One way of expanding your capacity to lead is learning from other leaders. It may be mentors, coaches, or others in your peer network. Today’s guest is Lauren Collander, the Owner / Interior Designer at LC Interiors. Inc Magazine ranked her company #681 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. LC Interiors is a full-service interior design company that does more than make your space look beautiful. Lauren shares the value of learning from other leaders. We look at the styles of leadership that are necessary as your company grows and moves through different cycles.
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Lauren Collander: The Transcript
About: Lauren Collander, established Lauren Collander Interiors with a global yet local flair and the belief that everyone deserves incredible design. She earned her Interior Design degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison including studies at Peking University in Beijing. Growing up she had a clear passion for the design world and still has her first design project as a 6-year-old: her childhood bedroom design. The trifold poster board presentation she created, spare carpet remnant from the basement, sesame street wallpaper, and all. Fast forward through countless years of hard work to the unbelievable opportunities designing hotels all over the world for globally renowned design firms like HBA and Looney & Associates.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Lauren Collander: [00:00:00] You’re scared to bring up this huge problem. Oh, we’re about to open this hotel and there’s no beds. It’s a big deal. So there’s a fear that I was so fearful, but I was met with kindness and patience, and understanding. Right. And same example when I was with Bill in the middle east, you know, I was put down by someone and he stood up for me and he was like, Nope, too bad. You’re doing it. Right. So I think, I think any in anybody’s life, you know, you’re a, you’re a complex being, but all of your experiences add up. Right. And I think that emotion and the ones that were. Someone was very helpful in kind and didn’t react the way that, you know, the worst-case scenario way. I think that’s what makes it the most meaningful to me.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: We all learn something from others. Sometimes we learn good things. Sometimes we learn things that we don’t want to [00:01:00] do, but we learn from others. Today we look at learning leadership from other leaders and our special guest today is the founder of LLC interior. She has Lauren Collander and she as real bad-ass we talk about what does it take to be the leader that inspires bad-ass Surrey amongst their employees, but she is a badass herself. She has really gone through a lot of different changes inside of her own career to be the leader that she has today. And we look back at some of the leaders that she learned from. And specifically, what did she learn and how did she learn those? And how do you apply it to leading today? We have a real honest conversation about these things. I think you’ll enjoy it inside today’s episode.
When you think about your own journey as a leader, my hope is that you want to be an extraordinary leader. My job is to help you lead people to that next level. Maybe you feel overwhelmed. You’re tired, your stressed, your even burned out. Well, that’s not the best place to lead from. And so I help my clients figure out exactly how they become [00:02:00] extraordinary leaders and you have to learn what drains your energy and what actually gives you energy. You have to learn how to lead people, to inspire them to a sense of ownership that could go on and on here. But the key is are you open to a conversation about what does it take for you to be an extraordinary leader for you to lead in a different level. To impact even more growth and inspire more loyalty across your company. Well, that’s my specialty. I wanna help you do that. Just go to GeneHammett.com and you can schedule a call today to really get an idea of what it takes to create this space for yourself.
Now, when you think about your own journey of leadership, hopefully, you have a clear plan. I want to help you create that plan for you. I do this not to sell you anything, but to actually build a relationship with you because they know that coaching is a very personal, intimate relationship. And you want to make sure you work with the right people. And I give this as a gift to you. And then we figure out what’s next. You don’t have to use me as your coach. You can just keep me on the sidelines for later, but I do, hopefully, you want to reach out and be an extraordinary leader. Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call today. All right. [00:03:00] Without further ado, here’s our interview with Lauren
Lauren. How are you?
Lauren Collander: I’m great. How are you today?
Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. I am excited to talk to you about leadership and get to know you get to know your company. So before we go any further, let’s talk about LLC interiors.
Lauren Collander: Yeah. Yeah. So I started LLC interiors. We are a luxury interior design firm. We started eight years ago that coincided with a first career. And it being sort of the time for me to branch out on my own and to have the freedom that I was looking for in my life. Right. So I started a residential interior design firm. We are 12 strong right now. We were just part of the Inc 5,000 and really proud of that. And yeah, I’m excited to be here and to talk to you more about how we make clients’ lives, better and leadership, and then whatever else you want to talk about.
Gene Hammett: I want to ask you something about design stuff before we dive into that leadership portion of today’s interview. When you think about designing your you’re doing mostly residential, you said. What is the things that you feel like people don’t [00:04:00] understand about design and really what you do?
Lauren Collander: Great question. Well, I think that with all of our clients were asking for trust, right? And so our most successful projects are always to do with, you know, clients who value design, who love design, who want their life to be better through their home life and sort of the feeling they have in their home. And I think probably the number one misconception is that it’s all about visual and how beautiful it spaces, right? That’s absolutely a part of it. We want a home to feel a certain way and look a certain way to make people happy. But at the end of the day, it’s really about that feeling you have when you walk in, right? When you walk in after a long day of work or, you know, arms full of groceries, that we’re trying to make your life easier. So we’re trying to find that spot for you to put things that, you know, that outlet right next to your, in your mudroom, right next to where you put your bag every day that you just plug in your computer or the feeling you walk into your great room, and it’s just sort of relief, right? Relief and, , creating a home life that is really unique for each individual, what they’re after. But most people are after relaxing. Having [00:05:00] family time. Right. So we listen really well and we translate that into design. And so it’s not just about what it looks like, but it’s also about the feeling of it.
Gene Hammett: I love that aspect and I haven’t really thought about it, but I know we gotta reach kitchen redone two years ago, and I love the feeling of it. Especially after it’s been cleaned by someone else. But I love the feeling. I love the fact that we have this like sort of gourmet kitchen. My wife just has adored it and we’ve all endured really enjoyed it as a family. So I see the importance of that. It does look good too.
So Lauren, let’s make a transition into this whole thing of leadership. And the thing that’s interesting is you talked about the feeling that you walk into a room or, or what you see and experience is an important piece of what you do as design, but the feeling that. Are able to inspire others is a part of your leadership is very important to have you seen kind of a similar thing across your growth as a leader?
Lauren Collander: Yeah, I have. Absolutely. I think that that’s a really good point. , you know, a long time ago I made a goal to be magnetic, right. And too, I suppose, being magnetic is this feeling [00:06:00] when you walk into a room and it is excitement about what you’re talking about, and it is excitement about your leadership and the ideas that you have. So, so yeah, I definitely see, a feeling that comes with. And it’s really always what I’m trying to get people to understand. It’s the feeling we want clients to experience. It’s the feeling I want different employees to feel. I want them to feel like the bad-ass as they are when they’re, you know, out giving presentations or communicating their ideas to someone. So yeah, absolutely a direct connection.
Gene Hammett: I have to ask you about this. I’ve never heard of someone had a goal to be magnetic. So where did it come from and how is it really played out on your life?
Lauren Collander: That’s a great question. , I would say it came through a lot of counseling. Right. So I think, you know, you could maybe describe being magne excuse me, being magnetic as being someone that’s exciting to be around. Right. Being someone that is a leader and that people, people appreciate and listen to. Right. But to me being magnetic, I think. It’s more of a, I just want to live my best life and have fun. And magnetized [00:07:00] literally magnetized people that are in the same boat as me that are also interested in those things. Right. So I was sitting down before we started this and I was thinking of, you know, gosh, why, why do I have this amazing team here? And why, why do I hire certain people? And, and why is it a success? And I’m thinking about, I mean, I’m really putting out there what I wanna received. Right. I’m putting out a fun community that gets to be creative, working with the right clients. And then I’m attracting people that want to work with that. The clients that want to work with that as well as the employees and the team members that want to work with that.
Gene Hammett: Funny how all of this is connected. If you had really difficult clients and I’m sure you have, cause we all had difficult clients, a bunch of difficult clients, it would be hard to maintain and track the right people because they just don’t stick around for those things. So you have to create all of it together to be able to create that space, for people to feel like the bad-ass as they are. As you said, Lauren, you had mentioned some of the other things is your, your real cues for being the leader that you are today are learning from others, learning from previous leaders, [00:08:00] bosses that you’ve had. Give us a couple of things and maybe some stories along with this about what’s, what’s really impacted your life as a leader.
Lauren Collander: Sure. So I have a handful of leaders in my life that have made enormous impacts. They’ve each taught me something different and I have studied them. I mean, I have paid attention and, and reciprocated what they’ve given me out into the world. I think the most, probably the most prevalent important one is to be fearless. Right. So I learned that from one of my bosses, name was Bill and Bill was, a leader in a large design firm that I worked at. So it’s important for me to say out loud that before I started this residential design firm, I designed hotels for ten years. Okay. So as a young woman, just out of college, you know, the world is my oyster. I was very excited to go work for a world-renowned design firm. Its name is HBA, Hirsch Bedner associates. They have come, they have designed firms all over, but you know, it’s 85 people. I was in Atlanta. And Bill was this leader for me, that he was pushing me out into the forefront as much as he [00:09:00] possibly could.
Right. I think he saw that I was capable. Okay. And then I think that he also wanted and cared about developing me as a leader. So my most, most grateful I am for him is when I was in the middle east, I was in Qatar presenting a design to four gentlemen. And as soon as we walked into the lobby, you know, we’ve traveled across the world. We have our presentation with us. Someone looked at me and said, Nope, she’s not allowed in there. She can’t talk. She’s not allowed in the presentation because I’m a woman. Right. And, and I sort of was like, oh, I didn’t expect this to happen. Right. So I was sort of stunned into silence. And Bill’s reaction was for him to say that too bad, she’s coming in and she’s doing the entire presentation. However, he didn’t tell him. Okay. So I thought, okay, I’m going to go in. I’m going to sit. I’m going to be quiet. Like I was told to. Right. And instead, when Bill walked in and said, nice to meet all of you, peers, Lauren, take it away. Lauren. And I was like, holy crap, what am I going to do here? But I did the presentation.
He did not say a word. And I’m, I am not joking you when he did not say a word, the architects that was there, who was [00:10:00] also presenting their ideas, he ended up coming in and sort of supporting me through my, through my presentation and I’d have an idea and he’d say, oh, kind of like, you know, such and such hotel in London. And the clients would nod. Right, but it was a really successful presentation. And so, I mean, that’s, to me, probably the most fearless I’ve ever been in my career standing up when I’m told I’m not allowed to giving an amazing design presentation and just being myself. Right. It was, it was really great, it was a really great gift.
Commentary: Now, Lauren just talked about being fearless. I find that being fearless is a good place to strive to, but what you really want to concentrate on first is having courage, which is. To have and feel the fear of what’s in front of you, but moving forward anyway. And if you do that consistently, you get to a place of fearlessness. Now, when I say this, this is the place to start. I worked with a lot of leaders that are avoiding difficult conversations. They’re avoiding something that takes a lot more courage. They’re afraid of something, and they’re not making decisions and not moving forward. And what I help them do is figure out. How to be courageous in the moments of those fear. And [00:11:00] eventually over time, it turns into that fearlessness that Lauren talked about. When I help leaders do this, it really does change the way they feel about themselves, the way they operate within the world, and become extraordinary leaders. When you think about all this Just keep that in mind, as you plan your steps to grow as a leader. Now, back to Lauren,
Gene Hammett: I appreciate that. And I know that it had to be difficult to be in this new country with new customs. And, and I don’t really understand it cause I’ve never been in business there, but I know that it’s just a very different feeling when they tell you, no, you are not supposed to even speak or be in the room. So that is a good example of being fearless. What else would you look back over your career and say, you know, this leader impacted me? What’d I learn from that one? Who’s going to go do another story here.
Lauren Collander: I mean, there, there are so many honestly I think that I I’ve learned life balance through one of my old bosses. Sandra, Sandra is someone that would encourage me when I would come to her with, you know, a life problem or a life event, she would encourage me to prioritize it. Right. Because I think as a, you know, a young person in the, in the career [00:12:00] world, you know, I’m, you’re just sort of, I assumed that, okay, it’s work, work, work, works the priority. And I would bring these personal items to her and she’d be like, no, go get on the plane, go do this thing, go meet your, your future husband as you have planned. Right? And so that’s obviously led to really great things, but I mean, she’s taught me to have life balance and that life is important. And. If you’re happy in your life, most likely you’re happy in your career. Right? They’re all connected. , the other really amazing lesson I’ve learned is from someone named James. James was developing a hotel in the middle of the Caribbean. He was doing this, I believe for the first time. And it was a very difficult, a very difficult project to take an uninhabited island to a 300 room resort and hotels. Okay. So I worked on that project for about five years. Of my career. It was the very first design project I had, but James was someone who had an incredible perspective on life.
So in a previous, you know, previous decades before I had met him, James had become quadriplegic. Right. And he became a quadriplegic when he was 16 and then through lots of [00:13:00] healing and lots of, you know, opportunities that his body, you know, Fully quadriplegic, even though he was for a partial amount of time, key became able to walk again. Right. He worked really hard. He was like, I’m absolutely not doing this my entire life. And so his perspective on everything was just shockingly chill. Right? He was like, nothing’s as bad as being quadriplegic. Oh, the beds are late. Not a big deal. What’s the solution. Right. And so this thing that he would always ask me, He would always say, okay, great. Here’s the problem, but what’s the solution, right? So I’ve learned to never ever bring up a problem to anyone until I have the solution. Right. And to be solution-oriented and to have this perspective that it’s really not the end of the world. Right? So let’s come up with a solution that will make everyone happy and be at the end of the day be amazing.
Commentary: Now, Lauren just mentioned that she learned from a leader that you never bring a problem without a solution. Now she learned this and I want to share with you just a little bit of a tool I used it’s called a three-three one framework. And this is really, for any time someone brings you a problem, but you want them to think about the solution before they bring you the problem. And [00:14:00] here it goes like this. The three-three one framework is really a kind of a way to remember these start with three questions. What is the real problem? What impact is the problem having across the organization and what is really causing this problem? And so when you think about those three questions, you want someone to answer them before they come to you in their head, or however, they do that process. And then they’re able to share with you it’s to make sure you’re talking about that the right problem, you understand, what’s really causing the problem and you understand what impact is having across the organization. And this could be short-term impact and long-term impact as well. Now that’s the first three. The next three is ask them to give you three options of what we should do next. What is the solution forward? What is our next move? What are the three things that we could do in this situation? And you want them to bring that to you in the conversation? And finally, the one. What do you think we should do? What’s the decision, the one decision here. Now, this gives you a really solid way to get people, to bring you not just problems, but bring you problems with [00:15:00] solutions and look at the actual options in front of them and to choose which. Now your job as a leader would be either to say, great job. I love your thinking on this. Go for it. Or you may say, you know, I like that solution, but have you thought about this or have you thought about this risk? How do you mitigate this aspect? Because if you think that they should be choosing a different option or maybe the options they chose, aren’t really fully baked. If you will, then you want to make sure that you’re still leading that person without just telling them what to do. Ask the questions, to get them to look at this differently. That is the 3, 3, 1 framework, and it will help you become a stronger leader. I feel a sense of empowerment across the organization and get them to make decisions and get them to trust themselves. So it has a lot of power if you use it well. Just think about that inside your own leadership, back to Lauren.
Gene Hammett: They’re incredible lessons that you’ve learned. I think a lot of people have the similar journeys, but they don’t pay attention the way you have. Why do you think you’ve paid attention to each of, these leaders to pull something out of it that you’ve carried forward with you as you built this successful company?
Lauren Collander: I think all of these things [00:16:00] have. Some sort of emotion in them. Right. So when I went up to, you know, my old clients, James, and said, oh, the beds are late, they’re messed up like XYZ. You know, it’s, you’re a little bit scared, right? You’re scared to bring up this huge problem. Oh, we’re about to open this hotel and there’s no beds. Right. It’s a big deal. So there’s a fear that I was so fearful, but I was met with kindness and patience and understanding, right. And the same example when I was with Bill and the. You know, I was put down by someone and he stood up for me and he was like, Nope, too bad. You’re doing it. Right. So I think, I think any in anybody’s life, you know, you’re a, you’re a complex being, but all of your experiences add up. Right. And I think that emotion and the ones where someone was very helpful and kind and didn’t react the way that, you know, the worst-case scenario way. I think that’s what makes it the most meaningful to me.
Gene Hammett: I want to take us in a little bit different direction here, Lauren, because you’ve been sharing with us, look back of what’s going on and your experience with these other bosses. I want to look at your own journey as a leadership. We all have inflection points. We [00:17:00] all have points where we now believe a new perspective. We believe something else. And maybe you can go beyond what we’ve already talked about and think about an inflection point that you faced in your own journey as a leader and said, now I believe something different. Does something come to mind about that?
Lauren Collander: Yeah. I think the mentality of needing to do everything myself because I’m the one that can do it the best. Okay. That is something that is very not true. Okay. But when I started my career, it’s the way I thought, I thought it needs to be me doing this right. And the moment that I let that down and was able to say, you know what, I need help. I need support. Right. I need to ask for help. I need to find the right people that can help grow this business with me was the moment that we took off.
Gene Hammett: I love that. I, that comes up quite a bit in my work as an executive coach, as you can imagine, especially with founders, founders that have done everything, you know, And hats and the very early stages of their business, you’ve been there. I’ve been there. , we do falsely believe that we can do it better than everyone else. And I’ve seen so many leaders that when they [00:18:00] actually do delegate something else, they’re like, oh, why didn’t I do that earlier? And I’m sure that’s the story you’re telling. Lauren, when you look at your own leadership, where do you take it next?
Lauren Collander: Great question. So I’m currently. My business is very much so a pyramid structure. Okay. I’m at the top. Everybody else is fanning off below me. I have realized that that’s not a way to grow. Okay. That’s not a way to grow. I’m going from my centralized business, where everybody comes to me with every problem to a decentralized business where I am looking within my company at the leaders. That have emerged. And I am decentralizing my business and I’m grading different departments that can help with various items and really trusting people. I mean, really trusting people and making sure that the people that I believe in that I tell them I can, I believe in them. I want them to do this position. And I’m seeing excitement from people and I’m almost like ownership. I’m seeing ownership from people that I’ve always wanted to see, but it’s just taken me a few years to realize that.
Gene Hammett: You’re probably not familiar with my work, but one of the next [00:19:00] books that’s coming out based on all these things. Is that the same idea. How do you get to feel like owners? We go back to that sense of feeling. And even if they don’t have a financial stake, because not everybody has stock options and profit sharing available to them, but how do you create such an experience that people feel like owners when you’ve started to do this within your company? And I know it’s, it’s a long process where you’re probably not there yet completely. And that’s part of the growth strategies that every company goes. , what have you noticed as an important part of how people feel like owners and how they approach their work?
Lauren Collander: Sure. So I think every job I’ve ever hired, I’ve really hired for the person, not necessarily for the job role and I’ve made adjustments along the way, based on their feedback, based on what I see. You know, making them filled with joy. But my, my goal is really to grade each job role of it’s a really, it’s an incredible customized, just like my design solutions, I suppose, as I’m saying this out loud, but this customized role that I see them taking joy from closing a deal. Right. Okay. Guess what? You’re now more sales-oriented, right. Or I see them taking joy from a creative idea, [00:20:00] being encouraged and you know, clients saying yes to it. And then they go more creative. Right. I’m really paying attention to every interaction and how they react to it in order to create a space where they feel like the bad-ass as they are, where I’m putting them in these positions that they can thrive and can be happy.
Gene Hammett: There’s that term bad-ass again. So I’ve got to bring you out here. , yeah, I love it. So don’t think I’m, I’m poking fun at you. My question is when you’re talking to someone who has the potential of being bad-ass. And, you know, what we know as leaders, one of our big jobs is to coach them up, to see it for themselves. Have you learned, or, you know, specific questions or a specific approach or tool that you use to help people see their true bad-assery?
Lauren Collander: I think the most simple tool is through goals, right? So I. I ask everyone to make their own goals, but then I make goals for them as well. And we layer them together because I see them more capable as them of what they see in themselves. Right. So my goals tend to be loftier than their own personal goals and really are encouraging them to, to [00:21:00] grow themselves in a certain. Right. And I think, I think a goal is something that’s not very, you know, sort of an exciting thing versus a, Hey, you now have a reprimand of XYZ, right? It’s, let’s make it a goal to do the other thing. That’s, it’s been successful and especially in a creative field where most. Most designers are creative, emotional beings, right? We need positivity and we need goal-oriented things versus strategic plans on, you know, improvement. That’s not going to work here.
Gene Hammett: I love this aspect. And I’ve talked about this before, when I give speeches and it really has a great way to look at the personal goals and really look at how do you really challenge people to go beyond where they are today. So I really appreciate you being here, Lauren and sharing with us, your journey of leadership and sharing your wisdom with us.
Lauren Collander: Yeah, thanks for having me appreciate it.
Gene Hammett: I want to take a moment here to reflect back on what I’m taking away from this conversation. You know, I love to talk to leaders that are as badass as themselves, and I love this concept of learning to be fearless. I don’t think it’s something that happens overnight. I think you have to grow into it. You move from a place of just doing things that occurred. [00:22:00] Doing things, even though you feel the fear, but getting to a point where you don’t feel the fear anymore. So that, that becomes the fearless part of leadership. And we talked about a lot of things about really the life balance and all of the things it takes to be a great leader. And so I really appreciate this interview in many ways.
When you think about your own journey as a leader, hopefully, you have a plan in front of you. You have, you know, a real clear goal. Maybe it’s not being magnetic. Maybe it’s something similar that really hard to quantify like a traditional goal, but something to strive for. I help my clients figure out what those things are. I help them figure out what’s missing. If you’re curious about what is missing in your own journey as a leader, and you want to be a stronger, more extraordinary leader to make sure you reach out to me, Gene Hammett at GeneHammett.com, and then schedule your call because it’ll help you get insight to what’s missing and how to move forward.
And it’s not a sales enrollment opportunity. It really is a chance for me to give and support you. If you’re listening in this deep into the podcast, I know you want more for your life. You want a life that you love. I want to help you figure it out what that is. Just going to [00:23:00] GeneHammett.com and schedule your call today.
When you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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