side of my business has for our big projects.

We have to approach everything in a much more systematic way. And I think that is something I hear myself saying more often, like, well, where's the project plan? What are the goals? What are the, like, I need just a couple of framing slides, like just. Getting us in the habit of being more process oriented, because you realize you're having to bring more people along on a journey.

And without those points of reference, it's really hard because that tribal knowledge that, you know, you just you're so used to working that way that I think that's a shift and I don't think that's about being distributed. Although I think it's important as a distributed company. I think that's about scaling.

Right. And how do you scale effectively and ensure that. Everyone has the information at the time, they need to know it. Right? How do you do that in a really structured way? So it is something that is, I think, key to scale. And I think also incredibly important when you're working asynchronously, you need a framework to hang that 

Brett Berson: [00:45:43] on.

How do you keep that from slowing the entire company down? One of the things that's obviously clear is generally speaking, as companies scale things, get slower. And you tend to see this in its logical extreme in corporate America, let's say your 200,000 person company. And it, it feels maybe anecdotally like 80% of the work isn't even the work.

It's getting people on the same, getting the plan. Right. And it's also a fascinating topic because nobody, nobody wants it. Right. You, you never talk to somebody and say, yeah, things are going great. We're incredibly bureaucratic takes a really long time. And I feel good about in almost every company, there's a small number of companies that have actually, I think, increased.

Pace as they've scaled, which is kind of a special thing. I'd say, anecdotal, AWS has done this. I'd say Annie and Willie Stripe has done this. And so I'm just curious how you sort of map that to your thinking about process as you scale. 

Leah Sutton: [00:46:36] And so I think it maps actually very well. This idea of like go slow to go fast is I think gaining traction.

And if you take a little bit more time upfront to drive that alignment, to make sure everyone is on the same page that we're thinking about the right things, you will accelerate on the backend. The specific project that I was talking to my team about. I'm like, we've been talking about this for six months and it hasn't gone anywhere because we haven't.

Put structure around it. We would end up talking about for the next six months, cause we've got a dock, but we don't have a timeline. We don't have any goal. It's like death by a thousand cuts. But I think if you take that upfront time, now there's a balance, right? Like you can overdo it, but simple structure, clear articulation of like, here are the three outcomes we want.

Here's the timeline we want to hit like that. Structure up front. So everyone is super clear. Are we all aligned that these are the goals you hold hands and you jumped together, you will go faster. And I always tell people, like, if you want people on the landing with you, they have to be there on the takeoff.

If they are not in the takeoff. And then you've landed. You're like, well, shit. Now I have to go back and like pick them up again. Right. Cause we weren't together. So I think that idea of like go slow to go fast is what I think about in terms of how do we make sure we've got the right upfront stuff. So when we want to hit the gas, we're ready to hit the gas.

I think where people fall down on that is you don't get that alignment. Upfront. I think, you know, as you get bigger, that alignment, it's harder to get. So people maybe aren't as comfortable getting it or don't know how to get it. And so I think having simple structures and frameworks that people can use makes it more efficient, not less efficient.

Brett Berson: [00:48:03] It's sort of on a related note. Do you have any thoughts on not just broadly speaking context in communication? One of the things that I've noticed is that, you know, feedback you will often get is I was out of the loop on this, or I didn't know about this, or I didn't have context. It's actually very hard.

It's very challenging to know who needs to know what at what time. And it's hard to give everyone everything at all times. And yet at the same time, you organically have access to all sorts of context, understanding information, and figuring out who needs what in any given point in time is exceptionally hard to do.

And so I'm curious if you learned anything about that or do you approach that in some sort of way? 

Leah Sutton: [00:48:46] This goes back again to that little bit of like, you know, go slow to go fast and thinking through those pieces of, and this is a classic, I mean, a classic trap startups fall into, right. And I've been there.

I've been there where it's not just that people are used to having all the information. They suddenly feel like somehow it's like they get pissed off when they don't have all the information, because they always used to have the information. We always used to tell everyone and. I was joking with someone about like, yeah, benevolent dictatorship is kind of the best way to go because it's like, not yet everyone, you might inform everyone, but everyone doesn't necessarily get an input anymore.

And that can be a shifting companies. And so it's, it's really hard. And I think about this with my team a lot, and with my leaders, As we're changing things and I'll hear people say, well, I, yeah, I talked about it, this meeting. And I'm like, yeah, but was everyone at the meeting? Well, no. A couple of people weren't there that day.

Well, okay. So again, coming back to written communications, ensuring that as you're setting out on something you've thought through and it's imperfect, right. You've thought through who needs to know this and you're setting that context. And I truly believe one of a leader's most important jobs is to set context and to even be a candidate for as like, Hey, we're embarking on this project.

Here are the three goals of the project. There are going to be milestones along the way where we're going to check in with you and we'll let you know what's going on. So don't want you to think that if you don't hear anything, work's not happening, but we're only going to come back to you on January 21st and then March 22nd and April 3rd, whatever it is, again, this comes back to clarity of communication and helping people understand, like laying out the picture, laying out the path for them.

And fundamentally as a leader, like it's your responsibility. To understand and to parse out like, okay, I have this huge amount of context. I will overwhelm the team. If I give them all of that, what are the three most important things for them to know? And then what are the three most important things for the team below them to know?

And so helping drive that context at the appropriate level down in the organization is pivotal, but you're absolutely right, right. It's not easy to do that. And I think that's something where companies, leaders, managers fall down because they assume. Because I said it in this meeting that everyone heard it, or everyone heard the same thing.

So I think this is, you know, like to say it and then to follow up with a written communication, because again, things get lost in translation. Not everyone has the context. Someone might not have understood. It happens all the time. So the clarity of communication and just sort of really being crisp about who needs to know what, and when they need to know it is extraordinarily important 

Brett Berson: [00:51:13] to wrap up.

I'd love to end on the topic of what you've learned from the people that you've worked closest with. Um, and maybe just focus on, we could focus on maybe the last five years at, at elastic. And you think about folks that you've worked really close with. What are the lessons that they've taught you or ideas that have really stuck or maybe ways in which you've changed the way that you behave or think based on, on any of them?

Leah Sutton: [00:51:40] I think one of the things I've learned, and this is, this is Shai repeatedly reminded me over the years. Like particularly in HR, there's just, the team has done a ton. Lots of good stuff is happening. But sometimes I forget to like, and I tell this to leaders all the time, like, don't forget to share your good news.

If your team's done something really great, like call it out. You never lose by thanking people and calling out good work. Right. That only builds goodness. That's something I've seen a couple leaders do really well, really understanding. How impactful gratitude can be, has been a lesson that I've learned from a couple of different leaders over the last few years, and try to take that as something that I, as you're rushing around, you're like, oh yeah, that was great.

But being a little bit more thoughtful about it and sharing that up with the team, sharing that down with the team that is really, really powerful. So that's probably the biggest one. Just being better at gratitude is something that I've learned. Anything else that jumps to mind being willing to pull the rip cord when you've, I mean, I think like, Hire fast fire fast.

I, that sounds maybe a little bit cold, but I think in a company like elastic, we're really, really nice genuinely when someone is floundering, it can be really hard to let them go because we're like, oh, but you know, they're so nice. And they just got married or whatever the thing is, but I think that being cognizant that.

One person impacts the broader team. And it's not just about that person. It's about the whole, I think that's something that is, uh, a new leader of a, quite a large team has been something that I've had to learn probably the hard way. And so I'm trying to get better about that and encourage other people to be like, you know, it's actually a kindness when you, I mean, do it in a compassionate way, in a very human way, but it is a kindness to not just that person, but the broader team that you need to ensure is healthy and thriving to make sure you're not.

Holding on problems too long. That's interesting. 

Brett Berson: [00:53:24] I find there's always a category of things that you often need to learn by doing, and then somebody gives you advice. For whatever reason they could tell you, you're going to drive into this wall. You're going to drive into this wall. There's a various set of things that you must drive into the wall for one, realize I totally agree.

Ways with employees is one of maybe the top five things in company building. Do you have a theory as to why that is? If you agree with that, maybe it's just, we all hate difficult conversations, but it happens over and over and over and over again. 

Leah Sutton: [00:54:03] No, truly. I mean, I, a hundred percent, we all hit hard conversations.

I think the other thing is there's just, there's this human belief in like, No, they can just get there if I try a little harder, right. Like if I just put my shoulder into it and really work harder, I don't know. Maybe that's just like in a very American like, oh, if I just try harder, I can get it done. But yeah, like that fundamentally there's both like the cowardice of like, I just don't want to have the hard conversation, but I think there is a fundamental belief, like, well, if I just coach them a little more, if I.

Just give him this other opportunity and that's just exhausting, right? That's exhausting for the folks around you watching you. And it's not always about letting a person go. I think there's a startup in particular and I've had to go through this evolution with my team. I've had several turns of the crank on this is, is people that are great in a role when the company is 200 people probably.

Aren't always going to be great in that role, in the company's a thousand people, they might still be great, but it's not in that role. So how do you ensure that you can think about where your talent needs to move and create those opportunities? Because that's also like, those are also hard conversations to have in terms of like, listen, you're not scaling, but it's not about, you're not scaling.

Like I want to see you be successful. Right. So let's find a better whether it's opportunity here or elsewhere, but yeah, it's the same. You do. I don't know anyone who hasn't hit that wall before. 

Brett Berson: [00:55:16] On that last point. Do you tend to just do that in structured career conversations or are there ways that you've approached having those conversations and being proactive?

And trying to set somebody up potentially in a new role so that they can continue to grow with the company 

Leah Sutton: [00:55:32] quarterly conversation. We don't do performance reviews. We have quarterly conversations that are meant to be more in depth, kind of developmental. So I would say sometimes it's that I think sometimes companies, especially small, like things can happen so fast.

You very often don't have the luxury of that. Right. It's just like, Wow. We pivoted in the product direction. We acquired this other company. We, whatever the thing is, you can't wait till the next quarterly conversation necessarily. You have to act on it. Now I always tell my leaders. I want you to always be thinking about, and I said this to Shai yesterday.

I always need to be thinking about what are the next three critical roles on my team? Do I have the talent in those roles? If not. Do I have someone I could build into that? Like, this is a critical part of being a great leader, great managers. I was trying to look around the corner and I think if you're always trying to look around the corner, you're going to recognize like, oh, I see this person kind of slowing in terms of what they're able to do in that role, but they're really good at these things.

So I think if we, you know, if we're growing and we know we need to hire these other five roles, Potentially we could shift them here. So I think, again, that's a muscle that you're not going to as a new manager. Why would you know how to do that? Right. I think that's something you build over time, but it's really about trying to look around the corner and anticipate what you will need as a team versus just necessarily having it.

It's going to happen in all sorts of ways. Sometimes you do the luxury to say, Hey, in six months, I know we're going to need to do this. You are doing a great job at these things. Would that be something you're interested in or we're shifting in a different direction? I'm not sure that you're there yet. I want you to think about if you would be happy staying in a smaller role, or if you think it might be time to look for something outside the company, people get really scared to suggest that a person looks elsewhere.

Right? Cause it somehow feels like a failure on your part or it might scare them, but like that's actually, you know, a really honest, I think, powerful conversation to have with someone. 

Brett Berson: [00:57:16] Great. Well, thank you so much for spending all this time with us. We so appreciate it. 

Leah Sutton: [00:57:20] Yeah, no, it's my pleasure. Hopefully there's some nuggets in there that are useful.