Name Global Office Operations Leadership Team, AKA “GOOLT”
Jill Kinison, Whitney Bowie, Mollie Edwards, Jennifer Klemme, Lindsay Butterfield, Karen Moloney
Company and Location
Slalom in Seattle, WA
Team Years as Office Ninjas
50+ total years
GOOLT sends a personalized “Ops Rocks” baseball t-shirt — accompanied by a letter from Slalom’s president sharing his point of view on the value of Office Operations — to every new Operations hire.
Editor’s Note: OfficeNinjas All-Star Awards is part of Admin+ Month (April 5–23, 2021), a fully virtual celebration of deep learning, global recognition, and frenzied fun.
“We are always working on how we work.”
Perhaps no words more accurately encapsulate what goes into creating and maintaining a stellar team. It’s not about finding the perfect combination of people or learning to work the same way. Rather, it’s a constant, mindful process that involves acknowledging and honoring each other’s different work styles.
This is exactly the ethos that characterizes the 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star Team, Slalom’s Global Office Operations Leadership Team, AKA “GOOLT.”
Tasked with managing, partnering with, and coaching more than 120 Admin+ professionals across Slalom’s 36+ global locations, GOOLT’s six-person team may not share office space — or even a time zone, for that matter. However, frequent “ways of working” sessions help them connect, meet where they are, and bridge the gap.
And while we were all forced to pivot in 2020, the nature of GOOLT’s role and Slalom’s massive scale resulted in unique challenges for the team this year. We can all learn A LOT from how they handled them.
We sat down with team leader Jill Kinison for an in-depth look at what GOOLT does and how they do it. We challenge you NOT to be inspired by our interview with the 2021 OfficeNinjas All-Star Team, Slalom’s GOOLT!
What makes you different from other teams?
One thing that makes us different is that we are always working on how we work. Since we became this team of six just last year, we are still working to gel with one another. We’re conscious of identifying when we’re not gelling and of how to get us back to that place. We acknowledge that we’re all different people with different styles within an ever-changing business.
In November, we held a half-day “ways of working” workshop in which we looked introspectively at how we work as a team. However, these conversations can also be one-off, ad-hoc callouts in team meetings when we learn something that could be helpful to the team moving forward. We’ve also used the tool “Team Canvas” as well as a Slalom-created “Team Excellence” assessment to determine what we need to work on collectively to bring us from good to great.
Each of us cares deeply about our stakeholders. Each one of us has a passion for the work we do. We all believe in the value Office Operations brings to the greater Slalom community, as business partners, and as individuals. We all want to be the best advocates for our Office Ops community.
We all contribute and pull our own weight, and there isn’t one standout who pushes to get things done. Perhaps Mollie put it best in describing every GOOLT team member as “the person you want to be paired with for your science project.”
Describe what day-to-day collaboration looks like for your team.
Intentional tools and processes are put in place to help facilitate effective collaborations. Because we are spread across time zones, we need to be intentional about how we interact.
Transparency is key for this group, as is providing context to any given situation. We share openly about the information we have (even if that information may change) to keep everyone aware of how we got to a certain place in a project or decision’s process.
“Our Global Office Operations Leadership Team (GOOLT) utilizes a SharePoint 365 Site, inclusive of a MS Teams Chat, OneDrive file sharing system, and a comprehensive OneNote that drives our collaboration efforts and inspired our GS Operations larger leadership team to do the same. We call it the ‘Leadership Hub’ or ‘the Hub.’ Our mindset is that if any one of us were to win the lottery tomorrow and leave Slalom, we can pick up exactly where that person left off without fear of how they do their job and what they were working on when they left.”
We also don’t hold back when we don’t understand something. We encourage each other to own wherever they are at, so no one feels like they have to pretend to know all the answers.
What are some of your favorite things about working with your team?
- “We celebrate authenticity (a Slalom Core Value) in how we show up for each other on days when we’re not 100 percent. We show up as we are — whatever that looks like — and it’s okay. The team is accepting.” — Karen (Operations Business Partner APAC & UK)
- “People first mentality.” — Lindsay (Operations Business Partner, Global Operations)
- “Knowing the team has my back, and they’re not going to say something different away from me.” — Mollie (Operations Business Partner)
- “Caring deeply for the respective humans in markets, caring deeply for these people, and for the community as a whole.” — Jennifer (Operations Business Partner)
- “This group of strong female leaders are exceptional role models to Slalom employees and challenges me to a better leader every single day. They are people I want to talk with everyday.” — Jill (Senior Manager, Global Operations Team)
What’s a tradition your team shares together? How did this come about?
Virtual Happy Hour. We started this when working remotely kicked in during COVID. It’s BYFB (bring your favorite beverage). For Lindsay, it’s true Happy Hour (5pm) while Karen is usually on her first Long Black coffee or espresso.
We also share our wins (big and small) at the start of weekly team meetings. Jennifer suggested this to me last summer when morale took a dip after COVID stopped regular travel to our markets and seeing our people in-person.
“At the start of meetings we do a ‘hands up’ check in. Using your fingers, show on a scale of 1 to 5 how you’re doing in that particular moment. We do this because if someone ever shows up as a 1 or a 5 — and it does happen — we invite them to bow out of the meeting, commit to recording it for them or to send out notes, and actively encourage them to take space to take care of themselves. What we’re trying to do is cultivate a practice of self-care, respecting each other’s time and boundaries, and being present in meetings.”
What’s your team’s go-to mantra?
“We are a service not a mandate” for our Office Ops teams in markets. We strive to create quality services and always ask ourselves, “Why wouldn’t they use us?”
What’s a unique system, habit, or framework you’ve built or implemented as a team that has improved your performance?
From a philosophical perspective: We limit the heroics/side-hustles to stay engaged and not burn out. When we do have to pull heroics or take on a “fire-drill” task, we communicate, know it’s not forever, and take care of ourselves. We believe that working under extreme pressure should be the exception, not the rule.
From a tactical perspective: Last year, we started evaluating our team’s impact to our community through an annual scorecard system. Like most other companies, Slalom collects certain metrics to support decision making –– more so as we shifted to using the OKRIs (Objectives, Key Results, Initiatives) framework a few years ago.
Tracking our own initiatives that support Slalom’s key results forces us to be more intentional in our goals and service delivery. We knew that it was important to speak the language of our business and showcase our own metrics, but we had no baselines. The vision for an impact survey was our way of telling our team’s story.
The measures we utilize are drawn from our team’s purpose statement:
- We are the Center of Excellence for Office Operations globally at Slalom.
- We are advocates, connectors, services providers, subject matter experts, and people leaders in the world of Office Operations and Event Management.
- We partner with Global Teams to create and share best practices and resources for Office Operations across the globe.
We also have an annual process of deciding collectively, with input from our community, on what to focus our energy on in the coming year. This keeps us focused on what will make the greatest impact.
How does your team embrace and foster company culture?
We wear lots of Slalom Gear!
Our team drives company culture by ensuring that our Office Ops community is working in a way that aligns with company values. We utilize communication channels, such as Microsoft Teams chats and channels, to share what other markets are doing — such as events, meetings, themes, initiatives, projects — and assess their alignment with our Core Values.
We advocate for our Office Ops Community to Market Leaders, Regional General Managers, and GMs to ensure these leaders are aware of the role of the Office Ops community as strong stewards of Slalom culture.
Finally, we are part of the hiring process in the hiring of our Office Ops community. This allows us to model the behavior from the get-go.
How has company growth impacted your team?
All the ways! Global growth and expanded time zones have required us to change our ways of working.
We’ve had to be flexible and agile, too. While we work towards Slalom’s long-term plans with eyes on 2030, we also think in terms of 2 to 3 years because we know things will change. Because we don’t ever want to feel as though the rug is being pulled out from under us, we share what we know when we know it — including changes that may or may not come to fruition. We frequently adapt our ways of working to ensure that we’re in lock step with the business.
Our team tends to be one of the first teams supporting new offices and new countries, so we’re early adopters of changes that come with growth and inclusion champions to other teams.
The rate at which Slalom is growing also means we have to reassess constantly and rethink how we best support the community and our internal customers. Our team has to evolve quickly to keep up. For example, we’ve taken on mentoring/coaching relationships and people management.
“The GOOLT reacted quickly to the shift to work-from-home during COVID. Not only did we need to emotionally be there for these community members, but we also tactically shared with them what to do in this new environment. Our team created a ‘Guide to Virtual Office Operations’ work at Slalom. This Excel document was a comprehensive laundry list of at least 20 foundational tasks these teammates could complete that would set themselves up for success. This document also served as a continually evolving ideation space for engagement on virtual events.
After a month or so, this list evolved to be live on a specific MS Teams channel within our Teams Site and updates on the Operations Portal as well.”
We have adapted our team from a group of “operations generalists” that play the role of both market support and program development to a team of “specialists.” Our team now has a Program Manager dedicated to enhancing our program offerings and four Operations Business Partners that are dedicated to the support and needs of the markets. This adaptation allows for our focus to be BOTH in the priorities of the business and our team.
How does your company set your team up for success, and help you grow as a team?
Senior leadership at Slalom takes a genuine interest in our work, accomplishments, and growth opportunities. They see the value of investing in professional development.
Our Managing Director of GS Operations, Melissa Coochise, requests a quarterly program review of all of the programs within Operations. This helps her understand what’s important to us, know where we are as a whole, and act as an advocate on our behalf. During the review, we share our accomplishments and roadblocks that we can look to her to help us remove. We also offer a project spotlight on something we are proud of as a team. We take turns presenting for professional development on public speaking. This process helps us feel supported as a group.
As a team, we also utilize skip level meetings for casual check-ins, access to leadership, professional development, and different coaching styles, and feedback space. Like regular 1:1s with a people manager, direct reports are expected to drive the cadence and agenda of skip level meetings, if there is one. Sometimes it’s just a social catch up. Mine with my own skip level boss, Melissa, is once a month. Employees who report to my direct reports meet with me everywhere from once a month to once every six weeks to once a quarter. It all depends on what they are looking for in that time together.
Skip level meetings can be many things: a chance to connect with someone other than your people leader to gain perspective on a project, a place to offer feedback on your people leader, an opportunity to get guidance on your own professional development, an occasion to build trust/relationships/socialize to get to know one another better, and a way to learn more about Slalom while networking.
Finally, our community is really appreciative and supportive of us. Positive feedback, thank yous, and kudos come through often. They know they have an advocate in us and we know how important they are to our markets.
What is your greatest professional achievement as a team? What factors contributed to your ability to execute on this achievement?
One of our biggest goals was to create a space for all Office Operations team members from across the globe to get together in person at least once a year to work on goals, professional development/skill building, examine industry and market trends, share best practices, and be together as a group of like peers. I made it my mission to see this to fruition for Office Ops.
We made it happen by getting buy-in from the markets and creating a plan for business continuity… because who knows what would happen if all Slalom Office Ops & EAs were out of communication for a few days! We sent save-the-dates for “OpsCon,” decided on a theme, included it as a published event on Slalom’s Global Events Calendar, and signed a contract for a venue for October 2020. While the event was canceled due to COVID, OpsCon’s approval inspired us to host a small series of professional learning and social events throughout the year and we’ll continue to do so until we can be in person together again.
Getting OpsCon approved was a milestone for our community. Everyone was SO excited and inspired. We were all motivated by the potential for what could come of this experience. On our immediate team, we had a sense of appreciation for each other and for the effort and work that went into pitching and socializing the idea and prepping for content development. After all this time, we are ready to get a jumpstart on the future of OpsCon and evolving it with our future of work.
Tell us about the craziest project you ever collaborated on. How were you able to come together to get it done?
Part of GOOLT’s role involves jumping into a market in “SOS” situations. This refers to when a market finds themselves without adequate in-market office operations support.
There are times, when an SOS situation kicks in very close to a market event, such as a market’s annual retreat. Annual retreats are part of the way our culture manifests at Slalom It’s a massive undertaking with planning usually beginning at least one year in advance. This is a high-visibility, high-touch, and detail-heavy fun event. We consider these “crazy” undertakings because the time, effort, energy, and attention to detail it would take to curate an employee engagement event of this magnitude under normal circumstances are substantial. To jump in at the last minute at various places in the planning process requires a lot of our people… who are also continuing their day jobs at the same time.
How do you hire for “fit” — especially when your team is geographically fragmented?
I wouldn’t say that we hire for “fit.” We strive to hire the most qualified candidate for the role, which is someone that is aligned to our core values and Slalom competencies. On our team and across the company we aim for diversity of thought. Our interviews tend to be conversational rather than the regimented question/answer format. Connections made throughout the conversations become the crux of the interview process.
We look for team members who will challenge us — not just like-minded people. We embrace those that question the status quo and do not simply accept “the way we’ve always done it.”
Our Core Values are embedded into our interview process. If you live our values, you’re going to fit in with our company and on our team. This interview concept is baked into Slalom.
Lastly, we have trusted partners outside of our team who help us in our search for our newest team members, such as recruiters and others involved in the interview process. These partners know how much the “people first” mentality means for our success and look for that throughout the hiring process.
What would you say are the top three traits of an OfficeNinjas All-Star Team?
- Having each other’s backs
What advice do you have for other Ninja teams aspiring to level up their teamwork and performance?
Invest in the ways you work. This is a continual process (not a quick fix), but a worthwhile one.
When a team makes the case for a company-wide OpsCon, get it on the books — and on the company’s global events calendar! — you know you’re dealing with a force to be reckoned with… and an All-Star worthy team! How will you follow their lead and advocate for yourself and your fellow Ninjas in your own workplace?
Onyx generously gifted each All-Star winner with a luxury gift package.
Leave a comment + congratulate the All-Star Team!
Take a few minutes to congratulate the 2021 All-Star Team, and share what their story means to you. If you have a question for Jill, Whitney, Mollie, Jennifer, Lindsay, and Karen, include it with your comment!