GRATEFUL LEADER PROFILE - XAVIER JOLY, Global Director, People Development, Volvo Powertrain Excerpted from: Grateful Leadership: Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results by Judith W. Umlas
I had the honor of working with Xavier Joly and about 40 members of his leadership team at Volvo over the past few years. He most definitely fulfills my definition of a Grateful Leader, as one who sees, recognizes, and expresses appreciation for their employees’, customers’, and other stakeholders’ contributions and for their passionate engagement, on an ongoing basis. Once these leaders allow themselves to feel and express their gratitude, the next step is to take action to acknowledge, support and engage their people profoundly so that these outcomes can be achieved. These leaders really want to know their employees and other stakeholders as people. Xavier models Grateful Leadership on a daily basis and I am proud to know him.
Global Director, People Development,
I have moved from country to country throughout my life—France to Sweden, then Belgium, and now the United States, where I have lived and worked for the past two years. At Volvo’s Hagerstown, Maryland, facility, I experience a feeling of real gratitude every single day, and I spread it around by spending as much time as I can with my people. I feel that it is my job to empower them, engage them, and raise their self-confidence, and I do this through acknowledgment. This can mean anything from a smile, to involving them in the decision-making process, to providing coaching and support, or just simply and truly listening to them. Dedicated, active listening is one of the truest forms of acknowledgment because it expresses so much in such a simple act; it is as if you are telling the speaker, “You matter.”
I truly value my people’s opinions, and I make sure they know that; however, there are times when, in order to help your employees, you need to disagree with them! For example, I launched an initiative—a school in Volvo Powertrain, focused on project management. I told 20 senior project managers that I wanted them to get their Project Management Professional® (PMP) certification in three months, and I assured them that they would have all the knowledge and support needed to pass the exam, as well as a commitment from their top managers. They fought me, saying they needed six months to prepare, but I was adamant in my belief that they could pass the rigorous exam in only three—and 90 percent of them did! I think they felt that “the company believes in me, so now I have to believe in myself.” It worked!
Since I was a teenager, I’ve loved being on a team. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I was the captain of every sports team I belonged to! But it wasn’t because I was the greatest player. It was because I was driven to lead. I had the energy and ability to instill confidence within my teammates and make them challenge the impossible. And although I was the leader, we only achieved things as a team. Playing on French national teams, I had a choice of handball versus triple jump (collective team versus individual sport), and I chose the team.
I once spent time coaching an individual to help him find a needed solution, even though he was not a direct report of mine. I told him that I wasn’t the expert, but he was, and that I knew he would make the right decision. The people on his department team came to me and said that even though I wasn’t their manager, they were ready to do anything for me. They said, “We believe in what you say since you let us do what we wanted, but only if it was in the right direction.” This team was very special to me, and I let them know. I had to “learn” them since they were from the United States, and I came
from the French culture—but they were the ones who were lacking confidence!
Take the time to recognize and acknowledge your people’s competence and their ability to find solutions, and you will see how much it energizes them. When you exhibit the trust you have in your people, you will see that it drives them to deliver even greater results than expected because they are fully engaged and eager to create success for the team, the company, and for you. Do not forget that people are making the difference, and as a Grateful Leader, you can help them achieve amazing things.