Leading By Example
Contributed by Joanna Williams, Marketing and Communications Strategist
Five key learnings
As leader of the top-selling automotive company in Canada, Bev Goodman (MBA ‘98), CEO, Ford of Canada, recently shared some of her career and life insights with DeGroote MBA students. She was very open and happy to discuss some of her career ‘lessons learned’ and what she wished she knew as she was just starting out.
Lead With Values
It may sound simple, but Goodman stresses the importance of leading with values. It starts with identifying your core values and defining what success means to you.
Born and raised in Montreal into a close-knit family, she credits her parents with being her greatest influencers and for helping to shape her core values:
- Always put family first
- Be disciplined
- Work hard
- Act with integrity
- Never quit
- Treat people with compassion and fairness
- Be humble
“To me, true success is being able to look at myself in the mirror at the end of each day, be proud of the person that I am looking at, and ensure that what I have accomplished, and most importantly how I did it, remains aligned to my values and beliefs,” says Goodman.
A big self-reflector, Goodman feels it’s important to reflect on things you do well, and things you do not do well, in order to learn, grow and be better.
To help define and reflect on your core values, she encourages people to think about:
- Who am I today?
- What has influenced me over the years?
- What really matters to me?
- What does success mean to me?
- What are my values?
- Am I living true to those values?
- Am I proud of the person that I am?
- Am I proud of what I’ve done and how I did it?
Never Give Up
Goodman encourages students to take chances and try new things. Her path towards an MBA and working at Ford was not linear. She attended Queen’s University because she wanted to be a doctor – but partway through her program, discovered she didn’t have a passion for science. One of her core values is to never quit and she finished her biology degree. Next, she worked for a couple of years as a bad debt collector and determined that business was the path she wanted to take and subsequently pursued an MBA at McMaster.
Little did she know at the time that her first internship work term at Ford on the finance team would eventually lead her all the way to the top position in the company in Canada. She admits that, at the time, she didn’t know much about the automotive industry, but she was drawn to the opportunities and experiences Ford provided and a culture that was aligned to her values.
To Goodman, not quitting and never giving up means continually challenging yourself and the path that you are on. You may choose to change direction, but you never stop trying, moving forward and looking for the next opportunity.
Throughout her career, there were times Goodman suffered from imposter syndrome, saying there were some jobs that she didn’t feel qualified for and that she was at times afraid to fail. Over time, she learned that it is okay to not know all of the answers, and it was ok to ask a million questions.
“Put yourself out there, take chances, try new things,” she says. “It’s okay to not know what your whole life will hold for you. You’ve got to take chances and try new things, but never ever give up.”
In life and in your career, Goodman says there will be highs and lows. During the highs, things feel great and the positives outweigh the negatives. But she warns that there will also be lows, times where you need to find your inner strength to be resilient. She explains that it’s how you deal with those difficult challenges that also contributes to your overall success.
“When times get tough, you can’t throw in the towel,” she says. “You need to be there for your team, for your teammates and for yourself. You need to embrace the tough times, find your inner strength and power through.”
Goodman recalls a really difficult time when a friend and colleague took their own life. It was a situation she needed to find that inner strength, but didn’t know how to do it at the time.
During this dark period, she re-evaluated her priorities and re-focused on what was important to her. She tried to remember to appreciate the people around her and to enjoy every moment. Eventually she worked her way through it, but admits she struggled along the way.
“I share this with you because you will face highs and lows as you go through your lives and careers. You will be presented with opportunities and challenges. Success is capitalizing on the opportunities. And very importantly, success is also managing through the challenges, which at times can feel insurmountable.”
Act With Integrity
On a daily basis Goodman uses integrity to guide her decisions and choices. When presented with difficult situations and challenges, she focuses on the objective – what do we need to achieve as our primary outcome – then, what is the RIGHT path to get there, even if that means it is the harder path.
“Throughout your lives and careers, you will be presented with problems and challenges that you need to address,” says Goodman. “Often, the easy thing is the most attractive – as you can avoid conflict and confrontation. However, remember to have the courage to act with integrity and always choose the harder right thing. Long-term gain will always be worth the short-term pain.”
Treat people with compassion and kindness. “The old saying holds true – treat people how you want to be treated – this is how I try to live my life,” she says. Another quote that resonates with her is: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
“There will be people you encounter throughout your lives and careers who will stomp on the people around them as they climb the corporate ladder,” she reflects. “There will be others who rise to the top without taking any casualties with them, who are kind and compassionate, and both team players and team leaders. Be one of these people.”
Be True to Yourself
For Goodman it always comes back to remaining true to herself and her values. She acknowledges there will be challenges and barriers to overcome in both life and work, but she reminds students it’s how you approach these experiences and treat people along the way that defines you as a leader.
Thanks Bev. This was a useful read and I appreciate that it’s not easy to open up about the challenges we’ve faced.
Hopefully there are many others who will benefit from your experiences shared here.
Nice thoughts Bev. Very inspiring for young team members
Great advice that clearly worked in your life and can be mirrored well in all our lives.