Meet our game changers: Silvia Penna

July 9, 2019 / US

Meet Silvia, our game-changing Head of Rides for East Brazil, based in Rio De Janeiro. As a previous consultant and civil engineer, Silvia is always looking for the most efficient ways to use her time in the office. She focuses on supporting her team while also giving them the opportunity to contribute to projects and initiatives.

Q: Have you ever recognized someone else’s contributions over your own or had someone else accredit success to you for a big win?

A: I believe recognizing someone’s contributions are a big part of team play. On our weekly meetings, we always start with a shout out, and it’s amazing how this simple topic stimulates the team to recognize small victories and accredit colleagues for their accomplishments. This brings our team together and fosters a much more collaborative environment.

Q: Have you ever not been recognized when you should have or have you ever missed an opportunity to recognize someone else?

A: I have previously overlooked an important accomplishment from a team member, as I was overloaded with work and focusing on upcoming tasks rather than stopping and acknowledging what was already achieved. After some time, it struck me that the way I was working was increasing stress levels, demotivating the team and causing deliverables to lose quality. It is up to us, as leaders, to balance the challenges ahead and celebrate accomplishments to sustain high performance and keep the team engaged.

Q: When you think about ‘underrepresented groups’, what responsibility do leaders and teammates have to bring others to the table and champion diversity of thought?

A: Including underrepresented groups at the table is about much more than hiring–leaders and teammates are responsible for making them feel comfortable enough to share their opinions. Oftentimes their position enriches the discussion, but without proper incentives we fail to hear them. I have a leader that encourages me to speak up in meetings with only male teammates, even if I can feel intimidated at times. These gestures have been pivotal in growing my confidence professionally.

On the other hand, I have experienced a situation where we failed to hear the views of an important stakeholder present at a meeting and saw first hand how it impacted our whole project. After the fact, we all learned that it is our duty to scan the environment and ensure we are hearing everyone involved. I am proud to work at a company that doesn’t just focus on Diversity, but also, Inclusion.

Q: Has there ever been a situation where you needed to push to get different perspectives to the table?

A: Sometimes we get so immersed in a problem and the team is all aligned on the issue that it feels like we have the right formula to achieve the best solution. And it is, if we have a diverse team with different perspectives. I once worked on a driver communication project that was very strategic and had a short timeline. We had a strong team on it, but we all shared the same opinions and had very similar personalities.

As we were getting closer to a solution, it hit me that we needed to connect with other people to get different points of view. It was hard to convince everyone that we had to get new perspectives as it meant delaying the timeline, but we knew it was the right thing to do–different perspectives would assure we were on the right track or would have us question our solutions again to come up with a better one. And this paid off–we were so focused on the math, that hearing from the newly added team made us realize that we were not clear and inclusive on the first proposal. We ended up improving our version to a much better one.

When thinking of big projects, it is important that we ensure the team involved is diverse. I frequently ask myself when defining project resourcing if everyone has the same background, same profile or the same opinion towards the subject. If any of those questions are yes, it means we are failing to include a different perspective and we need to re-think project staffing. It is easy to work when all agree, but when we do so we won’t challenge ourselves and will miss the opportunity of getting the best outcome.

Q: What can we do as individuals to cultivate an atmosphere of bringing others along?

A: As leaders, we need to develop a team where everyone has a sense of belonging. Sometimes workload and routines take the lead and we miss the opportunity to recognize someone or to stop and realize someone on your team is not entirely comfortable in some environments. The forgetfulness can be part of the learning curve for new leaders, yet I have learned that my reactions directly impact the motivation of my team. So taking the time to create opportunity for everyone to speak up and recognize team members has become an important part of my role and is an exercise to be practiced and improved upon every day.

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