On Episode 5 of The Content & Media Matters Podcast we sat down with Bob Lyons, CEO of Edgio. With over 20 years of senior leadership experience, Bob has worked to scale businesses across the enterprise, cybersecurity, and now media and entertainment industries. Outside of work Bob is the founder and chairman of the Willow Street Foundation, which supports disadvantaged children through the school system. Many of his colleagues describe him as a fantastic leader, great mentor and all-round good guy. Read on to find out what makes Bob such a successful leader.
What do you think it takes to become a successful leader?
You have to really have a passion for what leadership is. Leadership and management are two very different things. Leadership comes with the responsibility of making tough decisions, giving tough feedback, but also being humble and giving other people credit for their work and bringing them on the company journey. It’s all those things. One of the questions you often hear about leadership is ‘are you born with it, or can you learn it?’ I think it’s a little of both. My job is 50% leadership, 50% whatever I’m doing at the time. I’ve got to be able to impute leadership across 1000s of people, and you can’t do that in one conversation. I’ve spent a lot of time on not only having one on one conversations and group conversations, but putting tools in place.
We have five values in our company. They’re all focused on what good leadership looks like. Every one of our employees knows what those values are, they get trained on it from the day they walk in the company. We hire against them, we promote against them, we constructively give feedback against them. They’re the values that essentially are not just creating value for the company, but they’re also creating an ecosystem that we all want to be a part of, because we’re a leadership oriented culture.
How do you motivate people to go the extra mile?
The right people generally motivate themselves when they feel excited, encouraged and good. I try to motivate people by focusing on building a culture of empowerment, trust, and accountability. We give people the empowerment to go do things, be creative and use their whole brain. One of our values is ownership, so we empower people to make decisions. We trust them to take ownership of their work. With trust comes the belief that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you recognise them, and accountability comes with that. When you build a culture like that, people motivate themselves. It’s little things like your vacation policy. We had all kinds of bureaucratic stuff around it, and I said, ‘if we’re about trust and empowerment, why do we even have it? Why don’t we just tell people, if you need time off, take it off, just use your best judgement?’ If we’re truly about empowerment and trust, let’s do that. We abolished the policy and it was amazing. People love that flexibility. It’s little things like that, and it’s bigger things like letting them make big decisions on investments and so forth as well.
Think of your culture as a centrepiece and four legs of the table. The centrepiece is client obsessed. We wake up every day and ask the question, ‘are we doing the right thing for our clients?’ If you don’t solve for clients, you can’t solve for shareholders, and if you don’t solve for clients and shareholders, you can’t solve for employee value.
The four legs are our values. The first is about our team. There’s communication, accountability and trust. Everybody has to do their part. We believe in feedback. We believe in collaboration. We believe in trust. That’s how our team functions.
Design thinking is another one. It’s always about stepping back, looking at the context and having some tough conversations about what adjustments and course corrections we need to make.
Ownership is another really important one. There’s a set of behaviours that come with ownership that go above and beyond. We want to cultivate ownership behaviours to take the company to the next level.
The last leg is performance. You have to know your numbers, drive the plan and measure your business. We want you to manage the details of plans, dates, names, KPIs and metrics.
When you tie it all together you’re going to create a great culture where people work together and have that high performing culture. It’s amazing how much value you can create in any environment when you do those four things.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone entering the industry?
Find your own values. Be a constant learner, from people, situations, books, whatever. Be content with what you’ve got, that’s got to be enough. We live in a world where people are always judging, there’s always somebody that’s got a point of view on what you should or shouldn’t do. I think it’s driving some of the anxiety you see in kids today. We’ve got to find a way where people feel content, where they can say ‘I did enough and that’s good enough’. And I think if people can figure out those three things, you know, they’ll do well in life.
To hear more about Bob’s insights into the the Content & Media industry, listen to our fantastic conversation in Episode 5 of The Content & Media Matters Podcast.
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