Grace Cowan

Senior Vice President, Customer Experience
Waste Mangement

My guiding principle of leadership is to do the right thing, even if it means putting your job at risk. It’s not always easy, but speak up and take action when the right things aren’t being done. Have the courage to stand up and make the best decision for the business, not what’s in it for you. Have integrity and honesty in everything you do because ultimately, you have to live with yourself and those decisions.

It’s also important to surround yourself with people who have a diversity of backgrounds and ideas and who complement each other because of those differences. Listen to hear meaning, ask questions to understand different views and options, and be inquisitive. Working as a team doesn’t only apply to your own department. Take off the functional hat you wear and look across boundaries. And when you have the opportunity to be in a leadership role, have empathy and reach out to help other people.

Continuously push yourself to grow and have a passion to learn so you will be valuable to the organization. With so many changes in technology, marketing, demographics, and in the workforce, you have to keep learning and growing. Read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review. Go to seminars so you’re hearing a diversity of ideas and thought.

Here are more of my career “dos” and “don’ts”:

  • Make sure you have key metrics to drive and measure performance.
  • Know your business strategy and how initiatives drive strategy and outcomes.
  • Be engaged and open to growth and change.
  • Be educated about the market and your competitors.
  • Have fun and a passion for what you do.
  • Share the work you’re doing and get the visibility you and your team deserve.
  • Work/family balance is always a challenge when you have a strong career. Have the discipline to leave work and the time management to get work done. Regular physical exercise can keep your stress in check.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Everyone walks in different shoes.
  • Don’t spend time on activity without execution. Set objectives with outcomes that are meaningful.
  • Don’t waste your or other people’s time.
  • Don’t sit on decisions. Get information, distill it quickly and make a quick decision.
  • Don’t be a yes person.H ave an opinion and be engaged.

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