Press Release |

December 1, 2020

Do your leaders speak human?


December 1, 2020

Maiken Claudi Lassen, VP of People & Culture at Corti, challenges entrepreneurs to inspire their employees to both perform and develop.  

How are leaders of high-performance teams different from other leaders? They inspire both performance and development. Maiken works to make every leader at Corti do just that, aiming for all leaders to know how to tailor their leadership style to what drives each employee. Besides our product, she wants our leaders to speak human.

Meet Maiken Claudi Lassen, our VP of People and Culture and a professional certified executive coach. Maiken’s work in ‘executive coaching’ stretches back over 15 years, with more than 1300 hours of leadership coaching under her belt. Maiken started out coaching our CEO, Andreas Cleve, a couple of years ago.  Creating a company means solving a series of problems from the mundane to the outrageous, often leaving founders overly immersed in everyday execution and uncertainties. In-between deciding what products to build, which customers to target, and how to meet investors’ expectations, dedicating time, and resources to leadership can be difficult. 

By harnessing Maiken’s experience, Andreas, together with Corti’s CTO and co-founder Lars Maaløe, continuously seek to manifest a new leadership style at Corti. A style focused on enabling leaders to help each team member develop personally, instead of solely focusing on driving performance, in hopes of everyone thinking back at their time at Corti as the most educational period in their career. 

According to Maiken, it is quite significant that CEOs at an early stage of a startup’s journey start considering what kind of company they want to build, and what type of leader they want to be. 

“I have coached hundreds of CEOs and senior leaders; Andreas stands out in his effort to combine business, purpose, and personal development. He puts himself on the line.” - Maiken Claudi Lassen

This holistic approach is close to Maiken’s coaching ethos when she works with top executives worldwide. Startups can only attract the top 1% talent if the candidates believe there is something in it for them beyond just another paycheck and that starts with people being “seen” and “heard” by their leaders. 

Maiken used this as a kernel of the leadership approach at Corti. The goal became to create a leadership style that leaves behind the notion of ‘business as usual’ and motivates employees to feel “This is the best job I have ever done; I make a difference, both for the world and for my development”.

The question then became ‘where to start’; Although good startup leadership is not a fixed formula, it’s based on a set of tools that many young inexperienced leaders need to be taught at lightning speed. This is part of what makes the leadership challenge so daunting and exciting in a startup setting. 

The way to get started, according to Maiken, is to develop adaptability along with executing short-term goals since one of the main characteristics of a good leader is being a strong executor. On top of this, the ability to adapt will guide leaders to become excellent at proactively building their toolbox of robust leadership practices.

The question then emerged: What tools do you need as a Corti leader to ensure your team members both perform and develop?

Obviously, the answer is multifaceted, but one of the classic pitfalls is not providing enough directions for the people to feel enabled, which was a key challenge Maiken, Andreas and Lars decided to tackle first. 

A simple trick Maiken implemented, translates to four key questions that Maiken aspires for all Corti leaders to know the answer to when their employees’ respond at any given time: 

 1. “I know what to deliver the next two weeks”

 2. “I know what my leader thinks of the work I did the past two weeks”

 3. “My leader knows what’s in it for me to work at Corti”

 4. “I know what to do to develop the next month”

The likelihood is, that if an employee answers ‘yes’ to all four questions, then their leader is inspiring them to both perform and develop to be ready for tomorrow. 

Although tools like this might sound banal and straightforward, they are a part of the foundation of leadership. It goes hand-in-hand with giving concrete feedback, practicing good management etiquette, having good conversational hygiene, and being dependable and structured.

Maiken then started coaching our leaders at Corti to develop their situational awareness and adapt to a situation or a team member’s needs. These skills help the leader identify when they should “provide the solution” versus when they should “support the employee to find the solution themselves”. This is much more complicated than it sounds, but it enables leaders to pick the right tool for the right situation, drastically increasing the leadership impact. 

“At Corti, we are trying to innovate an entire industry, and sometimes that means going above and beyond, and we feel the same need for “leaning in” when it comes to startup leadership. Inspired by Andrew Grove and Google’s attempt to reshape their time’s leadership practices, we aspire to have a say in what outstanding leadership should look like in the future. - Andreas Cleve

The leadership program is still in its infancy, and as the company grows, the needs of the organization change. But we can already feel that when the leadership program is successful, our teams start delivering on a new level. The duality of business and personal development, combined with a high degree of adaptiveness to people and situations is at the core of the leadership style we are building at Corti, and what it means when we say; our leaders need to speak human.

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Corti has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 823383
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