Min Bhogaita is Managing Director of the IdeaLab at Nobody Studios. Since leaving Deloitte, where he worked for 25 years, Min has helped over 14 startups and scaleups grow, pivot, and connect. He also serves as an advisory board member and director for multiple organizations. In this episode of Unlearn, Min shares his experience in the corporate world, and he and Barry O’Reilly emphasize the importance of staying true to yourself. They also discuss how technology is changing the way we work and how startups can benefit from this change. Listen to Balancing Introversion with Min Bhogaita.
Balancing Introversion with Leadership
Min admits to struggling with speaking up. During his school days, his teachers would talk about how quiet he was in class and his aversion to speaking unless spoken to. This was something he had to unlearn when breaking into the corporate world. “I was fortunate in the leaders I worked for – they knew my style, so they would coach me,” he shares. They would intentionally create opportunities for Min to share his ideas and opinions, which gradually taught him to come out of his shell and learn that behavior. “If you can recognize that there are behaviors you need to change, [you should change them].” In a serendipitous turn of fate, it was when he was learning to speak up that Min got to start his own team. [Listen from 1:35]
Barry tells Min, “So many leaders sometimes don’t make space for their team to talk. Yet for that style of leadership, it almost becomes a reflex for you – you recognize other people who have a similar style because you’ve been that person.” Leaders that actively go around the room asking people what they think often build a unique type of team where everyone feels comfortable and heard. It creates a dynamic of safety and curiosity. [Listen from 5:20]
Barry asks Min about his leadership experience in various fields. One of the traits Min developed was confidence in himself every time he changed a role. Min admits that he was actually a novice when he transitioned from ethical hacking to forensics. A recruiter’s recommendation that he’d be good in the field inspired him to go into it. “Just because he believed in me, I [went for it],” he tells Barry. “Thirteen years later, I was still in that role and doing the world’s biggest fraud investigations.” [Listen from 6:01]
Being himself and showing genuine interest in people was something Min never gave up. In the 13 years he was responsible for his forensics team, only 2 people had left: one left because they had a baby, and the other was headhunted and supportively sent off. A moment that affirmed he was doing the right thing was when one of his juniors asked if he was really a director, because he “didn’t act like any other director they had to work with.” It’s a hard thing, Barry comments, to have the conviction and confidence to just be yourself as a leader, to lean into your style, and leverage it. [Listen from 10:20]
(Listen to The Importance of Mentorship with Bobby Soper, president & CEO of Sun Gaming & Hospitality)
Protecting Your Team
If you don’t have the right environment, people are going to burn out. This was made evident during the pandemic, but it was true even before then. Min talks about protecting his team to prevent that burnout. “Sometimes [we’d get] a deadline, and I’d push back.” If a deadline was Friday, but the document review was Tuesday, he’d request that submission be moved to late Monday to prevent his team having to work through the weekend. If you’re always pounding your team, he adds, they’re not going to do their best work. [Listen from 15:55]
Min has always tried to be empathetic of people’s circumstances and what they want to do. As a result, instead of him giving out orders, his team actually volunteers to take things off his hands and help him with different tasks. [Listen from 16:55]
Min talks about his decision to move on from consulting. After having worked in the field for 25 years, he thought it was now or never; he was either going to do it until he retired, or he would reinvent himself again. He was doing more work with founders and startups in the analytics lab, and grew more and more attracted to the practicality of their work. When he left consulting, his network started buzzing. People were reaching out to him, asking him to help them open the door – which, coincidentally, was his open door to new work. “I’ve made more of a living out of who I know as opposed to what I know,” he jokes. [Listen from 18:35]
Barry commends Min on his consistency with challenging himself, which is something Barry finds is the best source of growth for himself. “There is always that moment where you’re in it and you’re like, oh, it’s so exciting. It’s new and hard. There’s always that disillusionment moment… [like] ‘why am I here doing this?’ I always feel like you learn so much about yourself when you go through those moments. They’re important in a way, because they build confidence in yourself,” he says. [Listen from 22:10]
Min advises listeners to practice their story. He shares how he developed his conversational muscle. “Practice your ‘tell me about yourself’ pitch. Listen to what people say.” [Listen from 24:55]
(Listen to The Power of Leading by Example with Cecelia Myers, VP of Digital at CDW)
Min’s dream is to have IdeaLabs for Nobody Studios around the world, where people can come in, share their ideas, and get started. [Listen from 36:05]
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