At BizLibrary, we get the amazing opportunity to interact with experts in all fields – leadership experts, financial experts, DEI experts – and so many more! We work with industry leaders to create valuable and insightful content that is designed to make your life at work easier and help you become Smarter Every Day. While our experts have great things to share with you in their Expert Insights series and BizAcademy sessions, there’s a lot that you may not know about them and how they got to where they are today. So – we’re releasing our Behind-the-Scenes blog series! These blogs are informal interviews conducted with our experts to get behind the “How & Why” of what they do. They may also share little tips and tricks along the way, as well!
Our first guest is Gabriella Parente – Executive Leadership BizAcademy Expert and the mind behind two upcoming Expert Insights series on Resiliency at Work and Strengths-based Leadership.
Q: You had mentioned before that you felt motivated to move into the leadership space when you noticed that men made up 95% of the audience at a leadership forum. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience?
A: Yes! I was in graduate school and was asked to assist a professor at a leadership forum, and when I walked in, I was immediately overwhelmed. Being one of the only handful of women present, I was asking myself, “Is this what the world of work really looks like?” Then, when I returned from the forum, I was still thinking about it like, “This can’t be what it is. I can’t let it be what it is.” I became really enamored with the thought of making a difference in the professional world [for women]. So starting really early on, even in grad school, I was putting together salary negotiations for women with the intention to make a difference.
So many other female leaders have really taken the charge on this as well, but that is what motivated me to get into the leadership space and to make a difference. So many women have paved the way, and I have daughters, and so I really think it’s important for me to do what I can to make a pathway for them to leadership, and so that all women can have a pathway.
Q: Can you tell us about your upcoming Expert Series?
A: I am really excited about my Expert Insights series – I have two coming up. One is about resilience, and the other is about strengths.
The series about resilience is about the intersection of the idea of resiliency and how it fits into business. I think we all need a little bit of resilience in our lives, we’ve all been through some things recently [with the pandemic], the whole world has. All businesses and all people need resilience, which is a skill, so they need training on it. That’s the basis of the Expert Insights series on resilience – how we can get there quickly and learn some of the steps to build resilience.
The second Expert Insights series is about the strengths-based approach to leadership. It takes this idea of using what you are naturally gifted at and using that to get the most “bang for your buck” so to speak. So instead of focusing on your weaknesses, which is a common approach, a strengths-based approach helps you to identify your natural talents and focus on enhancing your strengths rather than building on your weaknesses. I love doing this with my clients because it gives a company or an executive team a common language to discuss collaboration and covering multiple areas of strength.
The strengths-based model is actually my favorite approach to work with executives. I’ve used it for over 10 years with executives and business teams, and it can be used in all of those applications and more. It can also be used with schools, and churches, and tons of other use cases.
Q: Why are you passionate about resilience?
A: Everyone has been through something, especially in the last couple of years with the pandemic. The pandemic has changed the world dramatically. I talk about this a little bit in my courses, but it has fundamentally changed the way we do business. Because of that, many individuals and organizations need a little bit of back-up training on resiliency, because job groups are changing, your role is changing, your mode of work has probably changed…and if you’re not good at pivoting, you’re probably going to have a harder time. So, we work on building up that resiliency muscle to achieve greater things faster.
Q: Can you share one thing managers can do to develop resilient employees?
A: I really recommend taking courses on resiliency. It’s not going to happen by itself. Another way to build resilience is by learning and building emotional intelligence, which is something I talk about in the resiliency Expert Insights course. You can take assessments to benchmark where you are currently, but taking a course and training people on resiliency is one of the best ways to learn that. Resiliency is a muscle, but it can be learned.
Q: What do you think are the most important skills for leaders?
A: I definitely think you have to be resilient. In addition, I think you must be people-centric. There’s no way that you can run a business and not have a handle on how your people feel, what they’re going through, or how they feel towards the company. To not have a handle on the pulse of the company is so reckless. I think a time ago, leaders were more likely to have had a pulse on their organization, but since those leaders have left, we’ve seen quiet quitting, we’ve seen the Great Resignation, it’s really out of control. I recommend that if you’re not a people centric CEO, hire a coach or a consultant who can help you figure out the pulse of your organization and get that under control.
Q: How can leaders strike the balance of meeting people where they are while also holding them accountable?
A: So many people are going through things, and it’s not just now – they always have been. I’ve been in human resources and consulting for almost twenty years, and people are almost always going through something. However, we still do need to hold them accountable as their managers. So often we see this as two separate things. We either A) hold them accountable or B) let them have whatever they need to have. Instead, we can still do both of those things at the same time. We can be kind and gentle and empathetic and hold them accountable at the same time. It’s a conversation. It’s showing that employee empathy during the process and ask them, “What is something that I can do for you as a manager, while still holding you accountable to your tasks?” You can even just say that exact sentence and hold them accountable without changing the rules, but you can do it in an empathetic way.
When you get into these emotional situations, I always tell managers to write down sentences ahead of time to take emotion out of it. This way, when that employee that you’ve known for 10 years comes to your door, you don’t have to scramble for something to say. Write down some sentences that you’ve practiced already.
Learn More from Gabriella Parente
Gabriella has lots of more knowledge to share in her Expert Insights series that will be out soon. You can also check out her BizAcademy session on Executive Leadership in the meantime! BizAcademy is a hybrid learning program that puts your learners directly in the seat with experts. In our Executive Leadership module, instructor Gabriella Parente will walk executives through building on strengths, unlocking team potential, inspiring teams to action, and leading through change.