We know the old saying that we “lead by example.” The reason this has saying has been around for centuries is that it is so true. Another way to look at leadership is the art of influencing others. The best — and only way — to influence others is to lead by example. Today’s guest on the podcast is Erin Hooley, Founder and CEO of Bailey’s Blossoms. Her company ranked #428 on the 2019 Inc 5000 list. We look at how leading by example has impacted her style and company growth. Erin explains her craving for feedback as a leader. Join us to see what leading by example means for the company.
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Erin Hooley: The Transcript
Target Audience: Erin Hooley is the President & Founder of Bailey’s Blossoms and Peyton Bre. Bailey’s Blossoms is an infant and toddler fashion, reimagined! With sizes ranging from 0-3months up to 5T, and a newly launched “Mommy & Me” line.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Just like with any growth in business, there’s potential growth in our personal selves as well. And it’s empowering to know that if you just educate yourself, you can move on to something greater you just have to do the work. And so for me, it’s not it doesn’t shut me down anymore. It’s okay. Thank you for shining a light on this. What’s available to me now? what’s what’s out there that I can take advantage of now?
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:41]
When you think about getting your employees to really understand what you expect of them? How open are they to criticism? How open are they to feedback? Do they resist it? Do they run screaming? Do they bury their hands and embarrassing Do they accept it willingly. I believe that leaders should create a space for people to receive feedback and give feedback and criticism. And we’re going to talk about that today. But we’re going to talk about through the lens of leading by example when you are a leader, you know how important it is to lead by example. And I’m not talking about you take out the trash, although that doesn’t hurt to show that you actually care about, you know the cleanness of everything. I want to get off track here, but leading by example is about all of the aspects that you want to reinforce within the business and you leading the way you leading the charge in case of feedback, are you willing to accept feedback from your team? Are you willing to grow from that feedback? Are you willing to analyze it and evolve as a leader? Do you crave criticism? Today’s guest actually creates criticism. We have Erin Hooley is co-founder of Bailey’s Blossoms, they were number #428 on the Inc list in 2019. They were #942 in 2019. And what we’re going to talk about today is leading by example, the importance of that, specifically in criticism. When I talked to Erin last week about this set up this interview, I always do a pre-interview with everyone I was really floored by the strength that she has to take some criticism and that employee gave her and really look at it, analyze it, learn from it, and become a better leader because of it. That’s what we’re going to talk about today is that story and all the other elements that go into leading by example, thanks for being here at Grow Think Tank. Now here’s the interview with Bailey’s Blossoms.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool has gone through several iterations. Now we have It completely automated you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz to get the leadership quiz just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that is you will answer a few questions you will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve and you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com and you can get that right now.
Gene Hammett [3:42]
Hi Erin, how are you?
Erin Hooley [3:43]
I’m doing good. Good to be here.
Gene Hammett [3:45]
I am excited to talk to you about this. I gotta remember this right-first-time entrepreneur right?
Erin Hooley [3:51]
Technically unless you count all my you know, five-year-old endeavors and everything through my youth.
Gene Hammett [3:56]
I will go this is the first time because this is this the adult business,
Erin Hooley [4:01]
The grown-up version.
Gene Hammett [4:03]
You’ve been through some ups and downs with it. And I would love for you to kind of let our audience know a little bit about yours. Oh, tell us about Bailey’s blossoms.
Erin Hooley [4:11]
Absolutely. So short version story is Bailey’s blossoms started out as a hair accessory company back in 2008. grew into tutus and all that fun stuff. We shut it down as my husband got a job offer that took us to Brazil. So from 2011 to 2013, I had to close it all down so that since I didn’t have a work, a work visa, when we were in Sao Paulo, moved back to the States, we came to Texas in 2013. And that time, I said I want to relaunch and depleted our savings and decided that it was going to be time to the source rather than handmade everything. And it all really just evolved into a clothing company, which is what it is today, but it certainly didn’t start out that way.
Gene Hammett [4:56]
Well, it’s a really cute product. I mean, you’ve got these Their kids, kids outfits. Yes. It seems like mostly for girls, but I know you have some things for boys. What was really cute was the daughter, mother.
Erin Hooley [5:12]
Yeah, the mommy and my stuff. Yes. We just launched mommy and me the past year. It’s been a lot of fun.
Gene Hammett [5:17]
I bet so. So I know that you know, having a team of what is about 30 people?
Erin Hooley [5:24]
Yeah, about 30 people right now.
Gene Hammett [5:27]
You have had to learn a lot about leadership a lot about your own shortcomings. Yes. And one of the things that you shared with me that I thought would be really great content for the audience today is you crave criticism. Well, maybe not about it.
Erin Hooley [5:43]
Yeah. So I mean, even just with the way that we’ve evolved within Bally’s blossoms, and what that looked like in the beginning stages to the mid and even now, all of that only happened because of the feedback that the customers were giving us. You know, hey, I don’t like this or Hey, I want this and you don’t have And just the ability to constantly listen to them and watch that feedback, even though it wasn’t always positive. Sometimes it was quality based and people said that they hated our quality. Sometimes it was shipping times or customer service and all those different comments stung, but ultimately, they drove us to the next level of success. And so with the leadership, it’s much the same. I didn’t get a business degree, I don’t have any degree actually. And, and so I’ve always wanted that on the job learning from the people around me who can shine a light on all my all that I’m lacking, so I know what direction I need to improve on.
Gene Hammett [6:42]
Well, I know that it’s hard to invite criticism and because sometimes we’re not ready to receive it. Have you done anything to really strengthen your own resolve to receive feedback?
Erin Hooley [6:56]
Absolutely. So it’s been mainly a mindset shift for me. I mean, I have six children too. So there’s a lot of it’s similar within leadership within personal and business development and even parental development as well. Were just understanding that to grow, there need to be growing pains. And so inviting and seeing a growing pain is almost like a familiar friend. It’s been through it enough that it doesn’t slam me down for a week or get me all in a tizzy upon something silly where now I can step back and say, Okay, I’m going to allow myself to be in a funk for a couple of minutes because of that hurt. But then I’m going to seek after the truth in it and decide whether or not I can live with that truth or if I need to change it. So perfect example is I had somebody from my marketing team leave and she left with no notice. And so on the day that she left and I was totally hurt. I didn’t see it coming. And she said, on her way out, she said that I was passive-aggressive. And then I felt like she slapped me in the face. It was pretty brutal, I’ll be honest. And for about three days, I kind of sunk down into a little bit of self-pity and despair thinking that she was my friend like I thought that we, this is so not the direction I saw this going, which it happened. And then I realized, hold on a second. I’m going to take this piece of information, this accusation of being passive-aggressive. And first of all, I have to understand what passive-aggressive is. So I started diving into what is passive-aggressive behavior. And yeah, yeah.
Hold on for a second. Aaron just talked about a mindset shift. I want to make sure we’re in sync together. What is the mindset? And what is the shift that’s required? Well, a mindset is really just the way we see the world. It’s the way we think it’s, it begins to shape our behaviors. It also shapes the feelings that we have. And if we have a negative mindset or something that really does draw energy away from us, it limits that ability to lead our team, the ability to get the results that we want. And so what we must always be doing is looking for areas where we have blind spots, and that we can grow a blind spot is, is something that’s unaware to you, it probably has to be pointed out by a third person. And in fact, in this whole episode is about, you know, accepting criticism or craving criticism and, you know, really looking at those blind spots. So when you think about your own mindset shift, who are you trusting to give you the feedback you need to address the blind spots? And are you doing the work that it takes to shift or transform your own way of showing up? That question is something you have to answer for yourself. Now back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [9:44]
I know that you know, some people maybe wouldn’t have to Google that, but you actually googled it right? So you see, oh, yeah. And you started to figure out what applied to you and what?
Erin Hooley [9:54]
Yes, yes. And I needed to google it because I didn’t want I wanted facts. I want to I wanted solid knowledge as to what it was that I was up against. And so I started doing a lot of research and watching a lot of videos and reading about passive-aggressive behavior, how it manifests in yourself and how it manifests in the people around you both in home environments and work environments and social environments. And then I had to step back and say, Okay, I see that these areas that this is true for me in these areas. Am I okay with that? Or and then I realized, you know, I’m really not okay with that. So okay, if I’m not okay with that, what’s the alternative? So then I started Googling what’s better than passive-aggressive, like, what else can you be? Is it just aggressive? I don’t know. They want to be aggressive. And really, it just came down to assertive and I said, Okay, well, that sounds better. What does that look like? And I just had to put a different, a different dialogue in my mind to determine what that was gonna look like for me moving forward, but I had to understand it from the viewpoints of other people so that I could find my truth in it.
Gene Hammett [10:57]
It really helps to understand this with a solution. if you know, situation?
Erin Hooley [11:03]
Gene Hammett [11:04]
You know, I’ve never had any feedback on my own leadership around passive-aggressive. When you found the truth behind it is not any specific. Like, were you just reading it and you go, Oh, yeah, that’s me, or was there something else?
Erin Hooley [11:19]
There was a video that I watched and it was this woman was describing a situation. I can’t remember specifically what it was. But she said passive-aggressive could look like this. It could look like this. And she was showing these different reactions. And I thought, Oh, yeah, I do beat around the bush. Oh, yeah, I do know exactly what I want. And sometimes I don’t say it out, right. Or, I mean, do I ever take something home and harbor ill feelings when I didn’t communicate properly? Yeah, I’ve done that. And so I started to kind of look at all of these ways in which I was like, I’m guilty. I’m a little guilty over here. And but I think the biggest thing is once you realize where those flaws are, where those opportunities for improvement are Just like with any growth in business, there’s potential growth in our personal selves as well. And it’s empowering to know that if you just educate yourself, you can move on to something greater. You just have to do the work. And so for me, it’s not it doesn’t shut me down anymore. It’s okay. Thank you for shining a light on this. What’s, what’s available to me now? what’s out there that I can take advantage of now.
Gene Hammett [12:24]
What I hear behind this is, once you’ve defined what it was for you, because you had to look it up and see Yeah. And you define the truth, but you then you look at your options, right? Yes. How do I show up differently? Yes, you actually chose to be assertive.
Erin Hooley [12:45]
Mm-hmm. still working on it. Not gonna say I’m not all the way there yet. But I am. And then I also but I also found, I have a great person in our organization that I see very much so as a mentor. And I’ve asked them Those types of people in my life who I can trust and say help hold me accountable. This is what I’m working towards. If you see me taking a step back, or if you see me at the moment, if you catch something I want you to call me out, I want you to tell me. And so it’s being it’s choosing and communicating very clearly with those accountability partners to say, Hey, this is what I’ve identified. I’m not okay with it. This is what I’m working towards. If you care about me, which I know you do, I need you to help hold me accountable to this.
Gene Hammett [13:28]
A lot of leaders might be listening in here going, you know, I don’t know if I have the strength. But you do this across everything, like yeah, customers, just customers. We’re talking about leadership and something very specific. But you’ve done this consistently across your own leadership and allows you to level up and you know, the company is doing really well. One of the key steps that you talked about before, last week when we were talking was you change the narrative?
Erin Hooley [13:58]
Gene Hammett [13:58]
So what does that mean to you?
Erin Hooley [14:01]
So I’ll just share another brief example to I was 19 when I got married 20 when I had our first kid 28 when I had our sixth child, so, right. So I remember being pregnant with my first child, and, and just all I was just consuming all the motherhood, the parenting books, I wanted to read everything. And my husband kind of teased me a bit and said, just it’s not gonna be that hard. It’s just, there’s mother’s made every day, you know, it’s gonna be fine. And I remember saying, you know, here’s the thing, though. I love my parents. I think they did a phenomenal job, but they weren’t perfect. And the only cookie recipe I have no order to make to look to make is the one that they provided me. So how do I know if I like oatmeal chocolate chip better than, you know, whatever snickerdoodle or whatever it happens to be. And so for me, I wanted to consume all the content from all the different minds so that I could piece together what was To be the best culture for me as a mom, for us as a family. And it’s the same thing in business, it’s the same thing in our personal selves. We need to identify and have an understanding that we weren’t born with all the answers. And if you’re looking to level up in business, or you’re looking to level up and self that comes with additional understanding, and you only have so many opportunities and so many experiences, so why not take advantage of all the opportunity experiences of everybody else around you? It just seems like common sense to me. Find the knowledge and then find the truth for you.
Gene Hammett [16:29]
When you think about your own leadership, and you’ve been growing through this, you know, since you know, few years of Naspers What’s the most defining moment that you can think of?
Erin Hooley [16:41]
You know, I’ve been getting this a lot of thought actually, because I think it’d be really nice to say, you know, this one morning I woke up and it was like the skies opened and all the halls and the world came now all the puzzle pieces came and fit together, but I can’t identify one specific moment. I think it is an accommodation that has just continued checks and balances continued desire to have your eyes wide open in order to continually progress. And ultimately we have our forward bumps and our backward slides. But it’s as long as we are tracking that progress and looking back on it and identifying the learnings that we have along the way, that’s when we can really measure our success. And so, have I changed astronomically in my leadership style? Yes, absolutely. Am I done? I surely hope not. So, one thing no accomplishing two things every day as I opened myself up to them. Absolutely.
Hold on for a second. Aaron just talked about looking back. There’s real power and your ability to look backward. Steve Jobs once said We don’t connect the dots by looking forward. We only do it by looking backward. I’m paraphrasing. But as a leader, do you take time to look back over the results that the company got and really being honest with yourself? Maybe it’s not the result specifically, but maybe about how you handle certain problems, how you’ve handled a set of problems, how the team organizes together around these problems and challenges. Looking back is a very powerful aspect of your leadership, are you taking the time to do it? Now, the danger here, too, is are you only looking back, if you don’t spend a balanced time looking forward, and most of your time, actually, in the present, you’re missing an opportunity as a leader. Now back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [17:43]
I know when my own journey as a leader, there were specific moments. I hired my first coach in like 2002 huh. And that was a big moment for me because I was I understood what a blind spot was. I yeah, I guess I could have googled it back then. Because Google, but I, you know, the coach came back to me and said to him, you have a blind spot when it comes to this part of your business. Do you think that you’ve got to solve everyone’s problems? Yeah. And it was a dangerous area because I was running my head ragged. I was more like a firefighter and their CEO. Yes, there are a few moments, but I think the majority of our evolution as leaders happens in small steps. Yes. Like, when you think about, you know how you encourage this within your culture because I would imagine criticism is something that’s not just just for you, Aaron. Now it’s for everybody, everyone. Mm-hmm. Have you had conversations with your team to go? what do we believe in? Is this is it part of your core values?
Erin Hooley [18:49]
Yes, absolutely. And we have meetings every day. I mean, various executive meetings each week and marketing meetings every morning. I mean, there’s always meetings going on. And we encourage that open communication. We ask the tough questions, we make people feel uncomfortable, and not everybody likes that kind of environment. I’ll be honest, we have had a lot of really, really great people leave us because they did not like the pressure of being challenged and pushed. But ultimately what I’ve come to learn and love is that is everybody going to want to take a seat at the table? No. But surely we can provide them an invitation. I’m not going to force them to sit down, but I am going to invite them. And if they want to progress, if they want to push themselves, if they want to see what they’re truly made of, then this is the place for them. But ultimately, I’d rather provide an environment for people to really figure out who they are, then to pacify everybody and make everybody complacent and comfortable and not achieve anything great, whether in business or in our personal lives.
Gene Hammett [19:58]
Well, I think as a leader We’re creating a space for people to grow.
Erin Hooley [20:02]
Gene Hammett [20:03]
And if we don’t do that, and if you miss this opportunity to embrace criticism is one piece of it.
Erin Hooley [20:09]
Gene Hammett [20:10]
And have those difficult conversations. I’ll be honest with you, I talk to a lot of leaders. They think they’re having the depth of difficult conversations. But the reality is they’re not. There’s so many areas within the business that they’re tolerating. Mm-hmm. One of the phrases I use with my clients all the time, and I’ll share it with you. And it’s not for you to answer but it’s for you to kind of ponder what it means inside her own leadership, but you get what you tolerate. Yes. So what are you tolerating that question is great for leaders, but it’s also great for employees. Yeah. If you asked your marketing, like, I’m assuming you replaced your marketing person.
Erin Hooley [20:51]
Gene Hammett [20:54]
You’re always asking them what are they tolerating?
Erin Hooley [20:56]
Gene Hammett [20:57]
What is it? What other questions do you ask? With your team to make sure that you have this open dialogue of growth and really helping them.
Erin Hooley [21:07]
Yeah. But I’d actually, I’d love to back up just a little bit to the point you were just making. It reminded me of an instance that I had recently with my son. And he’s 12. And we had I love grocery pick up all the places that do that are like they’re my best friend because I don’t have time stuffed into grocery store anymore. So anyway, I’ve gone to go and do grocery pickup. And I’ve done this multiple times before at this particular place, and it always been a pleasant experience, but this particular time, I had been I had called because I was gonna be 30 minutes early, and I said, Hey, is this going to be okay? Or do I need to keep myself busy in the area? And they said, yeah, it’s gonna be okay. Well, long story short, someone else came out and said, No, it’s not okay. And I ended up having to sit for about 40 minutes waiting. And at that point, I was like, man, I could have gone in and done this myself.
Erin Hooley [21:52]
So the whole experience was just there are other things that kind of just piled up and my kids were screaming in the car, which didn’t help either. So it was just By the time I left, I was frustrated. And so I said, You know, I think I need to call and give some feedback to the manager because of what happened because I was told one thing by one person, another thing by another, and there was just a lack of communication, which made a poor experience. And my son was going, Oh, my gosh, please don’t do that, please. And I’m like, Honey, I’m not gonna call him or write them. But I think that it’s, I think that’s the right thing to do to provide that feedback. And he said, No, no, I would never do that. And I said, Why? Why would you never provide that feedback? And he said It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing. I don’t want people to think that and I said, you don’t want people not to like you. And he goes,
Erin Hooley [22:37]
Yeah, I don’t want people not to like me. And I said, Okay, so what I hear you saying is, you care more about what people think of you than what, then you care about those people. And he said That’s not what I said. I said, Oh, but it is because of thought about it. Either you’re going to help them reach their potential and provide them an opportunity to grow or you’re going to pacify your need to be liked, and it was just the, I mean, I could just see his little reel spinning. He was so bothered by this concept. And I said it because he couldn’t refute it. He knew it was true. But it was so upsetting. And it was so interesting as a parent to sit back and watch that happen, especially because that’s been a battle that I’ve fought so many times over the years. And so, I think but then to your next question, it’s more about showing with by example, than it is setting the stage because if you’re, if you set the stage perfectly, but you refused to show by your own example, those walls will never come down. If I ever want to have and I do this with my spouse, too, if we ever need to have constructive criticism, growth, opportunity, conversation, whatever you want to call it. I always need to start out with me. Hey, what is something that I’m doing right now that was an opportunity for me to proof, what does that look like? And that opens the door that gets everybody’s jitters out. Because you’re the ones stepping into that uncomfortable spotlight first. And then by the time they see you kind of emulate that, or what’s the word? I can’t think right now. Just be able to showcase what that looks like. Then all of a sudden, it takes away the nerves, they can go, Oh, well, this is interesting. Well, what about me? And you kind of give that feedback back and forth and it opens up some really great conversations.
Gene Hammett [24:34]
Well, I really appreciate you being here to talk about your journey of leadership Erin and sharing with us some vulnerable aspects because I really do believe voting bonobos a strength and leadership. Absolutely. And being able to have a culture where you’re leading by example of craving this criticism, and also, you know, really putting the test to it because I think that you know, our culture really is a big part of why we grow when we grow.
Erin Hooley [25:03]
Gene Hammett [25:04]
What if we’re talking to hundreds of people just like you, and that, you know, it really is an important piece to your own leadership as you’re continuing to grow. And that this feedback is one of your key mechanisms behind that. So thanks for being here.
Erin Hooley [25:17]
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Gene Hammett [25:20]
Wow, what a powerful interview. I really love the fact that she opens up, she’s vulnerable. She talks about the importance of creating a culture where people are leading by example, she leads the way. This idea of criticism is something that probably scares the heck out of you of really opening yourself up to what people really think and feel that they aren’t willing to say. And so I share with you that I want to continue your journey of growth as a leader. That’s the reason why you’re tuning in here to this podcast and these interviews. In the behind, the scenes make sure you subscribe, make sure you share it with someone else that you will know wants to get a better leader, and as always Leave with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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