Discovery’s Vice President Of Human Resources Phil Garrison recently sat down with Authority Magazine to discuss his approach to leadership and driving a culture of accountability. Phil discussed the importance of ensuring the right talent to drive business growth, building influence as a leader, and the importance of trust and clarity when giving feedback to employees.
Culture of accountability
Early in his career, Phil learned the importance of hiring and retaining the right talent while developing people to fuel the growth of the company. This strong connection between talent management and operations drives Phil’s approach to human resources today.
Phil has been instrumental in creating a results-driven culture at Discovery. “Our culture is built around an accountability model where we work through obstacles with a ‘see it, own it, solve it, and do it’ approach,” said Phil.
This culture of accountability helps employees think and act in new ways. The company helps employees understand how their day-to-day responsibilities directly contribute to the goals of the business. The program is founded on four success factors of accountability:
- Identifying gaps in execution
- Personally owning responsibilities and aligning them to the company’s key results
- Creatively and collaboratively working on solutions
- Actively executing on solutions while building an environment of trust
Building influence as a leader
When asked how he defines leadership, Phil noted that one of the most important aspects of leadership is influencing others to support your ideas and inspiring them to help you achieve your vision.
“Influence is often necessary to move in new directions,” he said. “Individuals choose for themselves, and all a leader can do is present a compelling reason, story, or vision and hope to influence or inspire someone to support them.”
He noted that the best analysis and arguments are useless if you can’t get mindshare. “Influence is critical in getting other leaders’ attention so they can consider a new idea or approach,” said Phil.
Giving feedback to employees
Offering appreciation and giving honest, constructive feedback are important ideals for any leader. Before offering feedback, it’s critical to establish trust between the leader and employee. Recognizing and appreciating employees can be incredibly powerful. “Just take a minute to notice what employees are doing and show them your appreciation,” said Phil.
Empowering employees also goes a long way toward building trust. It’s important to allow them to figure out the best way that works for them to get things done while balancing other priorities in their lives. “By giving people flexibility and latitude, you build greater alignment, loyalty, and staying power in the long term,” he said.
When that trust is built, it becomes easier to give feedback to employees. Phil offers four pieces of advice when giving feedback:
- Create alignment by communicating the vision, priorities, and expectations to the entire team, and make sure they are understood
- Maintain continuous dialogue, reiterating expectations and checking progress on the solutions being developed
- Have your team’s best interests in mind to build trust
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and face difficult realities before they become a problem
When giving constructive criticism, Phil noted the importance of ensuring clarity in the message, picking up on non-verbal cues, and understanding that the objective isn’t to deliver the message. The true goal is to ensure the message is heard.
“I believe that giving feedback is actually a gift to employees and very powerful for them,” said Phil. “Without direct and honest feedback, employees are at a disadvantage because they can’t see where they need to improve.”
Feedback plays an important role in Discovery’s accountability model. “We encourage employees to ask for specific feedback, and often that request opens up a dialogue that leads to better communication throughout the organization,” he said.
Summing up his thoughts about leadership, Phil said there are a few qualities that he looks for. They include being available, accessible, supportive, trusted, transparent, and appreciative. These qualities ultimately help a leader earn respect. “Respect is earned by developing relationships with people,” said Phil. “And once that genuine relationship is formed, it’s surprising what your team and employees will do to help you accomplish your vision.”