Today we continue our new feature on the Legal Executive Institute blog, “Upfront & Personal.” The column, created by Rose Ors, brings “the person behind the title” to the forefront in interviews with some of the most influential members of the legal community.
Jeff Berardi, Chief Marketing Officer at K&L Gates, spoke recently with Rose Ors, the CEO and Founder of ClientSmart, about optimism, the value of mentoring others and his passion for skiing.
Rose Ors: What are you most proud of about the way you lead your life?
Jeff Berardi: I’m an optimist. I tend to dwell more on possibilities and opportunities than focusing or worrying about what might have been or will be. I try to balance a realistic worldview with an eye for how to improve upon the old way of doing things. I try to bring that perspective to both my personal and professional life — my world is always half full.
I’m also a good listener. I’d like to think that I’ve matured a bit over time as I’ve gained more life and career experiences, and I try to listen more and talk less. I may not always succeed at that goal, but I’ve certainly gotten better at it. Listening is such an important part of forging meaningful relationships, so I make it a priority to listen to others.
Rose Ors: Professionally, how does being an optimist influence how you lead your 90+ member team at K&L Gates?
Jeff Berardi: I focus on what’s possible and how we can achieve that. I also take a step back from time to time to recognize individual achievements and team achievements. Celebrating achievement is often overlooked in the workplace. That’s a big mistake. Focusing only on what needs to be improved or what’s gone wrong can be demoralizing. There are always going be things that you can pick apart. But my view is that, as long as we have a goal and we commit to that goal and make progress on accomplishing it, we are doing great.
Rose Ors: What do you find most personally rewarding about your work?
Jeff Berardi: One of my favorite things about my work is that I get to mentor and train other people. It’s an extremely rewarding part of my role. My goal is to try to get the best and the most out of people — pushing them beyond what they even thought they were capable of doing. I also try to always be empathic — to be in their shoes — to remember what it was like when I was at that stage in their career. I’ve found that when someone feels seen they open up to me, they trust me. Building trust between me and each member of my team is important to me.
In order to get the most and the best out of my team, they have to feel good about what they’re doing. They have to be challenged and motivated. And you know, we all have strengths and weaknesses. I try to place each member of my team in a position where they each play to their strengths as much as possible. I don’t ever want to put a team member in a situation where they’re not going be successful. I try to manage seeing the good things about people and giving them opportunities to shine.
Rose Ors: What are three things you are passionate about?
Jeff Berardi: My three top passions are family, community service and skiing.
My wife and our two young children are the center of my universe. Most everything I do, I do for my family. They are a source of joy and pride. I love spending time as a family. I was raised in a happy home and I know how having that base has guided me. I want my children to be able to say — many years from now — that they were raised in a happy home.
I’m also passionate about skiing. I started skiing at a very young age and I enjoy it to this day. Skiing is not only a great sport physically, it places you in such strikingly beautiful settings — the mountains, the sky, the snow. Now both my kids ski and so that’s something that’s really, really fun to do as a family.
Lastly, I’m passionate about community service. For about 10 years I’m been actively involved with City Year, a nonprofit that works in urban public schools around the country. The organization’s goal is to increase the number of students who graduate from high school in high-poverty communities. The group helps close the gap between what these at-risk children need and what their schools provide in the form of academic, social and emotional support. The impact of what we do has, year-to-year, led to significant measurable improvements in the academic and personal life of the children we support.
Rose Ors: Now, for the “what if” question. If anything was possible, how would you spend the last year of your life?
Jeff Berardi: I travel for business and love it. But I always wish my family could be there with me. So, if anything was possible, I would travel the world with my family. We’d explore new places, learn about new cultures, meet new people. It would be exciting for all of us to experience both the natural beauty and man-made wonders of the world. It would be an amazing family adventure that would forever enrich our lives and our memories.
Rose Ors: What advice would you give a newly appointed Chief Marketing Officer?
Jeff Berardi: I remember the advice someone gave me a few months into my CMO job. That advice was to pace myself. Thankfully, I heeded that advice. Initially, I put myself in a position where I wanted to accomplish too much, too fast. If I had continued at that pace, I’d probably have burned out. So, my advice to a new CMO would be to pace yourself, take the long view, and celebrate the small wins.