The Greenhouse Spotlight Committee: Making Thought Leadership a Professional Development Priority

Four years ago Greenhouse set out on a mission to change the way people perceive recruiting and the tools companies use to build great teams. In the process of helping companies grow, Greenhouse used its own philosophy, that hiring the right people for the right roles allows amazing things to happen, to build our own team of brilliant people to move us towards our goal of establishing Greenhouse as a thought leader and innovator in our space.

With so many talented people at Greenhouse, we want to make sure that they’re being given opportunities to grow both professionally and personally, to ensure they’re continuing to thrive in their careers and not plateau. Supporting professional development opportunities is a key to effective talent management and aids in retention. It also gives Greenhouse the opportunity to build its brand by spotlighting the thought leadership at our company.

The Greenhouse Spotlight Committee

Bring in the Spotlight Committee, headed by me in partnership with the Brand & Buzz team and staff members across the org. The Spotlight Committee gives Greenhouse employees a platform for telling everyone about the great work they’re doing here as part of their respective teams and external communities by sharing knowledge, inspiring revelations, lessons learned, and everything in between. Here, employees are given the opportunity to work on their public speaking and personal brand-building skills.

As part of the Spotlight Committee, we recently launched a monthly speaker series that invites staff-led sessions, and also welcomes external guest speakers to share their own approaches to personal brand-building and other aspects of professional development.

Recently, we invited Amy Whitaker, author of Art Thinking, to speak at Greenhouse. Amy shared her framework and method around making time in her life for creative projects, such as speaking and writing by sharing her philosophy and practical tips that she covers in her book.

Her presentation was so inspiring for our staff that we felt compelled to ask Amy to share some advice and thoughts about building a personal/professional brand with you. Read on to hear her suggestions!

Q: What is your advice to people who want to build their own personal/professional brand?

AW: My advice would be to build your brand from the perspective of what contribution you want to make. The energy flow of most brands I love is like the energy flow of creative work in general—It starts with a gift, with an act of generosity of putting something out into the world before you get something back. This is in contrast to an “ask”—putting something out there because you want something back.

The gift economy approach to brand is collaborative and generative, and based on your deepest values and hopes for what your life counts for. “Brand” can get a bad rap for being superficial; brand is really the point of amplification or megaphone for authentic and river-deep content. And things that start as gift economies often develop to support paying customers. Yvon Chouinard’s story of founding Patagonia (told in the book Let My People Go Surfing) is a great example of someone starting from the point of making a contribution and then building an unassailable brand.

Q: The theme of your book is about making time in our lives for personal projects, such as building your personal/professional brand. What is your advice for making time?

AW: My best advice is to identify the amount of time that you can afford to lose and to start there. This is an amount of time you can commit to without expecting something back immediately—maybe it’s a monthly beer with friends, a weekly walk, a bi-weekly meeting you can skip.

In the “art thinking” framework, you can develop twin habits of “studio time” and “defining a grace period.” Studio time is a generalized form of 20% time, the fabled Google habit of giving workers a day per week to work on their own projects. (Gmail is a famous offspring of this strategy). You probably don’t have 20% of your time to spend, but how much time do you have? Designate it as “studio time” and commit to the habit of showing up to it, without worrying about what you accomplish.

Defining a grace period is a habit of taking your most pressing concern and giving yourself a grace period before you have to solve for it. Maybe you really do need to know the answer to something in two weeks, or in a year. Acknowledging that gap gives you the ability to carve out mental space for play and research that can actually help you solve the problem much more meaningfully. Wilbur Wright said in 1902 that man would not fly for fifty years. He and his brother cracked it two years later. I’ve often thought that if they had not given themselves a grace period, they might have ratcheted down their ambitions out of a fear of failure, and invented a glider instead.

In either case, you need a lighthouse question to pull you forward—your own version of “wouldn’t it be cool if” or “I wonder if I could really make it better.” That is, incidentally, a great thing to dream up over those monthly beers or on those weekly walks...

Q: What is one thing people can take away from your book?

AW: I want people to be inspired without feeling that they have to give up their practical selves. To do that, you need more—and better—language for the vast gray area between creativity and commerce.

The key message of art thinking (which my book is based on) is that creating art is a process—not of going from a known point A to a known point B—but of inventing point B.

I want people to feel inspired to lay claim to what really matters to them, at work and in their lives, and to carve out space to pursue those big questions. Doing that requires the spirit of the artist, and also the tools of the market—the willingness to risk new frontiers, but also to take those risks skillfully.

Q: What have you learned about building a community around your book?

AW: The biggest thing I have learned is that building a community is an organic process that moves in stages. I worked on this book for a really long time, starting in 2008, on the side of full-time work for a number of years. That meant that when the book came out, the inner circle of community building was, for me, a gratitude practice. I wanted to thank and acknowledge all the people who were part of the book. From there, I wanted to celebrate and to mark the occasion. (I think a sense of occasion is a great life skill, meaning maker, community builder, and way to live).

From there, my biggest general tip on community-building is to ask yourself what the conversation is that you want to start—the conversation that is far bigger than yourself. The thing about building community is that it isn’t about being a guru looking for disciples. It’s about inviting people into a conversation that’s much larger than all of us, and that they can embody, too.

In my case, I want more people to be in touch with their creative selves. That means that I don’t want to build a community of people who say, “Great job writing a book about inventing point B.” Instead, I want to build a community of people who are, individually and collectively, engaged in inventing their own point Bs. Communities are about participation, not appreciation. They are about connection and engagement with common values, and collective support around shared but individual goals.

About Amy Whitaker: Amy is a creativity champion, business explainer, and human Venn Diagram. Ever since getting an MBA and an MFA in succession ten years ago, she has worked and played in both fields -- art and business -- and thought about how they come together. In her new book Art Thinking (Harper Business) -- which Walter Isaacson called "fascinating" and "Adam Grant" called "eloquent" and "inspired" -- Amy creates a whole new language and set of tools for navigating creative projects within working life.

For more insights from Greenhouse, be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Modern Recruiter. Simply click the button below!

The Modern Recruiter Newsletter

Betsy Ayala

Betsy Ayala is Talent Marketing Manager at Greenhouse, where she gets to share her love for storytelling by spotlighting its talented employees. Before joining Greenhouse, Betsy was the Talent Community Manager at BrightRoll where she managed the college recruitment program and focused on employer branding with an emphasis on highlighting the engineering team and diversity in tech. In her spare time, Betsy enjoys cycling, documentaries, burritos, and Game of Thrones - R.I.P Hodor. Find Betsy on LinkedIn.

Filed Under:

Company Culture