Editor’s note: The following consists of a conversation between RCS Multimedia Manager Megan Ellsworth, and Art Unlimited CEO Anna Anderson. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.
Megan Ellsworth: Hello everyone. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at RoofersCoffeeShop, back again for February response from our influencers and I'm with Anna Anderson from Art Unlimited. Hi Anna, how are you?
Anna Anderson: I'm doing fantastic. So good to see you, and I'm excited to talk about this month's topic.
Megan Ellsworth: Yes, so let's dive right in then. This month's topic is what are some mistakes you wish you never made? So dive right in, Anna.
Anna Anderson: Well, I got thinking about this month's topic and when I first started in our family business, I was much younger and in my actual teens and early twenties, and I felt like I could do everything, I was smart, fast, just all-round amazing, right? We all think that when we're young.
I was traveling, had the opportunity to represent some massive campaigns for global leaders and it was a real honor. So we were running this campaign for some past presidents, some dignitaries from across the world and I was all hot stuff. So I was meeting with one of the key organizers of that project and I asked him and I said, "What would be one thing you wished you knew, and could you share that with me?" And he thought for quite a while, and he goes, "Anna, one thing that I've learned is we all have weaknesses. It is great leaders that understand this, but take it to the next level and actually look for solutions to those weaknesses, whether it be people, software, short-term solutions, long-term solutions, but they always understand that we are humans and we have flaws."
And to this day, I can still remember him sharing that, and it's something that I really took to heart because I felt like I was invincible. I could do anything. I was running these massive campaigns. Everyone said you can't do that large of a campaign where you live. I live in Northern Minnesota. There were no boundaries. We have internet, right? I could do it all. And I was just coming off the high of a campaign that was approved by the Eagles office.
Megan Ellsworth: Oh, wow.
Anna Anderson: That was massive, and he tells me that and I think, my gosh, I don't have weaknesses because, Anna, everyone has weaknesses.
And I began to ponder that. As I have, I hope, I feel like I've developed, I've recognized that is so very true. So one thing, as I've begun to embrace that, and now it's become part of me, is to always assess what are the weaknesses that I have? What are the weaknesses that the company has? What are the weaknesses my team has and also looking at what are the weaknesses that the individuals we serve have? But most importantly, what do I have weaknesses on? And so that has led me down a path in many different aspects, to a point where each year I actually have something like, what is the weakness I'm going to personally begin to develop and either turn into a strength or understand how to leverage someone else's strength so that isn't a growing weakness in me?
One year, it was, Anna, I need to learn how to lead in love. I am a very high D in the DISC and I have no problem walking into a room and completely uprooting a company and walking out and being like, "That's amazing. I feel great about that", but that is not always leading in love. So my greatest weakness or mistake is feeling like I was invincible, and so how we work on that as a company is every time we bring on a new team member, we have them take the StrengthsFinder's test. We also have certain members take the DISC test and other seats will take the Kolbe test. So we really have a cross-reference of who are those people? What is their strength? What is their passion and how do we leverage them to be them, and not us trying to make them someone else, right?
Megan Ellsworth: Right.
Anna Anderson: And then something different that we do and we've done the last year because this whole crazy pandemic thing, we've found that there's so many transitions that our team is going through, just even to go out and get their coffee at some points was like this massive change in their life. And then to sit down at their computer and it's the same spot in their living room, in their home office. It was really hard, and even today, there's elements that have transitioned and we're still trying to get through that because, in people's minds, we felt like, oh, this is just a short period thing. Now it's actually part of reality today. So we've hired a life coach, professional coach that our team members can tap into and go through three different sessions.
So they'll have a specific initiative. They'll come and say, here's something I want to develop, or here's something that I'm struggling with. Can we help work through that? And that has helped us because I don't know what the weaknesses are. I don't know what the mistakes or the failures are all the time, but they need someone that they can confide in and understand that this is actually someone who cares about me and they're not going to be running to fix it from a business perspective, but I just need help for me. And so I have business coaches that help me for me, and we've tried to bring that to our team as well. So far, fingers crossed, the last 12 months, it's been massively successful, helped our team feel empowered, helped them identify some of their weaknesses and also strengths, and helped us leap over and get around some possible mistakes before they've happened.
Megan Ellsworth: Wow, my gosh. Well, that is so cool. Oh my gosh. That is wow. I'm blown away. That's really, really cool that you guys hired a life coach and are creating that space for your employees and coworkers to feel comfortable and really empowered to find their weaknesses and strengths, and build the strengths up, and also build the weaknesses up into strengths. So that's really, really cool that you're taking a mistake that you are learning from and implementing it into your company.
Anna Anderson: Yeah, if we are afraid of making a mistake, we're not moving forward, but some of our greatest accomplishments were achieved through failures. So I'm not afraid to make mistakes, but I also recognize that we always have weaknesses. Another thing that might be interesting. I love talking about mistakes. One of our best team members, she came to us and she said, "I don't know if I'm qualified, Anna, but I'd like to learn more about your company." So I gave her two business cards. It was a while ago when I say business cards, right? And I say, "If you're anything like me, you're going to need two because ironically, I'm probably going to wash one, and the next one I'm actually going to save."
Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, that's so true.
Anna Anderson: When you have young children, life is a bit chaotic sometimes. And so she did call me and she said, "I don't know where I'd fit." I said, "I know, but I like you and I want to go down this journey." And so I told her on one of her first week or something, I said, "I want you to understand that your greatest lessons will be achieved when you break something. Please tell me if you think you might break something, we'll have backup." But I recognized that she's a very hands-on person, so I said, "I want to give you authority to make mistakes, to break things, and together we will find a stronger solution." Because if we never challenge the norm, we will never understand what the next level is.
Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely.
Anna Anderson: Hopefully, those two nuggets will be helpful to everyone who's listened today.
Megan Ellsworth: Those are some great nuggets. Very, very good. It's so interesting. I just love that. Your guys' company culture and the space that you make for your employees and I think it's really great. So thank you for sharing that with me today, Anna. Any last words of advice for people out there trying to move past a recent mistake or wanting to build their strengths or their weaknesses into strengths?
Anna Anderson: Name your mistake. Identify what happened, but don't get hung up on it. Don't make it the place where you stop. So once you name it, you identify it, you can dissect how to make sure you don't go into that place again, and then move past. We do so much R&D that we recognize we might only have 20 to 30, maybe 50% success rate out of that research and development. So it's really understanding the mistakes or failures that occur and then moving past that. So I think that's one of the big things I see personally and professionally, people say, "I made a mistake. I can't go back." But in reality, it was just one bend in the road. It's moving forward that is really the most important component.
Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. Couldn't have said it better. That was great, Anna, thank you. I will be chatting with you next month.
Anna Anderson: Awesome. Thank you so much, Megan. It's always a pleasure.
Anna Anderson is the CEO of Art Unlimited. See her full bio here.
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