How do you lead an economic consulting firm to be ranked as a top place to work in Massachusetts for 10 straight years? Be a good listener and have a willingness to take others under your wing.
That’s the culture that Analysis Group CEO Martha Samuelson and Rebecca Kirk Fair, a managing principal at the firm described during a Sept. 17 talk at MIT, and it’s one they said is crucial to sustaining the firm’s success.
Listen to develop understanding and trust
Early in her career, Samuelson and one of the firm’s founders, Bruce Stangle, found themselves unable to see eye-to-eye on a particular issue, she said. It was time, Stangle decided, to bring in a pinch hitter: an organizational coach, to bring an outside perspective to the issue and help the pair listen to each other’s sides.
Samuelson said that encounter with the CEO and the coach helped open her eyes to the importance of allowing candid communication within the firm: “I think Bruce really wanted to run a firm with a certain type of listening, respect, trust-based culture and it was very meaningful to me.”
The company still uses organizational coaches to help teams navigate and resolve conflict.
“It’s enormously helpful,” Samuelson said. “Sometimes a skilled person can help people hear each other better.”
Kirk Fair said she, too, has learned to trust junior staff members to do their jobs, and to listen to them when they feel strongly about a particular issue. When she first came to Analysis Group as a junior analyst, she approached Samuelson with a concern about some work she’d been assigned, and the company decided to adopt her approach over that of a board member’s.
“There have been many, many moments where the senior leadership has chosen those of us who were not in senior leadership, and I see it as my job to steward that forward, that I should continue to invest in the junior people. They’re the future of your privately held company,” Kirk Fair said.
Mentor to foster growth
At Analysis Group, all employees are encouraged to take advantage of mentorship opportunities and offer coaching to others.
Earlier in her career, Kirk Fair said, there would be times where a conference call she was on would be muted, and her superior would provide an explanation on the spot of how a tough question was going to be handled before jumping back into the discussion. Other times, she’d observe a meeting and get a debriefing later.
“It’s about both developing the talent, but also making sure that the people who are senior and overseeing the young people out of college are treating them with the right respect, and giving them the opportunities, and helping to facilitate their growth and development,” Kirk Fair said.
Samuelson said those mentoring relationships help keep the firm focused on long-term growth, and that culture goes a long way in retaining talent.