Stepping Up

How Leaders Are Rising to the Occasion

Throughout the Small Giants Community and beyond, leaders are doing what’s right when it matters most. These are their stories.

How to Care for Your People and Invest in Their Growth


Atomic Object is a custom software design and development consultancy. Atomic Object is a Certified B Corporation and a 2018 Forbes Small Giant.

For Small Giants, no matter what in the world around you changes, your core purpose remains the same. At times, it may feel like everything in the world has changed — but purpose-driven leaders are relying on the strength of their culture, its purpose and values, and most of all their people to see them through.

A leader is only as good as their team, and putting your people first and investing in them is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business. But with so many teams working from home, how do you provide meaningful growth opportunities for your team? How do you cultivate a caring culture in times of change? And what kind of training is most beneficial to your people and your organization right now?

Meaningful Growth Opportunities for Your Team

If you ask leaders what their top priorities are right now (and we did!), one of their top answers is growing their people. That’s because purpose-driven leaders know that the innovation, collaboration and dedication of their team members is what will help them thrive through this time and come out stronger on the other side. Training is especially important for those roles and positions where there’s limited upward mobility. Training offers a path for development even when there’s no role to grow into.

But prioritizing training right now isn’t easy — many teams are dispersed, the mental load is heavier than ever, and there are distractions abound. But offering your people opportunities to grow is a great way to support them through this time, show you care and offer them the chance to level up, personally and professionally. Here’s how three leaders are putting training first.

In this installment of Stepping Up, we’re talking to leaders with creative, bold ideas for training and caring for employees in order to come out of this a stronger, more connected team.

On the Job Training for Core Business Survival Needs

No matter how the pandemic has impacted your business, it’s important to be intentional during this time. What should leaders be focusing on? At Atomic Object, Mike Marsiglia’s top priorities are growing his people by investing in their skills and experience, protecting revenue, and maintaining a strong culture.

To that end, the pandemic has inspired Atomic Object to increase its focus on core business survival needs like sales, AR collection, and account management. This focus has led to a series of tactics that have improved the skill set of its senior managers, such as: enhanced automation and visibility into key business metrics, enhanced organization and discipline around sales pipeline management, and experimentation with new types of lead generation tactics.

All small businesses should be paying special attention to cash management and monitoring right now, and Atomic Object is dialing up its level of focus and transparency around company financials. The Co-CEOs now share updates like weekly cash on hand and outstanding AR, and they’ve initiated a twice-a-week revenue meeting where senior managers discuss key metrics, active clients, past-due AR, hot sales, and any internal people challenges.

“The on-the-job training that the team is getting has made us a stronger and more connected team,” says Marsiglia. “This will benefit us for years to come.”

Caring for Employees

Right now, purpose-driven leaders are feeling the weight of caring for and supporting their team members through such a difficult time. They’re checking in more frequently, they’re looking for ways to facilitate connection, and they’re trying to create a sense of calm.

Purpose-driven leaders believe in caring for team members in the totality of their lives — not just in times of crisis, but always. It’s a staple of the Small Giants philosophy, and emerging leaders learn in-depth practices for creating caring cultures as part of the Small Giants Leadership Academy curriculum.

But with our work lives turned upside down, caring for employees — from mental health and wellness to professional development — requires new levels of creativity. Here are a few great ideas from Small Giant leaders.

Delivering Office Furniture to Team Members

Most people are relatively new to remote work, which has led to makeshift home offices with furniture and equipment that aren’t ideal for the long-term. With their office buildings sitting empty, leaders at Atomic Object decided to distribute office furniture to employees (whom they call Atoms) who needed it. Vice President Mary O’Neill spearheaded the effort, putting together a simple Google survey and sending it out to the entire team.

O’Neill asked if people needed a desk, chair, or both, and she even specified desk dimensions to make sure the furniture would fit in their home office spaces. She then hired a mover and arranged for everything to be delivered to Atoms’ homes.

Huge shoutout to @maryoneill and anybody else that made the office equipment drop off possible! I never realized how much of an impact a nice chair makes until now!

@BobbyClotman told me he feels a bit like Santa Claus, and that seems fitting because I definitely feel like a kid on Christmas morning right now. Thank you Bobby and @maryoneill!

“This was relatively inexpensive and a huge hit,” says Marsiglia. “The furniture is a resource we already own, and it sure felt nice to deploy it.”

Beyond ensuring Atoms have comfortable, healthy workspaces, Atomic’s leaders also focused on sharing even more communication and transparency. On a day-to-day basis, this shows up as more frequent one-on-ones, daily stand-up meetings, increased financial transparency, and Friday afternoon “Atomic Toasts” where individuals share someone they are thankful for that week over a Michigan craft beer through Zoom.

For those with Zoom fatigue, Marsiglia offers a more traditional alternative.

“I’ve personally started to use the phone a lot more with one-on-ones,” says Marsiglia. “I try to encourage the person I’m speaking with to do a phone walk with me. I’ve found that much more enjoyable than yet another Zoom meeting.”

Small Giants know that their team members are getting them through this downturn, and they’ll be the ones leading the way for the upturn. The leaders you met in this article all have one thing in common: they never stopped investing in leadership development.

Growing confident, emotionally intelligent leaders who understand the business, can set clear expectations, and inspire teams is the best way to future-proof your business. Atomic Object, Life’s Abundance, and Vivayic all have certified Small Giants on their team, and they are thriving today thanks to a deep bench of leadership talent.

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What do these leaders have in common?

These leaders are part of Small Giants companies — companies that prioritize their purpose and culture and invest in their emerging leaders.

One way Small Giants companies invest in their next generation of leaders is by enrolling them in the Small Giants Leadership Academy. This robust one-year certification program consists of virtual learning sessions with expert leaders and coaches, an extensive resource library, on-the-ground meetups with your cohort, a leadership assessment, and your event ticket to two Small Giants gatherings.

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