In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that
have shaped their business philosophy.



North Central Market President, Verizon Wireless


Background:  

Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless telecommunications provider in the U.S. The company’s North Central market, which is based in Denver, covers 13 states in the West and Midwest and has around 4,400 employees.

The Mistake:

I’m guilty of micro-management.

When I was taking over as region president for upstate New York, I had a very green store director. This individual was very new to their role, and I happened to have just come from a similar position.

On day one, I decided to step in front and show this individual how to do it because I had found so much success in that role. It might seem to make sense when you have such a green leader like that, but I lost credibility within the organization by not being presidential.

I never gave her the opportunity to fail, learn from those failures and grow. She wasn’t able to gather experiences that could help her learn. I just had her watch me do the job.

It took me six months to back out of that and see what I was doing wrong.

I needed to let her make her own decisions, develop and lead her from a distance and only engage when I felt she was going to break the business. From that position, I was able to let her move forward, only coaching her after the fact.  

Six months later, things came back around. I was able to become more of a president. She was able to become more of a director. And today, she is actually my peer.

It all worked out down the road, but that was a big mistake. I had known this individual in the past. We had interacted as peers, so I know there was a mutual respect. We were excited to work together even, but I just handled it the wrong way.

You’ve got to take the time to stop, listen and take the right coaching.

The Lesson:

We lost those six months, but frankly, if I didn’t identify where I was going wrong, take feedback from this individual, I’m not sure I ever would have course-corrected. I’m glad I was able to get feedback from my superiors as well.

You’ve got to take the time to stop, listen and take the right coaching.

As I was righting the ship in upstate New York, I was moved out to be region president in Northern California. I was able to go out there and reinvent myself with this new perspective.

I approached the new team completely differently. Instead of making assumptions and acting aggressively on them, I took the time to observe what was working and not working. It took 60 to 90 days for me to understand the team, get buy-in from them as their new leader, and then implement change where it was necessary.

I manage today very similarly to how I did in Northern California. I tell my team to go out and try stuff, and I just ask that they fail fast. That’s a big change from how I acted in upstate New York.

Follow Russ Preite on Twitter at @russpreite and Verizon Wireless at @verizon.

Photo courtesy of Verizon Wireless

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