An earlier chapter introduced Susan Fullman, corporate vice president and director of customer solutions and support for Motorola. Fullman worked hard to tone down her image as a superefficient, no- nonsense manager who had little time for the niceties. Her efforts to solicit other people's opinions , truly listen to them, and engage in a dialogue rather than a monologue changed the tenor of the workplace considerably. As she puts it, "Very little changed, except me, but things are entirely different as a result."
In many ways, changing one's personal style goes against natureor at least nurture. We have been communicating since we uttered our first cryand our style has been reinforced, or we would have abandoned it long ago. Personal style does not change overnight or permanently: We are bound to backslide now and then, and it helps to have a plan in place to deal with those moments of regression.
Feedback is one of the best methods of correction. But for many leaders, asking forand acceptinghonest feedback is alien and uncomfortable. After all, it is always easier to dish it out than to receive it. But for those leaders who have made the commitment to change, the payback is substantial. Roy Anise comments:
During the team alignment, we talked about my aggressive style, and I asked the group to keep me honest: to give me candid feedback if I revert to my old, aggressive style. And they do. They don't allow me to monopolize our meetings or force my opinions on them. When they see my aggressive tendencies returning, they challenge me. As a result, there's been a tremendous increase in openness, enthusiasm , and accountabilitynot only on the top team but throughout the company. We conduct internal surveys every year, and we've been able to chart the improvement in everything from employee morale to internal customer service.
Before Julia Nenke joined Foxtel, she was vice president of organizational development at Australian food manufacturer Goodman Fielder, where she reported to John Doumani. Nenke was impressed that Doumani genuinely sought and accepted feedback on his own performance. "To do that on an authentic level," she says, "when you are, in fact, at the top of the food chain, provides a terrific model for others to follow."
Leaders must also remain vigilant, on their own account, if they want to avoid backsliding into an ineffective style. One vice president recalls a conversation she had with her coach, in which she revealed that, after returning from an extended vacation, she was having trouble executing the new behaviors she had been learning to internalize before she went away. The coach responded, "You need to think about these behaviors as though they were a blouse that you put on every morning. They need to become part of your daily routine, something that you don't think about at all, that is completely intuitive." The image of waking up in the morning and slipping on these new behaviors stuck in the mind of the vice president, and she conjures it up at the beginning of each day. It helps, she says, "because I am trying to teach an old dog new tricks, and it's very easy for old dogs to return to their old tricks."