Oct 19 2020

Leading With Compassion in Times of Change

By Meta Careers
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When women create, anything is possible. At the Facebook company, Women Create events bring women together to celebrate their stories and share insights about achieving success and overcoming challenges.
Leading teams through unpredictable circumstances is a challenge for even the most seasoned leaders. Recently, three senior leaders came together during a virtual Women in Product panel to chat about how they've adapted their working styles amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
From what work/life flexibility looks like now, to new lessons learned in leadership, and challenges faced this year, dive into the five questions below for invaluable insight from these three women.

How have you overcome personal and professional challenges during the pandemic?

Deb Liu, Vice President of Marketplace & Facebook App Commerce


"Deb Liu and her family"
Deb and family
“Life can be quite chaotic at times. I have five people on Zoom at any given moment, along with three kids at home. We haven’t been outside in weeks due to the wildfires in California. It felt like one thing after another. My family started creating comic strips together to document how strange life is right now. Sometimes the stress takes over, and it’s hard to remember to do it, but we all just try to laugh. We should be more forgiving of ourselves and give ourselves the space to laugh, even when we want to cry.
I hit a wall around June. As a product manager, sometimes your product doesn’t work, things fail, and you just feel frustrated. I wasn’t sleeping, and I felt like I was running on a neverending treadmill. I realized that I needed to step back and take a break. That was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. I came back refreshed and we were able to figure out a way around the roadblocks we had been facing. I highly suggest taking a few days to recharge, and if you can’t, find whatever it is that helps you recharge and make sure you do it.”

How do you support your team?

Maria Smith, Vice President, Product Management, Communities


"Maria and her family sitting on a bench outdoors"
Maria Smith and family
“I do my best to set the right example. I’ve started to share routines that work for me with my team. For example, I spend Monday mornings collecting my thoughts for the rest of the week. We’ve created meeting-free days too. I take the time to check-in with my team and ask how everyone is feeling. We’re encouraging people to take time off. I think we’re all trying to be kinder to ourselves right now.”

Ami Vora, Vice President, Product Management, WhatsApp


"Ami at home"
Ami Vora
“It’s helpful for me to realize that everyone is going through something, though we’re all going through something different. Even people who seem perfectly fine on the outside are probably struggling with something, and it often feels like we should try to hunker down and power through whatever we’re feeling alone. But I find it’s important to know that what I’m feeling is normal -- because otherwise it can feel like I’m the only one feeling it, and it’s a sign that I’m failing. So to Maria’s point, it’s helpful to remind people that, whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone. We are all struggling and the more open we can be about talking about it, the easier it is to carry the load.”

How has your leadership or management style changed during the course of the pandemic?

Maria:

“I’ve always cared about my team a lot. This trait is one of the many things that I want to be known for and it is important to me. But a while ago, there was a survey at Facebook asking employees about their experiences. One of the questions was whether or not you feel like your mentor cares about you. And there was a time in my career here, when I received an extremely poor score from my team. It shook me. This experience prompted me to do research. Why did I feel like I cared about my team, but they felt differently? I found a framework by Gary Chapman on different languages of appreciation. It completely changed and adjusted how I showed up for my team.
It was an important lesson for me that people interpret care and leadership differently than I do. Taking the time to truly understand what makes your team members feel cared for is vital as a leader. In this environment, when we’re all working from home, it’s been a lot harder to gage how people are feeling. So I check in with my team throughout the day, and listen when we have one on ones to pick up on anything I might be missing.”

How have you balanced your work and personal life while working from home?

Ami:

“It has been tough, but I try to always have a counter-narrative in my head of ‘what is going well that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise.’ For example, I never thought that I’d be able to have lunch with my kids and still go back to work. I’m able to break for five minutes and go catch up with them, hug them, ask how their day is going -- and then go back to meetings. I also hope that this style of working leads to a culture that’s more inclusive of our entire lives. My teammates often see my children during meetings, and I get to see theirs. We see a little more of how each person lives. We’re much more connected to each other now, and I hope that inclusivity will continue after we come out of this.”

What’s one thing you’ve learned during this time that you hope to take into the future?

Deb:

“I’ve realized many trivial things that used to matter to me no longer do, and I’ve let go of my perfectionism. We’re in a global pandemic, our children are navigating virtual schooling, and all the material things I used to stress about aren’t nearly as important as ensuring my family is okay. I’ve taken a step back and realized family, health, and trying to make the world a better place are the most important things to me. As for the rest, we’ll figure it out.”
Facebook leaders have the opportunity to empower, innovate and grow their career, while impacting the world at scale. Learn more about Facebook leadership roles, and hear from current leaders on why they chose Facebook, here.

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