True or false: Executives get fancy offices
- Posted on March 11, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
This article is excerpted from Thrive Global, which interviewed Stella Goulet, Avanade’s chief marketing officer, as part of its series about powerful women. The excerpt below focuses on some of her experiences as an executive.
Thrive Global: What is it about the position of C-suite executive that most attracted you to it?
I love being able to have more impact on the business overall and bring a marketing perspective and advice to the business.
The culture of success at Avanade was also attractive. Compared with the challenges I’ve heard that other senior leaders have had when they join new companies, Avanade is unique. From the start, I was embraced and helped to succeed. Regardless of role and level of seniority, everyone’s been willing to share their knowledge and exchange ideas about how we can improve global marketing and the business at large.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
As an executive, you have a view across the entire company, not just your own area of responsibility. And you’re involved in the company’s overall longer-term strategy. Executives also play an important role in developing leadership talent and helping people and teams thrive in change.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
I really enjoy providing the space and inspiration for others to come up with innovative ideas and helping them find ways to achieve them. I’m always thrilled to see new thinking and ideas coming from our younger team members who are early in their careers. I appreciate being in a position to encourage them and help them put their ideas into action.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
There’s never enough time. There are always more things to be done, more opportunities to focus on, more challenges to address and more things to celebrate than there’s time for. In addition, there are so many good ideas out there, but we know we can’t do everything. So one of the downsides is having to say no to good ideas.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive. Can you explain what you mean?
Being an executive doesn’t automatically mean you get perks like a fancy office.
And it doesn’t mean that you should be put on a pedestal. Sometimes people, especially at more junior levels, feel intimidated and think executives aren’t approachable. But people who are newer to the workforce often bring the freshest ideas. So, in fact, we want to hear from everyone, we want to hear their good ideas. It’s that diversity of ideas that helps breed success.
At Avanade, we believe everyone counts — we embrace collaboration from all levels and realize everyone has something to offer. Fostering a culture of inclusion is really important to us. We want our employees to feel inspired, confident and cared for. I love it when people help me see things from a different perspective, particularly when that helps our team to succeed.
Those successes are often the thing that people want to highlight to an executive. And I absolutely want to hear about my team’s successes. But I also want to hear about their challenges and what they want or need for the future. It’s important to learn and share lessons about things that haven’t worked, as well as what has worked. If I’m not aware of the challenges my team is facing, I can’t help give them the right tools or information to overcome those challenges.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
In my experience, the top three traits that I think are crucial to success are:
- Managing complexity and making something simple, practical and impactful from it
- Managing change and helping others manage change
- The ability to inspire and develop people and teams
I spend a lot of time on managing priorities and connecting the dots to help people understand the complex ideas we deal with every day and can get behind them. A strategy may be the right strategy, but if you don’t put a plan in place to enable an effective execution, your strategy won’t be very effective.
People who are happiest being individual contributors, who need things to be black and white, and who don’t do well with change may not be successful executives.