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“When I first heard about Novi, a group within the Facebook company that’s committed to helping people around the world access affordable financial services, I knew I had to be part of it,” Laura Morgan Walsh, Head of Novi Operations remembers
. Now, having been in her role for nearly a year and a half, she says she couldn’t feel more validated in her decision to join the team. “The mission resonated so deeply with me that I couldn’t unhear it.”
Laura came to Novi after working across a range of roles at PayPal for over 13 years. Though a seasoned leader, talking with her makes it instantly clear she leads with humility and grace. When we sat down to talk about her leadership philosophy and how she manages through change, she reflected on the connection between her team’s work and Facebook’s culture: “Facebook is best known for its products that connect billions of people around the world, but being part of the Novi team, particularly in 2020, has given me an inside look at what’s most unique about the company: a culture of care.”
You mention Facebook’s unique culture of care as something that sets it apart from other organizations. In your experience, how does the support empower people and teams to succeed? Where do you see the connection between care and innovation?
When people are set up to succeed, teams are empowered to do their best work and they begin to flourish. Trust, support, and vulnerability all contribute to innovation. No one will branch out or take a risk if they feel afraid.
At Novi, our culture of care means helping people develop the courage to try new things, and it’s embedded in everything we do. My favorite meetings are the ones where teams present what they’ve been working on. I love the energy! I can feel it when they’ve been heads down at their kitchen table, collaborating with their colleagues over video, working with a blank piece of paper until they have something they’re ready to share. They might feel terrified, but they have produced something, and along the way may have also discovered potential they didn’t know they had.
It’s good to remember that there will always be criticism and different perspectives about how something works or which approach is the best one to take—and it’s okay to fail. We learn from failure, we move on, and we iterate. Being thoughtful is another aspect of care that helps us build things we’re proud of. With Novi, this translates into a trustworthy experience a customer can feel.
You’ve shared previously that you were surprised by how strong and supportive the culture is at Facebook when you joined the company in 2019. One year later and we’re in the midst of a pandemic where everything has changed for so many people. Can you share how Facebook’s culture has shaped the leadership’s team to the current pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be especially challenging for many of us, and Facebook has shown genuine care from the very beginning. While empathy was there from the start, leadership backed that up by making impactful, decisive changes for people across the globe. For example, team members received two stipends to make their work from home setup more comfortable, and we changed how we do performance reviews to give people more headspace to reflect. We were also one of the first large tech companies to pivot quickly to a remote work situation, reducing uncertainty for many people who were worried about commuting to or being in an office environment.
I experienced the leadership team’s empathy firsthand when my husband, an essential emergency worker, contracted COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. While he was sick for six weeks and isolating at home, I was trying to balance helping him where I could, homeschooling our three boys, and working full-time. It was a difficult time, but the support I was shown was inspiring. It reminded me how important it was for me to demonstrate empathy through actions for my own team.
You always hope a company will offer you this kind of support, but it’s never guaranteed. I was humbled by the kindness I received at Novi, from people asking about how I was doing to making sure we had what we needed to get through.
Facebook has shown up and demonstrated care through action over the last nine months. Care starts with leadership and runs through the entire company. It’s consistent, and that makes such a difference.
How have communication and collaboration changed while working remotely? What has inspired your leadership philosophy this year?
Communication has become increasingly important as we’ve adjusted to working from home. I look at 2020 as a classroom where I’ve learned many new ways to lead my team.
I was always conscious about how I communicate and put a lot of effort into building culture in the past, but learning how to do certain things virtually has tested me. I can’t physically be in the room with my team to show support or emotion through body language. It’s also challenging to pick up on the nuances of both verbal and nonverbal communication between team members when you’re all sitting in front of a screen. I’m constantly thinking about how to best communicate virtually in order to inspire and motivate my team. I’ve grown as a leader by paying close attention to what we can do in these new circumstances.
Using my imagination, and encouraging my team to do the same, is also more important than ever. It’s an incredible experience to imagine what it’s like to walk in a teammate’s shoes or hear feedback from customers during this time. When we use our imagination, we can show greater empathy, build better products, and get outside of our comfort zones. We’re lucky to be able to do this work and show this care. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you do. But Facebook leadership does, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
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