Eli Fathi is a passionate leader with over 43 years of experience at companies including Telexis, OrbitIQ, Fluidware, and Mindbridge. In addition to his experience at notable companies, Eli also prides himself on being a mentor and fostering a positive ecosystem that continues to impact aspiring managers and leaders today.
Listen to this episode (or read the transcript below) to learn about Eli’s unparalleled leadership experience as well as insights and best practices for leading with grace and optimism.
1 What do conversations look like if they’re not structured?
As a manager, your role is to enable everyone to learn. It’s always the person that talks the most that dominates the conversation, so it’s not uniform, the key is uniformity. You want everybody to have the same level of information because if everybody knows the same amount of information, they are much more productive.
2 Can you elaborate on what eyes on hands off means?
As you grow a company, you tend to take on a lot of the responsibility yourself. As time progresses, you have to release some of this responsibility and provide the people you manage with more opportunity to shine themselves. If you give them the ropes and you set up some guardrails it’s best to let them run within instead of trying to micromanage them. You have to create an open dialogue where they feel comfortable to come to you if you have any questions but you can’t be in the background trying to micromanage everything they do because it will hinder their growth as well as the growth of the organization.
3 If you see someone making a mistake, how often do you correct them?
You have to let them make the mistake in order to learn. After they’ve made the mistake, they have to be able to learn from it so they don’t make it again. After you’ve identified the mistake, it’s as simple as doing a post mortem and diving into the mistake they made. You have to remember that everybody makes mistakes and you most likely made a lot while you navigated your career and progressed through the ranks. If you take it too seriously and yell or punish them they won’t learn from it and they will be scared to tell you if another mistake comes up and that’s not the relationship you want to have with your employees.
4 As a leader, how do you know when to intervene versus when to let them make mistakes?
You look at the degree of mistakes in terms of the impact on the company. If the mistake has a potential long term effect, you want to correct it right then. If you assess the mistake and it’s done no harm or doesn’t have the potential to have a lasting effect, everything is ok.
5 When it comes to leading with sticks versus carrots, do you tend to lead with carrots or sticks?
My approach was always to lead with carrots. People are smart, they’re intelligent and they deserve respect and my position is very simple. If you explain to people what you want to do, if they’re buying in, you won’t have to force them to do things that they already want to do. At that point they’ve already bought in and they’re already past the stage of belief and thus they’re willing to put in the work.
6 How have you managed to foster such strong relationships with the people that have worked at your companies?
At my very first job I had a great mentor that helped me navigate my way through it and I vowed to do the same for anyone I could. If somebody calls me and needs help, I’ll always carve out the time it takes to help them even if it means meeting with them on an evening or weekend. It’s very rewarding and they ultimately choose to stay in touch with me and I learn as much from them as they do from me by teaching and mentoring them on a continual basis.
Because somebody helped me, I help a lot of people and I’m hoping that the people I help will help other people and eventually we will create a much better place through this positive ecosystem.
7 How do you frame the phase “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves” in terms of people and culture?
It’s all about culture in the sense that your biggest cost and asset in a company is the people. If you invest in the people, and you get the culture right, everything else will follow. The customer and the investors are important but its ultimately the employees that are doing the grunt work and that’s what ultimately leads to success. From a cultural perspective, you want to give your employees the resources, capabilities, and the environment they need so it creates an ecosystem that leads to success. If you’re taking care of the pennies in terms of what your employees need on a day to day basis, they will take care of the dollars.
8 What does it mean for a leader to eat last at a company?
It all about instilling it within the culture. The captain is always the last one to leave the ship and the pilot is always the last one to leave the plane. The same thing can be said within an organization. You have to demonstrate that you’re a responsible leader, and you have to take care of your people. If there’s enough food for 10 people, you have to be number 11 because you have to make sure you’re supporting their needs. If you give employees the tools they need accompanied with a great environment, they will be able to succeed.
9 Do you have any tips, tricks, resources, or words of wisdom for managers or leaders that are looking to get better at their craft?
Make sure that the culture is correct in terms of communication, over-communication or structured communication. Tools like Fellow make sure that the communication is open, structured, and well defined among people. You have to look at it from the perspective that whatever you do, you need common communication or a common theme, that way everybody is on the same level in terms of getting the information they need to thrive. When you do that, you’re going to ensure the level of friction and uncertainty and increase the level of collaboration among the team and within the company.