Tina Gabbard oversees all business operations and units for Cox Communications in Arkansas and was named its Arkansas market vice president about two years ago. To understand her role she spent time with “every business unit in every department … in their leadership meetings, their frontline meetings and … with our customers, learning more about what our customers need and how our employees are serving those needs,” she said.
In addition to active listening, Gabbard believes “it’s absolutely pivotal to adopt a fierce discipline for the ‘ask, don’t tell’ mentality, where teams and leaders are trusted to learn and make mistakes in a safe and teaching environment.
“A culture of trust and empowerment is pivotal to employee satisfaction and a company’s long term growth,” she said.
One of her missteps as a leader came early in her career when she didn’t follow that path.
“There were far more times when I was far more direct, and I flipped it to ‘don’t ask, just tell’ and get it done, because I was busy,” Gabbard said. “And what I know now is that once you master the art of listening to what people need and meet their leadership needs … it can change the course of their life as well as their contribution to your organization.”
This article originally appeared in Arkansas Business as part of "Lessons Learned: Women in Business Offer Leadership Advice," a story highlighting eight women in leadership positions across Arkansas. Read it in full here.