In our most recent “Between Two Palms” session — our fireside chat series dedicated to getting to know our Leadership Team a little bit better — we sat down with our newest Leadership Team member, Lauren Hoehlein Joseph. Lauren joined us in April 2020, just in time for COVID-19 to hit, so she had quite a unique beginning at Grover, which she told us about in-depth. 

This time, we had our PR and Communications Lead Milena running the interview instead of our usual host, Jonny, so we had a fresh take on the format.

What was it like to join Grover in the middle of a pandemic?

LAUREN: Intense. But also energizing. I do think I’m somebody who very much likes to feel that the work I’m doing is needed, and I honestly deal well with adrenaline and stress. There are two camps of people in this world: those who like stress to be at a minimum in order to focus, and those who focus best in a crisis. I’m in the latter camp. So it was a really interesting way to dive in and start having an actionable impact straightaway.

That being said, we’re several months down the line from the initial lockdown in Germany now, so we can finally focus on ways to help develop the company and the team, regardless of a pandemic. Now I’m almost going backwards to think of how I would have approached those first weeks and months if I hadn’t been in firefighting mode. 

If you look at the silver lining, it was a really good way to get to know the company and the team and to see how well the team can perform and really band together in a moment of crisis. I wouldn’t want to do it every year, and I hope that we don’t have to deal with this again, but we dealt with it well, which is something to be proud of as a company. 

What daily habits do you think help you be successful? What do you do in your personal life that helps you in your professional life?

LAUREN: Running is a big part of it. I don’t necessarily go running every day, but when I’m in training cycles for a marathon, I’m quite committed to that program, and I find that each program helps me flush out something personally or professionally. There’s something about two to three hours on the road, whether you’re a cyclist, a runner, or whatever, that gets the dust out of the corners of your mind, and, for me, is really cathartic. 

More generally, I love pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve actually done a fair number of adventurous sports over the years. I’ve tried bungee jumping and skydiving, even though I’m afraid of heights, just because I wanted to overcome the personal mental challenge. I find it energizing and empowering to  go beyond my limits — or what I thought were my limits — and generally push the boundaries of my comfort zone. You really do grow as a person. It also doesn’t always need to be big things like bungee jumping or skydiving. It can be something as simple as taking a different route to work or going to a different coffee shop. It’s important to change up your routine. I think a lot of creativity comes in the boundaries of life, and by virtue of opening yourself up to the unknown or the new, you remind yourself what it is to experience something fresh. It’s something that I try to demand of myself, and I do think it’s helped me professionally quite a bit, certainly in terms of being able to roll with the punches. Keep it fresh!

Can you tell us a little bit more about how you found your leadership style? And any challenges you’ve faced, especially as a woman?

LAUREN: The two things I believe make a good leader are transparency and the confidence to maintain strong values and ethics. As a leader, you often find yourself delivering bad news but you’re equally if not more often gifted with the opportunity to deliver amazing news. I take it very seriously when something happens that I need to own and stand behind. As for transparency: Having the confidence to shed light into what’s going on or why a decision has been made is hard, but I respect it when I see it, so I try really hard to maintain it. 

In terms of how I’ve developed my leadership style over the years, I should preface that I’m the oldest of four children, so the greatest identifying feature of me as a person is that I’m the oldest child of a large family — more so than being an extrovert, a runner or even a mother. So I have essentially been developing my leadership skills since I was two. 

When I think of those leaders I’ve learned a lot from, they were always willing to make themselves a little bit vulnerable. I’ve always appreciated the moments I could see the human behind the manager, especially when it came to learning from other women. 

When I first started my career there was a lot of discussion about having your work on the one side, and your life on the other, and the balance of the two, like they were two weights on a scale. That never really worked for me. I’ve always been a blended person. I’m not somebody who stops thinking about her job when she walks out the door — I will be thinking about it 24/7. Consequently, I don’t stop having a family or a life when I walk in the door, either. 

To circle back to the full question, for me, finding my leadership style was all about being confident in the personal / professional blend, being confident about being transparent about that blend, and especially navigating that experience now, as not only a woman but also a parent. I’m pretty open to talking about my child, because I want to encourage a culture in which people can share all sides to their multifaceted lives without fear of being pigeon-holed. Men have kids, women have kids, not everyone chooses to have kids but plenty of people do, including people in leadership positions. I want to normalize that women who sit in those seats often have kids, just like the men sitting beside them. You’ll see my daughter around on Zoom from time to time, and that’s something I deliberately allow to happen, probably more so than if I had not seen the juxtaposition of women going to great lengths to hide their identities as parents when I was younger. I also don’t make excuses. For example, my daughter is sick this week and the other day I had to run out of the office very quickly because of it. I think 20 years ago, someone in a similar circumstance might have been inclined to make an excuse as to why they were leaving, to make it sound like a work thing. But I needed to take 45 minutes to go take my daughter to the doctor, get home, and get back online. It wasn’t a big deal, and being transparent about that reality does everyone much more service than it would to just dust it under the rug. So for me, transparency is 100%. 

You may have noticed that this blog post was a tad longer than the other two we’ve shared, but we simply couldn’t edit it down any further without losing some really valuable insights. Each and every one of us has a comfort zone that we should step out of, has colleagues that are parents that we can learn from, and hobbies that make us better professionals, so we believe everything in this blog is important to hear. Not just now in tumultuous times, but always, because we should never forget to #rethinkthings and keep it fresh 💯