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Daria Leshchenko: “Open your books and close your mouth”

Analytical thinking. In the world of business and management, the ability to look into the future, look for patterns and analyze the situation is one of the most important. After all, failing to foresee the possibility for a good partnership or that someone needs help, for example, can bear negative results. Seeing the situation and analyzing […]

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Analytical thinking. In the world of business and management, the ability to look into the future, look for patterns and analyze the situation is one of the most important. After all, failing to foresee the possibility for a good partnership or that someone needs help, for example, can bear negative results.

Seeing the situation and analyzing it, on the other hand, will surely help your business grow and facilitate the development of your team — a skill that I am glad to have been using for years.


As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daria Leshchenko, CEO and founder of SupportYourApp — a company providing outsourced customer support. She is Harvard Alumnus and the first Ukrainian woman to be invited to Forbes Technology Council. She made “30 Under 30” list as well as “23 Self-Made Women” list. Daria is also a co-founder of Label Your Data.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I wasn’t born a businesswoman. I didn’t exactly know that I wanted to be a CEO. But I knew this — ever since I was a child, I was looking for ways to be a better version of myself and to develop. I just had no idea where this desire would lead me eventually. When the chance to get to the next step and to push myself to the new heights arose, I took it. I started working in a company providing outsourced customer service over 10 years ago. Back then I didn’t know where the road would lead me.

There is no way to know what possibilities your life is going to provide you with. All you can do is hope that your path will lead you somewhere exciting. Luckily, mine did just that. I guess, my backstory is that there was a path, and I was not afraid to walk it, no matter how hard and impossible it seemed sometimes.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

As always, there was this client… Yes, once I was communicating with a client for three years. Not every day, of course, but I was reaching out to them, offering the services of my company. Every 2–3 months, plus connecting with them on holidays. And every time for three years I was getting the same response “We have selected another provider. We do not want to work with you.”

But after three years they reached out to me themselves. “Will you provide us with your services?” they asked. And of course, I did. That was a fascinating experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During my second year, I was taught a funny lesson of the importance of proper scheduling. On one of my rare days off, I scheduled a photoshoot in our office. I prepared by applying bright makeup and putting on a black cocktail dress. I was right in the middle of a shoot when I remembered that I also had a job interview with a candidate. Of course, I remembered about it only when she walked through the door. At this point, I had to ask someone else to conduct the interview as I clearly did not look suitable enough for it.

That is how I learned the importance of scheduling. Sure, back then we didn’t have all these technologies and my schedule was written on a sheet of paper. Now I see how good it is to have my schedule right in front of me. And I never let anything like this happen ever again.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

Most of the time CEOs of the companies simply do not have enough time to communicate with all the teams themselves. All they can do is relay their way of communication and their way to do business to every head of every department and hope that they deliver this to the professionals within the teams correctly.

But of course, even if this process goes just as planned, there are always clients and customers, the behavior of whom might cause burnout even in the most talented and resilient members of the team. And with all this, we have to think — how to retain great talent. My answer would be to listen and try to understand what would be best for your business and for your teams. After all, sometimes people just leave. Not because of the manager’s skills but just because it is their time to move on to the next chapter of their lives. Accept it and move forward.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

The best way to make sure that all the teams are synchronized is delegation. Of course, for me as a CEO it is impossible to follow up with all the teams. But we found that it is quite a doable task for the heads of the departments who can spare 15 minutes every day for a synchronizing call or meeting. The managers, in their turn, tell me all about the progress and the roadblocks that their teams have encountered, and we decide how to better deal with them together.

This way everyone gets the attention and the help they need, and the teams are perfectly synchronized.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

  1. Empathy

While managing a big team, it is important to remember that we are all people and no matter how much we would like to not let our personal lives have any influence on our professional lives, sometimes it is just impossible to do. Dealing with lots of people, I sometimes see mistakes. Emails get sent to the wrong addresses, answers are given abruptly, people might be late coming into work — no matter how rarely, it still happens.

It is crucial to remain empathetic and talk to those who make mistakes to ensure that they do not repeat their faults. Empathy is one of the core features for a good manager to have.

2. Analytical thinking

In the world of business and management, the ability to look into the future, look for patterns and analyze the situation is one of the most important. After all, failing to foresee the possibility for a good partnership or that someone needs help, for example, can bear negative results.

Seeing the situation and analyzing it, on the other hand, will surely help your business grow and facilitate the development of your team — a skill that I am glad to have been using for years.

3. Love to self-development

There is no professional and personal growth without development. Books, seminars, webinars — all of these, drop by drop add up to a vast ocean of knowledge that helps you be a successful manager.

At SupportYourApp, for example, the board of managers participates in a book club. We all read the same book (a new one each month) and then discuss it. It not only helps us gain additional soft and hard skills, but it is also a great team building exercise, as each month every member of the management team opens up from another, more exciting and interesting side.

4. Discipline

They say that 90 percent of success comes from discipline. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but the fact that one has to retain some kind of schedule and habits in order to be a good manager is 100 percent correct.

Of course, sometimes there are days when you have no energy or no time to bring some of your plans to life but remaining disciplined and following your routine is something that needs to be done regardless of your desires and your feelings.

SupportYourApp board of managers is also retaining discipline. We have obligatory calls 2 times a day, where everyone is talking about their professional and personal plans for the day in the morning and then about their progress in the evening. We have not missed a single call since this tradition was first established. That is the kind of discipline I am talking about.

5. The ability to decompress

A manager cannot be burnt out — that is the truth. If you want to be a successful manager you need to learn to relax and rest. Taking some time off every now and again will make sure that you do not lose a sense of perspective and that you always have the energy to be the best manager for your team. That is exactly the philosophy that I am using at the moment.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Do not lose yourself in the success of others. Now, in the age of technology, when we have access to virtually any type of information, it seems pretty important to follow the examples of success of other people and other businesses, like Apple or Microsoft. What we do not realize, is that it puts enormous pressure onto us and onto our teams as we try to push everyone into certain performance scopes. Surely, this almost never works.

Do not follow other people’s success and other businesses’ rules to a ‘t’. Find your own path and stay true to it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of the biggest problems at the moment is the abundance of fake news and false information. They plague our lives and make being efficient very hard as we do not know which thread we need to follow. And I would really much like to do something about it.

If I were to inspire a movement, it would be something about informational hygiene, as I like to call it. I think that it is exactly what humanity needs at the moment, especially while we deal with potentially deadly COVID-19 coronavirus.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I actually have two:

And this, too, shall pass away — it reminds me that everything passes, the bad and the good.

The second one, is what my grandma used to say to me: as soon as the clock strikes 6 PM, open your books and close your mouth. Remembering it is a great motivation to stay fit and to take care of myself. And, to be honest, stay away from the fridge and fats late in the night. Thanks, Grandma!

Thank you for these great insights!

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