Managing Challenging Times through Transparent Dialogue with Sal Companieh, Ep #9

Our guest in this episode is an authentic leader driving an accelerated digital transformation. Sal Companieh, Interim Co-Global CIO at a global real estate company, has had more than 20 years of consulting experience in process, operating model, and technology transformation. She’s recently accepted the honor of inaugural member of the T200 Lift program. I know you’ll be inspired by listening to this model executive’s experiences leading with empathy and conviction.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…

  • Two years into the pandemic [02:53]
  • Work and mental health [06:47]
  • Moving her team forward [10:53]
  • Transparent dialogue [13:52]
  • Sal’s journey to IT [18:08]
  • Mentorship in Sal’s career [21:53]
  • Growing female talent in tech [26:01]

Leading through a pandemic

Sal’s team has always been open, authentic, and transparent. The experience of the pandemic has amplified those attributes. Before the pandemic, listening and empathy points were always there, but they’ve had to mature. Colleagues were all over the world and at different levels of lockdown. One had to be careful that celebrating receiving little freedoms wasn’t harmful to those still more tightly locked down.

While this reality didn’t change Sal’s leadership style, it opened a great dialogue. Sal had never concentrated on mental health as much as she has in the last few years. While mental health wasn’t ignored, it wasn’t amplified. Now there are open conversations about mental health and colleagues sharing things they would never have ten years ago. The discussions have proved to be an excellent way for colleagues to be brought together remotely, get to know each other, and help frame empathy points differently. Sal hopes that this level of concentration on mental health, empathy, and bringing your whole self to work stays as a foundation to how we come to work every day and engage with our colleagues.

Moving forward

A couple of layers of focus went into Sal’s moving her team forward from the pandemic. The first layer was having as authentic and transparent conversations as possible. While many organizations were struggling with working remotely, Sal’s company was already well versed in working remotely. The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation that the company was already doing.

The next layer of focus was communication. Sal’s company openly discussed capacity and looked out for teams working extra long hours. Sal commonly heard employees say they had nothing else to do, so they just worked. These sorts of things needed to be monitored and discussed on an open basis. Sal had to lead by example by not sending emails at midnight if she expected her team not to respond right then. She’d intentionally allow her kids to come in and out of camera view, or there would be a noise in the background. The focus was on making sure that the team was healthy first and foremost, coupled with the transparency of their work.

Focusing on employees

Because of the focus on employees, the company has delivered more in the last two years than they had the prior three. It delivered large-scale enterprise solutions remotely, which used to require in-person workshops. The company conducted acquisitions 100% remotely. The team had to be creative around the types of social events they could have. At the very beginning, remote happy hours used to be popular, but those started to wane. The team was unified by ensuring they were continuously rotating resources and covering for each other.

Active listening helped many people have a higher willingness to share their concerns. There’s a balancing act of not wanting to hear every concern just for the sake of it. However, there’s a lot to be said around making sure that you never make anyone feel like their voice isn’t being heard. The core of listening and reacting to either realities or misperceptions in meetings was a critical success factor for Sal and her company.

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Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Sal Companieh

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