A shining star at Hearts & Science

For his key contributions to Hearts & Science, Mike Venables has received the inaugural Brookbanks Leadership Award. He is an Executive Director located in the New York office and has been with the company since it launched in 2016. The award is a celebration of recently retired Kathleen Brookbanks and is given to one outstanding leader each year.

Brookbanks Leadership Award nominees exemplify the qualities that have made Kathleen such a strong leader in our industry and an invaluable member of our team here at Hearts. The nominees have deep industry experience and understanding, though they are not necessarily industry veterans. Their knowledge expands past discipline or client, and they know the business on multiple levels.

We spoke with Mike to learn more about his experience as a leader at Hearts & Science and his successes. Here’s what he had to say.

What does the Brookbanks Leadership Award mean to you?

Being associated with anything that bears the Brookbanks name is an absolute honor. Kathleen is a legend in our industry. Her career story is so impressive—how she was able to overcome obstacle after obstacle, how she transformed her own skill sets several times over, and how she somehow balanced everything life threw at her.

She’s a true inspiration, and there’s no one more deserving for this award to be named after. I keep the award directly in front of me at my desk not as a conversation piece but as a personal reminder to myself that I constantly need to raise my own bar to live up to her name. My hope is that others who see it will think the same.

How do you interact with and lead your team?

I work to serve my team, not the other way around. My job is to make them better and give them the runway to flourish—to explore the things they’re passionate about and to challenge them in ways that make them grow.

It’s extremely important to share feedback regularly. I prefer in real time or just after a meeting, so it’s fresh. I’m grateful to be where I am in my career, and I’d be a fool to not give advice about what I’ve learned along the way. Similarly, it’s important to give recognition for a job well done. And it’s important to understand that recognition comes in many more forms than words. Giving someone a new opportunity or responsibility is a great form of recognition.

I feel blessed to be surrounded by so many great leaders at Hearts, including those whom I have the benefit of having on my team. They’re truly inspiring, and they teach me new things about leadership every day.

What do you believe are the qualities of an effective leader?

I like to constantly remind myself that my team is the reason that I’m still here. Not only does that help maintain a certain level of humility, but it also reminds me that I can trust them.

I like to live by a simple rule of thumb: Pass along the credit to others; take the blame yourself.

Learn from everyone around you. Study their actions and the outcomes from those actions—both what to do and what not to do.

My dad always told me that “half of life is just showing up” and that statement has become truer for me over the years. In leadership, it translates to being present.

No matter how busy you are, make time for your team when they need it. Be reliable for that.

Have any words of wisdom for other leaders and colleagues?

Listen. Be attentive to what motivates each individual around you. Understand what makes them tick and pair them up with opportunities that unleash them to succeed.

Be thankful. Show gratitude. People try their tails off, often on your behalf. Show them that you appreciate it.

Your people should feel like you’d take a proverbial bullet for them. If they don’t, you haven’t earned their trust yet.

Be known as someone who “does the right thing.” You’re going to be faced with increasingly difficult decisions which need to be made quickly.  Follow your gut and do what feels morally, ethically and rationally right.