How Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun leads with purpose and empathy
July 7th, 2021
Leading a company through a global pandemic is no easy feat. It requires resilience, purpose, and a whole lot of empathy. At our recent Focus & Flow Summit, Asana Customer Success Manager Rasha Harvey sat down with Blavity’s Founder & CEO Morgan DeBaun to learn how she guided her team through change while staying focused on her organization’s purpose. Here are a few of Morgan’s insights along with tips on how to achieve greater focus and flow.
1. You always have control over how you react to situations and treat people
The global pandemic and continued racial injustices have caused a lot of fear and uncertainty across the world. “None of us had control over this past year,” Morgan shared. “What you do have control over is how you treat people.”
With many colleagues dealing with personal tragedies, deaths, fears, and anxieties, Morgan made sure she was leading with empathy first. She focused on creating a culture and an environment where people knew the company cared.
“For me, it’s about creating those informal moments, so that your interactions with people aren’t just always transactional business conversations,” Morgan said. “There is a little bit more substance and understanding and learning about the person and who they are, what they’re interested in, and not just doing the work.”
Morgan’s focus on people also extends outside her own organization and into the communities of color that Blavity connects through its platform and events. When the pandemic hit, Blavity’s AfroTech Conference, one of the largest multicultural tech conferences in the United States, had to pivot from in person to virtual. Rather than cancelling the event, the team decided to build a whole new experience that was more accessible.
The team worked hard to create a fun, informal experience with avatars, making sure the virtual conference wasn’t just transactional in terms of the content and learning. “That is the purpose of AfroTech: It’s that informal, but formal, moment in time for us to come together as a tribe and as a community,” Morgan shared.
2. Look for efficiency gains everywhere
The pandemic changed the way people work and communicate. “People learned how to be more efficient with what they had,” Morgan shared. “And because we didn’t have access to one another, we learned how to communicate better.”
Morgan’s team is digital first, using Asana to make sure that every minute is being used effectively, every conversation is to the point, and everyone is marching towards the same mission. Morgan also has a program called WorkSmart, where she teaches entrepreneurs and small business owners how to work smarter, not harder.
“There’s a smarter way to do things,” Morgan said. “And that means automation. That means tracking and understanding your data so you can make smarter decisions and you’re not just using your gut all the time for how you move your world.” Productivity has always been one of Morgan’s secret sauces and one of the reasons she’s able to be so efficient.
3. Constantly work on yourself as a leader
While many leaders focus on staying busy and helping others during times of crisis, it’s also important for leaders to not lose sight of taking care of and bettering themselves. Being in one place during the pandemic gave Morgan the peace and quiet she needed to really make sure that the vision of Blavity was still where she wanted it to be.
“To lead an organization, the key part that you have to work on is yourself,” Morgan said. She believes you need to have the fundamentals of leadership—being able to articulate your vision and to influence and bring people on board with that vision. It’s a lot of hard work, but also incredibly rewarding.
“It’s all about people at the end of the day,” Morgan said. “We’re all in people businesses. You can’t run things without people. And I think understanding yourself before going out to lead is very, very important. And, it’s also helpful to get you in that flow state to drive forward the mission of the business.”
For more insights on how Asana can help you and your team achieve greater focus and flow, see what teams around the world are doing with Asana.