Interview with Daria Rudnik

Interview with Daria Rudnik

Please give us a brief and bold intro — who are you, and what's your superpower?

I'm an ex-Deloitte and former Chief People Officer for leading tech and telecom companies. I have over 15 years of experience working in executive roles around the world. For the past five years, I've focused on helping ambitious leaders scale their impact by elevating their teams. I'm also on the board of a non-profit called the World Ethics Organization and founded a company called Aidra.AI to help tech leaders build brilliant teams.

You've had an impressive career journey. What inspired you to become a leadership coach and team architect?

About 10 years ago, I asked my parents, "What did I like doing as a kid?" They told me I was always playing school. Learning and teaching came naturally to me, so when I joined Deloitte as a learning consultant, I knew that was what I wanted to do in life. I want to help people grow and be fulfilled at work. Throughout my HR career, learning, culture, and communication have always been at the forefront of driving organizational growth.

When I decided to quit my corporate career and build my own business, I knew I wanted to help leaders and organizations grow. Today’s world is changing rapidly, and to keep up, leaders need to build strong teams. That's why my work focuses on helping ambitious leaders scale their impact by empowering and elevating their teams.

Can you explain the mission of and how it aims to transform workplaces?

We are still in the process of defining how Aidra will work. However, the main role of this tool is to help managers quickly access answers to their questions about building great teams in tech. In addition to general knowledge that any generative AI can provide, Aidra will incorporate insights from our many years of experience as HR professionals, team and leadership coaches, and curious researchers in the leadership space.

You've worked with some big organizations. What has been the most exciting project you've been a part of, and why?

The most exciting project was transforming the organization from a manufacturing company into a RetailTech leader. We divided the company into two parts: business as usual and innovation. My main focus in the innovation part was changing the culture and internal processes to attract top product managers and software developers. This enabled us to launch new services for retail businesses. It was a challenging but very exciting transformation process that took about a year.

Can you discuss the importance of psychological safety in teams and how you help build it?

Most of the leaders I work with realize the importance of psychological safety. However, a common concern for many of them is: "How can I be an empathetic leader and still maintain high work standards?" Amy Edmondson's concept addresses this by stating that the best team culture includes both high standards and a high level of psychological safety. Realizing that they can be empathetic leaders and build a trustworthy environment without compromising work quality is the first step toward creating high-performing and psychologically safe teams.

What are some common challenges leaders face when trying to build high-performing teams?

Jacques Aschenbroich, the CEO of global automotive supplier Valeo, said that "the CEO role is the intersection of all contradictions" (from the book CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest). This is true, as most of the leaders I coach have to deal with multiple leadership paradoxes. These include delivering short-term results versus investing in long-term performance, being assertive and confident while having the humility to ask for help and receive feedback, and taking time to gather facts and perform analyses while moving quickly in a rapidly changing environment to capture opportunities.

Being able to navigate these contradictions is one of the biggest leadership challenges I help my clients address.

How does your C.L.I.C.K. framework help teams achieve rapid results?

The C.L.I.C.K. framework accelerates team results by focusing on five key elements:

🎯 Clarity of Goals: Collaboratively agree on the shared team goal and team purpose.

🔗 Linking Relationships: Collectively discuss the expectations of the team’s key stakeholders—customers, partners, investors, board, regulators. Spend time building social connections within the team.

🤝 Integrated Ways of Working: Agree on team norms and work processes that support collaboration.

💬 Collaborative Decision-Making: Agree on the frameworks for decision-making and stick to them.

📚 Knowledge Sharing and Feedback: Proactively seek feedback and share knowledge. Reflect on successes and challenges together.

These are the elements that have been proven to be essential parts of any high-performing team.

Can you share a success story where your coaching made a significant impact on a company?

I was coaching an executive team of a telecom company undergoing an organizational transformation to increase productivity. No one knew exactly what the end result should look like, but everyone agreed on the main goal: they needed to be faster and more efficient to survive. Through a series of conversations, including input from various organizational levels, the company developed a new organizational model that significantly boosted their performance. Within the next 10 months, they produced three times more than they had over the previous three years.

How do you tailor your coaching strategies for different industries, like tech startups vs. Fortune 500 companies?

In any company, industry, or culture, I always prioritize working with people first. My main focus is always on individuals. However, working across industries allows me to bring perspectives that people might not have considered before. For example, not many senior leaders in tech who want to gain executive experience think of joining a non-profit board. When I share this option with them, many consider it a valuable experience.

What role does executive coaching play in a company’s overall success?

There are many data points that support the importance of executive coaching for organizational success. For example, according to the International Coach Federation (ICF), companies implementing executive coaching see an average ROI of 5.7 times their initial investment. However, my clients who achieve the most remarkable results are those who are already strong leaders. Coaching is not a magic pill—it accelerates growth, and the real changes happen between sessions when leaders and teams try new behaviors and implement new practices. Coaching supports people during transformation and accelerates growth, but it is never a replacement for hard work and personal transformation.

What key qualities do you think every great leader should have?

Courage. Every leader and every human being needs the courage to do what is right over what is easy.

How can leaders foster a culture of innovation and accountability within their teams?

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make that kills accountability in teams is taking on the role of a hero and savior. While this may be driven by noble motives, it's not how great teams are developed. A simple way to start giving accountability and innovation back to team members is by switching from 1:1s to 1:2s or 1:3s. This helps create strong connections not only between the leader and individual team members but also among all team members.

A team leader should be the last person team members go to for advice or support, only after they have discussed it within the team. It requires courage for leaders to let go of control and trust that team members are fully capable of solving most of their challenges.

Your work must have taken you to some interesting places. What has been the most memorable location you've worked in, and why?

The most interesting place I've traveled to so far is Nicaragua. For me, it wasn't just the different climate and time zone, but also the vastly different culture.

You've achieved a lot. But what keeps you driven and motivated to continue pushing boundaries?

My path has had many ups and downs. I've pivoted often, moved countries, and lived and worked through two wars. But no matter how hard it gets, I always see a glimpse of my North Star—my kids, my family, and the people who have achieved their goals, started new businesses, or reached a better work-life balance after our coaching.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders who want to improve their team’s performance?

Find courage to let go of heroic leadership and invest your time and energy into building empowered teams.

Can you explain what the GC Index assessment is and how it can benefit leaders and their teams? Additionally, what can participants expect from the 90-minute GC Index Assessment Session?

The GC Index assessment helps leaders and teams understand how each person can best contribute at work by identifying their natural strengths in five areas: Strategist, Game Changer, Play Maker, Implementer, and Polisher. This leads to better productivity and job satisfaction. During the 90-minute GC Index Assessment Session, participants will get a detailed profile of their strengths and a coaching session to learn how to use these strengths effectively in their roles.

As a special offer, Daria is offering an exclusive promo link for a GC Index Assessment Session with her.

Book your session using the link below to get a 40% discount.
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