Career Stories

The Day I Stopped Avoiding Tough Conversations Is the Day I Became a Better Leader

a person with light-colored curly hair, wearing a blazer and smiling in front of a city skyline
Emma Yeransian, a marketing manager at Share Local Media.
| Courtesy of Emma Yeransian

Advancing in our jobs means taking on more responsibility—and often, that responsibility involves managing people. Whether you’re giving critical feedback or voicing a disagreement with a colleague, learning to have tough conversations is key to becoming a solid leader.

For Emma Yeransian, marketing manager for Share Local Media, having tough conversations with direct reports was one of the more challenging parts of stepping into a leadership role. What’s helped her is remembering that candid feedback—even when it’s not exactly glowing—helps people grow. “Something that has helped me is the realization that progress is not made with positive feedback only, and having transparent conversations is required in order for teammates to continue progressing in their roles.” 

Here, Yeransian talks about how she's developed a management style that works for her, and why it's important to step out of your comfort zone in order to advance. 

What appealed to you about working at Share Local Media?

I first heard about SLM through a recruiter and was initially a bit hesitant. In full transparency, I was skeptical and thought “hmmm, snail mail, really?” since I didn’t have any previous exposure to the direct mail landscape. What initially appealed to me the most was that it was a startup (around 10 people when I joined), and I was really impressed with the client roster, as all the clients were emerging direct-to-consumer e-commerce startups I knew well. It surprised me that these up-and-coming e-commerce businesses were using old school snail mail as a marketing tactic, and that piqued my interest even more.

Once I met the team, I knew I could really picture myself at SLM. Everyone was so humble, kind, and very intelligent. It was clear that there was a lot of respect across all employees, from entry level up through the management team, and the company really seemed to put people first. One of my favorite things is that every person I interviewed with at the company four years ago is still there, and for a startup, that speaks for itself.

Tell us about your job. What excites you most about what you do?

The most exciting part of my role is that every day is truly different. This not only keeps things interesting, but it also pushes me outside of my comfort zone. There are three main priorities that I focus on throughout the week:

  1. Client Relationships: Relationship building with clients is one of my favorite parts of the job. From educating clients on the value of direct mail, to executing campaigns for them and working through post campaign analytics, it’s gratifying to see the impact that direct mail is making on our client’s bottom line. Growing and nurturing those relationships can be challenging, but it’s always rewarding.
  2. Strategy and Data Analysis: Building out strategic plans using results and learnings from prior campaigns is another huge part of my role. I really enjoy presenting our recommendations to our clients with the data to back it up.
  3. Team Management: I’ve been extremely fortunate to lead a team of three direct reports through their own strategic management of their client rosters and seeing them grow and learn every day has been inspiring.

You’ve moved up the ranks since joining Share Local Media in 2018. What have been the keys to your success?

When joining any startup, hard work and the ability and willingness to wear different hats is important. Throughout my first six months at the company, I gained exposure across all business lines and teams by volunteering across internal projects and making myself available to help streamline processes.

By working on new opportunities, I was given insight into how the company functions, what some of the pain points were, and how we were addressing those. These experiences have played a key role in my development.

I have also pushed myself to set my own goals and to receive feedback from my manager. Having transparent goals and knowing exactly what I need to continue to work on has also been a huge factor in my success.

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of?

Starting with the client side, I have been proud of my management of large-scale clients throughout my time at SLM. Not only has the sheer number of clients that I have worked with grown tremendously, but the complexity and scale of campaigns has increased significantly throughout my time here. It has been an exciting growth period and I am proud of all of the hard work that the whole team has put in.

There has also been a lot of data work that has helped to streamline our processes and make our reporting for clients stronger. Over the past few months, I’ve helped to complete a deep dive of our data analyses and attribution logic that we have utilized to date. We are currently working to identify areas of optimization to ensure that we’re providing our partners with quicker turnaround times on analyses while maintaining accuracy.

I have also been directly involved with the employee onboarding process over the past few years, where we’ve seen exciting growth with our team doubling in size, mainly seen throughout the pandemic, which is a testament to our resilience and commitment to our clients.

Describe your leadership style. How do you manage your team while energizing and inspiring them at the same time?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a handful of great managers throughout my career and find myself emulating a lot of their behavior. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve added my own personal touch when managing my team. My leadership style is a bit more hands off, while also having clear (and high) expectations for my team. I have found this type of management style empowers my team to take full ownership over their work, allowing them to see the impact of their deliverables on our client’s business. I tend to give my team the space to put together a game plan or strategy themselves, while acting as a guide in helping them get to their own decisions. I really push my direct reports to think through a recommended solution/strategy and all outcomes, positive and negative, associated with it.

What is the hardest part about being a woman in leadership, and what has helped you succeed?

There are certainly hard aspects about being a woman in a leadership role, and I’m still navigating my own path. Personally, I find that one of the hardest parts is having “tougher” conversations and giving critical feedback to both direct reports and managers. Something that has helped me is the realization that progress is not made with positive feedback only, and having transparent conversations is required in order for teammates to continue progressing in their roles.

I have also struggled with my own confidence in leading a team. When I first started in a manager role, I found that I was second guessing some of the decisions that I easily made in my prior role. One of my biggest struggles has been learning to trust myself and make decisions without looking back. For me, this confidence and decision making ability has been found to get easier with time and experience.

What makes Share Local Media a great place for long-term growth?

No matter what your role is at the company, there are ample growth opportunities including promotions from within and clear career paths and expectations for each role. For me personally, my manager and team leaders have always been very direct on what I have to improve on to get to the next level. I started as a senior marketing associate, was promoted to assistant manager and am now a manager, with a team of three direct reports. The management exposure that I have had here this early on in my career is pretty rare.

While the growth at SLM has been substantial, we still operate as a people first company, prioritizing employee growth and development. There are opportunities to work on internal development and even across different business lines.

In terms of client work, we are expanding our client set every day, across all industries. It is exciting to work across unique value propositions with clients who have varying goals and metrics that define success in the channel. Being exposed to this has pushed my own growth forward very quickly, not only in the direct mail space but also within the larger performance marketing world.

What advice do you have for other women who are striving to achieve leadership roles?

I believe it’s important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and to discuss things with a manager or a mentor in a leadership role that might be uncomfortable. I have established relationships with my manager and others who are in leadership roles at the company, and I have open conversations about their experiences and how I can further push myself to achieve my own goals. If you have one specific manager, I also recommend asking for feedback from him or her, as this will help you narrow down what you should be working to improve.

I also set measurable goals for myself based on my manager’s feedback, and I continuously check in on those goals to see how I’m progressing. If you have a good manager or mentor in a leadership role, and you work for a company that wants you to succeed, they will help you achieve the goals that you set for yourself.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

In my first job right out of college, I was working for a small digital marketing agency, living in a new city. The office I was in only had about 10 employees and the turnover was difficult; I went through four managers in one year and I thought that was normal. Eventually, the agency made cuts to the satellite office. I was feeling discouraged, losing my first job before I hit the one year mark and I felt like I had already failed at my career before it even really got started.

After this experience, it made me rethink my priorities in what I wanted in my career. I realized that I need to find a company where I enjoy the work and see myself learning every day; where I’m part of a strong community; and where I can see the potential for long-term growth. While this difficult experience hit me at the very start of my career, it forced me to grow both personally and professionally. I began interviewing at a lot of different places and even in my unemployment, I kept my new found priorities top of mind. After about a month of interviews, I found SLM and have been there ever since! The overall learning experience was crucial at that time in my life, as it pushed me to really take a look at my strengths and weaknesses and to figure out what I wanted very early on in my career.

What’s the best career advice you ever received?

I can’t choose just one, so I have three:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.
  2. Be a sponge, especially early on in your career. Absorb everything! Always be listening and learning and using these to help further your career.
  3. Eat the frog: Do the hardest or most important task first in your day. Unless there are any big fire drills, this will set you up so that your day gets easier instead of harder.