The following Q&A is from an interview with Stacey Allaster, the chairwoman and C.E.O. of the Womens Tennis Association, in The New York Times, July 24, 2011:
Q. Talk about your "light-bulb moments."
A. Because Im competitive, I was all about results and all about winning. I probably spent too much time in the beginning being focused on the endgame but not recognizing that, to win the match, you really need to take the time to nurture your team, energize your team and understand what motivates your team. Not everyone is motivated the way I am.
It doesnt mean that Im right and theyre wrong. You can all have the best ideas in the world, but if you dont have the people who really are energized and motivated to deliver, you wont achieve success.
I have a diversified team now, with a variety of different skills. We all dont need to be the same, nor should we be the same. Its about understanding what everybody needs to be motivated and successful.
Q. So how do you do that?
A. I think its about time and communication and style. And during those moments when youre under intense pressure, you dial it back.
Q. What do you mean?
A. You have to dial back the energy of the discussion and just be more reflective and patient. I think Im more self-aware. So if weve gone off track for some reason, the first place Ill start is: Did I not set a clear direction? Did someone not clearly understand what we were trying to achieve? Was I asking too much of the team or the individual?
Do we have the right skill set to achieve that goal? So Im much more aware now of looking there first, versus immediately going to, they didnt deliver. I just think that, now that Ive matured, Im a much better communicator and far more aware of everyone around me and their needs, versus just being focused on getting the result.
Q. What were some other important leadership lessons youve learned?
A. Well, theres probably a culmination of overcoming adversity and challenge through my whole life. To give you an example, I wasnt the kid who had one paper route. I had three paper routes. We needed money and I wanted to play sports and my mom provided everything for me, but there was a limit, so she said I had to earn some money to be able to play sports. So there I was in the middle of a Canadian winter, schlepping around to 1,500 houses every week. In the winter months I used the sled, and in the summer months I used the wagon.
I can remember achieving a lot in sports just with the sheer tenacity that I will win and Ill overcome it. Im on the smaller side, so people said to me, You cant play tennis. So anybody can say that to me, but Ill just prove them wrong. Ive always found a way, whatever the challenge is.
Q. What advice would you give to someone whos about to move from chief operating officer to chief executive?
A. Ive had that experience. I thought I knew what the C.E.O. role was when I was a C.O.O., but as I prepared before the interview process, I engaged a C.E.O. coach. I can remember that in the early days of preparing, I said to the coach, Its a natural transition for me to go from C.O.O. to C.E.O.
She said: No, its not. Its not a natural transition. In the operating role, youre very focused on the day-to-day, the tactical, to get the job done. At the C.E.O. level, youre going to step back. Its going to be about strategy. Its going to be about your vision. Its going to be about values. Its going to be about people. Its going to be about you making sure youve got the right course and the right team, and that theyre energized and motivated. Its an entirely different thought process.