The essentials of leadership: Trust, inclusivity and transparency

(Editor’s note: Guest blogs like this are part of ChannelBuzz.ca’s annual sponsorship program. This blog was written by Deanna Thomson, national director of channel sales for Dell EMC Canada.)

Deanna Thomson, national director of channel sales for Dell EMC Canada

Few industries present as much of a challenge to building a strong leadership team as the technology sector. Tech is constantly evolving, presenting us with new challenges and opportunities to do better work, as well as constant pressure to move with shifts in industry practice and consumer expectations. 

Consider how technologies like the introduction of cloud storage or 5G have changed the way we approach structuring our workplaces or organizing communication amongst teams. In an industry that prioritizes innovation, disruption, and advancement, it can be tough to even catch your breath, let alone take the time necessary to build a leadership philosophy that is sustainable, measured, and fair.

Tough, but not impossible. There are things that leaders can do to set their team up for success in ways that remain relevant even as the industry continues to quickly evolve. These include building a workplace culture that prioritizes trust, inclusivity, and transparency; three evergreen principles essential for collaboration and pushing your team forward.

Trust your team and your team will trust you

There are many factors that contribute to a healthy and successful relationship between a leader and his/her team. For me, it all has to begin with trust. It’s important to me that every member of my team wakes up and comes into work knowing that they can trust their leadership, from their direct supervisors all the way up to Michael Dell. I want them to feel secure in the knowledge that their work is valued, their interests are protected, and their opinions will be heard. This way I, in turn, can feel confident that my team has the freedom and flexibility they require to deliver great work. 

One of the most important metrics we use at Dell EMC when we’re reviewing our performance and looking at the happiness of our team members is in the form of a question: do you trust your leader? If we can achieve trust across all levels of the company, then we know that we have a strong foundation upon which we can build great things.

Getting on the same page

Trust is hard to cultivate if you don’t have all of your team on the same page. If a team is able to achieve clarity on its current objectives, and what each member is doing to achieve them, the risk of miscommunication and wasted time can be significantly reduced. This applies both to team members and leadership. I know that my workload feels lighter if I’m confident that we’re all marching towards the same set of clearly defined priorities. 

When I first took on my current role at Dell EMC Canada, one of the first things I did was establish a clear vision for our channel team with distinct goals. With this baseline understanding, we were able to move forward and establish our three primary strategies for business: to engage, to ignite, and to enable across all our stakeholders. We’ve been overachieving on our objectives, and we feel that our successes are breeding further success. 

Good ideas come from everywhere

The right solution to a problem can come from anywhere, and it’s important for leadership to be open to approaches that are coming from outside their immediate purview. 

To achieve this with my team, we have weekly calls where we transparently share our objectives, potential as well as actual pain points and what strategies we’re using to address them. We’ve established a range of creative solutions as a result of cross-pollination of experiences and viewpoints. This reflects my belief that good ideas can’t be siloed and we can’t be too limited by hierarchy, otherwise we’re missing out on real opportunities. This also applies to hiring philosophies, where you can establish a commitment to diversity and inclusion immediately from the get-go. 

Inclusivity, in particular, requires time to manage. I spend a lot of my time face-to-face with my team members. I am a huge advocate of mentorship and I try to give as much of myself to mentees as possible, speaking with people from across different channels and with diverse goals, so that we can continue to build on our multidisciplinary approach. 

Building your team up can sometimes feel like a balancing act, and part chemistry experiment. In my experience, the best way to be successful is to prioritize spending time with people. Understanding what motivates and drives your team members allows you to tailor a development plan for them and discern which roles will be right for whom. By being invested in everyone’s individual success, you are laying the groundwork for overall organizational health.

Women in leadership

The qualities I’ve outlined above, trust, transparency, and inclusivity, are just some of the qualities women bring to business leadership. At Dell Technologies, women represent roughly 40% of our leadership team, and it’s often them who I see that understand what leadership is and how much of it is about listening, not just acting. Women often possess the patience and intuitive respect for people’s experiences that allow them to go in-depth with their teams and recognize the value in listening. 

One of the pitfalls for leaders is a lack of awareness of what’s going on in the trenches, which can cause blind spots. My coworkers and colleagues who are women are often the ones who both have the drive to get that intimate familiarity with what’s going on at all levels, and who possess the calm and willingness to listen that encourages team members to approach them with issues & opportunities. 

It may also be that women are naturally good jugglers. After all, for those of us who are mothers and balancing our work life with our family life, the multi-tasking that comes with good leadership is a natural fit. 

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