Leadership Interview: Jennifer Dorian – Confidence and Connecting (Part 3)
This week we finish our Leadership Interview series with Jennifer Dorian, General Manager at Turner Class Movies. Last week she shared with us about how she overcame challenges and unleashed her passion. Today Jennifer shares with us how important confidence is in your journey. She also gives us her take on WICT’s theme of “Connecting”. On behalf of the entire WICT-SE group a big thank you to Jennifer Dorian and her team at Turner Classic Movies for the time and input for this amazing series.
So what is your best career advice for an emerging female leader?
I think, “Be confident”. We just can’t say it enough. Don’t back down from the first no, when you share something, or an idea, or a question, don’t back down from the first harsh response or intimidating look. Stay strong because business, in my opinion, is not for consensus people, or yes people, or for fearful people. My boss and I used to joke around if we share the same opinion on everything one of us is redundant. So bring it, be confident, and have an opinion. Don’t be fearful. I know that takes time, that’s hard, but whatever it takes to buck up your confidence, practice. Don’t take it for granted that you will feel confident, really think about it.
Is that one of the ways you build your confidence is through research?
Yes, definitely. That’s a really great point. I try to know what I need to know to feel confident. Also, something that is not research based is think about all the role models that get credit for being great leaders and having a lot of charisma, and tenacity, and courage. It’s not always a perfectionist who researches everything. It’s people who are willing to take risks and convey passion so I try not to fall into a trap that I’m going to be a perfectionist female leader. Because most of the guys I grew up idolizing were not perfectionist’s they were a little crazy. They dreamed big and led people to do big things before they knew exactly how they were going to do them.
So you did the research but at the same time you allow people to push themselves beyond their comfort zone?
I just think for me, my personal confidence recipe, would involve a little bit of research and knowing a little bit about the subject. Call me crazy, but I would want to know enough to have an opinion. But I would not make the mistake of being paralyzed like I have to have a perfect answer.
Do you ever role play?
Yes, for me practicing is a big deal. I mentally practice and I think through situations. I always coach people who work for me, if we are introducing something new or making a decision and we are going into a group meeting, “Let’s project how different people are going to react to this and what is going to be our response.” So just pretend I was pitching a new idea to our distribution group. I would be thinking “How is the distribution group going to react to this?” They are going to be thinking, “How are the clients going to react? How is this changing legal terms? How is this changing consumer options?” If I have a difficult conversation I’m going to have with someone I definitely try to in my head to have 1, 2 or 3 bullet points or here is how I’m going to open or here is how I’m going to land. It’s not something I do super consciously it’s just how I approach a difficult conversation.
One of the things you touched on is similar to something Susan Packard says in her book “New Rules of The Game” is having that thick skin and being able to be resilient. Has there been a time where you learned and had to bounce back from something that either didn’t go well or didn’t go as expected?
So many times. When we are invested in our work it becomes personal. That’s a funny thing from Erin Brokavich. Do you remember when her boss said “It’s not personal, don’t take it personal” and she responded “That’s my time away from my children, if that’s not personal, I don’t know what is!”?My friend at Turner we’ve always quoted that ‘Oh, it’s personal’. I’m invested in this and I want to win and I want us to do well.
I can think of many times that I had a setback, and I would be upset. I remember one time I had this really bad, ineffective meeting that I was leading about 2006. So almost 10 years ago and I still remember it. It was a bad meeting. It didn’t go well. People weren’t taking to the material. They weren’t asking the kind of questions I wanted them to ask. They weren’t furthering the agenda that we wanted to be on. It was an ineffective meeting.
So I’m analyzing it afterwards, “What did we do wrong? How can we do better next time? What kind of damage repair do I need to do?” Then this one guy that I work with was said, “Hey, you had a bad meeting. Get over it. Just move on”. Which was such a good perspective because there was some truth to what he was saying.
Then as far as hurt feelings and things like that I’ve definitely been in meetings where I was debating something with my boss. Actually one specifically that I talked about at the WICT panel. I felt it was vital to the future of our enterprise plus I believed in it creatively. So strategically, creatively, personally I really believed “This is the way we need to go. Why do you not see this?” We were arguing and arguing and at the end he was winning. It got really heated and when we were walking out and he says “I’ve got to go to lunch. Wow we haven’t batted the ball around that hard in a long time! See ya later”. So to him it was a great, constructive conversation. I learned from that, that you think it’s a personal debate and really it’s just a business process of exchanging ideas. I thought, “That is an interesting take on what just happened for the last hour. I feel beat up, he feels like we just played squash, or tennis.”
So, I totally agree, don’t personalize work debates. Be fierce and represent your position well. I think a lot of the people on the panel were talking about composure and being really professional and calm and that hasn’t always worked for me. For me showing my stripes and my passion has been more rewarding.
Do you think that’s because of the role being more a little bit more creative or do you think that’s just in general?
Absolutely, I think that’s part of the Turner environment as well as the boss. It’s a style based dynamic with the leaders I’ve worked with. Definitely, that’s one thing that’s great advice for anyone is flex your style based on the type of person you’re talking to you. You have to be able to know how to read people and their functions and then work with them in the way and the tone that they deem appropriate.
Our theme this year is connecting, in what ways do you find that connecting has helped you in your career and what would you advise other leaders to incorporate these lessons into their approach?
Connection is a wonderful touchstone, it’s so relevant. If we don’t connect with the people that work with us, I think we fall short. We have to connect on a cognitive level. I’m big on here is our vision, our mission, our strategies, and our projects. Because that connects us all, we have that common framework. So number one I think as a leader you have to connect with people mentally about, this is the job that we are here to do. Then I think you have to connect with people emotionally. Are you invested in their future, do you care about the context of their lives, are they in a place where they need support to get everything done, or are they in a smooth sailing period. You can’t be unaware, you have to be connected to people’s emotional states. And then connecting across the company and the industry is so vital. Because number one it breeds innovation when you know different things coming together. Number two coordination of efforts and insights on where the industry is going. And then your own personal network for influence, and to help others, and for yourself. So connection is a great, relevant topic.