Leadership Interview

For this blog posting, I was tasked with selecting a leader and interviewing them. I chose to interview Ryan Murphy — Lead Financial Analyst — Chief Data Office, Chief Analytics Office & Agile Acceleration at IBM. I chose to interview him because he has been a leader and mentor for me for as long as we have known each other.

Ryan’s leadership skills started back in college when he was the captain of his swim team. He served as role model, mentor, and counselor. This is where he really began to develop his leadership qualities. Ryan says that he believes the best way to lead people is by example, and because of this he spent countless hours in the pool during off-season and encouraged his teammates to do the same. He says, “Becoming a leader doesn’t happen overnight, it happens through sacrifice and by being both physically and mentally strong — for yourself and those around you.”

Now, Ryan works for a large company with over 300,000 employees. While he sometimes feels like a small fish in a big pond, he still tries to find ways to make an impact and show leadership. He frequently works in teams and when asked about conflict he said, “When passionate minds work collectively you can almost guarantee conflict within a group. A leader is someone who will step into the situation and act as a liaison between the two parties, someone who keeps their emotions out of the argument and encourage both parties to keep a open mindset. This is one way I try to show leadership, even when working with teams made up of people with much more experience than I have.”

When it comes to working in virtual teams Ryan says that this is how he spends nearly all of his time, having had less than a dozen “face-to-face” meetings in his two years with the company. He says that the key to being successful in the virtual workplace is to make yourself available as much as possible and to use many different tools to facilitate collaboration. Figuring out his teammates personal favorite tool is a way that he tries to keep the members of his teams engaged. He uses a variety of online tools like Webex, Slack, SameTime, and email to communicate with his virtual teams.

Lastly, his advice for others? “Have patience and be kind. They say that trust and respect take years to earn and seconds to destroy and that could not be more true. After you have established yourself as a leader, stay humble.”

Reflection: The thing that stood out the most from my interview with Ryan was when he talked about discovering your teammates individual preferences and using them to spike engagement. Personally, I am a relationship-oriented person and I enjoy connecting with others rather than seeking out tasks. My top Gallup strength is WOO (winning others over) and I seek connection with others both within and outside of the workplace. I think that this personalization of communication he talked about is something that I could use and enjoy doing at work. My goals as a leader are to be inclusive and welcoming and to make others feel excited about and appreciated for the work they are doing and I think this stems from my WOO strength and my relationship-oriented personality.

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