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In March 2016, VaynerMedia, a digital media agency, appointed Claude Silver as its first Chief Heart Officer. As CEO Gary Vaynerchuk explained at the company’s all-hands meeting, “We want to build the best human empire in the history of time.” For Silver, this meant, "Let’s create an emotionally and physically safe place for people to bring their whole selves to work, so our employees can achieve both success and happiness."

With 80% of the workforce made up of millennials, the key to achieving this was to “help employees find meaning in what they’re doing, and guide them in how to identify and remove their own roadblocks,” says Silver.

Millennials are looking for any kind of magic tricks for how to get promoted and move up the ladder quickly, so if I can help them understand their strengths and play to those, they’ll genuinely thrive, which is a win-win for them and VaynerMedia.

The Play

Silver’s approach has been to create one-to-one coaching sessions, which she calls “whiteboard sessions,” with an aim to “help employees find their personal mission statement or guiding principle, key to unlocking growth on a person-to-person level.” She asks a range of questions to help the answers unfold, with examples including “Why does your team feel you’re valuable?,” “What are you good at and love to do?,” “What do you value the most?,” and my favorite, “When you’re standing in front of the mirror brushing your teeth, who are you?” It’s a very visual process that includes whiteboarding responses to help map out and identify patterns and themes.


At the end of the session, employees leave with drafts of their personal mission statements/principles. Throughout the coming weeks, Silver sends them coaching questions and assignments, and they then return for another session to finalize their “sentences.” “This approach has been extremely effective in helping employees take part in defining and ‘being present’ in their futures,” says Silver.

This approach has been extremely effective in helping employees take part in defining and ‘being present’ in their futures

This approach and these coaching sessions have contributed to low attrition rates at the company, which is no surprise, since it supports the needs of millennials to understand and be provided with real growth opportunities. They’ve also contributed to the achievement of one of Silver’s key objectives set by her CEO: to touch as many employees as possible, having her energy rub off on them. This has certainly happened, with employees benefiting from Silver’s blend of passion and compassion, turning employees into champions, as she explains—finding their path, their voice and their whole self.

In Practice

  • Put in the effort to understand what will matter most to your
    employees, and then use all the skills in your “leadership basket” to support them.
Find more plays like this one in "The Rebel Playbook" 


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