When Lisa Nastari began her mentorship, she was on a mission to improve her personal branding. Shortly before her new Everwise mentorship launched, she’d returned home from a conference on women in leadership where the importance of self-advocacy and personal branding had been a key point. You need an elevator speech, she’d been told. Something she’d known for awhile but was finally ready to tackle.
But as the mentorship was just getting started, Nastari’s company went through a few changes. It started with a promotion for her, a role jump to global head of her department. Soon after, the company began a reorganization. “It was really managing through change,” Nastari says. “Leadership changed, jobs changed, divisions changed — but my role and my group, we were the one area that didn’t change.”
Nastari’s mentor, Nazy Rad, was the perfect person to help. Though she works in a very different sector (Nastari works in biotech, while Rad is in sales and IT) the experience of managing through change was something Rad knew well. Tech moves fast and she’d been through plenty of reorganizations in the past. She knew how to reinvent her own role — even a whole team — when necessary.
They quickly shifted focus away from Nastari’s personal career trajectory to strategies for gracefully leading amidst change. Rad helped Nastari work through the kinds of questions and challenges that come up for managers. How much should you share with your team about what’s going on at the higher levels? What constitutes successful managing up? Managing down? How do you help team members stay focused and productive during such a tumultuous time?
We asked Nastari to share some of the wisdom she gained through this experience. And she was more than happy to share. After all, she says, sharing and transparency was how her team weathered the reorganization so gracefully.
How did you feel about the matching process? Was there anything unexpected about your mentor?
Nazy had no familiarity with what I do, so a lot of the things that we talked about were more in generalities. And I really appreciated that. She had a lot of life experience in similar situations, but not exactly the same, so she wasn’t too tied to the details. She could apply her wisdom or her experience and give a different perspective.
She works in the tech industry. So she’s used to dealing with a very fast-paced environment. If you look at her resume, she’s had to move around quite a bit and I think some of that is just the nature of that business. It moves and you move, so she’s had to re-adapt to different situations and reinvent herself a lot. She’s a complete go-getter and that was really inspirational.
What was her mentorship style like?
She was very good for my confidence. She’s very competent and has worked in an area that’s pretty hardcore. She’s been in a lot of tumultuous situations and she’s really had to own up to how good she is. So she’s very confident. And for me, being in a new role with an entirely new management team, jumping from being people’s peers to being their global head — it was helpful to see someone like that. She was very good at instilling confidence in me.
I tend to present myself as grateful for my job, and she really worked with me on that. Like, why are you grateful? You are deserving of the job. It’s not that you shouldn’t be grateful. Of course you’re grateful to have the job, but they are also grateful to have you. You’re the most qualified person and that’s why you got that job.
So we talked a lot about that, she had go home and work on spinning that mindset, we did writing exercises to go from doubts around whether or not I can do this job to a mindset where I know I can do this job and what I don’t specifically know how to do, I can reach out to learn from others who do know.
You mentioned that the goals you had starting out and changed. What was your focus at the beginning?
One of the things I really want to focus on was personal branding. I don’t really have a brand or an elevator speech. I had just gone to the conference a while ago about empowering women and what of the things we spent a lot of time on was branding. You know, like know your brand, get out there, be visible — those types of things. That was one of those things that we talked about but then so much happened during the course of our partnership that we had to switch gears.
And what did you end up working on?
The majority of our time was spent talking about the reorganization. We spent a lot of time focusing on how to be a leader through change, how to stay true, how to support your direct reports, how to manage up. We talked about leveraging any opportunity to influence where my group would land in the end.
Do you remember any experiences or realizations that she shared that were particularly helpful?
She’s been through change in an organization multiple times and one of the things that was really insightful to me was around staying true to who you are. She’s been through a big reorganization, she’s had the experience of knowing that people were going to lose jobs, that there was going to be a massive amount of change. She helped get her organization through that by being as transparent as possible and connecting with people in her organization who had information that might help. That was important, because it allowed her to pass on that information to her team right away.
I’m a sharer too. Of course, there were times when I couldn’t share things with my team, during all of the reorganization — but whenever I could share information with my team she encouraged me to do that because that’s the kind of person I am. I think my staff really appreciated that.
You had a manager who was in another country at the time, right? What you discover about making that kind of relationship work well?
We didn’t spend a ton of time on it, but yes, my direct boss is in another country and one of the people I manage is in another country. This was the first time I’ve ever had a manager that isn’t in the same place as me, so it was a new experience. One thing that Nazy and I did talk about was just being extremely organized for our meetings. We don’t have the opportunity to have those usual hallway conversations. So whenever I have a chance to meet with my boss, we can’t forget anything. We put everything in an agenda before we meet, so that we can see what we’re going to discuss and prepare for it.
As business models change people are dealing with time zone issues and communication challenges, like when your first language isn’t the same as the people you are working with. That can be tricky. Or if you don’t have the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions, that can be tricky too. But there are things you can do to foster the relationship.
What did you guys work on around being a leader during reorganization?
So my question was: What does a good leader look like when there’s so much going on around us? When we first started I had no idea what my company and my department was going to look like when it was all done. Were we going to be starting over? Or were going to be intact? Or something in between? So I was kind of planning for the worst.
She really helped me talk through what I think a great leader looks like, what I want from leaders I’m following. We examined those characteristics and then took a look at which of those characteristics are things I demonstrate and what I could work on. We also worked on ways I could be available to my team, how I could be visible on their behalf. One of the ways was being transparent with them, sharing with them when I attended high-level meetings, so they knew that we were being represented. That’s the kind of leadership we focused on, the people aspect.
What did she tell you about managing down?
A lot of it is person-specific, so it’s about how to phrase things differently depending on who the audience is. How to help them take ownership of a conversation. So if you have someone looking for career advancement but you don’t think they’re ready for that, then instead of coming at them with, “Well, you’re not even competent in your current role,” you could approach it positively. Ask them why they think they should advance and what areas they might focus on to demonstrate that they’re ready. Then you can help them find those opportunities. Managing down can be as much about managing the focus of conversations as advocating at a higher level.