Awards and Events
Profile of a People Leader: Stephen Kelly
This interview took place shortly after we announced our 2020 People Leader of the Year awards. Stephen won the award as a manager of research services operations and was one of eight recipients of the award. If you’d like to read more about the awards and find the other recipients’ interviews, you can head over to this story.
We had the opportunity to get to know Stephen better and discuss his leadership philosophy, how he measures success as a leader, and get some fun insights into the things that drove him to become a leader.
Qualtrics Life (QL): Tell me a little about your career journey, how you ended up here at Qualtrics as a leader.
Stephen Kelly (SK): Before Qualtrics, I worked at Kantar. I was there for over 12 years and spent about 10 of those years as a people manager. My role was very much related to what we do in Research Services. My current manager, Joel, connected with me on LinkedIn. Once I heard the vision for Qualtrics and Joel's vision for what we are doing in Research Services I was sold. I joined the team back in 2018 and we have grown from 7 to 28!
QL: When did you know you wanted to be a people leader?
SK: When I started doing it! I was assigned to hire one direct report, so once I started interviewing lots of people from different backgrounds, started getting to know them, and then helping them after they were hired, I thought this was for me.
QL: Why did you choose Qualtrics to be part of your journey as a people leader?
SK: I think there were two things: TACOS and the growth. I love TACOS, the Qualtrics values, and they align with how I like to work and manage a team. Then I was really excited about taking on a small team and growing it. I started out with a team of 7 rockstars and now have a team of 28. It's been so much fun!
QL: What’s your personal leadership philosophy or style?
SK: It's probably a bit of a cheesy answer but I just try to be me. I try to be a good role model for my team and demonstrate what “good” looks like. We hire really smart, hard-working people so I trust them to do a good job. I like to stretch my team members as I think that is the best way to grow, but I genuinely care about them and try to lead with empathy.
QL: How do you measure your success as a leader?
SK: My main focus is on my Employee Engagement and Manager Effectiveness scores. They are my number one goal every day when I start work. I always try to improve areas I'm not strong in and maintain areas in which I’m doing well.
QL: Are there any highlights or memories from your time as a leader last year that stick out to you?
SK: This starts with a big lowlight! COVID19 and the global pandemic completely changed how we work. One day I was in the office with my team and the next I was alone in my home office! This took me completely out of my comfort zone as a manager, and I initially struggled with how to lead the team. After a while, I realised the main thing was to focus on working with people on a human level. Everyone was affected differently by the pandemic, and so rather than thinking of a one size fits all approach, I looked to see how I could help each individual where needed. The team responded well and delivered phenomenal results.
QL: What does this award mean to you?
SK: Of all the years I've worked, 2020 was the most challenging as a result of the pandemic. I always liked to be in the trenches with my team but now that was taken away, so trying to support them as best I could without really knowing if it was working, was hard. The award means that some of the things I did worked, so I'm really happy to achieve it.
QL: What would most people be surprised to learn about you?
SK: Hmmm... I guess two things in one. I run a lot and have taken up ultra-running since the beginning of the pandemic. I recently completed an 80km race and intend on going further again next year. Long runs can be a bit hard on the brain so I listen to a lot of books. I guess the other thing about me that people might not know is that I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek too and have listened to hours and hours of sci-fi books over the last 2 years!