Executive Book Club

Lyft's VP of design shares the book that's impacted her career the most: 'It's a book that I feel we all need to read'

Lyft's VP of design Katie Dill.
Credit: Lyft

Katie Dill is a long-time executive in Silicon Valley who currently serves as the vice president of design at Lyft.

Prior to starting this role in 2017, she worked as an executive at several other companies, including at Airbnb, where she was the director of experience design for three years.

As someone who has successfully climbed the ranks in her career, Dill says there is one book that has impacted her professional life the most.

"It's such an oldie, but goodie," she says. "'How to Win Friends and Influence People' has probably had the most impact on my career. I've read it three times, and it's a book that I feel we all need to read."

Dill says the book, written by Dale Carnegie, focuses on the power of building and nurturing relationships. "What he talks about honestly is just understanding people," she says. "The reality is that everybody you know, first and foremost, cares about themselves. That's what they need to do. It's just human nature. But once you know that, you can then do a lot better at being a good partner, a good colleague, a good husband or wife."

Dill explains how the book has helped her to become a better leader at work, particularly when she first started working at Airbnb and was tasked with fixing the culture of the design team.

"When I was interviewing, they told me that the design team was not in a very good state," she says. "People weren't getting along very well, there were designers who weren't happy, and there were people who weren't happy working with them."

Dill says she immediately started implementing changes to the team's structure and culture in an effort to improve the experience of her staff. Though she thought she was making a positive impact, Dill says she learned through a two-hour meeting with HR and her team that several people were frustrated by her leadership.

"I had been there for one month, and they had written it all out, and they were reading from this stack of papers the reasons why they were frustrated with me," she says. "It was super hard to hear. I thought that things were going in a good direction, so I was totally surprised."

That experience, Dill says, taught her the value in listening to your team first before delivering directions on how to change. It also taught her the power of building trust with people, which is a crucial lesson that ties into Carnegie's advice book.

"It was a real good wake-up call," she says. "I went too fast into action. I came in swinging when I really should have come in listening. I should have showed them that I was taking in their interest and understanding their needs, what they wanted, what their goals were and what they were capable of. Then, when I would have set out to make change, they would have felt that I was there with them."

In Carnegie's bestselling book, he details how creating change as a leader should not include offending people or causing resentment. Instead, he explains how owning your mistakes and not delivering strict orders to your team are key ways to get people to like you.

Dill, who eventually implemented these changes to her leadership style, says that within a six-month time frame her team went from having the worst engagement scores in the company to having the best scores. "It definitely worked out, and I ended up improving things," she says. "And that lesson I of course took with me when I came to Lyft."

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