EP: 181 Servant Leadership In The C-Suite With Carrie Hansen

Brave Women at Work | Carrie Hansen | Servant Leadership

 

When I was coming up in the ranks of corporate, I didn’t know what I was doing. I faced inordinate amounts of Imposter Syndrome and fear. I didn’t have the mental capacity to make purposeful decisions to put self-care at the forefront of my routine, to know what to say yes and no to, to have boundaries, and to determine what type of leader I would become. 

 

Well, buckle up for a beautiful master class in leadership today with my esteemed guest, Carrie Hansen. As you will hear in a minute, Carrie is the Chief Operating Officer at Assetmark and was named COO of the Year at the 2023 OnCon Icon Awards. Carrie openly and authentically shares so many leadership lessons in this show that I would encourage you to listen to this one twice. Or make sure to take notes. Or both!

 

During my conversation with Carrie, we chatted about:

  • Her rise to the C-suite at 30 years of age, and she’s been there ever since.
  • The conscious and unconventional decisions Carrie made with her spouse to support her career path.
  • The challenges she faced in different cultures as a senior leader.
  • How her history in sports helped her to have steady and unwavering confidence throughout her career. 
  • Her principles of strategic leadership.
  • Why servant leadership and making real connections with our employees and what is important to them is what it is all about.
  • And why authenticity and vulnerability are so important as a leader.

Listen to the podcast here

 

Servant Leadership In The C-Suite With Carrie Hansen

When I was coming up in the ranks of corporate, I didn’t know what I was doing quite frankly. I faced inordinate amounts of Imposter syndrome and fear. I didn’t have the mental capacity to make purposeful decisions and put self-care at the forefront of my routine. Thus, leading to my burnout story, I didn’t know what to say yes and no to, have boundaries, and determine what kind of leader I would become or even want to become.

I’m going to tell you, buckle up for some power. I’m bringing the power. Buckle up for a beautiful masterclass in leadership with my esteemed guest, Carrie Hansen. Carrie is the Chief Operating Officer at AssetMark and was named the COO of The Year at the 2023 Icon Awards. Carrie openly and authentically shares so many leadership lessons in this show that I will encourage you to read this one twice. I don’t say that very often but I’m going to say, for this one, I would read it twice if I were you or make sure to take lots of notes or both.

During my conversation with Carrie, we chatted about her rise to the C-Suite at 30 years of age and she’s been there ever since. Also, the conscious and unconventional decisions that Carrie made with her spouse to support her career path, the challenges she faced in different cultures as a senior leader, how her history in sports helped her have steady and unwavering confidence throughout her career, her principles of strategic leadership, wise servant leadership, and making true and real connections with our employees, why is that important to them, how do we go about doing it and why authenticity and vulnerability are so important as a leader in the work environment.

Here is more about Carrie. Carrie Hansen is the EVP Chief Operating Officer and President of Mutual Funds at AssetMark. Carrie is responsible for leading the firm’s service and operations functions, including advisor service, trade operations, account operations, reporting, billing, and facilities, while overseeing all custodial relationships, including AssetMark Trust Company, where she is chair of the board.

Carrie also serves as President and Chairman of the board of AssetMark’s proprietary mutual fund family, directing three fund trusts, comprising seventeen mutual funds, for which AssetMark serves as advisor. Carrie is also president of AssetMark’s proprietary broker-dealer, AssetMark Brokerage LLC. Carrie joined the firm in 2000 and has held various key roles including Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer. Before joining AssetMark, Carrie worked for Barclays Global Investors where she headed the investment operations group in the Tokyo, Japan office.

She also spent several years at Coopers & Lybrand, where she was an Audit Manager. Carrie received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and holds her Series 6 and 26 licenses. Before we get started, if you’re enjoying the show, please make sure to leave a rating and review in Apple Podcasts and/or Spotify.

If you’ve left a rating and review, I so appreciate you. As I say, week in and week out, your ratings and reviews help the show continue to gain traction and grow. I’m giving you a high five and a hug virtually out there if you’ve already done it. If you haven’t, it takes just a minute and I would so appreciate your support. Also, if the show has made an impact on you, please make sure to share it with a family member, friend, or colleague.

If you haven’t downloaded my freebies from my website, make sure to check them out at BraveWomenAtWork.com. I have created three for you. 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations, 5 Steps to Managing Imposter Syndrome, and Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want to get paid? These are workbook-style guides so I have places and spaces for you to take notes, read, and do whatever is necessary so you can complete them on your time. Let’s welcome Carrie to the show.

Brave Women at Work | Carrie Hansen | Servant Leadership

Carrie, welcome to the show. How are you?

I’m great. Thank you for having me.

Looking Back

Thank you so much for being here. I always start with this loaded question so you’re going to have to tell me where you’d like to start. I want to ask my guests this. How have you gotten to where you are? If you want to start anywhere in your history, I’m happy to hear it.

I was lucky enough to get a sports scholarship to UC Berkeley. I got into the business school at UC Berkeley. At the time, it was the number-one undergraduate business school in the country. I knew that I wanted to go into business and be in the C-Suite. I knew that early on. I started my career once I graduated from Cal at Coopers & Lybrand, a Big Six accounting firm. I went into the audit practice and did that very intentionally.

In school, accounting and finance were not my favorites. I knew that to be in the C-Suite, I needed to have that kind of experience. I went in to learn the insides of the company through their financials. I turned out to love it. All of my clients were financial services clients but I also got to experience manufacturing and nonprofits. It allowed me to hone in on what I liked and that was financial services.

Once I became manager at Coopers & Lybrand after about four years, I was hired by my biggest client at the time, which was Barclays Global Investors. Now, that’s BlackRock. I went to work for my client and that was great. About a year into that job, they asked me to go to Tokyo, Japan and run all of the operations for our Japanese subsidiary.

At 28 years old, my husband and I packed up one month after they asked me and we were living in Tokyo, Japan. It was fun. I was managing 150 people and all of the operations for our Japanese subsidiary. Most people that were working for me were men in their 40s. I was a 28-year-old woman. I stayed there for about eighteen months of learning experience.

I came back and thought, “I want to work for a smaller company where I can have a big impact.” I saw that in Japan. That was a lot smaller than at BGI in San Francisco. I liked the ability to lead and have a big impact in a smaller firm. I went looking for my next gig and found AssetMark. I interviewed with the CEO. I’d never expected to be in a job longer than five years, to be honest with you. I thought that to keep jumping, going up in comp, and responsibilities to move jobs was the way to do it but fortunately, I didn’t have to do that. At AssetMark, I’ve had a lot of different jobs and responsibilities. I’ve never had two days that were the same at AssetMark.

Career Lessons

What an awesome story. Thank you so much for sharing that. I can tell you, I have a lot to learn. Hopefully, we can keep in touch afterward as your schedule allows. I don’t even know where to go but I do want to ask you a little bit of a sidebar. I have been told many times in my career that I am not a math person or an accounting person by trade. A lot of women, including me, have always been understanding the company’s financials or accounting. I agree with you. To get to that C-Suite and top leadership level, you have to understand the financials. For any women who are reading, do you have any wisdom on how they can learn that stuff? I’m calling it stuff. Is there anything that you would say, “I wish I would have,” or this is where I would start if you’re looking to learn more about that?

I was in business school and was a Marketing Organizational Behavior major. It was because I did not like the accounting classes. The classes versus the practicality of it are two different things. When I decided I needed to go do that, I spent a lot of time reading books and learning on my own. Now, you can learn things on YouTube and TikTok. The resources are so much broader than they were when I was coming up.

I took it upon myself. There was no one even online at that time. We were buying books. I went to Barnes & Noble and bought a bunch of accounting and finance books, and then I read. I got to practice at Coopers & Lybrand but with the depth of your knowledge, you don’t have to go deep to understand high-level financials. You don’t need to know all the debits, credits, and journal entries. You need to know what’s a balance sheet, an income statement, and a cashflow statement. Those are the three basic things and they’re not that hard to learn on your own.

Go to a community college class, take an entry accounting one-on-one class, and then buy QuickBooks. Use it for your company, small business, or whatever you have. It’ll bring it to life. It’s interesting because my daughter is an accounting major. She goes to the University of Alabama. I can see it through her and the experience that I had. It’s such a great career for women and the reason is we like to see things balance. “I do this,” that equals and balances. It makes a lot of sense how every entry has to balance. If you get somebody who teaches you the practical side of accounting, it will help.

Before my daughter even started accounting, I showed her our family balance sheet and our budget. I said, “This is our net worth.” Our budget is like an income statement. I made it specific for her. It’s not hard. People tend to get overwhelmed with how vast it is to know accounting but the basics of what you need to know to run a company are not that. On the job, learning happens as well.

A Woman In C-Suite

It is doable. You can find the resources that don’t shy away from it, especially if you’re looking to get into higher levels of leadership. You will be called to understand your financials. That’s why I wanted to start there. I also wanted to ask you. You were 28 in Tokyo. You have over 100 people to manage, mostly men. I’ve asked you before but what was that experience like to be in the C-Suite at that age? I’ve had situations like that where Imposter syndrome was eating me alive because I was in that situation. What was that situation like for you?

It was interesting, to say the least. In Japan, culturally, it’s very different as well. 1) It’s a male-led society. 2) There’s deferential treatment towards people who are the boss. It was called hum bucho there. It’s like the top boss. Anybody in the C-Suite was a hum bucho. What was difficult about it was if we had a business problem, for example, and I would say to my team, “Here’s the business problem.” I would like to brainstorm with the team about how we can solve it. I’d say, “Here’s an idea that I have.” I’m doing that with a translator.

There are some English but some Japanese-only translators helping. There would be a lot of speaking going on in Japanese for about twenty minutes and then they would come back and say, “When does this start?” What I learned quickly is because of that deference, you can’t put your ideas out there first because that becomes the idea. What you have to do is say, “Here’s a business problem I’d love for you to brainstorm.” I also learned to get that business problem out to my team before the meeting so that they came up with ideas and then I could build on their ideas. Otherwise, your idea becomes the idea.

The second thing I would say is honestly, culturally-wise, I was helped by the fact that I was a foreign woman. It would have been a lot harder if I were a Japanese woman because of how things work in Japan. I took it upon myself to be part of the team, shoulder to shoulder, learning what they do, understanding what they do, and absorbing the culture. Japan is a very social country, especially in Tokyo. The people that you work with like to go out together, have drinks, and all of that. I did a lot of going out, having meals, and drinking with my team.

Here’s a funny story. One of the first nights that I took the leaders of my team out, we were all having beers and I said, “Do you guys want to do a sake bomb?” They said, “What’s a sake bomb?” The sake bomb that you think comes from Japan came from us. I ended up teaching them how to do sake bombs, dropping the sake in the beer and drinking it. They all thought that that was hilarious. I used my relationship-building to earn the trust of my team and then asked a lot of questions. I did a lot of shadowing and made myself very approachable.

Navigating Resistance

I’ve learned a lot from this episode already. I did not know that they did not know what a sake bomb was. I thought that came from them. It’s a US thing. In that situation, did you ever face any real resistance? It sounded like you made relationships and that one of your superpowers is you’re a connector. You’ve mentioned that to me a couple of times but did you face any true resistance that you had to navigate?

I had a couple of direct reports that would be like, “I don’t think that you can do this job. You don’t speak the language of our clients. With this kind of client, I don’t think you’ll be able to connect with them.” My approach always to that has been to say, “I appreciate that feedback. 1) Will you help me? 2) Will you give me a chance?” I found that when you ask people for help and then ask for them to be open to giving you a chance to be successful, it makes people think differently than you’re coming in like a bull in a China shop thinking you have all the answers.

I was clear I didn’t have all the answers. I’d love for them to help me and give me a chance. That opened the door to relationship building. I asked a lot of questions versus having a lot of opinions about how things were done. For example, “Can you show me what we do here? Why do we do that?” Instead of making judgments about the things that we were doing, I asked a lot of questions. That also helps because people feel like, “She’s genuinely interested in what I’m doing. It’s not just coming in to tell me a different way to do things.”

Instead of making judgments about the things you are doing at work, just ask a lot of questions. This will make you seem genuinely interested. Share on X

I also think that is an amazing and beautiful approach because it takes people’s guard down. I’ve used that same thing, not exactly but I’ll say, “On the same side of the table, let’s work on this together.” It doesn’t feel like I’m in the power position and they’re in a subservient position. We’re all on the same team. You and I have talked about that sports piece and how sports psychology comes into play in that type of leadership.

Growing up, I played every sport and I loved that. I’m an extremely competitive person. I loved to compete and be a part of a winning team. My mindset has always been, “Let’s create a winning team.” You do that by coming in and being a part of the team, not coming in and directing the team. I would spend a lot of time thinking about how to build our team, bringing people in, and building relationships with them.

What you do is create connections with people who then go and tell other people, “She’s a lot different than I thought she would be. She wants our help.” You create these advocates throughout the organization that help the team be successful. It’s more about the team than it is ever about me or the leader. It’s inspiring the team to be great and want to win together.

SDervant Leadership

What you talked about is that whole idea of servant leadership and that sounds like it’s coming through. I’ve not talked about this. It’s interesting. We’ve not talked about servant leadership and that concept before on the show. What does that mean to you? I was wondering what your definition would be.

I think of it broadly like this. There’s no job that’s beneath me that I’m not going to ask anybody on my team to do anything I’m not willing to do. Examples of that are there are always things in leaders’ day-to-day job descriptions that they don’t like, getting their budgets done or doing their reviews. I’m the first one on my team to do it. I’m never going to ask anybody to do anything that I’m not willing to do for myself.

Brave Women at Work | Carrie Hansen | Servant Leadership
Servant Leadership: A good leader must never ask any member of their team to do anything they are not willing to do for themselves.

I think of it as showing up for the team. If we have a problem, I’m in it right there with them. I’m not sitting there saying, “You guys solve it and then come tell me. I’ll be the one to share it with the executive team.” We’re in it shoulder to shoulder and working as a team. Very simply, when someone says, “I work for Carrie,” I say, “No, I work for you.” Having that feeling and showing it in the actions that I do work for you.

To me, it’s simple things. I walk around the floor a lot. We have a lot of offices. I’m in the Bay Area but I have 200-something people in Phoenix. When I go there, I mark out my calendar and spend time walking the floor. People give me ideas and suggestions and I do something about it. I get back to them about it. The whole idea is that you’re not higher than anybody else. You’re a member of the team. You have to be careful because there’s power in your words.

I learned early on when I would ask somebody, “Why don’t we do it that way,” they would be thinking I’m asking them to change something when I’m just curious about it. I did learn to say, “I don’t want you to change anything. I’m just asking a question about it.” You do have to be careful. The title that you have does have people operate differently but as long as you create those caveats, if you are relatable and you show that you care about people, and you’re walking around getting to know people, that servant leadership shines through.

You taught me something again there. One thing that I struggle with is talking about my corporate work, not my coaching work and the podcasting work. My title is Senior Vice President of Business Development. I don’t like when people will change how they treat me because of the title but you’re saying, “It’s a reality.” People are going to be more deference or in your Tokyo days, they may say, “Your idea is the right idea.” I always strive not to do that. You’ve taught me something in there that I may have to be a little bit more careful, maybe ask more questions, or preempt what I’m asking or my opinion so that they don’t change their entire stance to suit me just because of where I am in the hierarchy.

I don’t want any yes people working for me. I’ll tell you another thing. My pet peeve is if somebody that is on my team is sending an email to ask somebody to do something or have you met this deadline, and if they have to copy me on it to get action on it, that’s the most disrespectful thing somebody could do to another person. I always shut that down.

Nobody should ever have to copy me on an email. Have basic respect for somebody to follow up on something that is due to somebody. I always make that clear and I do it nicely but I’ll go to that person and say, “Please respond to them directly and timely and not make them have to copy me to do it because it’s very disrespectful.”

I love your MO and thought process on that. When you’re in that situation, it is tactical but very valuable. This is a reality. I’ve had that situation where I’ve had a colleague copied on an email or my boss copied. It is frustrating. It’s like, “Why? You don’t think that I’m going to do it? What’s the whole thing here?” It’s almost like a power play. If you have a situation where let’s say you weren’t copied and that person didn’t do it, would you say that person would come to you and then you would address it one-on-one in a more respectful way with that person so that they do it? How would you handle that situation if they don’t pull through?

I call the person directly. I’m a very nice person but I’m also very direct. I’m not afraid of conflict and I don’t like hanging chads out there. I would call the person and say, “I want to have a conversation with you about this email exchange. I care a lot about people. It’s disempowering to people when they have to copy me on something to get action on other teams. We’re all one big team. Let’s not make them do that in the future.”

Let them talk. If that person doesn’t do it, then you have a separate conversation with that particular person. Address and say, “What’s up? What’s stopping you from getting something done?”

I’d always encourage my team members to call them directly and say, “What’s going on? Do we need to move this deadline?” It’s always best to be direct. When somebody tries to escalate something to me, my first question always is, “Did you address it with that person first?” Why escalate it if you haven’t had the courage to go directly to the person?

I also believe that most people have good intentions. People aren’t out trying to sabotage other people, hold them back from meeting their goals, or any of that. We’ve got to engage with each other like people have good intentions unless they prove you wrong. You always need to go directly to the person. I also think people rely too much on email. Sometimes a three-minute phone call that says, “Can I get you? “Let me ask you this.” It helps with the relationship building. Don’t rely on email to communicate nuanced things.

Most people have good intentions. They are not out trying to sabotage others or holding them back from meeting their goals. Share on X

I also think to close that loop there. Anytime I’ve had a situation where my colleague or someone else is copying my boss, it automatically puts me in a place of defense or a lack of psychological safety, which I’ve talked about on the show before. All of a sudden, that relationship is a little splintered or fractured because I’m like, “Why couldn’t you give me the respect to come to me and address that with me directly?” That comes to either a lack of directness or they’re afraid of confrontation but the damage is pervasive.

It’s a very passive-aggressive behavior. That part of servant leadership is not letting that passive-aggressive behavior happen because it disempowers your team. When you show that you’re behind them like, “You can go directly, I’ve got your back,” it allows people to know that you’re there to help make them successful. It’s not about your success.

Husband

I’m going to turn away from that for a minute. I love that you were gracious enough to share a little bit about your situation but you were an original. I want you to share this story but a long time before it was in Vogue, your husband wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. That was not the thing back when you guys were having this conversation. You were pioneers on that. Tell us a little bit about that story and how it came to be.

It’s a whole lot of luck, that’s for sure. We talked about how I always wanted a big career. It’s in my DNA. We talked about sports and leadership. I was captain of my teams and president of my class in high school every year and all of that. When I went to college on a sports scholarship, we were lucky enough at Cal Berkeley that all of the athletes try to take care of you and make sure that you do well in school.

It’s a challenging school. Not all athletes are focused on academics the way that I was in high school and all of that. Fortunately, my husband got recruited to Cal for soccer and decided to walk on the baseball team. He made it and then earned a scholarship. He was extremely athletic and spent his whole life around sports. We met and became friends. We’ve been friends for a long time, a year and a half before we started dating. We decided to start dating when we were nineteen.

Through our friendship, I learned from him that he had always wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. I was like, “I have to lock that down.” I knew I wanted kids and he wanted kids but I wanted a big career. That’s what had always driven me. When we started dating, he said, “I want to be a stay-at-home dad.” We decided to get married. He asked me to marry him when we were still in college. We went four and a half years because of our sports so the summer before our last half semester, he asked me to marry him. It was the easiest yes ever.

Imagine, you’re 21 years old and getting married. Our parents are equally as happy. You knew that there was the right connection there. It made it straightforward for us to make every decision about where we live and where we’re going. We got out of college. He had a job. I had a job. He worked for 5 years and I worked for 5 years. They asked me to go to Japan.

It was great to have that clarity because I was able to come home and say, “I have this huge opportunity for my career. It’s in Japan. Would you like to move there?” He said, “Let’s do it.” Within one month, we rented our house, sold our cars, moved stuff into storage and were living in Japan together. It created clarity in our relationship that allowed us to avoid a lot of conflict. We were married for eight years before we had kids.

I have to ask you that question. I was married for seven years right behind you. My in-laws were begging us to have children. You were younger. I got married a little bit older. I was 27 but almost similar timing. Did you have family members asking when are you guys having kids or they were like, “No, we know that Carrie and her husband are building something before that?”

I don’t even remember if they did or not but those things do not affect me because Matt and I have always been so connected and close that it was always our agenda that we wanted to build together. I will tell you, it’s gotten us through a lot in our whole marriage. My career has been very demanding. Even in Japan, I was working seventeen hours a day.

It’s the idea that he never called me and said, “When are you coming home?” He never harassed me about the number of hours I was working. He was exactly the opposite that he would say, “Thank you so much for working so hard for us.” We knew what our goal was and we were both working as a team to achieve it, doing very different things. I can honestly say in my 30-year career, never once have I been given any flak by Matt for the hours I work, the amount that I travel, the stress that I’m under, and the pressure.

It’s been the opposite where I thank him and appreciate him for taking care of our kids and making a great routine for them where they feel comfortable. They were clean, everywhere on time, happy, well-fed, and everything. He tried to minimize the stress on me as much as possible to allow me to do what I needed to do to have a successful career. I’m so thankful for it because I’m telling you, I know with 100% certainty that I could not have the family and career that I have without him as the quarterback.

I’m giving credit to both of you but I’m giving him a lot because it takes a strong man. Even in that time when that decision was made, I can guarantee you that not a lot of men in his circles were probably making similar decisions. It does show that you were on your agenda and playing your game, and it’s worked for you.

He’s been a stay-at-home dad for many years. Back in 2001, I was getting close to having a baby. We’re two weeks away. My doctor says, “Carrie, I think you should stop working now.” I said, “I’m not stopping until the day that I deliver the baby. I get so bored so easily.” Matt said, “I’ll stop.” He started doing all the nesting two weeks before. It was great. I agree with you so much that you have to have a confident man because not only was he open about the fact that he was a stay-at-home dad. He was so proud of it. I think about our kid’s preschools. He was the only dad picking up the kids every day.

I remember my son getting picked up by our oldest one day and he said to Matt, “Dad, what’s the opposite day?” Matt said, “What do you mean?” He responded, “My friends say that every day is the opposite day for me because you pick me up and take care of me and mom works.” That’s what it was like. There were no other stay-at-home dads and he was so proud of it and confident. I had to be confident too. He was around women all day long. I had to trust in the strength of our marriage, which we both did.

Mom Guilt

What a real blessing for you and an anchor, a real guidepost for your career. I have to ask because I’ve struggled with this, having a bigger career, and having a business that I’m growing here about mom guilt. It doesn’t sound like you had some but did you have mom guilt? He’s in the carpool lane and kids are saying it’s the opposite day because you guys had your agenda. You were following a different plan. Did you struggle with mom guilt at times throughout your career?

I did but I’ll tell you, I got over it quickly. I’ll have to send a lot of that back to Matt, too. I remember back when I had Owen, we had six weeks of maternity leave. I stayed home for six weeks but I was doing work during that time. I would come in and run board meetings and all of that. I had stuff only I knew how to do. I was doing that in the background and delivering it.

The first day that I went back to work, full-time after six weeks when Owen was six weeks old, I cried the whole way home. I got home and Matt said, “What’s going on?” I said, “I feel like from now on, I’m never going to be as good of a mom as I could be and be as good at work as I could be if I didn’t have one or the other.” Matt said, “You’re crazy.”

I asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “You never wanted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom. You would go crazy if you were doing that. You don’t like routine. You need a challenge. You can’t be around little kids all day long.” I was like, “You’re so right.” I snapped out of it right then. Over the years, I’ve realized exactly the opposite. I know for a fact that if I had to be a stay-at-home mom, I wouldn’t be as good as Matt is at it and I wouldn’t be happy so I wouldn’t be great at it.

As it relates to work, I know that I am better as a COO in any job that I’ve had because I have kids. I understand what kind of balance people need. I have empathy for that. I’m approachable as it relates to people needing to balance their lives. I know that I’m a better leader because I have kids and I am a mom than I would have been if I didn’t. Do you know what I would have been? I would have been a grinder. I would have grind myself and people thinking that they should work as much as me. I never did that because I understood what kind of balance people needed.

Thank you to Matt for talking me out of it right away. I learned over the years that it’s simply not true. The idea that we can give our kids, a stay-at-home parent, shouldn’t matter which one it is. If the two parents work, you’re still doing the best that you can for your kids, trying to create the future. I would shout from the mountaintops for moms and dads to let that go because the reality is the kids are seeing what you’re doing to create their lives.

My kids got the best of both worlds. They got to be closer to their dad than most kids are. It didn’t eliminate or reduce any kind of emotional connection that I had with them. By the way, I did use my work schedule and board meetings to get out of going to the kid things that I didn’t want to go to like their musical performances and end-of-the-year school plays.

I love your honesty because how many times have I sat in that year-end spring concert and you’re watching all the kids and you’re like, “This is like watching paint dry.”

I would always say to the kids, “Dad’s going to tape it and I’ll watch it.” Matt would come home and he’d show me five minutes of it and I’d say, “That was amazing.” I got to win in that situation.

You’re connected to the kids but don’t have to physically be there. You don’t feel guilty, which is an amazing place to be.

My kids call Matt for all of like, “How do I cook this,” day-to-day stuff like the car, or they have a problem with tactical stuff. They still call me for all of the hard emotional stuff. I’m the person for school or hard papers for applying for jobs, doing interviews, starting clubs, friendships, relationships, and those difficult scenarios. I’m their go-to for that. We have a good balance. We get to share the overhead view of having kids and meeting their needs.

The other thing I want to highlight that you said is that I wanted to make sure that people might assume that because you have had a big career that you are a grinder but no. It comes through in our conversation that you are empathetic, authentic, and vulnerable with people because you know what it’s like. Even though you had a big career, you didn’t forget what it was like to be a parent and juggle multiple things. I’ll come clean on this.

Before I had kids, I was a grinder. I almost prided myself on being a grinder or why people weren’t working as long as I was. As soon as I had kids, it was like out the window. I was like, “Now I understand.” I appreciate you sharing that you understood that balance and give your people that grace of raising kids or have maybe someone they’re taking care of in there like an elderly person in their family or a parent.

I never missed one thing that was important to the kids and important to me. You have to make that a priority for you. I remember my oldest said, “Mom, some of the moms come one day a month to serve lunch. I want you to do that.” I was looking at the middle of the day like, “How am I going to get there and do it once a month? I’m going to make it work.” I showed up and served lunch for him. It was his favorite day when I got to be there serving lunch and then go sit with him.

Work is important but when it’s important to your kids, it’s important to you. I’ve never missed an important game or a parent’s weekend. Now that my kids are in college, I make it work. I move stuff around and I leave early from business trips if I need to, to be there because it’s important for them and it’s important for me. I don’t want to miss these times in their life. They’re their core memories and I’m not going to miss them either.

Critical Skills

I’m stereotyping here but not everybody at your level is as authentic as you are. You’re direct in your real world. How does that play forward in what you believe are critical skills for a leader? I’m highlighting here again with authenticity, vulnerability, and being a straight shooter.

Being relatable is a huge thing in terms of leadership. I have three key principles in terms of being an inspirational leader. I learned as much from leaders that I respected as much as from the ones that you go I don’t want to be that way at all. Of my three principles, number one is relationships. I do not want to have surface relationships with people. I want to know people beyond the work that they do for the company. I believe when you do that, they do so much more for the company than they otherwise would.

Relationships are important to me. I still have the same best friends that I’ve had since sixth grade. I have my same best friends from college and for my first jobs, they’re all my good friends still. I am a relationship person to my core. It’s one of the key reasons that I’ve worked at AssetMark for so long because I genuinely love the people that I work with. We go on vacations together. I’m going to Talladega with a group from here. Relationships, and knowing people beyond the work that they do for the company that you work for are important.

To have those deep relationships, you have to be vulnerable and share things that matter to you. That’s the only way people are going to share back. I work hard to remember people’s names and something common about them. If they tell me something, they like to do something. I know somebody else. I try to connect people. I care a lot about relationships.

I genuinely like people. That’s helped me a lot. I do that within my team, across teams, and with our clients. Some of my clients are my favorite people in the world. Relationships matter a lot to me. I think about it as inspiring others to action. How can you not be a manager but be a leader? You’re not going to do that when you don’t have good relationships with people and you don’t have passion for what you’re doing.

If you come into a meeting and you’re saying, “The company’s telling us we have to do this and I need you to do these things,” nobody wants to work for somebody like that. I like to get fired up. I care a lot about what we’re doing. When I’m sharing something about what the company’s doing, I’m excited about it. “We have this new initiative here. I’m so excited about it. It’s going to drive the growth. I need your help. Who’s in with me?”

These are the kinds of things that we need to figure out and get people pumped up to be in it to win it with you. It’s that team feeling and setting a guiding light for people to get excited about. It’s not a job but a career. We’re all in it together, inspiring others to action. The third for me is connecting people to the client. It is hard to think of it like a job or an item on your checklist when you’re connected to the client because when you’re connected to the client, you take it personally.

“I want to help this client. Here’s what we’re doing that’s not enabling them. I want to be in a spot where I can turn that around for them.” The more you connect everybody in your organization to the client, the more it drives passion in people, it drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. As a leader, management is important.

You’ve got to manage your key performance indicators and all of that but you only get 50% of the way there if you’re a manager and you’re managing your metrics, grinding, and all of that. The other 50% is about inspirational leadership. It’s about inspiring people to act because they’re connected to the client and they’re connected to you through the relationship that you have. That Trifecta is what makes people stay a long time, love what they do, and feel engaged in their job.

That is so good. That’s a masterclass in leadership right there. One of the things that I bring forward to my team, and I tell them all the time, and it’s sincere, is I have good people. “I appreciate you all.” I’m always telling them, “There’s no way that we could not do this without one another.” It’s not even about me. I do think we have some things in common there but it’s always making them feel special.

At the end of the day, I agree with you wholeheartedly, the work’s going to get done. If you’ve hired the right people and you have a good relationship and there’s trust there, the work output will get done. That’s why with my team, I don’t feel like I need to micromanage, task manage, or do all of that. It is a different relationship where they show up because we have that type of relationship with one another.

I always say to my team, “A players hire A players and B players hire C players.” When you’re an A player and you’re confident in yourself, you’re going to hire people that are better than you at certain things. That’s going to be what makes the team great. I think about my team and we are great compliments to each other. We all have different skillsets but we’re aligned, unfocused on the client in that culture of customer obsession that we want. The way that we bring that to work in our skills is different, which is great.

If you don’t have confidence in yourself and you’re a B player, you’re going to hire somebody who’s even less than you so that you can easily manage them so that they’re not challenging you. That’s not at all where I want to be. I couldn’t agree with you more that when you have those relationships with your team, I find myself not having to push them but I have to do the opposite, where they’re saying, “I don’t want to let you down. I wanted to get this done.” I’m like, “No. Let’s go through what your list is. I’m not having you miss a weekend with your family because you’re trying to make sure you don’t let me down. Let’s look at your priority list and figure out what needs to be done and what doesn’t.”

I’m always trying to walk them back to make sure that they’re not going to burn out in this desire to not let me down or not let our clients down. We’re not going to let them down. Let’s figure out what our priorities are. That’s the kind of management that you have to do with your team when you have a fully engaged and aligned team.

I call it, like I’m on PTO, a paid time off or vacation watch. If I see my people not taking it, I will be like, “When was the last time you took a day off? Why aren’t you taking more time off? This is important for your mental health.” They’re there all the time and I’m like, “I love the dedication but you also need to take care of yourself.”

2020 COO Of tHe Year

Some people are put off by like, “What is she trying to get rid of me?” I’m like, “No, I care for you and your well-being.” I appreciate all of that great insight. I wanted to switch again and congratulate you. A little birdie at AssetMark told me that you were named COO of The Year in 2023. It’s called the ICON Awards. Congratulations. That sounds like a big deal. How did that come to be?

In financial services, which is where AssetMark is, there’s a low bar in service. What I mean by that is most companies think of service and operations as a cost center. We think of it as a revenue center. We have turned operations and service into a competitive advantage for the firm and we invest in it. As such, we get new clients and retain clients because of that. That’s different in this marketplace.

We don’t look at the competition in terms of how we want to think about operations and service at AssetMark. We don’t look at the competition and say that we want to be like them. We look at what people want their experience and their regular life to be. In your regular life, you’re either dealing with the cable company, which is terrible. You never want that or you’re in an endless phone tree that you can’t get out of or you’re dealing with companies like Amazon or Nordstrom where they’re very transparent. You get what you need quickly. They’re very client-focused.

We want to be the Amazon of financial services and never going to get caught in a phone tree. Our call time is ten seconds or less. Somebody live person is answering the phone and they’re well-trained. They’re capable and engaging. They’re going to work to make an emotional connection with you. They’re also going to get you the answer you need and they’re going to own whatever situation you have. That’s the kind of culture that we try to bring in.

It has to start from the top. It has to be walking the walk every single day. I’ll take calls from clients. I’m going to get them exactly what they need and that kind of ownership and accountability. To me, it was very much a team-based award because of the culture that we created about how we want to be different and be there for our advisors when they need us all the time, get a live person, and get an answer that you need. The team-based approach that’s resonating in the industry is what got me recognized.

I love that you brought it right back to the team. Either way, I congratulate you and your team because it’s a big achievement so congratulations.

Thank you.

Braver Women At Work

I ask all my guests this and would love your wisdom on this. What do you believe are 1 to 2 ways that women can be braver at work?

The number one thing, and I see it all the time, is what women don’t do versus men is ask for what you want. I have been promoted many times over my career. I’ve had a lot of different jobs even at AssetMark. I’ve gotten a lot of raises in every single one I’ve asked for. I’ve asked for the promotion and raise. Being in my seat for as long as I’ve been, 10 to 1 men come and ask me for promotions and raises more than women. I try to coach my women leaders on asking for what they want.

As much as a good leader can care about your career and help you, nobody should care about your career more than you. Even if you don’t get it that first time, at least in your leader’s head, they’re like, “I’ve got to help them get there because they’re going to be dissatisfied and they’re asking for this.” Ask for what you want. That’s number one. Number two, I’ve always looked at my job broadly and not narrowly. Forget the job description. You have to do everything that’s on the job description but figure out how to do that as fast, efficiently, and accurately as possible so that you can raise your hand and do more things.

I think about my career at AssetMark. I started as the Director of Operations. I was the 30th employee. We were a very small company. I figured out how to do that well and I started looking around to see risks. I went to the CEO and said, “Somebody could rob us blind the way the financials are working. You should make me the CFO and I’ll get it in line.” He said, “Okay.” I asked for everything that I wanted.

I want this to be my title but the only way that I had the bandwidth to ask for other things is to not look at my job narrowly and make the job that they hired for as efficient as possible. If you’re always wearing the company hat, not your functional hat, and then you’re asking for what you want, you’ll get promoted faster than the average person.

If you are always wearing the company hat instead of your functional hat, all while asking for what you want, you will get promoted faster than the average person. Share on X

Advocating For Yourself

One other thing I want you to comment on your good points here is I’ll have some of my clients, women will say, “How come they didn’t give me the raise?” They’re not asking. They didn’t get the raise. I would like your opinion on this. I always say, “That’s not the company’s responsibility.” You had already commented on that. The company’s responsibility is they believe they’re making you a good offer and if you don’t speak up for yourself or you don’t advocate for yourself, they’re not going to come. They’re like, “Are you sure you like that amount of raise? How about if we give you a little bit more?” It’s your job to advocate for yourself.

Why wouldn’t they come and negotiate against themselves?

Exactly, because that’s not their role. Their role is to pay you what they feel that you’re worth. If you don’t feel like that is the right amount or you feel you want more, you need to step into that vocal or advocating position to stand up for yourself. It’s been interesting and it’s a hurdle for many women that they keep their head down, work hard, and don’t speak up, which is an error but it’s something that you can overcome.

Let your voice be heard. The truth is that most organizations want to hear what you have to say. Not saying it is only in your head. You hire people to hear their opinions on things. If you’re afraid to say something, it’s only in your head. People want to hear what you have to say. On the comp thing, most companies do salary surveys. They say, “We’re going to target the 50th percentile.” That’s what the range is.

It’s your job to go and say, “I appreciate what you posted it for but here’s the experience that I have. Here’s my proven track record. Here’s what I was making at my last company. Here’s what I feel I deserve.” That’s your job. The worst thing that they could say is, “No.” You compromise somewhere likely higher than what you were offered in the first place. I don’t know why people are nervous to push it. The worst you can hear is no. It’s not like they’re going to fire you over that. In their mind, they know what you want.

Closing Words

They know that you want more, which sets you up in a better position regardless if it’s a no because they know eventually you want more or a bigger title. Thank you for the feedback on that. I’ve faced that personally and my clients have faced that as well. I could talk to you all day but I know you’ve got other stuff you’ve got to run to. How can women connect with you online?

I’m on LinkedIn. That’s an easy way to find me.

Connect with Carrie right online. Carrie, it was such a joy to talk with you and learn from you. I appreciate you sharing some time with me. Thank you so much.

I enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me, Jen.

That’s a wrap-up of my discussion with Carrie. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on any other podcast platform you enjoy. Until next time. Show up, forge your leadership path, and be brave.

 

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About Carrie Hansen

Brave Women at Work | Carrie Hansen | Servant LeadershipCarrie E. Hansen is the EVP, Chief Operating Officer, President Mutual Funds, at Assetmark.

Carrie is responsible for leading the firm’s service and operations functions, including advisor service, trade operations, account operations, reporting, billing, and facilities, while also overseeing all custodial relationships, including AssetMark Trust Company where she is Chair of the Board. Carrie also serves as President and Chairman of the Board of AssetMark’s proprietary mutual fund family, directing three fund trusts, comprising 17 mutual funds, for which AssetMark serves as adviser. Carrie is also President of AssetMark’s proprietary broker-dealer, AssetMark Brokerage, LLC.

Carrie joined the firm in 2000 and has held various key roles including Chief Financial Officer and Chief Compliance Officer. Prior to joining AssetMark, Carrie worked for Barclays Global Investors where she headed the Investment Operations Group in the Tokyo, Japan office. She also spent several years at Coopers and Lybrand where she was an Audit Manager.

Carrie received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and holds her series 6 and 26 licenses.

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