Robert Schrecongost, former Vice Chairman and VP of Technology at GoodYear/Dunlop North America, spoke to the Leadership foundations class this month about leading in an international marketplace. Robert, who spoke from 39 years in the tire industry, has traveled around the world – collaborating on teams in France, Germany, the UK, Japan and beyond. In his talk, Robert demonstrated how leading ethically and authentically brings success.
Robert emphasized how crucial good communication is for leadership. “It doesn’t really matter what your skill set is if you can’t communicate,” he has learned. Robert’s mindset for communication stressed ownership: he explained that everyone hears what a leader says through his or her own set of experiences and opinions. It’s the leader’s responsibility, he believes, to get the message across in a way people will understand.
This is especially hard when culture is a factor. “Communication is culturally dependent,” he shared as he explained his process for collaborating successfully with international teams. In Japan, Robert learned both the formal and informal communication rules of business. Not only did he learn the appropriate times to bow or remove his shoes, he also learned how his Japanese teammates valued relationships, group success and strength.
Relating to his teammates in their own cultural terms and building relationships outside the office bonded the team together and brought success during the workday. In his view, “Language is a tool and, as any tool, it should be used properly.”
Especially in an international setting, self-awareness is crucial to leading well. “Know yourself and know the impact your personality has on others,” Robert advised. Robert, a self-professed introvert, knows he can tend to withhold his opinion out of shyness. However, he has learned that can be interpreted as arrogance. This self-knowledge has helped him be aware of how he acts, and to adapt to make sure he is leading effectively.
The worldview Robert shared emphasized integrity. He advised, “Don’t do anything just because someone told you to. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and it doesn’t matter who you are.” Instead, decide based on what will benefit the company’s bottom line and improve the lives of employees. “Give everyone the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said. Robert believes that everyone in a company adds value, from the CEO to the night janitor. In his view, everyone contributes and should be treated with respect. As a leader, he advised students to give credit liberally and to support other’s good ideas as if they were our own.
“Though it may not be what’s easy or comfortable,” Robert said, “at the end of the day, do what’s right.”