Strong Voices Interview #26: Verena Pausder
This interview with Verena Pausder is not a typical one of our Strong Voice interviews, it was more like: Packing all my doubts into questions and getting answers, new food for thought and inspiration from Verena.
Rarely has a conversation inspired me, shaken me up and driven me to action, and words cannot describe my admiration for Verena's personality: her pragmatism, her support, her drive and solution-orientation.
Verena Pausder is one of the best-known faces of the start-up scene in Germany. She is an entrepreneur, expert in digital education, author and founder of Fox & Sheep and the HABA digital workshops. She also inspires and empowers others with her successful podcast "Fast&Curious" and Verena's book club.
Personally, she is an inspiration for us because she doesn't think in problems, but rather in solutions and lets actions follow her words.
'Is it successful?' and 'Does my heart beat for it?' - Verena Pausder
What are your tips for the proper leadership of a junior team? What structures do you think are needed?
1. Don't present problems, but solutions. Young people tend to present problems due to a lack of experience. You have to change their mindset so that they can come up with solutions on their own. For our jour fixe, my employees prepare everything to be decision-ready. This includes presenting the pros and cons for the possible courses of action, as well as a final recommendation.
2. Efficient communication is the key. Not every tool is always useful. Slack and WhatsApp, in particular, allow for short and concise communication. In emails, texts can be processed well. Here, the right structure is especially important - starting with "I need a decision on XY" and providing a short and efficient summary without unnecessary additional information.
3. Determine the most important to-do's at the beginning of each week. Tools like Asana are great for this. At the beginning of the week, all important topics are discussed and prioritized with the team, and anything additional is dealt with on the side.
What is your best tip for leading employees?
Genuine interest means 100% focus on your employees and really seeing them. I used to make the mistake of thinking I had to be nice and interested at all times. Instead of a quick 'Hi, how are you? How was your weekend?' it's more profound to sit down together for an hour and ask how the person is really doing. This is also a very good opportunity for words of appreciation. And then switch back to work mode.
In a start-up, a lot needs to be tried out, but everything has its limits. What are crucial points for you to "stop doing" when the start-up is reasonably successful?
Every three to four months, I organize all the topics and to-do's in Asana. In doing so, I ask myself two questions: 'Is it successful?' and 'Does my heart beat for it?' If it's not successful, but your heart is open, it gives you positive energy. If both are true, then do more of it. But if neither is a given, don't. If you take the definition of success as 'Success is when the things I do give me more energy than they take away,' then the emotional toll may always sting because if you enjoy it, you'll still be working on it at 11 p.m. at night. There will always be commitments, but it makes sense to regularly check if things are important or just causing stress.
What I admire about you is that SO often you don't just see the problems, but come up with solutions. Has that always been the case and how can you get into such a can-do mindset?
For me, it's very much related to thinking in solutions and stopping certain activities. The day is so full, and every problem you face, you have to push aside. Of course, there are problems, but when everything escalates right away and becomes urgent, you go home at night and think, 'This is quite a price I'm paying here.' It's important to remember that you actually chose to do something very beautiful. You picked your job yourself, with people you hired yourself.
How important do you think the "face" behind the brand is?
Social media, especially Instagram, works better through people than brands. Anyone can create Instagram Stories, but the impact is much stronger with a face. I would recommend selectively showing who you are but not spending every day doing it. If you have a situation that captures who you are and what you stand for very well, post it. But keep it authentic.
Currently, AMELI is running without any funding at all - what's your expert opinion on that?
You founded a company so that, in the best-case scenario, it would run in such a way that you could have a relaxed breakfast, exercise, and then sit down at your desk at 11 o'clock. You can't do that with funding because there is a commitment to continuous growth. That takes away your freedom to decide on growth rates and set your priorities as you like.
What advice would you give to young women?
Whenever your self-doubt - also known as Imposter Syndrome - hits, I advise you to do the following: put a trash can in your room, write 'Imposter' on it, and imagine throwing all your doubts in there. It does no good to make yourself small and has nothing to do with reflection or humility; it just sucks energy out of you.
What is your absolute favorite book?
"Im Grunde Gut" by Rutger Bregman. If you don't understand the world very well, you might think it's just coming to an end. Rutger Bregman reminds you, as does Hans Rosling in "Factfulness", that while many things are terrible, child poverty, for example, is at an all-time low. The point is that facts speak a different language than the media, and humans are basically good. We are not in this world to destroy each other but to survive and create a sense of togetherness.