Behind every successful company is a competent and dedicated leader. Having worked with teams in the software technology realm for about three decades, Brian Berns, CEO of Knoa Software, has helped businesses design and execute growth-oriented business plans, build cohesive sales teams and also instill an entrepreneurial culture across various levels of the organization. As an entrepreneur himself, Berns has founded several startups and led several public tech companies as well.
When it comes to managing a high-performing and collaborative team, creating a culture of information sharing and celebrating successes is key. The way to build a sustainable and scalable culture is by getting the CXOs onboard and becoming the true drivers of change, Berns said.
In a candid conversation with People Matters, Berns shed light on the role of leadership in building an organizational culture that is poised and ready for the impending digital transformation.
In your journey as a CEO and founding member of several companies, what sparked the interest in helping leaders monitor engagement, adoption of technology and digital readiness of a workforce?
A company’s success requires effective execution by its employees. Believe it or not, I’ve been a member of startups that had communication issues with only a handful of employees. If you don’t instill proper processes and a culture of teamwork, the business won’t perform. As companies grow, those concepts are even more critical. How do you ensure that hundreds of employees are in sync, performing efficiently, and not hampered by poor processes and unresponsive systems?
Can you share some instances where you've faced challenges in terms of team building, creating a value-driven culture or any other aspect of leading a team? How did you overcome them?
The “old school” method of management involved telling employees only what they need to know, or believing that only management is capable of strategic planning and devising a go-to-market plan. When my career evolved to be more customer-facing, I recognized that employees on the front line (sales, service, support, etc.) were receiving invaluable input from our customers and partners. Those golden nuggets of information are critical to understanding customer needs and market trends. It’s how you stay ahead of the competition. You have to develop a culture of information sharing and inclusion.
What cultural values must a company possess in order to become ready for the digital transformation?
At Knoa, we have developed and continually emphasize our core values. They were created by an internal employee team five years ago, and we use them daily to set priorities and drive our success. The core values are: customer success, innovation, productive partnerships, teamwork, and individual empowerment.
How do you go about building a scalable culture that can be replicated across geographies?
Communication, empowerment, and making sure that leadership adheres to the core values.
How can leaders help their employees transition from being risk-averse to being open to risks in the digital age?
It really depends on how you define “risk.” In the digital age, it’s imperative that you continue to innovate in order to move the company forward, as the pace of technology change is always increasing. We are continually communicating with our customers, partners and analysts to confirm that our “risks” are rooted in providing true business value. But sometimes you just have to take a true risk and trust your gut, which has worked for me. Either I have a talent for it or I’ve been very lucky!
As technology rapidly transforms people functions, how can culture help accelerate the process?
Culture is key, especially empowering your people and ensuring teamwork. I am a believer in small, nimble teams. That’s how startups have been able to innovate and surpass larger established companies.
Your body can do it. You just need to convince your mind-is a popular saying among fitness enthusiasts. Similarly, how can business leaders build a culture that enables employees to overcome their mental blocks and embrace digital change?
I think by leading through example and fully backing your decisions with the required resources and enthusiasm! Sharing successes is also very important so that employees see the realization of their efforts.