Managing en Masse with Emma Auscher

Untangling Culture, Diversity, and Imposterism for Global Organizations

August 28, 2023


Emma Auscher

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Show Notes

“No matter where you're from or what language you speak, you all go through the same emotions every day: anger, frustration, happiness. Empathy and kindness might sound corny, but that's something I find everywhere.”

In this heartwarming episode, we dive into the powerful world of inclusivity, exploring local strategies for global companies, dismantling imposterism, and embracing the transformative impact of motherhood on work life. Join us for an inspiring conversation that will leave you with a fresh perspective on building a truly inclusive and empowering workplace.

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Podcast transcript

No matter where you're from or right language you speak, you all go through the same emotions every day. You get angry, you get frustrated, you get happy, you're sad, And so I think empathy and kindness might sound corny, but that's something I find everywhere.

Janine Ramirez: Emma Auscher the global head of customer experience at Notion is a seasoned leader with over twelve years of experience, building, scaling, and transforming, high performing, global teams. I am so excited to speak with Emma today. She's originally from France and Emma is a multilingual expert who has led Teams across Europe, Asia, and the United States.

So in this episode, so it will explore the unique challenges and nuances that come with working in the US as a European, including navigating impostor syndrome adjusting language barriers and providing effective leadership to diverse teams from different parts of the world. Thank you for joining today, Emma.

Emma Auscher: Thank you so much, Janine. What an intro. I'm really excited to have a conversation with you today. Me too and personally it's like it's something that I'm also going through, so I'm like really really excited to dig into this topic.

Janine Ramirez: To start just a little background on you

A Quick Trip Around the World of Work

and to get your insight, you've worked and studied it in France, and now in the US, What are some of the notable differences that you've seen in work culture between the two countries and how have you adapted to these?

Emma Auscher: Yeah. That's a good question.

Look, I think it's not just the two countries. It's also several different industries. Right? And so look at the nuances between the industries I worked in within one country and then you had a couple other continents and then there is a very specific location, I mean, in the US, I mean, San Francisco, which is a tech bubble that very forward thinking and very liberal and very much open minded, I would say. And so you take that into into consideration when you're looking at all of the differences.

I started in the hospitality back in Europe and I remember my first move to the US was also in hospitality.

I remember thinking that the way that we interacted with these customers were so very different. Remember thinking in France, I was working for luxury hotels and we were mostly right and the customers was not the king always versus in the US where the customer was king and we were always wrong. And so that was like a big change for me, we were comping everything, we were just like, I'm sorry, you have a small disagreement or you're dissatisfied with something that is out of our control. Here's the night for you, the night free for you. So that was kind of like my first introduction, and then afterwards, like, switching throughout other industries of definitely experienced many nuances.

Janine Ramirez: Can you give us like a rundown of the different parts of the world that you had experience working with?

And they're sure going through like how you you manage them.

Emma Auscher: For sure. I was born in Africa, first of all. I was born in Ivory Coast, my parents were experts there, so I I leave the first few years of my life there.

My mom's from Cameroon. My dad's from France, so we come from just a diverse family to begin with. Yep. We moved to France when I was a kid, so I went to school there, college, college, it'll be in the US as well and in Germany.

I started my career in France.

I moved to the US few years later, stayed for a little while, then moved to Asia in Hong Kong, specifically for a few years, and then moved back to San Francisco.

I don't know what I can I wanna say five years ago?

I need to look at the dates to remember

A Strategy to Bridge and Connect

Janine Ramirez: We can follow that up later, but, I mean, when it comes to diversity, you're the one to talk to, and that's why I was so excited. But Like, with all the differences, are there things and and or strategies or things about human behavior and and the workplace that kind of cuts through to all the different cultures that you've experienced.

Emma Auscher: That's a really good question. I will say no matter where you're from or what language you speak, you all go through the same emotions every day. You get angry. You get frustrated. You get happy or sad.

And so I think empathy and kindness might sound corny, but that's something I find everywhere, as well as the opposite's emotions that are less comfortable.

And, yeah, regardless of the cultures, you're gonna adapt your style or your leadership or your processes to a different culture or a different country, but -- Right. -- you'r all humans at the end of the day, and that's kind of what binds us together.

Janine Ramirez: That's really interesting because like that's the topic that's popping up now all the time and it's now that we are all remote and diverse, like people are demanding more empathy from from leadership.

So, yeah, I'm I'm glad I'm glad you said that. It might sound corny, but to me I feel like it's also, you know, reality.

An Inclusive Approach

So can you share some of the key strategies that you use to create and build successful inclusive teams?

Emma Auscher: Yeah. That's a that's a good question. It's it's hard. I'll start by saying that it's when you're working with distributed teams that speak different languages that support different portions of your customer base. You have to adapt you wanna be inclusive, you wanna make sure that everybody has access to everything, and it's it's not just humanly possible. Like there's too many time zones, not everybody can sit in one meeting. So I think depending on what your what your team's makeup look like, I think you have different ways to look at it.

Being as inclusive as possible means, I think, making everything available to everyone in their own time is making sure that everybody has access to the same support, to the same tools, to the same systems, not necessarily all at the same time. Right? And so that can go through having really strong leaderships in region, really strong support systems in the region that can go through having touch points where your whole team gets together at least a couple times a year that can go through making sure that you're facilitating communication and just for people to create a bond through one on one settings through just Teams, entry teams meetings and things like that. So lots of things that we can do to just make it easier for people to connect and to feel included.

Janine Ramirez: But it's it's a hard thing to do.

Do you have like a favorite example or or initiative that you you put in place? To make sure this happens or a tool even.

Emma Auscher: I might I mean, I have one that's really fresh because I just had my team's off-site a couple weeks ago, so everybody flew out to San Francisco and we're all together for a week with a series of, like, working sessions, and brainstorming, and bonding activity, and boat rides, and dinners, and all that all that good stuff. And so I see a tangible difference after these meetings because people get to connect, to see each other in person, to have interactions that are just different that you would have through Zoom.

And after that, they feel more much more comfortable reaching out to each other or they have a common understanding of, oh, well, I'm doing this, but is this inclusive or can my friend in Korea actually access this? I'm gonna make sure that they can. So you see that there is a lot more empathy and just a lot more mindfulness around like how to include each other.

Janine Ramirez: Nice. I mean, like, for our team too, we're we're very small compared to you guys for sure. But, like, the first my first few weeks, I was able to meet the entire team and it just changed the whole, you know, work dynamic between everyone because you've met each other in person. You know, you've had these conversations and you have memories together and it just gels forms like everything, but one other thing we're going through that

Breaking Language and Culture Barriers

I wanted to ask you about is the the differences in languages.

So with communication being key in any team, and it's already complex when you're speaking the same language.

Now we have teams that are, you know, like they don't have the same native languages. So what depth do you have for managers and leaders who need to communicate with a diverse and global team?

Emma Auscher: That's an interesting one because in the case of Notion, because we're a US company -- Mhmm. -- all of our workforce speak English. So even if it's not their first language, we require a certain level of English, so we can all communicate so that makes it easier for global conversations, of course.

That being said, I've worked in places where the staff doesn't speak English, especially when I was in Asia, managing different part of Southeast Asia that didn't necessarily speak English or at a lower level of proficiency.

And in these situations, you've a different strategy. I think it's very important to have very strong leaders in your regions that do speak your language that can translate for you. And when I mean translate, I don't just mean the words, but I mean the meaning, the culture, and really adapt to the market. So you want people that can advise you on how your strategy can be applied to a certain region. So that's super important.

When your entire workforce speak English, I think you still need to have that. Even though you can communicate to everyone, you really need to have local experts to guide you and to make sure that the team felt supported based on their specific needs. Right. It's so different in different parts of the world so you need someone that knows how to, like, communicate and provide the support, right? That Absolutely. They actually feel is is appropriate.

Janine Ramirez: But with the difference in cultures and coming from different

EX: Imposter Syndrome

places and walks of life and, you know, different types of learning.

There's now this imposter syndrome that everyone is talking about and it's a common experience for a lot of people. But do you think that in your experience being from a different country or or culture makes it worse or makes you suffer from it more?

Emma Auscher: That's an interesting question because I think imposter syndrome can be triggered by pretty anything. Right? It comes from your insecurities.

Right? And so, if you're insecure about your accent or being from another country or being younger or being a woman, all of this is going to kind of play into your insecurities and show up in the workspace in the again, the work space as imposter syndrome. So, I have definitely struggled with imposter syndrome throughout my career. I think it's something that will stay with me forever in some from affection and being from a different country, sometimes has had advantages and disadvantages, I've never really felt that not being native was playing into it, I believe because -- Okay.

I think if I spend my whole day speaking a language that I had to learn, I think you can meet me halfway.

So So I won't feel I won't feel insecure about that, but I felt insecure about other facet of my personality or just who I am. And and I've had to work through that.

A lot.

Janine Ramirez: And so how have you learned to overcome that? Saying that this is something that you might, you know, have to deal with every now and then.

Emma Auscher: Yeah. I mean, I got a lot of help, Janine. I didn't do it on my own and I absolutely applaud people that do.

I have a really strong support system. I have a really supportive husband. I have friends in and outside of work that I can talk to that listen, that I can listen to, that I can learn from. I have an executive coach. I have a therapist.

I've had great leaders. I've had you know, other leaders, but like mostly I've learned from the ones that were great. And I've been able to kind of overcome things. And so there is also, I believe, a part of growing up right a few years ago when I entered my thirties. I think I started learning a lot more about myself and letting go of the things that matter. A little less.

And you're just like, you're just growing up, you're just maturing, you're just learning about the world and just absorbing so many experiences that play into how you feel about yourself and and the world around you.

So so I think there is like a little bit of everything, but if I if I have to pick a few things I would say growth, like self reflecting and just having a growth mindset always, getting help getting help and getting support, I encourage everyone always to do that.

And then, you know, just being being aware that this is going to be a constant feeling. Right? I I thought I was out of the woods and then had a baby and a whole lot of other insecurities came about. So I think it's just being aware that your entire life you're going to struggle with some feelings and some insecurities and just like having some mechanism to remind yourself what you're what you're working towards and what you're worth, really.

Imposter Syndrome from a Leader's Perspective

Janine Ramirez: I wanna ask about the motherhood a little bit later and congratulations by the way.

Emma Auscher: Thank you.

Janine Ramirez: But I just wanna, like, close off the impostor syndrome topic by saying like, you are now one of the the great leaders, like you're you're managing a team and they look up to you. And as you say support is really important.

Going through this feeling, how do you help support your your team when they're going through impostor syndrome.

Emma Auscher: Yeah.

Well I encourage everybody to get help, so the first step is to is to say it or is to really reach out and I think being vulnerable this way and being able to say, hey, I'm feeling this way, and I don't know how to overcome it. It's it's a hard thing to do.

And so fostering a culture of transparency and honesty and vulnerability is I think the first step, so that people can feel safe and comfortable actually coming forward with the way that they're feeling.

And once they do that, I think there is a few things that we can do I always try to get to the root cause of things and understand, like, how we can actually solve for it. I encourage everybody to get some help at Notion. We're very very lucky that we have such great benefits with coaching and therapy and just like help all around and peer.

Peer mentorship throughout the business. So, I encourage everybody to do that or to reach out to HR as well, who's a great resource.

And me, as a manager, what I can do, I think the most important thing I can do is give constant kind and direct feedback.

If you understand where you're excelling and where your gaps are and what to do to actually overcome them or what to work towards to develop your skills and grow, then there is a lot less in certain I think if you don't know how you're performing, if you don't know how you're doing, that's when you're like just spiraling and thinking, you don't you don't know. Is this good? Is this not good? Am I good at this? How am I perceived throughout the business? So that's when that's when a lot of insecurities are being born. And you can cut most of that, I wanna say, by just being for fun honest and direct and just giving very specific and constant feedback.

Now, it doesn't take everything away. I think in imposter syndrome is unique to each individual, and it stems from insecurities that outside of my control as a manager, which is why I really much encouraged you to do the work on your own, to reach out, to resources, outside of you and see what works for you and how you can overcome and do your part ready for for growth.

Janine Ramirez: Self awareness

Does motherhood change your work style?

is so important. Right? And I guess, like going through the motions of understanding yourself and getting overly sincere these. It's a lifelong journey we have to go through, especially as women too. So, I wanted to ask, like, how has motherhood, like, changed your your leadership style in the way that that you work? Like, what are you learning about yourself and the way you work now that you're a mom.

Emma Auscher: It's funny because I thought it would change a lot and it It hasn't really.

I'm still the same person, but now I have different priorities at home and I think you know, I have I don't wanna say I have a good work life balance. I wanna say I have a work life balance that works well for me, and it might you might look very different from someone else, but I I feel good about where where that sits.

And I think one thing that has changed mostly since I've had the kid is probably my list of priorities. And then how I react to certain things? Some things are less important, or they feel like less of you know, drama that it used to be before it's like, okay. Well, this happened.

Cool. I have to pick up my kid. I'll think about it in the car. Like, rather than I'm just gonna stay at the office, I'm gonna figure it out, I'm like, okay, well, I'm gonna compartmentalize and get back to it because no one's dying.

I mean, I'm not a doctor. I'm not saving lives. I love my job and I think the things that we're doing are are wonderful. I think a notion we do, you know, make people's life easier and we'll help them get organized.

And so I mean, I do love what we do and I I don't wanna minimize the work, but it's also like that awareness of it's okay if you wait an hour, it's okay if this is something that you look into tomorrow, just have good prioritization, and and you'll get to it when it matters. So that that's mostly what has changed in in my style and then in terms of my leadership style, hasn't changed much because I think I was very mothering before -- Mhmm. -- and really empathetic. And so those are really, like, my traits that's always something that This is always how I would have described myself growing up and also within my career.

So I think if anything, maybe a little bit more of that, but but no major changes.

Janine Ramirez: Speaking of changes, there's been a lot of change in in the world of work and the way that people work and what they demand of their leaders, and I just wanted to ask as we, like, close

Most Important Leadership Traits

our discussion, what do you like, are the most important qualities of a people leader to effectively manage teams and and improve the employee experience.

Yes. I will tell you what I look for in leaders.

I first look for people who align with the company values. And the team values. I think no one is going to be successful if we don't align on just basic foundations.

And I look for people that are empathetic.

I look for people who actively listen, who want to learn, who have a growth mindset, We're not afraid to ask questions, ask for help.

We're not afraid to take some risk and just think outside the box. Obviously, you look for different skill set based on the job description itself. But if you're going to manage people, I'm gonna place people's lives into your end, like, from, you know, nine to five every day.

I wanna make sure that you know how to listen, you know how guide them, you know, how to support.

So that's kind of like on the human side for sure. And then if you're a manager, in my team, you also know how to drive performance and how to give direct feedback to people, how to develop them how to help them achieve their goals through, you know, learning and growing within the company within their role, so that's going to be very important as well. I think the best thing you can do to be an empathetic leader and to be kind and to really help people grow is to give them the tools to develop and to be challenged and to learn every day. And so there is, like, a really nuanced balance of being kind and also driving performance.

Janine Ramirez: Thank you for that Emma. Thank you so much for your insights today. I am like learning a lot and really see parallels with what's happening with us and me too at Erudit. So, thank you for being here and it's been a pleasure learning from you and hearing from your experience and lastly, congratulations on your new baby, and we wish you the best for your future endeavors and your team. Merci beaucoup, I hope I said that right.

Emma Auscher: Merci beaucoup, thank you, Janine. It was lovely to have this conversation with you today. Thank you for reaching out. I appreciate it.

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