One of the biggest lessons that Jenniffer Deckard has learned throughout her career is that she had to develop the patience and recognition that she really needed to listen to other people’s ideas, opinions and evaluations of her ideas.
“There’s a power of collective experiences in such that one person, whether that’s me or anyone else, can never have as many ideas as two people or even three or even four,” she says.
As president of Fairmount Minerals, one of the largest producers of industrial sand in the country, this lesson she’s learned is put into daily practice. Throughout her career, Fairmount has had an environment that fosters collaboration, and that has, in turn, helped her develop this skill in herself and in others.
“I hope to lead by example more and more, but [it’s] letting other people speak first — truly listening as opposed to waiting for your opportunity to jump in,” she says. “If you were to ask me what have I been able to do that has allowed me to succeed, I still have work in that area, and I’m developing in that area, but what has allowed the most success for me is … engaging collaboration.”
Sometimes it’s easy to talk about fostering collaboration and much harder to actually do it. Deckard says that coming up on the finance side — she previously served as chief financial officer — has allowed her to touch every facet of the business, so it’s helped her connect with people, so they, in turn, see her as a team player.
“Then, as others view me as a teammate, as [person] A views me as a teammate and [person] B views me as a teammate, it’s helped to foster A and B’s collaboration, as well,” she says.
But you can’t force people to view you as a teammate; that comes through years of patience and practice.
“[It’s] always working toward the same objectives — putting aside divisional objectives, functional objectives and putting the greater objectives for the whole first,” Deckard says.”
The outlook she takes and portrays to employees is one of transparency in a commitment to the success of the organization over all else.
“If we create a stronger, better business, that’s better for everyone, and that’s better for our communities, and that’s better for our employees, and that’s better for everyone in our stakeholder group,” she says.
Deckard says that employees and other constituents see that as her ultimate goal, and it helps create that collaboration, as well.
“Even if you’re digging into something that may be proprietary or sensitive to a group or a person, it’s always done with, ‘What can we do best for the organization, and how can we work together?’ because a successful organization is what can elevate the success of all individuals,” she says.
As she looks to move the business forward, she’s keenly aware of the many opportunities. As those opportunities present themselves, she also looks to other people for their input in assessing them.
“Don’t look at opportunities in a vacuum,” she says. “I get feedback from people on opportunities, usually because opportunities are collaborative. It’s not, ‘This opportunity comes up for Jenniffer.’ It’s, ‘There’s an opportunity, and usually there’s more than one self involved.’”
It also depends on what the opportunity is. Sometimes, she says you just have to decide and move forward, which is how she tends to make decisions if it affects just her.
“If you think too much about it, you can talk yourself out of anything,” she says.
She’s more inclined to jump, especially when it’s her resources, but when it comes to other people’s resources, that’s when she comes back to collaboration.
“That’s when I’ll take a much more analytical approach to an opportunity,” she says.
It’s important to make sure you’re looking at other people when you make decisions and not just looking at how it impacts you. If you can’t take this approach, you’ll be hard-pressed to find success as a leader in business.
“Often, when you try to squeeze out the very last shred of benefit for yourself, you risk losing much bigger future opportunities,” Deckard says. “But when you take an approach that everyone shares in the success, the overall success for you and for everyone else is infinitely greater.”
How to reach: Fairmount Minerals Ltd., (800) 237-4986 or www.fairmountminerals.com