North Star Leaders

Lindsay Pedersen

As a leader, how do you know where to focus? When there are a hundred possibilities, how do you direct your time, your team, your budget, your emotional energy? And - how do you step back and consider the longer term? How do you set conditions for the business to create value not just now, but for years and decades? How do you dance the tension between creating economic value now, while also serving a noble purpose? If you wonder about these things, then this podcast is for you. read less
BusinessBusiness
Stewarding Trust with Leigh McMillan
4d ago
Stewarding Trust with Leigh McMillan
Leigh McMillan is the CEO of Whitepages. She has a diverse professional background that includes roles in politics and Major League Baseball. As the CEO of Whitepages, she has helped to steer the company into the new era of data and technology. Leigh is not only a seasoned executive but also a winemaker and co-owner at Welcome Road Winery in Seattle. She joins Lindsay Pedersen to explore insights into leadership, building a strong company culture, and the challenges of leading a brand with high awareness and trust.  You’ll hear Lindsay and Leigh discuss: Leigh emphasizes the importance of the diverse and passionate team at Whitepages, highlighting how the company has played the long game in nurturing talent and helping individuals grow their careers. With over 20 years of history, Whitepages has transitioned from the traditional phone book to a data-centric company. Leigh discusses the challenges of maintaining trust in a brand with high awareness and the need to evolve the business under a changing technological landscape. Leigh advocates for a non-linear career path, encouraging individuals to explore different roles and take chances to find their strengths and passions. The core of Whitepages' brand promise lies in balancing changing privacy norms with the necessity of contacting people outside the phone book. Leigh underscores the importance of transparency and trust in handling public information for the greater good. Whitepages’ commitment to trust and transparency influences day-to-day decisions more than large strategic pursuits. The dual criteria for decision-making at Whitepages are ensuring it aligns with the brand promise of "data for good" and facilitates the growth and expansion of the team. Leigh feels a sense of stewardship towards Whitepages' legacy and a responsibility to the team that has trusted and joined her on this journey. Creating a collaborative environment and taking care of the team fosters a positive work culture. Leigh’s advice to her younger self would be to have a more relaxed perspective and not perceive everything as a significant stressor. Resources Leigh McMillan on LinkedIn  Whitepages
Operationalizing the North Star with Clayton Lewis
Nov 21 2023
Operationalizing the North Star with Clayton Lewis
Clayton Lewis has over three decades of experience launching and scaling early-stage companies. His impressive track record includes leading two companies, Onvia and HouseValues, to public offerings and serving as a general partner at Maveron. He co-founded Arivale in 2014, and served as its CEO. He currently advises CEOs and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Harborview Medical Center. Clayton is recognized for his expertise guiding purpose-driven leaders toward creating audacious economic value while staying true to their purpose.  You’ll hear Lindsay and Clayton discuss: Clayton’s focus shifted from passion-driven pursuits in his 20s, to prioritizing financial success imid career. Launching Arivale allowed him to reconnect with his passion for health and wellness, marking a transformative stage in his career. Use joy as a filter to evaluate your daily activities and interactions. This shift allowed Clayton to find balance and fulfillment in both his personal and professional life. Passion can be both an asset and a liability. While passion fueled Arivale's vision, it also led to challenges, such as losing perspective and overlooking critical business considerations. Leaders need to balance passion with objectivity to maintain a holistic perspective, especially in assessing product-market fit and strategic direction. Clayton outlines the practicality of a North Star in guiding day-to-day decisions. He emphasizes the importance of aligning the team with a shared vision, defining success at various intervals, fostering a learning culture, and integrating the North Star into the company's values. Clayton shares how Arivale brought its North Star to life culturally. This includes storytelling sessions about impactful client experiences, recognizing team members living company values, and creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement. As an advisor to CEOs, Clayton encourages setting audacious goals, fostering relationships, and maintaining a positive attitude. He emphasizes the role of a North Star in guiding business decisions and aligning teams toward a common purpose. Clayton uses his North Star as a filter when selecting companies to work with or invest in. He listens for passion, clarity of purpose, and the willingness of entrepreneurs to articulate and refine their goals. Various terms can be used to describe the guiding purpose, such as mission, vision, values, and brand strategy. Clayton remains flexible with the language, focusing on the essence of a clear and motivating direction. Sustaining leadership energy involves setting audacious goals, building strong relationships, and maintaining a positive outlook. Resources Clayton Lewis on LinkedIn
Mission-First Leadership with Robbie Cape
Nov 14 2023
Mission-First Leadership with Robbie Cape
Robbie Cape is the co-founder and CEO of Mt. Joy, a mission-driven restaurant aiming to demonstrate that profitability and positive impact can coexist. Having previously served as CEO and co-founder of both 98point6 and Cozy, Robbie has dedicated his career to building mission-driven businesses that transcend traditional boundaries. He envisions a world where restaurants not only serve exceptional food but also prioritize the well-being of the planet, animals, and every participant in the supply chain.  You’ll hear Lindsay and Robbie discuss: Mt. Joy is a mission-first restaurant committed to proving that a profitable business can simultaneously contribute positively to the planet. Robbie's journey into regenerative agriculture was sparked by the documentary Kiss the Ground and Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.  Regenerative principles can be applied beyond agriculture. From employee well-being to customer experiences, Mt. Joy aims to create a regenerative impact at every stage of the supply chain. Robbie discusses the inherent challenges in venturing into industries like healthcare and restaurants, where the potential for impact is vast but the obstacles are significant.. The concept of regenerative isn't limited to the environment; it extends to employees, by creating jobs that energize and positively impact workers.  The positive treatment of animals at Mt. Joy has been lauded even by vegetarian and vegan customers, showcasing the broader appeal of regenerative practices. Regenerative meat tends to be more expensive than industrially produced meat. This necessitates setting higher prices for the products. Social and environmental change needs to be commercially viable to have exponential impact; this is illustrated by the impact of Tesla in the electric vehicle market. Mt. Joy adopts transparency as a guiding principle. This extends to employees, which fosters trust and provides them access to information, promoting a culture of openness and honesty. Transparency guides decision-making within the company, allowing for more informed and ethical choices. The journey toward regenerative practices is gradual: you need to crawl before you walk and walk before you run, to achieve sustainable growth. Resources Robbie Cape on LinkedIn | X(Twitter) Mt. Joy | Instagram
From Data to Direction with Allison Arzeno
Nov 7 2023
From Data to Direction with Allison Arzeno
As CEO of Assurance IQ, Allison Arzeno is at the forefront of harnessing technology to make a tangible difference in people's lives. Under her leadership, Assurance IQ has focused on its mission to improve and protect personal financial well-being of underserved consumers. She believes that data can be an equalizer in society. Episode Highlights: Data science lays the foundation for innovative solutions, by gathering opinions and trends over time. Assurance IQ employs data to pinpoint consumer needs. This approach has enabled them to tailor personalized insurance recommendations, especially for underserved consumers. Assurance's North Star is centered on promoting personal financial well-being for all. Assurance's brand strategy is interwoven with their North Star. Both elements work together to help the company achieve its overarching mission. Data is essential to Assurance's brand strategy, influencing major decisions. By aligning these elements, they serve consumers effectively while upholding their core values. Allison believes that data-driven discussions enhance decision-making processes by introducing objectivity. This allows employees to engage in constructive debates that are grounded in analysis rather than personal biases. This approach is especially empowering for young professionals in tech-intensive roles, as it emphasizes the value of voices backed by evidence, regardless of the seniority of the contributor. While Assurance advocates for digital solutions, they never overlook the importance of human connection. They understand that certain situations call for a personal touch. Assurance IQ’s business model seamlessly integrates technology and human interaction, ensuring that consumers are provided with solutions tailored to their unique needs. This balance is achieved through the use of cutting-edge technology, which allows the company to collect and analyze vast amounts of data, and a team of experienced and knowledgeable advisors, who are able to use this data to provide personalized recommendations to consumers. Operating where profit meets purpose presents its set of hurdles. Assurance grapples with this overlap, especially when data science intersects with consumer requirements. Such challenges require innovative thinking and adaptability.  A data scientist at heart, Allison believes that data helps to demystify discussions and enrich decision-making. She emphasizes the importance of listening and collaborating, especially when additional data can add value to the conversation.  Challenges are inevitable, but a clear and compelling North Star can provide guidance through tumultuous times. Economic goals should not overshadow societal impact. Resources Allison Arzeno on LinkedIn  Assurance IQ
Leadership, Values and Culture with Zack Rosen
Oct 31 2023
Leadership, Values and Culture with Zack Rosen
Zack Rosen is the co-founder and CEO of Pantheon Platforms, the leading WebOps platform. With a background in computer science and a passion for innovation, Zack’s North Star is to innovate and protect the open web, ensuring a balance of power and freedom in the digital space. As a purpose-driven leader, Zack emphasizes the importance of autonomy and fulfillment in his career, paralleling the values ingrained in Pantheon's mission. You’ll hear Lindsay and Zack discuss: Zack shares the joy and fulfillment from working with a close-knit team on important problems. In the entrepreneurial world, having the autonomy to choose challenges to tackle is crucial for a satisfying career. Pantheon’s North Star is safeguarding and advancing the open web. Zack explains the significance of the open web—a set of standards that allows for freedom and flexibility in delivering excellent digital experiences without being controlled by a few dominant platforms. Pantheon empowers digital teams by providing an out-of-the-box workflow that fosters autonomy and velocity.  Pantheon seeks to eliminate friction in the website development process, offering a workflow that is trusted, guaranteed, and conducive to high velocity. Pantheon unlocks growth for digital teams by providing a well-oiled system that fosters collaboration and confidence. Zack underscores the importance of value systems in building organizational culture. Values serve as a critical tool for aligning teams and attracting individuals who resonate with the company's mission and principles. Two of Pantheon’s core values are passion and giving, and they actively embrace individuals who care deeply about their work and engage with a sense of purpose. These values contribute to a vibrant culture, but managing strong opinions within a passionate team can be challenging. Leaders play a crucial role in embodying and promoting the value system. The goal is to create a culture where values are not just words but are lived and integrated into day-to-day work, interactions, and leadership. Values, when well-defined and lived, serve as a compass for decision-making and contribute to a vibrant and effective culture. Lindsay draws parallels between Pantheon's mission to eliminate friction in website development and Zach's work with California YIMBY in removing roadblocks in housing policies. Both endeavors share a common theme of removing unnecessary friction to drive positive outcomes. Resources Zack Rosen on LinkedIn | X(Twitter) Pantheon
Prioritizing Purpose with Yoko Miyashita
Oct 24 2023
Prioritizing Purpose with Yoko Miyashita
Yoko Miyashita is a prominent figure in the cannabis industry, serving as the CEO of Leafly, a leading online platform dedicated to cannabis information, education, and connecting consumers with licensed retailers and brands. With a passion for both business and purpose-driven leadership, Yoko brings a wealth of experience and insights to the industry. In her role as CEO, she has addressed challenges related to legal status, limited access to banking services, and the dynamic nature of the cannabis industry. You’ll hear Lindsay and Yoko discuss: Establishing a cannabis news arm is crucial to cover the changing landscape of state legislatures and global events affecting the industry. Other media outlets are increasingly focusing on cannabis, signifying the growing importance of the industry in mainstream conversations. A brand's North Star should be revisited periodically for alignment but not changed too frequently, as it provides stability in decision-making. Leading a company that combines commerce-driven and purpose-driven aspects is challenging, but money and mission can coexist in the cannabis industry, which presents opportunities for positive social change. Limited access to capital is a significant hurdle for companies in the cannabis industry, impacting their growth potential and ability to achieve their purpose. Personal rituals, such as self-care through sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and regular breaks during work, are essential for leaders to perform at their best.  Protecting their energy and maintaining a sense of connection through basic rituals is vital for leaders in high-pressure industries. Reducing cognitive load in decision-making is crucial for effective leadership, as it streamlines the alignment between desired actions and actual actions. Personal North Stars can be powerful tools for improving speed and scale, both personally and within an organization. Empowering others within the organization should be balanced with applying the right filters in decision-making processes to maintain alignment with the organization's mission. Resources Yoko Miyashita on LinkedIn  Leafly
Crafting Culture and Excellence with Rajeev Singh
Oct 17 2023
Crafting Culture and Excellence with Rajeev Singh
Rajeev Singh is the CEO of Accolade, a healthcare technology company that provides personalized, technology-enabled solutions to improve the healthcare experience for individuals. Accolade's platform aims to simplify and streamline healthcare navigation, making it easier for individuals to access the right care and resources.In this episode, you’ll hear Lindsay and Rajeev discuss: Rajeev's favorite aspect of his work is building teams and fostering a positive culture within Accolade.  Fostering a collaborative environment is a key driver of organizational success, according to Rajeev. He believes that success is closely linked to having the right culture and attracting individuals who align with the company's core values. Accolade's culture deck, inspired by Netflix and HubSpot, serves as a humanizing guide to their values and is crucial for problem-solving in the healthcare domain.  Culture is an internal manifestation of a brand, and defining it early allows for adaptive growth over time. Rajeev stresses the importance of new leaders embracing the existing culture during transitions. A seamless continuity in organizational values is essential for the success of any organization. When a new leader comes in, they need to take the time to understand the culture of the organization and how it has been successful in the past.  Psychological safety within a company is significant, as is striking a balance between maintaining core values and evolving. Rajeev believes that culture evolves both inevitably and necessarily, and that leaders must adapt to changing circumstances while holding steadfast to core values. Leadership doesn’t start and end at the workplace; personal aspects, such as family time, self-care, and continuous learning through reading influence how effective your leadership can be.  Two key principles, telling the truth and fearlessness, inform Accolade's decision-making process, contributing to their success. Resources Rajeev Singh on LinkedIn | X(Twitter) Accolade
Banking on Trust with Matt Oppenheimer
Oct 10 2023
Banking on Trust with Matt Oppenheimer
Matt Oppenheimer is a prominent figure in the world of finance and technology. He is best known as the co-founder and CEO of Remitly, a digital financial services provider that has made significant strides in the fintech industry. With a passion for leveraging technology to solve real-world problems, Matt has played a pivotal role in the company's journey from startup to becoming a publicly traded entity. You’ll hear Lindsay and Matt discuss: Maintaining focus is essential for success. This means concentrating time, resources, and energy on the most important tasks and goals, and avoiding distractions. This can be difficult, especially when there are many competing demands on a company's time and resources. A company that can maintain focus is more likely to achieve its goals and to be successful in the long run. Trust is paramount in the remittance industry, especially given its reputation. Building trust involves having fair and transparent prices, reliable service, and ensuring customer information and money are secure. Successful leaders strike a balance between unwavering conviction and a humble curiosity that allows them to adapt and make informed decisions. Matt shares his favorite thing about what he does - seeing the impact that Remitly has on its customers. As Remitly evolved from a startup to a publicly traded company, Matt's role shifted from direct customer interaction to making strategic decisions that have ripple effects on larger groups. He emphasizes the need for entrepreneurs to stay focused on solving a specific problem rather than getting distracted by other ideas.  Speed empowers customers by getting them what they want when they want it, saving time and money, and making their lives easier. Fast and efficient service leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. Regulatory requirements are communicated to customers to build trust and to ensure compliance. By communicating these requirements, companies can demonstrate that they are operating in a responsible manner and that they are committed to following the rules. This can help to reassure customers that they are doing business with a reputable company. Some of Remitly’s competitors expanded too rapidly, which led to infrastructure challenges. This resulted in delays, customer service issues, and website crashes. Businesses should carefully plan expansion and ensure that their infrastructure can support growth. Matt believes in staying grounded and having direct interactions with customers. He believes that this is the best way to understand their needs and how to improve his products and services.  Resources Matt Oppenheimer on LinkedIn | Twitter Remitly