The modern workplace generally presents unique leadership challenges due to differing perspectives, cultures, and beliefs, and leading a diverse organization is about much more than simply acknowledging differences.
For episode 070 of my podcast, ‘The World Class Leaders Show’, I invited Renee McGowan, Mercer’s President, Asia Middle East & Africa (AMEA), to talk about how she embraces diversity and improves performance at the workplace.
She leads Mercer’s business across 15+ markets in this fast-growing, dynamic region, is also Chairperson of Mercer in Japan, and is Executive Director on Mercer boards in China and Hong Kong. In 2022, she was named one of Arabian Business’ 50 Inspiring Female Business Leaders. She is also a member of the MEA Business Group, Dubai Business Women Council, and Boardroom by EMIR.
Can Staying With a Company Too Long Hurt Your Career?
Job hopping can hurt your career but everyone knows that staying too long in an organization can hold you back professionally. So, why did Renee stay for over 20 years at Mercer?
“In fact, entirely the opposite. I was given the opportunity to do a number of different roles across strategy, marketing, and product operations, and also to work in a lot of different countries. So while it’s been a long time with one organization, there has not been a dull moment at all”
3 Areas of Focus to Have High & Sustainable Growth
Many companies have been obsessed with growth hacking in recent times, but forcing growth can often cause more harm than good. In order to achieve sustainable, long-term growth, businesses must focus on the right combination of elements and strategy—and think about what the future might look like.
Sustainable growth doesn’t require a long time to achieve—some factors can impact a company’s growth almost immediately. Renee, who has been working at Mercer for over 20 years focused on three areas that ensure sustainable business growth:
- Business Growth
Business growth is a point a business reaches where it expands and requires more avenues to generate a profit. This can happen when a company increases revenue, produces more products or services, or expands its customer base.
“Business growth is important. We’re a part of a publicly listed company. We want to be growing well and sustainably and profitably, and we’re doing that in every one of the markets that we operate in.”
- Colleagues Development
To oversee such a large, diverse region and portfolio, you need strong leaders all across your businesses. Those leaders should be trusted to run their divisions with minimal oversight so they can focus on growth and day-to-day control.
“Growth is also about our colleagues. How do we invest in accelerating that talent that is needed in the future, needed by our organization, but also needed in the local communities that we live and work in? So that has been where I’ve spent most of my time, making sure that we’ve got a strong team of diverse talent.”
The other thing is then once you get that team is really getting everybody united around, and being bold.
- Local Communities
By giving back to the community, you take an active role in community development, help community members succeed, and help foster a deeper sense of unity.
“Are we doing good work, doing the right work with clients, institutions, and organizations in our local communities, so that we’re helping them to grow and develop and have better conditions? So it’s an exciting spot to be a huge amount of diversity. There’s never a dull moment, but it’s a wonderful role to have.”
Three Things Leaders of Diverse Teams Must Embody
As conversations around diversity and inclusion become increasingly common, leaders may be wondering how they can best do their part to move their businesses forward. Reaching quotas and having anti-bias training are good first steps toward creating a truly diverse workforce – but there’s more that needs to be done.
In order to help CEOs and Great Leaders evaluate their own strategies and approaches, Renee identifies Three Things Leaders of Diverse Team Must Embody.
- Being Calm and Considered
Handling a diverse team, they all have their issues, some of them are more hotspots, by a global standard or for a multinational company. So always being calm and considerate in response will inspire more trust and perform better. They know that no matter the issue, they can rely on their leaders to find a way forward without losing their cool. And that goes a long way to inspiring trust and loyalty.
- A Broader Perspectives
Every person’s perspective is formed with ideas, experiences of life, and personal values. It is essential to give the value and importance of each person’s worth and point of view instead of being rigid to what you think is right. If you want to be a true leader, you must explore this quality within yourself.
“I think that’s been the biggest learning for me personally is how can you take a broader perspective and deliberately pause and try and consider that perspective. I think it’s probably made me a better person and a better business leader from learning that along the way.”
When working with people and other Leaders our actions should correlate 100% to how we see the world, and until we don’t understand why people do what they do, that would be difficult to ask them to do anything different than what they’re already doing and so understanding other’s perspective is the key.
- Manage Your Energy
You have to manage your energy because you want to show up every day and be your best and everybody needs you to do that as well. So you have to be careful to manage your energy, to look after yourself, to take the time out that you need because if you don’t manage your energy, you don’t make good decisions either.
If you are truly mindful of your energy and you manage it well, you’re likely to become far more productive—and, as a result, a more effective leader.
To close the interview, I asked Renee to share with us his responses to my top guest questions.
Q: Is there anything in your career that you might have done differently?
I don’t actually have regrets and I wouldn’t go back and change them. So it’s all with the benefit of hindsight and if I hadn’t made the mistakes I wouldn’t have learned and grown along the way.
Q: What’s your approach to learning?
I’m an experiential learner, so I learn through experiences and I learn through engaging with others. That’s where the bulk of my learning comes from. So I love meeting new people, I love trying new things or new forums or things because that’s the way I learn the most. I do read obviously enormously to complement all of that, I would say, with the leaning towards probably more current and world affairs as opposed to theoretical management or business. And I have a specific interest also in making sure that as a leader that you’re relevant and you’re making sure your organization is relevant. So I have some specific topics that I think are of interest that I study in my own right.
Q: Is there any specific book that you would like to recommend to the audience just because it changes your perspective, your life, or maybe your career?
Yeah, two that I think are obviously Carol Dweck Growth and Fixed Mindsets by Carol Dweck, I just think are critical for life. And then the other one also well known, Thinking Fast and Slow. I think that System One and System Two thinking there is just really important to be cognizant of and that probably impacted more from a professional perspective as well.
For more information regarding Renee McGowan and his work, you can visit the company website https://www.bakerhughes.com/. You may also wish to reach out on Linkedin, at linkedin.com/in/reneemcgowan.
If you’ve enjoyed this or other of my podcast episodes, please send me any comments via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/andreapetrone, or via email at [email protected] .
For more information on my work and access to other valuable resources, please visit the website, at https://www.andreapetrone.com/ .
Listen to the podcast related to this article: https://www.andreapetrone.com/070: How to Be a Great Leader in a Diverse Workplace with Renée McGowan/