Flowers, Hammond, and Martinovich, Reflect on Leadership

WTS International Board of Directors share what makes a great leader.

Bosses, leaders, and mentors have the power to not only shape the trajectory of a career but can make day-to-day work inspiring. In the U.S., 95% of the workforce reports to one or more bosses. Many professionals have the duel perspective of leading and being led, each role lending wisdom to the other.

WTS International is fortunate to have leaders on its Board whose experience has prepared them to be impactful leaders with proven track records. As leaders who move others from inspiration to action, they are invaluable.  

Mentorship and Motivation Prove Valuable

“Why Frontline Workers Are Disengaged,” a 2013 McKinsey report, outlined how a top concern for companies is “the ability to motivate their employees—to engender the enthusiasm that propels extraordinary effort and delivers great results—and assessments of whether their leaders can inspire action by others Susan Martinovich, Secretary, WTS International Board of Directors, understands that providing motivation is a key to maximizing employee potential.   

“I believe people are the most valuable asset any organization can have, and it takes work and action to continue to motivate and help people grow,” Martinovich said. “As leaders, we look to big opportunities and efforts such as training and involvement; however, we can’t forget the little things I believe carry the most weight—such as asking people how they are.”

The human element speaks to the influence of mentors as Carolyn Flowers, Managing Principal, InfraStrategies LLC, Director-at-Large, WTS International Board of Directors, has looked to external support during her career. To her, having a mentor was synonymous with having a safety net. “I had someone to support me when I needed to take the leap into the unknown,” she shared, “It was affirming to know that when you look over your shoulder, there is someone there to provide advice and guidance.” Flowers’ first mentor led her on a path to take chances and evaluate new opportunities.

Paula Hammond, Senior Vice President, National Transportation Market Leader at WSP USA, Vice-Chair, WTS International Board of Directors, believes “As a leader, it’s critical to help the team see the value of their work and the impact their transportation projects have on the communities they serve.” Developing a positive internal community is also a priority for Hammond, which she creates by “Celebrating good work and recognizing the commitment and skill the employee has contributed is essential.”

Motivation and inspiration may seem intangible, but they have real power.  The 2013 McKinsey report states that motivated employees “are 32 percent more committed to (and 46 percent more satisfied with) their jobs, suffer significantly less burnout than other employees do, and perform 16 percent better.” That means significant savings for everyone: disengaged employees devalue the U.S. economy by $450-550 billion each year.  

Transportation Today Demands More than Technical Skills

Flowers, Hammond, and Martinovich, had a focus on intangible qualities that make for good leadership and mentorship. When they think about employees, the same rules of engagement applied. According to McKinsey Capital Projects & Infrastructure Practice September 2017, “In all projects, excellence beyond good systems and processes is required—specifically, a blend of leadership, organizational skills, mindsets, attitudes, behaviors, and organizational culture that need to complement the science.”

 “How much passion does a person have, and what is their motivation?  If they embrace those skills, how do they communicate?” Martinovich ruminates on the blend of hard and soft skills. “The transportation industry is no longer just head-down design or construct effort but is more a skill of dealing with different and sometimes difficult people and stakeholders.”  Martinovich agrees, “In today’s evolving transportation arena, well-rounded individuals will thrive; those who can communicate well, work within teams, take initiative and have the technical understanding to solve complex problems.”

Their Leadership Styles

Leveraging the nuances of communication, motivation, and skills is an accumulative undertaking. Signature leadership styles are crafted and refined over years of trial and error.

To Flowers, a great boss is “Someone who does not ask you to do what they would not do.” To that point, “A great boss has compassion and is with their team,” Flowers continues, “They get out into the trenches to show their support and that they care.” Her own leadership style has “transitioned based on the growth, training, and exposure to others whom you admire and want to emulate,” she shared.

When thinking of her own leadership journey, she has “had negative experiences that were the basis for growth—I have witnessed those that I definitely did not want to be like. But leadership is about lifelong learning. You have to be open to experience and advice. I have had an opportunity through several leadership programs and coaches to improve and refine my leadership capacity and capabilities.

Hammond observes, “Great bosses lead with both their hearts and their minds,” and they “ask questions of their staff and listen to both verbal and non-verbal responses.” In practical terms, “The leader of the team must demonstrate commitment to the effort and set expectations, ensure the team understands their roles and responsibilities and make herself available to answer questions, clear hurdles and provide feedback,” Hammond says. In consideration of the big picture, bosses “set the tone for organizations' culture and are clear on the key focus areas for the group.  Great bosses recognize the work of their team and shout it from the rooftops.  They are ethical, even-tempered and treat all people with dignity and respect.”

Martinovich reflected on her career arc; “I used to try to please everyone.  We can’t – if you gather input with diverse opinions, someone will not be happy.” To her, that’s okay; “I learned just make a decision or take action and keep moving.  Sometimes actions prompt more information, and with that additional information, decisions can change, and that is ok too. Be flexible if needed.”

Whether you’re a current or future boss lady, take note of how effective management can be approached with openness, chance-taking, and heart. Happy National Boss Day to all the leaders in our lives who inspire us to meet our fullest potential.