Paypal’s Chandler Site President on Leadership Response to 2020




Eric: I want to talk about your mindset with 2,000 employees out in Chandler when Covid happened and really publicly for you, too. 

Art: …At the time people were still trying to figure everything out. What does the virus do? Who does it impact? How? At the time, I think the framework around social distancing was pretty evident and those were the things we were focused on…We had to work off on the facts we had. What that meant was, we really had to put our employees first and also think about, “How do we still conduct business?” 

At that time, we had already started with a protocol with what we would do if we were to have something where we needed to shift. 

…We’re going to have to treat this with a level of urgency and care. We got our employees home…It shifted the roles a lot of people played. 

…We really found that fortunately we had a team of really flexible and diverse folks that were ready to step up and step in. People that were doing totally different roles…were able to step in and help us get our employees home and get them working, so they can help our customers. But at the same time, give them a little more balance. What they were dealing with at that time, it wasn’t normal for anybody, and it helped them shift from that standpoint.



Eric: One of the biggest challenges a lot of business leaders are having right now is maintaining that company culture because of so many things that are shifting…With 2,000 employees, what’s your mindset from March to where it is now and maybe some of the things that you’ve learned that you can share that have really helped maintain some of that company culture?

Art: I’ve said this a couple times, but shame on any person or company that doesn’t come through 2020 different in some way, shape or form. You’ve got to think about your business strategies. You’ve got to think about how you connect with your employees, how you connect with your customers. We’ve tried to do just that. The largest thing is we started to realize what’s possible. Traditionally, we aren’t a company that has as many people working remotely, but we’re understanding the benefit of that, but it takes balance. 

…We’re understanding that people are still really desperate and appreciative to be able to have the type of ways we can come together and work together. Whether it’s simply from an engagement level to be able to connect with your peers and colleagues. I think the thing we learned though is it takes a level of balance and flexibility to be able to deal with any of these things that are happening and that are coming. It also takes a level of creativity to bring in the right person at the right time. We talk a lot about diversity in our teams, diversity in skill sets. You’ve got to make sure you have the right makeup. Sometimes, you’re planning for something that you can’t quite put your finger on but are still thinking about, “Are we set up in the right way to be able to deal with those kinds of things?” 

We’ve also learned the benefit of being very transparent, and what are some of the things and some of the measures that we’re trying to do or that will shift a certain plan or action? We’ve seen it in instances that will reflect strong leadership that says you have to be able to define reality and deliver hope. We had to find what types of measures or milestones we’re looking for before we can go back into the office, before we can think about how we need to resume certain things, roles, positions. I think we’ve been able to pull our teams closer to being a little more transparent about how we work.



Eric: Speak of transparency and leadership, you’re dealing with Covid back in March and then George Floyd happens and your team is now looking at you saying what do we do? As a leader, what was that experience, and what did you do?

Art: I think that people were looking to each other to have a human response to a human issue. What we saw is that people were not as necessarily as far on particular topics, but we were just in different stages in the way we think about things. We’re in different stages of learning, different stages of understanding of whats going on and whats really happening. What are some of the facts? What are some of the details? How do some of these things impact each other? Kind of in the same way that we were thrust into dealing with potential virus infections and things of that nature, we were thrust into a moment where we needed to figure out and kind of help people to have a level of security and balance.

…Understand that this is a unique moment. Understand that we are entering into something. This is not the same. This is not something that is going to be brief. Also, understand that you don’t have to be the person that is able to speak eloquently on a really complex or nuanced issue. You don’t have to be the person to have the answer to a really tough situation, but you do need to be the person that is able to reflect a level of empathy and understanding for what people are going through, and call a timeout when you need to and bring people together to help.

…Our team looked to us for facts. We brought in disease specialists back in March and April for our employees because we knew there was a lot of information out there, maybe misinformation, maybe not, but we knew that our employees would understand that we didn’t have any ulterior motives. We wanted to be able to bring that in for our employees to have access to ask questions.



Eric: You said we were thrust into these situations like Covid and racial injustice. I’ve been in meetings with you, you’re an agenda guy. You’re in meetings now, there are no agendas, and I think it’s more about having the conversations and listening and saying ok we’re going to start this meeting with this and move on to this. 

Art: There is a level where it feels a little different but you can’t chart your way through some of these. You’re not sure how long it’s going to take. You can’t say, “We’re going to talk about these issues for 15 minutes and move on to these other things. You need to give it the time, space and credit that it deserves…Given the opportunity, don’t cheat the discussion, give it the time and the space that it deserves….We may not be experts in that area, we can be people and connect with each other. We don’t have to over engineer the session. 



Eric: I’ve heard this with other leaders sitting here, not that crisis is good, but they thrive in it. And that they see an opportunity within the obstacles. Have you found yourself going through those same emotions during the past 5-6 months?

Art: It’s strange, but it can be somewhat invigorating…The situation becomes singular and you’re able to be laser focused and some people really work well in that, and you can see that people thrive in that situation. What I’ve learned mindset wise over the past year is that one, you just have to be adaptable. You just have to find new things to supplement and replace. There is something that happens when we can all come together under a particular topic. There is something that happens when we are captive on what we are focused on. Very similar to the energy and effort that I think is really optimistic around racism in this country, I think the country is still in a place where we are kind of singularly focused, and that’s something that’s probably rare.