Entrepreneurship

eseo Founder Ian Campbell Talks Team Leadership

eseo Founder Ian Campbell Talks Team Leadership

MP recently chatted with Ian Campbell, who launched eseo earlier this year to make running, pickup basketball, and community sports easier to find and play through technology. Campbell played DIII basketball at Oberlin College and worked in the financial industry for six years before launching eseo. He lives in Philadelphia with his girlfriend and dog.

What are three non-negotiable things a team leader must do for their team, and why? 

Care about team members as human beings. While team members have roles, the relationship must begin on a human level. This is not only better for the company because it breeds communication, honesty, and trust, but it selfishly makes the work environment more meaningful. 

Ensure team members understand the company’s mission and are aware of its impact. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and joining a team of talented individuals with a shared mission is a way to do that. Team members must be aware of their work and the company's impact. It helps everyone see the bigger picture and helps tedious tasks become less annoying. 

Help everyone row in the same direction. The fastest crew team in the world loses a race to a boat of ten-year-olds if everyone rows in different directions. I am responsible for guiding everyone and ensuring the boat is progressing and being rowed in the right direction. 

How important is it for a team leader to provide feedback, how detailed and frequently should feedback be delivered, and why?

Feedback is how we all improve, so regular feedback is essential. I believe in offering real-time feedback when it is fresh in everyone’s mind. I also believe in delivering feedback from a place of caring where it is clear to the team that the feedback is meant to make them better, improve the team and advance the company’s mission. 

How do you determine what things to delegate and the team members to delegate things to, and how has this changed over time?

Before anything, I take a step back and consider whether a task should be done at all. Then, I consider the goal of the task and the level and type of expertise required. I prefer collaborating on goals and metrics that team members are responsible for rather than delegating individual tasks. That way, we are not only tapping into the collective expertise of the team, but everyone has an increased level of autonomy and sense of ownership. 

eseo Founder Ian Campbell
eseo Founder Ian Campbell holding a basketball / Photo courtesy Ian Campbell

How important is it for a team leader to communicate with their team, and how detailed should such communications be? 

Communication is very important. I email our team every Friday with a GIF and critical updates from the week. I’ll catch up one-on-one on Zoom calls with our team members.  

What are three communications mistakes you’ve made with teams in your charge, and how could those mistakes have been avoided?

Saying what I want to say instead of listening to what others want to tell me. When I’ve been excited and focused on saying what I want to say while not listening to what others are genuinely telling me is by far the biggest mistake that I’ve made. These conversations typically result in both of us talking past each other. At a minimum, they delay the progress we are working to achieve and, in the worst cases, breed misalignment that sometimes becomes irreparable. 

That is by far the biggest mistake that I’ve made. 

A few others are:

Not being clear about expectations. This is self-explanatory. I have a level of expectation that I don’t clearly explain to others. This could be avoided by taking more time to outline and explain expectations and their reasoning.

Not effectively communicating what is in my head. When things are clear to me in my mind, I sometimes shortcut the explanation and don’t spend the time required to effectively communicate my vision or why I’m making a decision. This can again be avoided by taking more time to explain clearly to others. 

How have you used conflict resolution as a team leader, and what conflict resolution principles should team leaders know about, and why?

I always think about what is best for eseo - in the same way a coach may need to make a decision that’s not in the player's best interest but in the team's best interest. I always think about what’s in the best interest of the company. From there, it comes down to listening to my gut and not being afraid to initiate difficult conversations. 

How do you approach building relationships within your team, where is the line drawn that shouldn’t be crossed, and why?

I like to spend time with everyone on the team in a one-on-one setting and get to know them as humans. I believe this is not only in the company's best interest because it breeds communication, honesty and trust, but selfishly it makes the work environment more meaningful. 

What are three unique team leadership mistakes you see entrepreneurs make, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

There are many different leadership styles out there. So, what might be a mistake for me could work quite well for others. Because of that, I don’t like to judge. With that preface, I believe consistency is essential. I have my style, trusting that eseo team members are motivated by our mission and enjoy the challenge of work, so I don’t randomly call team members to yell and criticize. If that was my style and I was consistent with it, then maybe it would work. So I believe being consistent and authentic is the key. 

Responses provided by Ian Campbell, Founder at eseo

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