In this original series from North America Communications, we take the ease with which we remember things in 3’s and merge it with insights and ideas from leaders from across the region – whether on SAP, work, their career, or how they see the world.

Mary.jpgWhat advice would you give someone who is new to a leadership role?Mary Beth Hanss is head of legal for SAP North America, senior vice president and general counsel to put a fine point on it. She leads a team of 70 people (55-60 are lawyers or trained as one) responsible for a broad scope of legal and contractual functions for the region. That means all customer-facing transactions, and providing support to the ‘back office’ (e.g. facilities, global marketing, purchasing and so on).

I chose this question because much of what I share either I received early in my career and wish I had paid closer attention to, or would have liked to receive.

Try to hire people who are smarter than you. There are a number of people I turn to who have so much more experience in some areas than I do.

Listen. Often new leaders think they need to step up, tell people how to do things, answer before someone finishes a question… None of that is necessary. You’ll learn far more if you listen first.

Delegate. For a long time I thought my way was the only way, and whatever ‘it’ was, I could do it better. Instead, delegate to your team and trust they will find the best way.

Never take credit for someone else’s work. I’ve seen this from people in positions of true leadership. And yes, sometimes the situation doesn’t allow for you to give credit where it’s due. But find another way.

Come with a solution. This is something I’ve learned from my boss – the same one I’ve had since I started with the company nearly 20 years ago. If a team member approaches you with a problem, push them to come with a proposed solution as well.

Executive assistants are gold. Whether at SAP or any other company, people sometimes fail to recognize the value of EAs and treat them accordingly. I’m fortunate to not only have an EA, but to have a wonderful one.

Continue to learn. We are such a broad, deep company and our collective hands are in so many things, you must continue to learn or risk falling behind.

One way digital business plays out in your life.

At the start of my career with SAP in 1997, the only way we had to send signed documents was through the U.S. Postal Service. Then we moved to faxing, then to scanning and printing. But even with those developments, it still meant that on the last day of the quarter you would be standing next to a printer waiting to pull the pages off so they could be signed before the midnight deadline. With ‘Docusign,’ which is an electronic signature process, all that craziness goes away. It seems like a small change, but it has made a huge difference in how we work with our customers and made it miles easier for my team and our sales people.

What one thing do you always do in business and why?

                                         

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