“One of the most important attributes for developing people is listening”

Susie Freda is Senior Director, Global Alliance Management, at Teva Global Marketing and Portfolio. She has also carved out a stellar reputation for coaching, advancing and mentoring people. Here, Susie talks about career development, empathy and the importance of listening.

I was fortunate to have a manager early in my career who was a great mentor. She supported my development, encouraged me, and continues to do so even today. I’ve used my experiences and ability to listen and empathize to help others in their own situations.

Early on, I recognized that I really enjoyed mentoring people with less experience who seemed to need guidance. As time went by and people reported to me, I used those qualities as an advisor and mentor to help my team advance their own careers.

The most successful leaders have a high EQ (Emotional Quotient), recognizing that everything we do involves people. If you can’t help people, reach people, empathize with people, it becomes challenging for them – or you – to be successful. But if you listen more, you’ll hear more and understand more.

Most of my team members would say I’m pretty authentic and transparent and that drives a level of comfort for them to be open and honest. I offer advice when someone is struggling or if they ask me directly, but I also try to let them figure things out on their own. I come from the perspective that you learn the most by failing.

I’ve tried giving team members greater exposure to leadership and opportunities to own projects. I prefer being the person they can bounce things off, rather than a person dictating the approach or process. As a result of those experiences, I often see a substantial amount of personal and leadership growth, enabling promotions and growth opportunities across the organization.

For me, career development goes beyond promotions and career opportunities. I take pride in connecting people to other areas of the business they might not have had access to before. Career development is not linear – it typically involves zig zagging around different areas and trying to learn as we go along. This includes learning about yourself, learning about the business, and learning about other people and areas through networking.

I have quite a unique job

One of the most important attributes in developing people is listening and asking the right questions. Find out from your team what they want (and don’t want) to do and help them find their north star. You can’t be afraid to lose talent on your team. A lot of managers think, “If I grow this team member and they leave me, then what?” But frankly, if you don’t grow your team members, you’ll lose them anyway. So wouldn’t you rather have them find another great opportunity within the organization?

The most important thing I can communicate to people is don’t wait to be developed. Not everyone is going to develop you. You have to develop yourself. There are lots of ways to do that. Sometimes you just need to ask and chances are you’ll have the network around you to help you on your path for growth.

I want to shed light on the challenges faced by women and mothers. Particularly during the pandemic, we – I say we because I’m also a mother – have been disproportionately burdened with trying to manage our work life, home life, home schooling, and parenting without any break whatsoever. That’s been challenging. Among women and in my own life, it may feel like we need to be everywhere to succeed and it’s just not possible. This past year has been a great testament to everyone working flexibly and empathetically. Take your breaks, take your breaths, get clarity. After I finally took a break over the holidays, a wise person said to me, “If you don’t take a breath, you’ll suffocate.”


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