On January 28, 2021, Brad D. Smith virtually joined Rebecca Fannin to discuss lessons he…
Brad Discusses His Unique Approach to Leadership
Brad’s journey to becoming one of the most successful Silicon Valley CEOs wasn’t without challenges, but those challenges molded him into the leader he is today. In a December interview with Investor’s Business Daily, Brad discussed his past experiences and how they have shaped his leadership style.
In the interview, Brad talked about the importance of recognizing what makes people who they are and, as a leader, creating an atmosphere that makes them comfortable and allows them to thrive. Brad hopes that he can inspire others by embracing his flaws and challenges and make them think, “’Wow. If he can do it and he’s that flawed, maybe I can do it too,'” he said. Sasan Goodarzi, the CEO of Intuit, said, “Brad is always focused on helping you become a better version of yourself.” Goodarzi further explained that Brad is always willing to share advice based on his experiences, but does so in a way that allows his peers to make their own decisions.
While Brad is always happy to share his advice, he also makes time to listen to his employees. In the article, Brad shared an experience from 2005 when he was manager of Intuit’s small business division. Brad and his team met behind closed doors to work on a new organizational structure for the company that ultimately did not work. While Brad claimed responsibility, one employee offered Brad advice that he never forgot – don’t talk to your employees when you have the answer, talk to your team when you have the question so you can collectively come up with the best solution.
Another leadership principle Brad discussed is to inspire your team. He said that he reminds his teams that they stand for something more than just the financial products and services offered by Intuit. He likes to start meetings off with real stories from customers about their lives. He shared an example of a family in India whose hardships inspired developers to create software that helps farmers get more reliable pricing information for their products.
In addition to inspiring his teams to achieve great success on the business front, Brad also encourages them to give back to the customer and do the right thing. During the interview, Brad shared a story about TurboTax, explaining that the site slowed down on April 14, the tax deadline, leaving many people unsure if their taxes had been filed on time. To do right by their customers, TurboTax issued a full refund and apology to every individual that had filed their taxes during that crucial time. Brad shared that many of the checks were returned by customers who said their filings did go through, but they appreciated the gesture.
Brad went on to share some advice he learned from his father at an early age: take the jobs no one else wants. While that principle isn’t glamorous, it will teach you a lot and show people around you what you are made of. Eventually, you will become a go-to person when there is a need. This approach paid off for Brad.
Brad’s closing point in the interview was this: learn from your mistakes and bounce back smarter. He talked about an expensive failure during his time at QuickBooks, explaining that the team decided to start over from scratch and build a completely new product when moving to the cloud. This product instantly collapsed, and the team was back to square one. The group decided to revisit the old platform and, instead of tossing it, they built off the bones they had to make it better. They focused on innovating, and that’s how Brad has approached learning throughout his career.