🚀 Breathe.



“Leadership isn’t about giving everybody the same thing, but giving each individual what they need, and learning how to flex your style so you can help your team perform their best.”

In this episode

In episode #68, Sarah Gretczko dives into positive reframing and explains why this skill can be used with anyone, from toddlers to business professionals.

Sarah is a future of work enthusiast and the Executive Vice President, Chief Learning & Insights Officer at Mastercard.

Tune in to this episode to learn why the future of work is human, and how you can keep a human element in a digital workforce.

We also learn about reverse mentorship, and how to apply behavioural science in the workplace.

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


Team engagement surveys


Reframing how you ask your team


How our brains work


Behaviour and the future of work


Agility really matters


Reverse mentorship


Provide clarity to your team



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  01:27

 Sarah, welcome to the show.

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  01:58

Thanks for having me.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  01:59

Yeah, very excited to do this. I know that you’ve had an extensive leadership career in multiple companies. You were at Deloitte for a long time today you’re Executive Vice President, chief learning and insights officer at MasterCard. But before we get into a lot of the questions we have for you, one thing that I wanted to kick things off with was who has been the most memorable leader in your career thus far?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  02:28

Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s one person honestly, that has stuck out for me. And she’s a woman that I worked with when I was at Deloitte named Susan Burnett. And she came at a time when we were doing a lot of transformation work. And honestly, what stood out to her why I remember her so fondly, is because she was the first boss that I had that I felt like truly had my back, and would give me positive feedback, but would also give me feedback to help me get better that might have been tough to hear. But the way that she did it, she did it in the Kim Scott style of radical candor. And I always knew that she was giving me that feedback to make me better. And honestly, I feel like how she was able to have those conversations with me has influenced how I even lead my team today.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  03:24

Yeah, no, that that’s awesome. And so talking about you leading your team today, if we dial back and go back to when you first started leading teams, what were some of the mistakes that you tended to make back then?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  03:36

Yeah, leading a team? It’s, it’s kind of like an acquired taste. I think, you know, I think you go into it. At least I did. I went into it thinking that because I had had all these other experiences where I had been led, that I could do it better. And so went into it, thinking that everyone was like I was and wanted what I wanted. So if there was any mistake, it was just assuming that there’s one way to lead. I think what I found out was there are many different types of people. And honestly, at the point, when I started leading teams, I didn’t have children of my own, I wish I had because I think you learn that just like you could have children that are very different in different personalities. That’s what you have on the team. And sometimes it’s not about giving everybody the same thing. But giving each individual what they need, and learning how to flex your style, so that you can help people get the best out of themselves, and relate to them in a way that makes sense to them. And I think honestly, that becomes increasingly challenging. If you have a distributed team that might be in different countries, from different cultures, you know, different demographics, and just different life experiences and learning how to flex different muscles so that you can reach diverse team members that have different perspectives.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:02

And so I guess the question I have for you is how did you first realize that you weren’t necessarily doing that are leading people, not in the way that they would have wanted. But maybe the way that you were used to when you were being led?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  05:18

Two key things for me that stand out. One was the first time that I received results from we used to do engagement surveys for teams. And so as the leader, you would get a report out of how your team rated you and rated their experience overall in your team. And one of the first reports that I got, was not very favorable. And some and again, you don’t know who said, What, right, you know, it’s from your team, but you don’t know who, but some of the verbatim comments that I had received on that, share things like, you know, your style is not everybody else’s style. And I don’t feel like you understood this perspective. And, and seeing some of those, honestly, it, hurts when you read them because some of the comments are a little bit raw. But that was kind of my first glimpse that maybe I’m not exactly doing this the right way. Or maybe there’s another way to do this. I also had one very valuable team member who I loved because she told me to my face and told me how it was and how she felt and was very confident and open and doing that. And so kind of taking those two pieces, I kind of took a step back and said, maybe number one I need to understand a little bit better, and go to people and get some feedback. And that’s what helps me come to this conclusion around. Okay, some people learn differently, that want to develop differently, that want to have different types of conversations, and trying to figure out that diversity that I had on my team, and how to, as I said, just flex those different muscles was helpful. And then having some of these tools, like if you do have access to any type of engagement survey or tool, that’s a great way just to get the pulse on your team, as well as, you know, reaching out to people and just saying, hey, how am I doing? I got this feedback, I’m wondering if you’re feeling the same, and you really going out and proactively asking for it, rather than waiting for someone to feel confident like that one person I did have on my team that felt confident to come and tell me directly.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:38

Yeah, and I like the just the idea of taking whatever feedback or verbatim it is, and, and, and just being more curious and like asking more people, because I think you can sometimes it’s hard to just read a sentence or two and, you know, basically, like learn a bunch of things. So there’s, there’s always nuance to things. And so yeah, doing that kind of digging is I find super helpful, too.

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  08:04

Yeah. And I’ll tell you what else it does, I think doing that digging, helps you build trust as a leader with your people. Because what it allowed me to do was say, hey, my intent was not to make you feel this way or make you feel like you had to do things my way. I understand that that’s, you know, the impact that it had on you. So that’s helpful for me to understand. But that was not my intent. And I think even that for the individual to hear that from me was like, okay, you know, I thought, you know, you were just doing things a certain way. They were probably making assumptions about me, I was making, you know, certain assumptions about them as well. And just having that open conversation led to a different level of trust. But I think it’s just helpful for teams to be high-performing and be able to come together and in meaningful ways to create impact.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:56

Sarah, one thing that we know about you is that I mean, you are a future of work enthusiasts and also behavioral insights junkie. I wanted to ask you, like, how did you first get interested in behavioral insights? And, and what has, has gotten you to be so passionate about it? Yeah. So

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  09:22

I’ll say a couple of triggers. The first one was, I spent the majority of my career in consulting. And one of the things that I realized being part of massive project teams was that the more successful projects, actually put more investment in the people side. So they invested in things like change management. They invested in communications and training. Some project teams did not make the same investments. And what I realized having been part of both were the teams that did or the project teams that did make those investments, ended up with better results. And I thought, why is that It kind of doesn’t make sense. Like, typically it’s similar type people that are doing the work. The work itself is pretty similar to that we were doing across projects, yet we will, we were having wildly different outcomes. So that kind of piqued my interest a bit. I had studied business at school. And it’s really interesting because when you study kind of more traditional economics, it’s all based on this theory of people being rational about their decisions. And as I started to dig into this behavioral science topic, what I found was it kind of turned a lot of that stuff that I had learned on its head to say, that’s all fine and good if people were rational and made rational decisions, but they don’t, because we’re humans. And we just don’t do that. And so that kind of led just to a fascination with the topic, and just started doing a bunch of reading. And actually, just listening to different stories of how this comes to life was fascinating to me on why people behave in different ways. And I will tell you when I had my children, and I was trying to figure out the whole parenting thing, which you know when you’re new to it is a big hot mess, and you don’t know what you’re doing, I realize that some of these things that I was reading, and some of the different behavioral science techniques aren’t just can’t be used in a business setting, but they’re just good for any setting, you know, personal settings. Being a mother, being a spouse, being a daughter. And I started applying some of those same techniques. And I feel like it did make me a better mother, I felt it made me a better team leader at work, it made me a better partner, and made me a better friend.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:56

I’d love to hear some examples like, you know, take parenting, like, what’s an example that you can think of, in this case?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  12:05

Yeah, so one of my favorite examples, and this goes, this is as useful for a toddler, as it is for a very experienced professional at any company that you may work force you may work for. So the example was typical if you want your child to do something, so say you’re leaving the house, and you want your child to put on their shoes, typically what we say is Hurry up, we’re going to be late. Or if you want to get your child to stop running, because they’re running into the street, you say, Stop running. And so we’re kind of telling them things that we don’t want them to do. Or we’re putting kind of this anxiety, right, like, hurry up, we’re going to be late. So the behavioral science technique would be, instead of saying, for that example, hurry up, we’re going to be late, you say, let’s try to be really on time, let’s see how quickly we can put our shoes on. So that we can be really on time. So you just change the frame from a kind of that negative to a positive. Similarly, the running instead of if you want a child to stop running, the best way to do that is not to yell, stop running, it’s to yell, can you walk slowly, so you tell them the behavior that you want to see, not the behavior that you don’t want them to do? And that becomes their focus. And that to me, you can apply to anything, you know, typically in a work setting. Again, we tell people, things we don’t want them to do. I just change the frame, tell them what you want them to do put the focus there. And then the same with the positive and negative. If there’s something for your population or your team, you want them to stop doing, tell them what you want them to start doing instead.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  13:42

That’s super interesting. For whatever reason, when it comes to kids, my my, my brain wouldn’t have gone there by default, when you said,  put on your shoes, and we’re gonna be late that I was like, yep, that’s, that’s what you’re supposed to say. Yeah. So but like you, it’s almost like I would have thought about it from a work perspective and said, Well, that makes sense for work. Does it also make sense for you? It’s very interesting. So So why does that like what is the what is it about like that reframing that makes that kind of that kind of, I guess, direction work better?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  14:21

Well, that’s, I think that’s what’s most fascinating when you start studying behavioral science because it all goes back to how our brains work. So it’s all based on scientific evidence about how our brains work. And when we’re saying things like, you know, that Hurry up or stop doing something that’s building up that anxiety. It’s triggering our brain in an unhelpful way. So even though the outcome that you want is just for the child to put their shoes on faster, or maybe for somebody on your team to complete third compliance But the way that you go about that by raising that anxiety level, it’s having the opposite effect for the individual, because it’s raising that anxiety, and it’s making it more difficult for them to perform the tasks that you’re asking them to perform. When we frame things in a more positive realm, it triggers different parts of our brain. And those parts of our brain when there’s not kind of that, you know, high anxiety. a building that all up, actually allows us to perform better, and perform faster, which if you think about it, typically even in a work setting, that’s always what we’re trying to help our teams do.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  15:38

[AD BREAK BEGINS] Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best-kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything, but because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news is completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. [AD BREAK ENDS] Yeah, no, it’s super interesting. You know, we’ve talked about this. And we’ve also talked about engagement surveys, I remember at a previous company, you know, is a larger company, and the CEO wanted everybody to do this engagement survey. And you know how these things are, for whatever reason, it takes a very long time to get everybody to do it. And then even at the end, a lot of times, not everyone still does it. And the typical strategy is shaming, right? Like, and I bet it’s very interesting. What if the goal was Let’s be one of the only companies that get 100% completion, or that does it in record time? I mean, that what a novel idea. It’s very interesting.

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  17:07

Yeah, there’s actually, there’s an awesome book called Nudge. If you haven’t read it, and the behavioral science thing kind of tickles your fancy, I would recommend it. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler wrote the book. And there are great stories in there, one of the stories they tell us is about how they were able to get people to save electricity. And they tried a lot of different things. So they’ve kind of tried this shaming thing, right? Like, Oh, my gosh, even you’re wasting so much energy, right, trying to make people feel bad. They tried to play the financial play like if you, you know, put your thermostat down two degrees, you can save this much money. And what they found worked was when they would send people’s bills out, people would get their bills, and then they would get a smiley face, like, just kind of like stoic face or a frowny face. And what it said to them was, um, if you got the smiley face, you were in the top third of people that were saving energy, you got kind of a stoic, you were in that middle. And if you were in the bottom, it was the bottom and it was just like, this is what your other neighbors are doing no judgment, right? You’re not it’s not about saving money, or we’re shaming you. We’re just showing you where you fall. And that’s the one that got people to change behavior. The people that got the stoic one or the people that got the frown didn’t want to be those people because we all think we’re better than average. Right? So again, that kind of plays to just how the human brain works. And you can use some of those tricks to get people to behave in the ways that we’re trying to influence. Wow, that

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  18:41

That is so smart. Yeah, that would be the first thing. I’d be competitive, call my neighbors and see how did you re and I’d be upset if I wasn’t hired. Yeah, that’s so funny. I love that. And so so I can see how this stuff starts to impact the way that you know, people manage their teams and also their company. And I was gonna ask you about a book. So Nudge is a great resource. What do you think the impact of a lot of this is going to be on the future of work? Like just knowing some of these concepts? Like how do you imagine what the future of work will end up looking like?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  19:25

Yeah, I think we’re at a real inflection point. And I think in some ways, the silver lining of the pandemic has been that I think it’s made us all realize that the future work is human. It’s getting the human piece, right, right. How do you connect with people in a virtual environment, people you may never have met face to face and you may not meet face to face as frequently as we did before the pandemic. Um, how do I you know, how am I able to build that trust amongst my team, when I’m only seeing them over a video Or maybe on a phone call. And so I think fundamentally, before the pandemic when we would talk about the future of work, a lot of the talk was about how technology was going to disrupt people’s jobs and take their jobs away. And we should all be scared and the robots were coming. And I think since the pandemic started, what we realize the future of work is about is, how can we tie in this human connection in a digital-first world that we’re all going to be working in going forward? How do you help leaders be more resilient in the face of, you know, unpredictable environments, where each day brings new challenges that we’ve never had to deal with before. And especially for leaders, you know, how they can manage, managing their selves, and what’s going on with them individually, maybe with their family and their situation, and then also be able to show up to their team and be optimistic and set a vision? I think we’ve put a lot of weight on the shoulders of leaders in this environment to lead in ways that we haven’t necessarily prepared them for.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:11

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. It’s very interesting. The way that you put it because it wasn’t as if the world, you know, you’re predicting that the world is going to go digital. First, is this kind of like a thing that happened? But it’s more like how do you do that, but also keep the human element which is, which is super important? That’s a very, very interesting way to frame that. And I would imagine like this is, you have the most interesting title at MasterCard, which is Chief Learning and Insights Officer, what is the objective of like, what what is your mission at the company?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  21:47

Yeah, so it is, it’s kind of, my portfolio is probably pretty unique. And what we realized early on was, I mean, actually linking back to the future of work. But the future of work is really about learning and about skills, and how for our people, we can provide to the future employability, and make sure that they’re ready for whatever the world throws at them. And I think, you know, the past 18 months, has been a great example of the importance of how learning agility matters. It’s not just a nice thing to talk about. And, you know, say that it matters. But it matters because we’re put in these situations. And, you know, hopefully, there won’t be another global pandemic anytime in my lifetime. But there’s going to be other situations that come up, that we’re going to need people to quickly react to, and be able to pivot. And I know when the pandemic first happened, even at MasterCard, we had to shift priorities very quickly. And we needed to have the flexibility to be able to do that. And so I think this, you know, the focused on the focus on learning, very important. On the insights side, what we realized was, for us to know what we needed to do, and understand what skills are important, it needs to be backed in data and insights. And so in the past, a lot of learning has been around, let’s educate people on these different things that we believe are important, right product knowledge, different types of technical knowledge that are evolving in the landscape. And we put a lot of time and energy and focus there. What we’ve been able to do now, and a lot of this is through some of the data and insights work that we do on my team, is realize how much some of these other areas, some of the more enduring human capabilities are critically important. And that only together with those do the things like product knowledge or technical expertise, really come together to produce anything meaningful. And so for us at MasterCard, putting learning and insights together was to say we’re going to take a data-driven approach to make sure that just like we do with any of our customers, we’re coming in with data First, the evidence first, and that we believe that the currency for the future for our workforce is all about skills. And we’re going to make sure that where we decide to invest and how we decide to allocate our time is all rooted in that versus maybe just how we’ve done things in the past because we’ve always done things that way.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  24:26

Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And the point about not doing things always the same way I think it is very apt, especially like for everything that we’ve seen in the last 18 months or has it been two years now it’s kind of all blended in. One thing that I wanted to ask you about, which is also kind of ties into learning is that you have a reverse mentorship. I guess relationship with the chief talent officer. At MasterCard, what is reverse mentorship?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  25:03

Yeah, so reverse mentorship. Probably the last five or so years, maybe even 10 years, to be honest at this point, because you’re right, they like the COVID blur, I don’t even know how many years it’s been, um, has started to be something that I think several organizations have focused on, which is, typically when people think of mentoring, they think of somebody more senior, providing perspective, insights, advice to somebody more junior, I think that’s been the more traditional definition. Reverse mentoring is meant to acknowledge that we can all learn from each other. And I will tell you, I think every day I learn more from my kids, and they probably do for me. And so reverse mentoring is about not just thinking, you have to look up to someone that’s in a more senior role, who is older than you, or that has more experience, but that we can all be learning from each other. And a great example, some of the stuff that we do at MasterCard is pairing some of our more experienced executives, with more junior career level employees, to help them get more comfortable with maybe emerging technologies, with social media that might not have been second nature to them. So the reverse mentoring relationship I have with Kelly was just that it was our kind of coming together and recognizing that, wow, I knew I had a lot to learn from her, and wanted to understand her experiences and get her thoughts on things I was going through. But the most fascinating thing was she was basically like, Well, I’m not going to just be your mentor, you’re going to be my mentor, too. And so it was that two-way dialogue where we could have a conversation each learn from each other. And it turned into a wonderful avenue for me to have number one somebody to go to, to help me when I needed perspective, but also made me feel valued that, you know, even where I was, at that the stage of my career where I am, that I have something to offer to folks that are at you know, a different point in their career as well.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  27:14

Yeah, that’s super interesting. I’d love to know, like tactically speaking, you say that sometimes you pair more senior execs with more junior folks, especially to, I guess, keep them in the loop on latest technology trends, or are those like, how does that work? You know, I guess like tactically speaking, is it that you they start to meet on a regular cadence? Or what is the playbook there?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  27:42

Yeah, the one. The one thing I’ve learned having done some mentoring programs is it needs a little bit of structure, but not too much structure. So the biggest thing that I think any organization tactically can do is to help with the matching piece to make sure that you’re doing the best to match people whose needs make sense. And then after that, really leaving it up to the individuals. So we also have a woman’s mentoring program at MasterCard, where we match different women together again, to share a perspective. And all that MasterCard does is help you kind of make that match with somebody else in the organization. And then the two of you get together and you decide, do we want to meet every month, do we want to meet every other month, maybe we want to meet on an as-needed basis. And having that conversation and being able as a pair to set up what your standards are going to be, we found works much better than to put too many guardrails to say you have to meet every month. And here’s what you have to talk about. And you have to report it this way. But to let it be a little bit more organic, where we’re going to help you make that connection. And again, we’ll give you some, you know, guidance, we’ll share some things that have worked for other people, but then it’s really up to you to do with it what you want.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  29:01

Do you think that this also helps with building a more inclusive culture you mentioned, specifically around the women mentoring program would love for me to elaborate on that?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  29:13

I mean, I think it does. I think it’s very, you know, we talked a little bit about just doing things a certain way, because we’ve always done it that you know, that has a name. It’s called inertia. And it’s a challenging thing to overcome. And I think what some of these things like a mentoring program help to do is get you out of maybe some of those habits that may not be intentional, to be honest, right? I may go to the same people for advice or perspective because that’s what I’ve always done. And it’s just easy to do, and I know how to do it. I think pushing people and making connections with somebody that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come across because they sit in a different office. You know, they’re in a different group. They’re at a different point in time. Career allows you, it almost forces you in a way to make a connection with another individual. And then it allows you to share your story. So you get a different perspective. My, the mentee that I was matched with for the women’s mentoring program was a woman who was out of our Santiago Chile office. And this was during COVID. And it was so fascinating for me to learn about, number one, how the pandemic was impacting a different country, what somewhat they were trying to do in that country, you know, what some of our policies were, what some of the commonalities were, between what I was going through in the United States, you know, in New York, and I remember at the beginning, New York City, was the epicenter of what was happening in the United States. And so early on, you know, she would be like, oh, I’m watching this on the news. And we would talk about that. And then as the pandemic progress, South America got bad. And she shared some stories about what was happening in Chile, and she’s actually from Colombia, and she was trying to get back to Colombia, to see her family. But the flights were restricted because obviously, they were trying to be careful about the flow of people and spreading the virus. And it was just, I never would have gotten that perspective. Had I had, I just had to do that on my own. So I think it does help when you think about it from an inclusion and diversity perspective, to just give different avenues and different pathways for people to make these connections? Because, again, it’s not that I didn’t want to make the connection with this woman, it just would have been much harder for me to seek her out.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  31:42

Yeah, no, I see that that can make make a huge difference. And certainly, like a big reason why people should put into place these sorts of programs that just make these connections that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. One thing that I did want to talk to you about was just the characteristics of great leaders. So in a roundtable discussion, you had said that you look for resilient leaders, create some level of clarity for their teams around expectations and prioritization, and leaders who instill a sense of followership, I’d love for you to maybe elaborate on that, and how managers can create clarity around expectations and prioritizations.

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  32:28

Yeah, so I think that word clarity here is key, I think in this dynamic environment that we all live in, and we’ll continue that clarity is really important. So I think in the past, what people wanted was some sort of certainty. And what we all know now as leaders are we can’t give people that because, you know, who could have predicted this pandemic. I mean, I remember when we went seemingly overnight from having everyone in the office to having everybody at home. Nobody saw that coming. And even early on, we thought it was going to be short-lived, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be sitting here, you know, over a year and a half later, and still have most of our workforce. working from home, just it didn’t seem possible. But I think what leaders can provide because we don’t know with certainty, what will happen, what will change is, you can be very clear with your team, on what we’re trying to achieve, what are those outcomes that we need to achieve. And I think that clarity around those outcomes allows you to be more flexible, and how you get them done. So when something happens, where all of a sudden, everybody was home, we have more flexibility on how we achieve what we need to achieve. But at least we’re all aligned on what it is that we’re trying to achieve. Right. We all have the same goals in mind. We all have one vision. I think that’s critically important. I think the other thing that helps with clarity in conversation. So especially in a virtual world, the conversation is really important. So where you might not have you know, you’re just going to run into somebody in the office, you’re not going to maybe have some of that idle chitchat before you go into a meeting, make sure that you’re making that time in when you’re in an in any type of virtual or distributed setting. So whether that’s, you know, virtual coffee chats, whether that’s just picking up the phone and calling someone and just checking in and say, Hey, how are you? And Another good tip I learned in a virtual world is when you do that, and you say, Hey, Aydin, how are you? You’re, again, this is behavioral science, you’re typically going to be like, I’m fine, Sarah, I’m fine. And the tip I have is always asking again, I would say are you really fine even and then you might say, Wow, actually, my kid was up last night. Or actually, my fridge just broke and I have to, and that kind of opens up the conversation. So I think yes, clarity around you know what that is what it is that the team is trying to achieve. But then just as important to get to that clarity to let people ask questions and just check in on people is a conversation,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  35:07

is there an example of when, like, you notice, maybe something that you had done that was more clear, like the second time around? Or maybe like you something that wasn’t clear the first time around? And what happened and then like how clarity, you know, made it better?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  35:29

Yeah. So I think I think this happens a lot when you might be in a meeting with someone. So I’ll give you one of my examples, but I’ll be in a meeting with one of my team members. So we’re in the same meeting. And, you know, we go in maybe with a deck or some kind of document that we’re going to talk about, and we’re getting feedback from somebody. And so I’m taking, you know, my notes, you know, we’re all in the, in the conversation, the person on my team is also taking some of those notes. And coming out of that, you know, I’ll look at that person and be like, Okay, I think we’re good, we know, you know, or you’re going to take that I’m going to take this, what I found is if you probe a little bit more, instead of doing that sit down and say, Hey, so So how do you think that went? What did you hear? What did you take away, you’ll find that there might not be that much consistency. And so instead of just kind of going and updating whatever you’re going to update, kind of take care of things, to which you might come back, and I would look at, you know, the deck or the document and say, Well, wait, that’s not what I took away, I took away the feedback was this, um, that can lead to a lot of extra work and a lot of back and forth. So I think, again, taking the time upfront not to assume that just because I heard feedback a certain way, or I wrote down a certain note that that’s exactly what it is. But compare that with other people that are hearing the same thing, because we all are interpreting through our lens and our own experiences. And sometimes, even two people that are part of the same meeting having the same conversation are not aligned on what those key takeaways

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:07

are. Yeah, no, that that that’s a really good example. I like that and super tactical, something that we can, we can all start doing. I wanted to also ask you about diverse teams, I knew that you have this model at MasterCard, do I have it right, that is the two plus two plus two plus five model is that what the model is called

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  37:09

The overall intent is because I think any company can call it any cute little formula or, or moniker but the intent is to not just think about yourself, or not just be defined by the job that you’re doing today, or even the role that you got hired into. But think about where you can play across a range of areas. And when you think about that range, you should be thinking about different things you should be thinking about. At MasterCard, for example, we have different business units, we have different regions, we have different functions. We have different learning academies, that help shape different content for our people. So that model intends to say, for you to grow and develop in your career, you shouldn’t just be focused on one area. But you should be focused on several areas because that allows you to be a bit more well-rounded to understand the business. And even if you’re a specialist, right, and, you know, I code, and that’s what I do. And that’s what I was hired to do. And that’s what I want to do. By understanding those under those other areas, you’ll be a better coder, because you’ll understand how it works in our context, and what some of the opportunities are, to perhaps apply your skillset and many different situations.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  38:46

Yeah, I think, you know, this is a very interesting thing coming from like a startup life where, you know, I have always been one of the first few employees, and then you know, obviously, kind of growing, you end up building a lot of contexts, that becomes much harder I can imagine, I can only imagine that like the MasterCard level, the amount of context that that exists. What do you do to kind of encourage this context building? Like, how do people? I mean, it’s such a big company, how would you even go about allowing them to do that?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  39:15

Yeah, we did a big. We had a big campaign this year, we did because of COVID. We did our first ever, Virtual Learning Conference we called to scale-up is a major focus of it was this concept of range. And David Epstein, you want another book Aydin, and I’ll give you another book. But David Epstein wrote a fantastic book called Range. And it was basically about how a lot of us you know, in our heads, we think about, you have to have the 10,000 hours that you need to specialize in something and the Tiger Woods example of how he started playing golf when he was two years old. And that’s why you know, he became such an amazing, golf player. And what David Epstein starts to tease out in his book is, those are more the exception And that that type of model works well. For the type of work that is very predictable, there are patterns that you can learn from. And that just doesn’t change. But if you think about the world that we live in, most of our jobs are not really like that. So for the rest of us, what seems to be more useful is this concept of the range whereby having a diversity of experience, even diversity of education and diversity of jobs, that diversity of relationships and networks makes you better at being able to solve complex problems, and think differently about your work and how that can apply in different situations. So we’ve been making a big push there, again, number one, just around education around this concept, what it is, and then what that affords people as far as flexibility and where they can take their career. So just because you, you know, join MasterCard on a sales team, and you’re with one account, maybe you want to get on the product side. Or maybe you want to pivot into a more technical role. And that’s Okay, we encourage it because we think you’re going to be a better technical person if you’ve had some sales experience. And we think you’re going to be a better salesperson if you’ve had some product experience.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:11

Yeah, no, that’s incredibly valuable. And 100% agree range was such a great book. I also would second, the recommendation. This has been Sarah, this has been great. So many different insights we’ve talked about. So many useful and tactical tips and examples throughout the conversation. One question that we like to ask all of our guests is for all the managers and leaders out there constantly looking to get better at their craft? What final tips, tricks, or words of wisdom would you leave them with?

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  41:45

So I think, you know, the number one thing is to continue to stay curious. And, and ask questions and probe in different areas. Because we know that, you know, learning doesn’t stop. And there are always opportunities for us to change our perspective. And I think when we get stuck is when we think we’ve reached, you know, it’s kind of that fixed mindset, you think you know what there is to know. And then that’s all the tools that you’re using in your tool bag, tool belt, versus trying to go out and seek out new and different information. And just to bring it back to kids one last time. I think kids here are excellent at that if you think about the questions that little kids ask. And if you’re not around little kids go spend some time around them, because it’s super fascinating to see how their brains work. I’ll give you one quick example. My son a couple of years ago, he’s eight years old now I think when he was five or six, the alarm in our house was going off any and we were kind of scrambling around. I’m like, why is the alarm going off? And my son was saying there and then we fixed it. And then afterward, he said, Mom, why didn’t you say the alarm was going off? And I’m like, What do you mean, the alarm was going off? He’s like, wasn’t going off it was going on? And I was like, Oh, you’re right. It was going on? Why do we say that? Like I never. And it just and again, just that perspective to say? Yeah, let me think about that. I’m not sure why we say that. Let’s dig into that a little bit better, and understand why we do the things we do. And again, try to find some of this inertia, and think about how we can do things in new and different ways.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  43:26

Well, Sarah, this has been great. And thank you so much for your for doing this.

Sarah Gretczko (Mastercard)  43:31

Absolutely. I was happy to be here. 

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