Leadership throughout my career has been centered on embracing a growth mindset, inspiring excellence, and encouraging teams to bring their best to work each day…but I could not have predicted the journey thus far.
Working for a conservative Fortune 100 company (Circa 1990’s), men were required to wear suits (blue was considered ‘fashion forward’), paired with a muted necktie.
Women were required to wear skirt suit, but strictly paired with ‘nude’ pantyhose. These dress codes would loosen up over the years to include pantsuits for women (still with pantyhose), and suits sans necktie for men.
At the corporate Christmas Party, our business unit leader gave each employee an ashtray displaying our corporate logo.
Hotel valet parking services looked in disbelief, as my squeaky car door slammed shut and they quickly parked it behind the building before exhaust fumes became a health risk to other guests.
News headlines included underrepresented professionals being appointed to lead publicly traded companies. I vividly remember the open discussion and unfavorable sentiment in the office when Xerox named Ursula Burns as CEO in 1999.
Today, I bring my authentic self to work, via the Frontrunner Commuter Train, to a tech firm based in the Silicon Slopes of Utah. Blue jeans and sneakers are considered acceptable attire, even for executives. We have team meetings over table football, also known as table soccer (or foosball if your from Texas).
Women wear whatever the hell they want (unless prohibited by public policy or faith). Parking valet professionals at luxury hotels and resorts don’t always park my personal vehicle behind the building now.
Times have certainly changed.
Whether God-and-Country, Solidly Secular, or somewhere in between, my circle of influence gladly welcomes the evolution of workforce norms.
As I prepare to transition from my current executive role in one of the world’s best-known smart-living tech firms, it’s difficult not to reflect on career.
Variables often change.
Here are the leadership tenets that continue to enable me to build and develop effective, diverse and inclusive teams where team members can do their best work and deliver exceptional results.
- Cultivate Strategic Relationships Early. It’s easy to lose sight of significance of cultivating new and diverse relationships when you already have a full plate — but part of being able to access a strong executive voice is expanding your knowledge beyond specific position, department or area of expertise.
2. Over-communicate. High performing cultures are created by focusing on what you can affect or effect and enable decision making at every level of the organization.
3. Defend Brand Promise. When you create meaningful relationships with business partners — and design products and solutions that serve as an incubator for those relationships, resist cost-out initiatives without providing reasonable goodwill accommodations or channel required advanced notification. (This has personal brand implications as well)
4. Be an Authentic Leader. A large percentage of tech professionals identify as ‘millennial’, and often times blend professional and personal (more so than older adults). It is essential to present your true self to work each day to avoid trust-related issues.
5. Focus on the Outcomes. High performing sales and marketing organizations define their business by the problems they want to solve for customers, not by the products they produce or distribute.
6. Embrace Change. Mergers and acquisitions can have a profound impact on the customer experience, but also provides an opportunity to refocus on what is working for current customers and determine how best to target and serve new ones.
7. Feed your tribe. Allow your staff to lead the meeting with the client or executive team when your voice is not required. It’s uncommon to see a football coach throwing the winning play on game day. Leaders provide growth opportunities, defer accolades to front-line tribe members. (Remember to give constructive feedback afterwards)
While I constantly pressure test, I am also committed to the belief that organizations viewed as a true trusted advisor, and provide an authentic partner experience, with consistency, also attract world-class leaders.
Leadership is a privilege. Make a determined effort to stay nimble, pivot with purpose, and remember that leadership is a journey (not destination).