Learning about those facing challenges similar to your own can be useful, so I decided to interview founders and other leading growth companies and share the results with you.
Yana: What do you think of the idea of leadership?
Art: I think it’s a challenging topic that many people don’t understand. They think of leadership in terms of military command and control, but that’s not usually the best way to get things done. Based on the books I’ve read, and my own experience, the best leaders earn their leadership cred based on their actions in a given position. Anybody can be called a leader, but actions speak louder than words.
Yana: Do you consider yourself a leader?
Art: I like to think that I’m a leader and I feel a responsibility to those who place me in a leadership position. I work to do the best job possible; I’m constantly learning , studying successful leaders and investigating how I can be better. I’ve experienced poor leadership myself and know that it makes any job more difficult.
You have to constantly grow, because real leadership means continually evolving to meet new challenges. It means being both proactive and reactive to change, because as a global company we are in a constant state of change. It’s how one responds to the challenges and change that determine your leadership skill.
Yana: What do you think about learning from your employees?
ART: I believe you can learn from everyone and that if you stop learning you’re finished. Kaput. I also believe that learning doesn’t just mean books, seminars and stories about leadership. I think you can learn from everybody in your organization; from your executive team to the entry level admin. You learn how to better serve your community by understanding their needs. You have to understand the goal, the position and the struggles of each individual on your team.
Yana: What is your background. Tell me about your parents, college years, etc.
Art: I grew up in a small town in Ohio. My father was insurance executive and my mother was a nurse and still is. They say, once a nurse, always a nurse and that sure fits my mom.
I was in the Boy Scouts and worked my way up to Eagle Scout. Scouting taught me to respect different people; the value of community service/giving back and opportunities to learn how to lead.
That’s why I believe so strongly that leadership isn’t just a function of business, but also within your community, as well. I’ve been fortunate and have had the opportunity to travel extensively, including the old USSR, and studied cultural differences.
Yana: You mention traveling in Russia. Where exactly?
Art: Moscow Sochi, Baky, Riga and Leningrad
Yana: I’m from Tomsk, in Siberia.
Art: I didn’t make it to Siberia; my travels were mostly the western portion of the former of Soviet Union and many other countries since then.
I’ve found the ideas of leadership to be true everywhere, although the approach, style and actions are different.
My own approach is to use something I learned in Scouting called EDGE. It stands for Explain Demonstrate Guide and Enable and lets me support my people, so they can reach their full potential, while still accomplishing the goals of the company.
As opposed to just handing someone a task along with a few tools with which to do it, EDGE is a method of teaching: first you tell them how to do it, show them how to do it, lead them through the process of doing it and give them the tools to be able to perform the task.
Yana: What did you do when you first graduated from college?
I spent time travelling and then jumped to different jobs; I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I’d become a photographer; when that didn’t happen I moved to import/export; I worked in insurance; I worked in banking.
I even worked as a ghostwriter for several industry blogs covering support, testing and QA. I really respect what you do as a writer. It’s not an easy job.
Yana: Thank you! I appreciate your understanding!
So how did you finally end up in an AI-based company?
I kind of fell into the startup world around 1992-1993 working in AI, mainly because I believe I can do absolutely anything if I put my mind to learning about it. Although I had no background in AI, I started working in operations for a young AI startup. I learned how to manipulate algorithms. We were focused on insurance, but the lessons learned are just now being applied to Big Data.
I’ve never been afraid of tackling an area I know nothing about. I read up on it and, most importantly, talk to people. And I don’t pretend to know; I use the reading to help me ask better questions, but it is my willingness to admit not knowing that gets me the most help.
From there I moved on to customized web browsers and then to support test tools. All the positions were with startups and I usually found myself moving quickly into a senior role and then to the executive team.
Yana: How do you hire ?
I use resumes to do the initial sort. I like to experience people, so next is a personal conversation. I want to understand their motivations; I strongly look for people who are continuously moving forward, as opposed to people who are content and not looking to stretch their boundaries. I’m a strong believer that you have to fail in order to succeed, because otherwise you have no way to compare or evaluate what you have done.
That said, I am very intolerant of stuff that creates difficulty for the team, like missing deadlines, not doing the work, shirking responsibility and blaming others. That kind of thing is never acceptable.
I want people who take responsibility for their error, can explain the reasons for it and what they would do differently in the future. That means they have learned something.
I also look for people who are interested in challenging the way things are done, because anything can be improved.
Yana: How do you motivate people?
People like hearing that they doing a good job. I like writing letters to my employees to let them know they are doing good work. I actually write hundreds of letters every year.
Taking time to actually write things forces me, or any manager, to fully think through what they going to say; it shows the degree of caring and respect we have for the individual. So sitting down and actually writing “you did a good job” and taking time to explain why it was a good job makes an enormous difference. I’ve never found anybody who doesn’t respond to that kind of motivation.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
Art Trevethan is a driven leader who brings vast experience in technology and business to the table. Art has over 20 years experience leading young companies and startups. Starting in technology in the late 90’s, Art has held positions ranging from functional roles to executive leadership across a broad platform of technologies. Artificial intelligence, browsers, software development tools, social platforms, and others, Art is experienced in consumer, healthcare, governmental, and corporate markets having delivered exceptional experiences to each, because every interaction counts.