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Lessons in Leadership Series: Patrick Winkler

“Successful teams were encouraged to take calculated risks and fail fast knowing that they will be supported no matter what the outcome”

Patrick Winkler, Vice President, Sales Operations for Serta Simmons Bedding, recently spoke with C.O.I’s Rowena McAllister. Patrick shared his thoughts on developing teams, factoring in cultural nuances and creating enduring business relationships.

Q: What would you say are the keys to developing strong teams and is it different say in Asia than North America, if so how?

A: For me, the keys to developing strong teams are fairly basic. It comes down to communication, trust, and support. It’s critical to have open, two-way, consistent dialogue to keep everyone informed and on track as projects and priorities often pivot. Trust and support are equally important. The successful teams I’ve led were encouraged to take calculated risks and to fail fast knowing that they will be supported no matter what the outcome. I’ve learned that teams with trust and support are likely to be fearless and bold and most outcomes have been very positive. We always made ‘failures’ learnings and quickly move on from them. Building strong teams does differ between NA and Asia. In Asia, there are great differences in each country. As someone from another culture coming in, developing successful teams hinged on listening closely to the locals, learning about the culture before trying to impose any ideas. Success looks very different in each culture and each country. In the USA and Canada our cultures and business practices are quite similar

Q: What makes someone in a team you are leading stand out to you?

A: In my opinion people in a team stand out when I notice how prepared they are for a meeting or discussion and how engaging they are. I notice when a team member takes chances and has the courage to get out of their comfort zone to find a solution or complete a task. I really appreciate people who dive in and don’t have to be told what to do.

Q: If you had to identify a pivotal moment, or experience in your career that has had the most effect on your future, what would it be?

A: My pivotal moment was taking a chance living and working abroad in Hong Kong and Shanghai for a 4-year international assignment. Being responsible for sales and service and high performing teams for 14 unique countries was fantastic. Learning cultural norms and understanding what successful business practices are in Developed and Emerging Markets in Asia Pacific was fascinating. Sharing the Expatriate experience with my wife and children was life-changing.

Q: What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self about how best to influence and guide others and what pitfalls to avoid?

A: To influence others I would encourage my 21-year-old self to become an expert at whatever it is you do. I also suggest getting out of a comfort zone and participating in interesting cross functional teams as much as possible. Keep learning and having an impact by contributing your expertise. Influence will come. As for pitfalls, stay away from name-dropping.

Q: What are the fundamental skills that have helped you develop new, and enduring sales/business relationships?

A: Be Curious! Be bold, ask questions to understand and get people to open up. After a thorough understanding have the Courage to question the status quo. Is there a better method to solve a problem? Be Collaborative and Confident!

Q: Can you share an amusing event in your career, perhaps something that broke the tension of a stressful moment, or a miscommunication that brought some hilarity to a situation?

A: In a former role, earlier in my career, I was overseas, traveling for business when I was woken up in the middle of the night by the chime of an incoming e-mail. Little did I know that while I was sleeping, my CEO had bumped into my twin brother at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. My boss was stunned, as he wondered what on earth I was doing in Chicago when I should be on the other side of the world! Imagine the incredulity when I opened up the e-mail and there was the image of my twin brother and my CEO smiling up at me! Fortunately, they had chatted and my boss realized I was where I was meant to be – it was a hilarious moment and also an incredible co-incidence!

Rowena McAllister