This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab. The Restaurants Show Canada (restaurantshow.ca) takes place Feb. 28-March 1 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto and this is the second of three related Leadership Labs.
It's no secret that millennials are coming into their own in the working world and, in particular, millennial women are making up a greater proportion of the work force than ever before, hitting a professional tipping point and taking on some of the strongest company roles, managing teams of varying experience, including other millennials. This is an exciting time to be a female millennial leader; we have a unique opportunity – and challenge – to shape the culture of our workplaces and forge the path to develop more young leaders.
When I think about my mother's career compared with my own there are some huge differences, which is evidence of the rapidly changing times. She worked in one job her whole life – a managerial role at BC Hydro – starting right out of high school and working her way up to a leadership position. She was smart, learning things quickly and as she went. Contrast that with today, and it's almost a given that you need a post-secondary designation to be on a level playing field with everyone else applying for similar positions, especially in leadership. It is now rare when someone holds the same job their whole life. Depending on the size and type of company you work for, you get vertical career growth by moving companies – something that aligns with my experience, successfully progressing in five different organizations in the last 13 years.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to join RAMMP Hospitality Brands, a thriving network of partners, franchisees, employees, brands and suppliers that share a rich history in the food service industry. When I joined the company, in the role of controller, RAMMP was essentially a start-up, having just added the Canadian heritage brand, MR MIKES Steakhouse Casual, to its portfolio. Since then, I've been promoted to vice-president of finance, and being a part of the company's growth has allowed me to accelerate my career and learn a great deal – far more so than if I had a taken a safer route and joined a more established company. I can attribute that enhanced learning to stepping outside my comfort zone, keeping my mind open to new ideas, and constantly challenging myself to figure things out on my own.
Being the only woman and millennial on the senior leadership team at RAMMP Hospitality Brands, as well as managing a multi-generational team within my department, has certainly been a learning curve for me. I use a different approach for each area, tailoring my style to who I am dealing with at the time. There is a certain perception attached to being a millennial, so I have had to work hard to earn trust through my actions.
I try to have a flexible management style, giving my team the same trust and autonomy as I had with a collaborative and open style of working, allowing people to progress by doing things on their own, and how they feel is best, while also being accountable for their work and results. For me, being accountable doesn't mean being perfect, but learning from both achievements and failures. I am open-minded to learn from everyone around me because I don't always know the best answer. A lot of my success can be attributed to being given the opportunity to learn from doing, which builds momentum in terms of growth and maturity. I try to give my team members this opportunity, too. I want to help develop their skill sets wherever possible.
As I am vice-president of finance, it's a given that profitability is a top priority. The accounting and finance team must be meticulous, but profitability is also driven by human factors. I try to lead with a good balance between inspecting details, and understanding the big picture. You have to be great at both to be a really successful accountant or analyst. I also make time for fun, with office team-building events and games. My team and I can get really busy, so I hope making fun a priority shows my teammates that their happiness and well-being is an important part of our success.
Through my own path to leadership, I have learned that in order for companies to develop more millennial staff into influential leaders, they need to create a culture that encourages learning and personal development, one that gives employees a chance to challenge themselves in areas of the business beyond their direct role. Keeping things interesting and generating new learning opportunities can work to minimize the 'job hopping' that millennials are known for.
Company leaders must be willing to let go of controlling how something is done and focus more on setting clear expectations for the desired result, intentionally supporting the growth of their team by including them in projects where they can use their strengths to add value. Great leaders are also recognizing that strengths such as empathy and collaboration are equally important. Open discussion, debate and challenging others' ideas should always be encouraged, fostering a culture that is not about conflict, but coming together to find the best solution.
A major influence on my success has been the mentorship of the RAMMP ownership team. It has fostered learning by doing, cheering me on and setting me up for success. Just as it has mentored me, I strive to guide others in my workplace. I have always been given room to try things on my own, make mistakes, and subsequently learn from them without being micromanaged or sheltered – as long as the team produces a positive end result. I was given the chance to prove my abilities to get to where I am, and I take great pride in helping my team members do the same.
Sheryl Pringle is vice-president, finance, RAMMP Hospitality Brands, Burnaby, B.C.