FIP 63: Human Capital Series 3/3 – Creating Company Culture and the Role of Self-Confidence with Ayla Schlosser

Today we hear from Ayla Schlosser, co-founder of Resonate, whose mission is to unlock the leadership potential of women and girls in East Africa. Through storytelling, confidence-building workshops and leadership training, Resonate is aiming to close the confidence gap that impedes opportunity and potential in women. Resonate takes this missed opportunity and turns it into action. As of February 2018, Resonate has worked with over 3000 participants across East Africa and partnered with forty different organizations, including a few big names like Kate Spade, Imbuto Foundation (the flagship organization of Rwanda’s first lady Jeannette Kagame), and the Segal Family Foundation

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Ayla came to create Resonate. Ayla found that there was a huge emphasis on building skills and education for women, but the internal transformation needed to build confidence and put these skills to use was often overlooked.
  • Ayla was the problem that she was trying to solve. A big part of her growth came from understanding the difference between standing up for an idea vs. yourself.
  • What about men? Ayla confirms that women struggle disproportionately. This is due to societal roles, history, and a number of institutionalized and systematic inequalities in other spaces.
  • Ayla tells us stories about women VPs and Founders that she has met at conferences who have struggled with confidence and the feeling “not enough-ness.”
  • Too much cake? Ayla and her team celebrate their achievements and successes a lot. They have a slack channel dedicated to acknowledging the good work of their team!
  • Resonate worked backwards into their culture and have been very careful with every hire. A couple years in, they realized that they had a strong culture, but had never codified it. They found times when they felt most proud and uncovered their core values.
  • Ayla and her team acknowledge that there will be times in the future where they may need to call out times where they didn’t embody their desired culture.
  • They like to check in on their team on a personal level too. “What are you going to do to take care of yourself this week?” Then be accountable and follow-up! Show that you care about your colleagues beyond the work space. It builds trust.
  • Have you invested in your onboarding process? Resonate has made this a priority. They encourage their staff to, “keep learning and welcome challenges.” New hires are given an on-boarding project. It is meant to be 1-2 weeks long and gives them a quick iteration of project cycle and feedback process.
  • Be like the Hummingbird! Ayla shares one of her favourite stories and how it has inspired a recognition award within Resonate.
  • Ayla talks about the important of transformations within your own team. Their current Director of Operations began as their administrator and is now working with Execs and Phds in the US.
  • When employees say “I can’t do that or I don’t have the skills”; there is a temptation to bring in the experts. Ayla tells us how she has fought this off. That’s when people get better. When they are given the opportunity to do something that is slightly out of their depth.
  • Create a network of mentors and advisors – surround yourself with people who know what they are doing.
  • Grow your people at the same rate as you are growing your organization and you will be way better off. Invest in everyone!
  • Ayla tells us about an example of her training having an impact at one of the Kate Spade operations in Rwanda.. Employees were given the confidence to speak up and see their own worth. Ayla considered this a huge step forward.
  • In start ups, we are always sprinting and moving on to the next thing. Pause to acknowledge. Pay attention to how your employees want to be acknowledged. Some like cake and some would be so embarrassed by that. Knowing the difference will build trust and a rapport.
  • Feedback can have an inherently negative feeling to it. Positive feedback is super important too. Ayla narrows it down to three different types of feedback – goal oriented, appreciative, and constructive.
  • Lastly, Ayla reminds us that even experts are always doing some things for the first time. If you don’t know something, chances are you can still do it anyway.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Ayla:


What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Let me know on Twitter by clicking here!

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  1. […] to do a second exercise to define the company’s purpose and values,  which was inspired by FIP’s Episode 63 with guest Ayla Schlosser. Multiple people within the company had recommended the episode, and Emily found that Ayla not only […]

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