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Inclusive Leadership: How Linda Piazza Ensures Everyone’s Voice is Heard—Even Introverts

A Senior Director and Network Executive at SAP Ariba, Linda Piazza manages a customer-facing team focused primarily on finance, AP, and treasury solutions. Linda’s team also acts as a business liaison between customers and sales as they help account executives with pricing, scoping and strategy. She aims to keep the team’s priorities top of mind and remarked, “I really encourage my team to think customer-first at all times. Always, your north star is what’s right for the customer.”

Linda credits her team’s success to an environment where team members are empowered to collaborate and share with one another. Linda drives inclusion and collaboration by encouraging team members to take chances and step outside of their core responsibilities. “We have what I would call a lane, but I’m a big believer in taking chances and swimming outside of your lane,” Linda said. She believes this leads to valuable learning, having more fun, and engaging in a broader dialogue with other teams by breaking down silos.

Often, when Linda gets asked if she wants to lead a project or presentation, she suggests someone else from the team so others can gain leadership experience and see increased visibility.

  • Encourages her team to always keep the customer as their north star

  • Empowers team to step outside of their assigned tasks/responsibilities for learning

  • Values diversity and its impact on innovation

Part of Linda’s efforts to get her team to try new things involves cultivating an environment where her team feels safe to take risks. If they genuinely have the customer’s best interest at heart—even if they fail or make a mistake—she wants her team to try new things and gain new experiences.

Linda finds her encouragement leads to an environment where her team enthusiastically takes on new tasks and are quick to help one another with managing workloads. Linda mentioned, “We have created a culture where if somebody says, ‘I’ve got three huge meetings next week and I can’t possibly prepare for all of them, who can help,’ literally almost everybody speaks up and offers to help.”

Aside from encouraging the uptake of new or unusual tasks, Linda also promotes a more inclusive work environment to ensure that everyone on her team is recognized and appreciated equally. She tries to ensure everyone has equal time in the spotlight, and Linda helps her team members continue to build their individual brand globally beyond North America.

In addition to equal recognition and appreciation, Linda also ensures everyone’s voice is heard equally. She includes everyone in weekly team-wide calls with an “around the horn” session where everyone discusses projects they are working on and where they need help. Linda is well-aware that everyone has different preferred communication styles, so she compensates with a variety of methods, and she tries to start weekly calls with people who tend toward being introverts.

Linda uses other techniques to get introverts, non-native speakers, or anyone who might not feel the comfortable speaking up during team-wide calls to engage with the team more frequently. For instance, Linda will often send emails congratulating team members on impressive meetings or projects while copying the rest of the team, and she finds this results in everyone jumping on the congratulatory bandwagon in addition to team members learning about each other’s projects.

Linda is proud of the diverse backgrounds and skillsets on her team and reflects, “We each bring our own style and our own knowledge sets.” While Linda admits her team overall might not be a diverse one demographically, she focuses on showing up to customer meetings in a diverse and inclusive way. Linda points out, “We don’t want to show up with eight people who are only 40-year-old white men. That’s not how our team looks and that’s not how our customers’ teams look.”

Linda looks to increase the diversity on her team, and says one of her core focuses is embedding diversity into how her team recruits and hires candidates. Linda noted how generational diversity contributes to innovation, and one of her immediate priorities is hiring an Early Talent. Although she values the insights of Early Talents, Linda also believes the more experienced colleagues and their cumulative knowledge bring unprecedented value to teams. She believes that teams should have a generational mix.

 

Want to learn more about inclusive leaders at SAP? Check out the story on SAP’s new inclusive leadership campaign written by Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Judith Williams: Inclusive Leadership at SAP: How Leaders Drive Inclusion with Collaboration and… Goat Yoga?

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