Leading With Your Authentic Voice

How can you find common ground to build trust quickly?

Summary
Transcript

Establishing trust and rapport with employees can pose a challenge for leaders, especially when you are walking into a new situation. Kat Cole, COO and President, North America at FOCUS Brands, shares examples from her own career of how intrinsically knowing who she is has allowed her to connect to new employees and build common ground with new teams, even when she didn’t speak their language! “There are many contributors and inputs to someone's ability to be their full self every day,” says Kat. “It is driven as much by their inner strength, and their history, and their background as it is driven by the environment that they are in at any given point in time.” Kat has found that by being comfortable in her own skin, she’s able to share personal experiences and anecdotes from her life, which in turn allows her to connect to her team members in an authentic, truthful and relatable way.

I think the ability to be first comfortable in your own skin is colored by so many factors -- your culture, how you grew up, whether or not that was permitted or encouraged as a child, the social environment in which you are existing and interacting. So I don't think it's just style or a choice. There are many contributors and inputs to someone's ability to be their full self every day. I would say it is driven by as much as their inner strength, and their history, and their background as it is driven by the environment that they are in at any given point in time. I've always been pretty candid, and I think that continued because I was rewarded for it over time. And I remember every country that I went to, to open a restaurant. If you think about it, I was there to lead a team to open a restaurant in a new country, in a new culture where the brand wasn't known and usually with a team I had never led. So what was required was really the ability to build trust incredibly quickly. They had never met me before. I've never met them, yet I have to do the same job every time in a short amount of time in all these different places with different teams and different resources. And I learned very quickly that if I lead first with sharing things about myself, my personal life, the way I grew up, the things I learned from my mom, that not only does that deliver a level of vulnerability that makes other people feel a sense of comfort, but it often opened the door for others to share where they come from, their points of view, the reasonings behind the way they feel or the way they act. And that allowed us in a short amount of time, despite often maybe not speaking the same language, or never having met, or having very different cultures, to find common ground so that we could focus on the thing we were there to do, which was to open a business. And I still use that in boardroom relationships and high level executive relationships, as well as with entry level employees today.
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Kat Cole

Kat Cole’s twitter handle reads “Connected-Creative-Conscious-Community building Capitalist, Biz Advisor, MBA, Coffee-loving Chronic Learner” – this not only describes her as a person, it describes the philosophies she applies to busi...

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