When Gail Torreano became president of AT&T Michigan, the company was dealing with service issues and new owners, and
Torreano had a big challenge in front of her. By meeting the challenge, Torreano who leads about 12,000 employees learned
to reach out to people she had not worked with before to leverage the company’s strengths.
Smart Business spoke with Torreano
about how to express appreciation to employees and how to build a team approach to business.
Communicate. It’s important to communicate often and well. That, in turn, will bring
more communication in whatever organization you are working in.
You communicate in every manner you
can. Whether that be e-mails, meetings,
voice mails, any way that you can because,
No. 1, people sometimes need to hear the
message more than once.
Secondly, we all hear and learn things in
different ways. It’s important to use every
avenue you can to communicate.
The other way of communicating is modeling. That is not as direct, but I think it’s
really important to model whatever you are
saying. You can’t have inconsistency with
your actions and your words. You use a
team approach, and that’s how you get to
all the people. You obviously aren’t going to
get face to face with everyone.
That is where a team comes in. It’s important to leverage the team so everyone is
communicating in the same way and the
same messages at the same time. No one
person can do it all. That’s why it’s important to leverage other people, so everyone
is swimming in the same direction.
Sometimes I wonder, ‘Are they tired of
hearing me?’ But, nevertheless, I continue
Find employees who understand and appreciate the team structure. Someone who has
high standards and can demonstrate they
have high standards. Someone who is a
‘can-do’ kind of person. Someone who
believes in figuring out how to do something rather than giving reasons why one
can’t. The issue of knowing how to work in
a team. To be comfortable in that kind of
There’s always a bit of risk with anyone
you hire because you really don’t know
what they are going to be like. You don’t get
it right all the time. Not that the person isn’t
good, but maybe it’s not the right fit at that
particular time. I believe in my gut.
There is risk in it. That’s life. There is risk
Praise employees whenever you can. Obviously, I’m not going to work with
12,000 people each day. I believe the people
who are working for me have excellent
skills and gifts that they bring to the table.
I like to hold up someone on my team,
and it’s at different times. You have to be
comfortable as a leader to let others shine.
That’s my style. I don’t have to be in the
forefront all the time. It’s important to let
others be in the forefront and let them
shine. That develops a team.
I always have said we are like a jigsaw
puzzle. Everyone has to fit in, each in their
own way. Without each one as part of that
puzzle, there is a hole in that puzzle. So we
give strength to one another. Without one
another, the entire group isn’t as strong.
You express appreciation, and you can
express that appreciation in a number of
ways. Not only verbally, not only in your actions, but also in compensation.
Compensation is an important way to communicate to employees that you value
I also believe that giving them opportunities to shine, to succeed and to lead is
another way. Most successful employees
appreciate those opportunities.
You’ve got to tell an employee when they
are doing a great job.
Maintain a balance. Have some kind of
physical activity that you are involved in.
You need to be well-rounded. You need to
have a family life. You need to give back to
your community. It helps one to stay balanced and refreshed.
Learn from mistakes. There will always be
times in our lives when you make a mistake. You take and look at it and learn from
it, so it is not wasted. Life is a process. My
work here is a process, not an event.
There will be mistakes made. That is an
OK thing. It’s OK to make a mistake if you
learn from it.
If I make the mistake two, three, four
times, then there is a problem. If you make
a mistake, you learn from it. That doesn’t
mean I am a failure or whoever makes the
mistake is a failure.
Reward employees in different ways. The
reward has to match the behavior or
accomplishment. Sometimes it is mentioning their name in a letter to employees.
Sometimes we have internal contests.
We will give gift cards or something they
can personally enjoy. We’ve given away
DVRs for big contests. Different people are
motivated by different kinds of gifts.
So, you’ve got to have different structures. In a large organization, you have to
be diverse in the way you communicate,
and diverse in the ways you let others shine
and hold people up. Just like with your customers you have a diverse customer
base, so you are diverse in the way that you
HOW TO REACH: AT&T Michigan, www.att.com