Ami Cook is the Founder and CEO of MindNavigator, a multiple award-winning Saas platform that targets human meaning-making to drive powerful new thinking and behaviors in individuals and to help organizations create a ‘sticky’ workplace culture.
Ami is a thought leader in adult developmental theory and has spent more than a decade exploring the human meaning-making dimension, and how human engagement and excellence can be engineered through meaning management.
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Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Ami Cook: I certainly never set out to become a CEO. It’s often significant events in our lives that change our direction and for me personally, that event occurred more than a decade ago and just a few weeks after my baby girl was born when she suffered a terrible head injury.
Whilst my daughter recovered fully from the accident, the experience affected me profoundly and set me on a new path to understand how we make meaning of our experiences and ultimately, how evolving our meaning making and managing our minds can significantly improve the quality of our lives. Creating MindNavigator represents the culmination of that journey.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Ami Cook: I think as human beings we’re touched by every encounter if we allow ourselves to be, we’re not separate to others. Right now, everyone we have collaborating in the business continues to inspire me daily. In particular, however, my husband’s unwavering support and encouragement as MindNavigator has evolved and his tremendous value as a sounding board given his own commercial experience has probably been my most important professional inspiration for this endeavour. I’m also indebted to my personal mentor and to our Board, all of whom volunteer their time to help bring MindNavigator’s vision to life.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Ami Cook: The biggest challenge I have found running a Saas start-up has been bringing the right people on board, at the right time and in the right roles. It’s taken a few iterations to arrive at the high-performing team we have today and we’ve leveraged a global talent pool to get there. It’s been exciting to discover talent from all over the world to add to our growing community.
I’ve learnt that an individual’s success in an established organisation doesn’t necessarily translate to a start-up environment – many of our early roles required a great degree of creativity and experimentation, a high tolerance for ambiguity and a good dose of resilience which surprisingly few people possess. Start-ups are not for the fainthearted.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Ami Cook: The overarching goal of MindNavigator is to put the power of Executive Coaching into the hands of every employee, supported by a collaborative process to create a human-centred culture and embedded through active practices to improve organisational productivity, performance and wellbeing.
Our technology enables change through a time-efficient self-coaching process, a peer supported group discussion process and a comprehensive suite of tools and practices for habit building within the flow of work.
Our unique focus on human meaning making enables us to target the root cause rather than the symptoms to create a gateway for new thinking and behaviours and deeper relationships.
What we really care about is helping people actualise their potential and experience joy by creating more conscious connection, reducing mental interference and increasing mental capacity. There is far too much unnecessary dis-ease in the world.
I define my role as being the custodian of MindNavigator’s vision, culture and direction. As well as owning the strategy and operations of the business, this also means being a disruptive thought leader in Human-centred development (HcD), being the Chief Ambassador for MindNavigator’s solution and curating an environment for MindNavigators to succeed.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Ami Cook: Curating the environment for MindNavigators to succeed has been an interesting one, particularly during the pandemic. Most of the team have been impacted personally and we’re learning to adjust our operating rhythm as we go to. Empathy is essential.
One of the principles we’ve put in place to enable flexibility is what we call DEAR. It stands for ‘drop everything and respond’. Beyond personal health and wellbeing considerations, we each have individual circumstances – whether it be family or personal circumstances, that may need our immediate attention. The acronym is intentionally paradoxical – ‘drop everything’ means just stopping without having to give it a second thought, whilst ‘respond’ refers to responsive vs reactive action. In practice it empowers MindNavigators to send an email or text to the team that simply states DEAR if they’re in a rush, and being able to head off calmly to deal with the other context.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Ami Cook: The decision to rebuild our software solution from the ground up was a really tough call. It takes time to build a new software product and there are costs and challenges associated with keeping two versions running simultaneously during the process. Today I can say with confidence that the decision has provided a solid foundation for scaling the business and realising our future aspirations and we’re now in a great position to meet the future needs of our growing customer-base.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Ami Cook: If we’re talking about the business here, I’d say all of the above and more! One of the first things I noticed when I changed my career and became a practitioner was the awkwardness many coaches and consultants had around the commercial side of their businesses. It’s literally an epidemic in the industry! Increasing our revenue year on year enables us to re-invest in our solution to make it even better and to create reach and accessibility in line with our mission. Popularity means visibility which also helps us engage with and positively impact more organisations and the individuals within them.
I also think success has an internal as well as an external lens. Given our vision is to enrich the human experience and our mission the pursuit of excellence and enjoyment, it’s important to keep asking myself as CEO – are MindNavigators having their lives enriched? Are they experiencing joy and continuing to grow?
As a business we’re also rigorous around having the right success metrics and that means measuring the business rather than ‘busy-ness’ – in other words focusing on impact rather than activity. We apply that same rigour in our engagements and it’s one of our key differentiators. Training and workshops don’t change behaviours and their success is still being measured largely by how many people turned up and smiley sheets. Businesses need to know how people initiatives are going to impact their top and bottom lines and help them manage the risk in the middle. We focus more time upfront on understanding the challenges the business is trying to solve, building a robust value proposition and determining the metrics we can use to measure change as we go.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Ami Cook: There are countless definitions of leadership, but at MindNavigator we define leadership as our moment-to-moment capacity to be able to respond with ever increasing wisdom to whatever events and circumstances present themselves. We’ve built our technology solution to support people to cultivate the skills needed for this.
My own capacity is increasing every year but more importantly, I would have to say that I am still evolving in this endeavour – I see it as a lifelong journey.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Ami Cook: Whilst we tend to focus on the challenges around the pandemic, I think it’s really created both challenges and opportunities. The pandemic provided a well-needed pause moment for the planet and for humanity as a whole. Many of us began to question how we’ve been living our lives and how we want to work.
Since MindNavigator is all about evolving our thinking and behaviours the pandemic also presented an opportunity for us – more and more people began to understand the importance of the work we’re doing. During this time I’ve seen my role as CEO to lead the charge and capitalise on this opportunity as much as to guide the team through the difficulties.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Ami Cook: There’s really no rule book so treat yourself kindly and surround yourself with people that also care for you and connect with your aspirational vision for the future.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Ami Cook: I wish I had a great singing voice…and so do my kids. I absolutely love singing but it does tend to have my family running for the hills!
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Ami Cook: Hmmm…off the top of my head, I’d have to say ‘Meaning Matters’ (and it really does by the way)!
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ami Cook for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ami Cook or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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