When I came to Ecolab in 2009, I was new to the team and industry. I also was a first-time mom. Both turned out to be significant transitions, and both had a profound impact on my views on leadership.
Like anyone new to a job, I had to evaluate what I could bring to the party. People on my team had been in the industry 20 years, so I wasn’t able to bring deeper expertise or stronger customer relationships. After a time of exploration and reflection, I found what I could bring was leadership based on encouragement, high expectations and the pursuit of excellence. I could help my team enlarge their voices, be heard, and elevate both business performance and their own personal leadership.
So when you face a transition, don’t automatically expect to contribute in exactly the way you did before. Recognize the importance of figuring out the strengths you can bring to your new leadership situation in view of what is required for success. And also keep in mind that you will reach a point where it’s no longer a matter of whether you’re the smartest or most capable person on the team. Rather, it’s about building up the people around you so they can do their best work and realize their dreams.
Starting my family was a transition that has enriched my leadership. My son serves as a constant reminder of what it means to nurture and develop the amazing potential that is in all people. Being a mom has reinforced for me that truly connecting with people and inspiring them through hope, aspiration and clear expectations can be a powerful way to lead.
Of course, every leader, new or experienced, knows the importance of feedback. The irony is that the longer you’re in leadership, the harder it seems to get an honest assessment and the easier it is to become entrenched in habits you can no longer see.
That’s why I suggest a personal board of directors. It’s been a big help having people from all walks of my personal and professional life provide me with the unvarnished truth and a well-balanced portfolio of perspectives. Listening to them doesn’t mean I live my life according to what they say, but I find their perspectives invaluable as I make big decisions in life or at work.