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 anyway.
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 setting.
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 in anything.
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 them.
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 reach out.
HOW TO REACH: AT&T Michigan, www.att.com