The Most Overlooked Leadership Skill
"We have this awesome untapped resource on the planet — people." - Nancy Lublin
This week Josh James, Domo founder and CEO, interviews Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org.
Five things you should learn from this interview:
Josh James: What made you decide to start DoSomething?
Nancy Lublin: Actually, it’s a turnaround. I founded Dress for Success in 1996. I grew it to 76 cities in four countries…and then got bored. So I did what I think “real” entrepreneurs do: leave.
The guys from DoSomething.org called me about a year later. The organization had fallen on hard times; they had just laid off 21 out of 22 people, had only 75k in the bank, and lost their free office space so everything was in storage in Queens. I thought there was a real need for a youth organization that was edgy and fun.
DoSomething had a few assets left — its great name, some good board members — and I thought it would be a challenge to revive something. It was the year after Friendster and the year before Facebook…I took the job and told them I was changing the model to put everything online.
James: Give us some stats. How are things going and what is your reach?
Lublin: 2.4 million kids did our campaigns in 2011. We’re one of the largest organizations for young people in America.
James: What was the turning point for the company? It seems like you’ve been getting crazy traction lately…
Lublin: Last year we pivoted to mobile. Everybody says that, right? But I don’t mean apps or the mobile web — I mean texting. Anyone who knows a teenager instinctively understands that this was a really good idea.
James: What are the differences between a social entrepreneur and a for-profit entrepreneur? Is it harder, easier, or just different?
Lublin: I think we’re all crazy. But I do think the not-for-profit side is more difficult. We’ve never had a bubble. HBS grads aren’t lining up at our door. We can’t incentivize with more options. Instead, we have to do more with less. I published a book on this two years ago called ZILCH: The Power of Zero in Business.
James: How do you measure success for yourself? For your organization?
Lublin:For DoSomething.org it’s really simple to measure our success: Are we hitting our numbers and are we having fun doing it?
For me personally, I think it’s harder.
James: DoSomething focuses on quite a number of causes. If you could improve just one thing in this world what would it be?
Lublin: While we address a wide range of causes, there is one over-arching thing we’re tackling: apathy. We have this awesome untapped resource on the planet — people. [Insert violins here.] We are really freaking lazy. If we could just get everyone to spend a bit more time on each other, our planet, and the world we want to leave for next generations, every cause out there could be answered.
James: How do you get young people to care about social change?
Lublin: There are several weapons in a general arsenal — guilt, bribery, shame, etc. They start to sound like the seven deadly sins, right? We prefer to use fun, humor, authenticity, etc. I sometimes say, “We don’t ever want to be the organization that takes away their tater tots.” Those little potato nuggets might not be healthy, but they love ‘em. We don’t think of ourselves as teaching kids or pushing them, as we are listening to them and helping them organize around things they care about.
James: As a working mother, how do you balance the demands of being the Chief Old Person both at home and at work?
Lublin:Last night my 5-year-old puked seven times. As I type this, he is watching Star Wars: Episode 1 (the real one…as in Episode 4…we are purists) while I sneak in some email time. So one answer is that it is a constant juggling act.
Oddly, I think having kids has made me more balanced. I am better at time management, setting priorities, analyzing a tricky situation, etc. My thinking is sharper and my sixth sense is real.
James: What is the most important thing leaders can do to change the environment for women in the workforce?
Lublin: I’m so over this. It’s not about more women CEOs or more mentorship. We just need to be kinder to each other. We need to lead from the middle on this one.
James: What is your solution for solving conflict in the Middle East and will anyone be allowed to keep their clothes on? (Yeah, I saw that YouTube video).
About Nancy Lublin
Favorite App: Flipboard on my iPad is a strange mix of pop culture, the BBC and FlipTech.
Where This CEO Stays Connected: YPulse.com is a must.
Most Admired Leader: My COO is 29, a full head taller than me, and smarter, more positive, and more productive that I ever was or will be. She keeps me on my toes every day and makes the office somewhere I want to spend time.
Bio: With a $5,000 inheritance, Nancy Lublin has been able to change countless lives. In 1995, she founded Dress for Success, a non-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women, through providing professional attire, a network of support, and career development skills. She is now CEO of Do Something, an organization for teens looking to create social change. Her knowledge of online marketing and social media was integral for reviving the organization in 2003. Lublin was named to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders in 2007, Glamour magazine’s Women of Worth (2006) and was a recipient of Fast Company’s Fast 50 Award in 2002. Her first book, Zilch: The Power of Zero in Businesswas released on June 23, 2010.
Bio: We love teens. They are creative, active, wired…and frustrated that our world is so messed up. DoSomething.org harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car. With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the US for teens and social change.
About Josh James
Josh launched Domo in 2011 to help CEOs and other leaders change the way they do business and obtain value from the tens of billions of dollars spent on traditional business intelligence systems. Before founding Domo, Josh was the longtime CEO of Omniture, which he co-founded in 1996, took public in 2006, and sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009. From 2006-2009 he was the youngest CEO of a publicly traded company.
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