Impactful Leadership: Key Insights from Manon Brouillette

Leadership is a journey, not a destination – an evolving process of learning, adapting, and increasing self-awareness. In a recent roundtable organized for our Inovia Portfolio CEOs, we had the privilege of hearing from Manon Brouillette, a strategic partner at Inovia and former CEO of Verizon Consumer Group and Videotron. Her session was a deep dive into the nuances of impactful leadership, drawn from her extensive experience in steering organizations through rapid growth and market disruptions. Manon provided insights into the art and science of effective leadership. Below are the key takeaways from this engaging session.

Embracing the Evolution from Specialist to Generalist

The leap from being an expert in a specific area to overseeing a sprawling organization isn’t just about scaling skills—it’s an important shift in perspective. This transition is crucial for leaders who need to oversee broader business scopes while empowering their teams to handle specific operational details. Manon’s career path exemplifies this evolution. Starting from a strong base in marketing, she learned that as her responsibilities grew, so did the need for a broader vision.

Manon’s approach to managing this broad scope is strategic and efficient. She holds bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each of her key leaders, allowing them to set the agenda and discuss their priorities. This structure not only keeps her informed but also empowers her executives to take ownership of their areas. Additionally, by convening group meetings with all executives every two weeks, Manon ensures that her entire leadership team is aligned and coordinated. This operational matrix enables her to maintain a high-level overview while being ready to deep dive into specifics, a balance essential for any leader transitioning from a specialist to a generalist role.

This evolution is pivotal for any leader overseeing the big picture. Manon points out that effective leadership is not confined to expertise in isolated domains but in connecting the dots across the organizational landscape. It’s about growing from a specialist who focuses on details to a visionary generalist who sees and plans the bigger picture, effectively aligning various parts of a business towards a cohesive strategy.

Authentic Leadership: Balancing Transparency & Strategy

Authenticity in leadership involves being true to your values and making decisions aligned with them. It also includes smart transparency, especially during critical organizational shifts. Known for her genuine approach, Manon mastered the art of delivering candid, yet strategically calibrated, communications. This skill was particularly crucial in times of restructuring, where her straightforwardness, tempered with a focus on the company’s broader objectives, was key.

A crucial part of Manon’s authentic leadership involved creating a circle of trust, allowing for vulnerability and open exchange within appropriate bounds. Authenticity isn’t about indiscriminate openness but rather a careful melding of honesty and strategic acumen, essential for guiding an organization through stable and challenging times.

The Critical Role of Coaching for Leadership Development

Leadership, often a solitary journey, demands both intrinsic motivation and external guidance. Coaching provides more than just support; it also encourages self-reflection and personal growth, which are vital for effective decision-making and leadership development. Throughout her career, Manon didn’t just seek passive advice from mentors; she engaged with coaches who would challenge her and foster her growth. This type of coaching is crucial for developing skills like effective storytelling, active listening, and patience – key for scaling oneself as a leader.

Beyond coaching, Manon emphasizes the strategic value of tools like the CEO Performance Review, which extends not only to the evaluation of team members but also includes a self-review for the CEO. Such reviews provide comprehensive feedback, shining a light on areas for improvement and offering a complete picture of one’s leadership style. In her experience, these reviews are transformative, guiding leaders to balance control with empowerment and align their approaches with the evolving needs of their teams and organizations. Additionally, Manon pointed out the CEO Performance Review’s utility in aligning with the board. It serves as a platform to exchange feedback and ensure consensus regarding expectations, making it a critical tool for overall organizational alignment. 

Building Resilience & Agility in Leadership

In today’s dynamic business environment, resilience and agility are not just desirable traits but essential ones. Leaders must be prepared to adapt to unforeseen challenges and guide their teams through changes. Resilience is about staying steadfast and focused amidst turbulence, ensuring that the organization’s core objectives are not lost in the chaos of change. Meanwhile, agility is about being able to pivot quickly, making informed decisions even when the path ahead isn’t clear. These qualities, combined, enable a leader not just to survive but to thrive in the face of adversity and uncertainty.

Manon’s approach to leadership, with an emphasis on resilience and agility, serves as a powerful reminder that adaptability is key to success in an ever-evolving business world. It’s about preparing for the unexpected and having the flexibility to modify strategies as situations evolve, ensuring the organization remains robust and responsive.

Strategic Decision-Making in Complex Situations

Faced with complex decisions, leaders must often navigate uncertainty with significant implications for their organizations. Balancing emotional intelligence with strategic foresight is essential in these scenarios, where leaders are tasked with considering the long-term impacts of their choices on organizational health and stability.

Strategic decision-making isn’t just about immediate outcomes; it involves aligning with the company’s overarching vision and ensuring that every decision, no matter how tough, contributes to the long-term goals. Manon underlines the need not just to tackle immediate challenges but also to proactively plan for potential future obstacles. This level of foresight is crucial for maintaining organizational resilience and stability, particularly during periods of rapid change or uncertainty. 

In challenging times, risk management becomes a pivotal skill. Leaders may find themselves in a “gray zone,” where fear of mistakes leads to decision paralysis. It’s important in these situations to rely not just on facts and data but also on instinct. This approach enables leaders to make well-rounded decisions, choosing the right path in the moment and paving the way for sustainable future growth.

Culture Evolution in Scaling Organizations

As organizations scale, their culture must evolve while maintaining its core essence. Manon shared how, at Videotron, they anchored their culture in genuine customer-centricity. It wasn’t just a slogan on the wall; they operationalized it by tying everyone’s compensation to customer satisfaction metrics. This strategy ensured that the entire organization, from engineers to call center employees, aligned their efforts with the customer’s needs.

What happens when a company grows? You must ensure that the culture stays relevant and resonant. The key is to adapt while preserving the fundamental values that defined the company’s beginnings. This task falls heavily on leadership to not only define and articulate the evolving culture but also to live it and inspire their teams to do the same. As leaders, it’s about creating an environment where the core values are so ingrained that they permeate every decision and every action across all levels and locations of the organization. In essence, as a company scales, its culture should not just grow but mature, reflecting both its roots and its advancing vision.

The roundtable with Manon Brouillette was a deep dive into the evolving essence of leadership, focusing on adaptability, authenticity, and strategic thinking. It illuminated the concept that leadership is more than a role; it’s a continuous journey of growth and learning. For more in-depth insights and to stay ahead in the dynamic tech and software landscape, visit our Inovia Conversations blog.

Manon’s Leadership Tips

  • Evolve from Specialist to Generalist: Broaden your perspective to effectively manage diverse business areas, aligning them towards a common goal. As you develop a more holistic view, transition from a hands-on to an engaged hands-off leader by surrounding yourself with the right team, setting clear goals, and focusing on outcomes.

  • Practice Authentic Leadership: Stay true to your values while strategically communicating, especially during significant organizational changes. Improve this approach by tailoring your narrative to different audiences, underpinned by a compelling plan, robust strategy, and clear vision.

  • Engage in Active Coaching & Performance Reviews: Seek coaching that challenges and grows your leadership skills. Enhance leadership through tools like 360 reviews. Have ‘small’ biweekly 1:1 conversations for trust-building, coupled with ‘big’ conversations for performance evaluation, balancing the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of leadership tasks.

  • Cultivate Resilience & Agility: Prepare for unforeseen challenges while maintaining focus and adaptability in your leadership style. Approach your organization with honesty and transparency, especially when making tough decisions.

  • Make Strategic Decisions with Foresight: Balance emotional intelligence with strategic planning, ensuring decisions contribute to long-term goals. In challenging times, rely not just on facts and data but also on instinct.

  • Adapt and Preserve Organizational Culture: As your company grows, adapt the culture while maintaining its essence and core values. Create an environment where these values are so ingrained that they permeate every decision and action, across all levels and locations of the organization.

  • Find Comfort in the Solitude of Leadership: Acknowledge the often solitary nature of leadership. Ensure you have a supportive team and sufficient energy reserves as your business grows and the role of your Board of Directors evolves.