The team I lead is a mix of individuals with very distinct personalities and skills. We have strategic visionaries, analytically driven types, motivators, customer service professionals, innovators, and people who hear a new idea and find immediate objections.
It sometimes seems impossible to work as a team. But when it happens we are powerful. We are not strong despite our differences, we are strong because of them.
Over the years, I have come to understand that my personal areas of strength are twofold: I am very intuitive—I often find an answer before others do. I am an integrator—I see many connections between ideas that often are not obvious at first. These are great strengths, and they have been important to my success.
I now know that my strengths taken to their extreme can result in finding an impactful answer quickly. However, I can then become impatient when others begin to argue against what I believe is a good solution. I now understand that some people simply process information differently. They need to discover through a process, and sometimes this process results in raising issues that I have not thought of, causing us to find a better answer. Often we do end up with the same answer I suggested at the beginning, but by allowing us to each work in our own way, we are more effective and aligned.
As people, we tend to be drawn to people who are like us. Left alone, many will tend to work with, and hire people, with similar skills and strengths. We do not do this intentionally, but people tend to find it less difficult to work with people who think like them, so they are naturally drawn to them. The role of the leader is to harness and use the power of the team. Everyone has an opinion about leadership, but almost no one mentions the best aspect of being a leader: A leader is never alone. She has a team.
How has education affected your career?
Attending a liberal arts, Jesuit college taught me to never stop questioning and seeking new ways of understanding. When I first graduated, with a BA in chemistry, it struck me that my choice of major and institution had not prepped me for a specific career. I was frustrated when I saw accounting majors getting great starter jobs, and I was trying to find a job seemingly with no specific trade skills. It was only later in my career that I realized that what I had developed at school were the skills to be a great problem solver. That that is one of the most valuable skills a business person can possess.