Oxana Razumova of Sensemakers: “All the time to raise your own professional level”

I know that as soon as I get excessively tired, my efficiency and my mood drop and then I’m not the best Manager. Therefore, my number one advice is to rest on time. I can’t always grasp the moment when I need to tell myself to stop and slow down, but I know for sure […]

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I know that as soon as I get excessively tired, my efficiency and my mood drop and then I’m not the best Manager. Therefore, my number one advice is to rest on time. I can’t always grasp the moment when I need to tell myself to stop and slow down, but I know for sure that this is extremely important.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Oxana Razumova, a co-founder of Sensemakers and head of board of Friends Charity Foundation.

She is an expert in communications and strategy, a strategy facilitator and a philanthropy consultant. Oxana is a Process Communication Model and Emotional Assertiveness Trainer.

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

It is interesting how many of us do not work in the same profile that we studied at universities. The world is changing rapidly. I graduated from the law faculty, dreaming of becoming a well-known attorney or lawyer with a large company. But it turned out (accidentally) that I didn’t work as a lawyer even for a day. Starting my career in a large telecommunications company and dealing in securities, I gradually moved into PR, and then into the media sphere. Years of working as the head of the press service in the National Media Group have given me a lot. Especially the year when I managed the press service of one of the Russian news TV channels. Finding out how TV works from the inside, being close to the newsroom and production Department is exciting, but not easy.

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

Over the years, there have been many funny and unusual stories. Now I understand that it was necessary to write it down, otherwise you won’t remember everything. But the most vivid ones remain in the memory forever. For example, my transition from a National Media Group to a professional charity. I must say that I had a great position in the media holding, a wonderful CEO, whom I respected, a great team in general, but at some point you don’t get pleasure from the fact that everything is going as planned. Everything is clear, familiar, you know how to do it, but you want to thrive and new meanings. It was at this point in my life that a man appeared who lit me up with new ideas for a charity Foundation and invited me to be its Director. There was no Foundation. There was no team. There was no money to organize everything. But there were amazing people — three founders — Yan Yanovsky, Gor Nakhapetyan and Dmitry Yampolsky, with enthusiasm and ideas that change the world. Many people behind my back said that I was crazy to go almost nowhere, but I was enthusiastic. And life has shown that this was absolutely the right decision. Difficult, but really changing the world around me, and my own life and career for the better.

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?

I was about 21 years old and worked for a large state-owned telecommunications holding company Svyazinvest. We had a Protocol Department, which has endorsed letters before they were signed by the CEO. And there were strict rules for processing these letters, which, of course, I did not initially know. I remember that during the first months of my work, the ladies of this Department drilled me. The last name was written in the wrong font, the letter number in the wrong place, and so on. I was angry, irritated, and because of this, I made some small and, in my opinion, insignificant mistakes over and over again. I had the feeling that they were deliberately mocking me. Every time I had to go to them with another document, I shivered. But after half a year, there were no errors in my documents. And I remember even bringing them a cake to thank them for their patience. Many years have passed since then, but the habit of paying attention to the processing of official documents has remained with me. And now I understand how important details are that at first glance seem small.

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?

Both as a Manager and as an employee, my opinion about what is unacceptable does not change. I will never allow a raised tone in my address or insults. But, as we all know, you can humiliate even without changing the tone of voice. But even when your Manager behaves appropriately, do you always feel comfortable working? Data from numerous studies around the world say no.

A 2019 study conducted by found that almost 94% of 2,081 employees were bullied in some way, up 19% from 11 years ago. 51.1% of respondents reported that they were bullied by a Manager. Among the possible formats, the most popular were aggressive email tone (23.3%), gossip (20.2%), and voice enhancement (17.8%).

At Sensemakers we have a clear understanding of what kind of company we are building — this is an OK-OK organization. This is a wise organization. And this applies equally to the internal audience — our employees, and the external audience — our partners and clients. When you look at a person from the perspective of seeing their strengths, their talents, you value them. Each of us has our own talents. Someone is strong in creativity and has a developed imagination, another can handle multi tasks or, for example, has a strategic vision. The main task of a modern leader today is not to set KPIs and monitor their implementation, which is certainly important, but not a priority, but to manage relationships in the team. This is why such a wise leader should be proficient in communication tools. And integrate them into the team. Everyone finds their own tool. We use the Process Communication Model, which fully meets all our requirements. As a result, as one of the company’s managers, I recently received a review from an employee: “I have never been in a company where it is so pleasant to work. Everyone is respectful to each other and ready to help.” The efficiency, and hence the income of such companies, is growing.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

We have offices in three countries — France, Israel and Russia. The team is spread across more than three countries. To keep everyone in sync, we hold a bi-weekly General meeting and share news and plans. This allows everyone to be on the same page. We also form project teams within the company based on a profile, not on a territorial basis. For example, the sales team has colleagues from all three countries. And, of course, this is the regular work of our community manager to synchronize processes and onboarding of newcomers. We understand how important it is for everyone in the company to be resonant.

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)

I know that as soon as I get excessively tired, my efficiency and my mood drop and then I’m not the best Manager. Therefore, my number one advice is to rest on time. I can’t always grasp the moment when I need to tell myself to stop and slow down, but I know for sure that this is extremely important.

Secondly, all the time to raise your own professional level. Be an example for colleagues and employees. Always learn new things.

Third, being an interesting person means developing as a person. Some people love theater, some music, some opera and ballet. Whatever you prefer, be curious. You will be interesting not just as a Manager, but as a person.

Fourth, always focus on the talents of your team members. Everyone has something unique. Don’t be lazy to emphasize it. Manage through love for people.

And the last of the examples that happened just the day before yesterday. I saw a very funny picture on some social channel. It was on the one hand about what we do professionally, then only through a joke. I sent it to a colleague who is engaged in marketing and SMM. We laughed together and it was obvious that her mood instantly improved and her vitality increased. Then I suggested making such a post in our professional social networks. I really wanted to share this energy with everyone. We got a lot of views and likes. I mean, humor and a light attitude to even the most serious things allow us not to lose the taste of life. There is always room for a clever joke.

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

You need to know how to motivate different people. What motivates you, may be useless from the point of view of motivation for your employees. It’s amazing how a person can be charged with the right words and, importantly, spoken on time. It is important for someone to celebrate the results of their work, preferably verbally and publicly. A simple “excellent report, professional work” can charge a person and make their work much more efficient. For others, it’s important to have a place for creativity and humor in your work. Third parties can be praised as much as you want for their work, but only a good word spoken in their personality will really charge.

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. 🙂

I wish leaders of organizations to strive to build not just a successful business, but also a wise one. A wise company is one that is attentive to its internal audience, and also feels its role in the world as a whole, in global changes, regardless of its size. For example, intellectual volunteering is something that we strongly support at Sensemakers. You can be a professional in any field and help various charitable organizations with your expertise from the comfort of your home. Research from Stanford University shows that such NGO support is even more useful than financial assistance, and as a result, it helps even more people who really need our support.

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

“A wise man demands everything only from himself, but an insignificant man demands everything from others,” said Leo Tolstoy. This statement is very close to me. This is about my own responsibility for my happiness and about the constant path of self-improvement. Maybe this path itself is happiness?

Thank you for these great insights!

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