Lessons learned from my month in the power seat
Adecco Canada #CEO1Month Frances Doria shares her experience of the CEO for One Month program and what she learned about business and leadership from Gilbert Boileau.
I concluded my role as Adecco Canada’s CEO for One Month 2019 with unequivocal clarity that the experience will stand as one of the pivotal points in my career.
The opportunity to go “behind the curtain” and watch top-tier leadership in action is an immense privilege. Whether you’re a recent graduate or a young professional craving continuous learning, the lessons learned from the CEO for One Month program are invaluable.
Having started my own business a year ago, I came into the program with a clear objective: to learn how to lead at a scale. Through mentorship conversations, branch visits, H2 financial analyses, and a deluge of information about an industry that was completely novel to me, my month at Adecco added industry insights, management strategies and leadership adages to my repertoire, all of which are sure to serve me well in my journey ahead.
After shadowing Gilbert Boileau, President of Adecco Canada, four key concepts resonated with me the most:
1. Kill with kindness
The concept of building healthy corporate cultures permeates much of today’s management discourse. But what often gets left in the rhetoric is that building healthy work cultures begins with empathetic leaders.
Culture begins with kindness. Especially in the recruitment business — where there is a constant, multilayered responsibility to close sales, deliver orders and manage people — it is important to keep kindness top of mind. As a millennial, it was refreshing to hear leaders prioritize kindness not only as a management style but in client-facing responsibilities. This is especially important as many of my generation today place a far greater importance on working with emotionally intelligent, tactful and diplomatic managers over any other criteria.
2. Embrace the process, embrace the freedom
Shadowing a leader with an engineering background has validated the importance of a process for me. While concepts like the Lean methodology and Six Sigma have long been around as management tools to emphasize the value of a process-centric approach, there is a greater challenge for an industry such as staffing where people stand at the crux of the operations.
Whether at the client, candidate or colleague level, there is an element of human input at every part of the process, which makes it inherently subject to variation. Exacerbated by a shift towards building a more sales-driven business model, having leadership that is strongly anchored on process-building and robust workflow is of paramount importance. I learned that reiterating the value of streamlined processes is key in mitigating risks and instilling more autonomy in the workforce, especially during change management.
3. Power of the pause
In French, there’s a saying that states “tourner sept fois sa langue dans la bouche.” Though it awkwardly translates to “turn your tongue seven times in your mouth,” its true English counterpart is quite straightforward: think before you speak.
The pause is a powerful tool, one that I have long struggled to harness. Although I have come to understand the impact of a pause in public speaking or formal presentations, it is not as instinctive in daily conversations and social interactions. Especially as a young professional navigating the underlying pressure of wanting to constantly “prove myself” in the workplace, it feels counterintuitive to leave empty spaces between my words. It was empowering to see a leader that understood how something as simple as a pause could engage and make an impact.
4. Think fast, think slow
The concepts from Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, were at centre stage in many of the leadership lessons I learned throughout the month. The book introduces and examines the dichotomy of two systems of thinking: the “fast” brain, which refers to an automatic, unconscious approach, and the “slow” brain, which refers to a more calculated and conscious thought process.
For leaders, both are imperative. It is not only the agility to maneuver between both systems, but the ability to discern the value of each in distinct situations that creates a true leader. However, as a millennial, it posed an introspective question: how can I access both systems of thought – fast and slow – when I’ve only ever learned how to think fast?
As part of the generation that came of age at a time of unprecedented growth of technology and social media where instantaneity was held as the pinnacle of productivity, it was rewarding for me to see leadership that valued both speed and conscientiousness in order to have a more holistic approach, particularly amidst a fast-paced industry.
With a fresh set of experiences and concepts, I closed off my journey as CEO for One Month with a grateful heart and the confidence that I am now far more equipped to forge a career path that I can be proud of.
Frances Doria is a Global Business Developer who currently spearheads her own consulting business after an extensive experience dealing with C-level clients in various international markets, spanning Europe, Asia, North and Latin America. Frances holds a Bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Development Economics, and a Master’s degree from Hult International Business School in London, UK.
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