When I was young, I thought I’d pursue a career that focused on people. I earned two degrees in psychology, and had dreams of becoming a psychologist.
Then, one day, I found myself working as an intern at an auto plant—and I loved it! I began to appreciate that all my training and education in the softer, people-focused fields could be expanded to include exciting work in business. The automotive industry is global, male-dominated, complex, and technical. In this environment, working together creatively and effectively with teams of people to develop solutions for improvement has been an invigorating challenge for me.
My background and training in psychology are certainly aligned to today’s work environment maximizing the contributions of many diverse individuals to deliver significant operating results. One of my primary roles as a leader is as a coach or teacher, with a responsibility to serve as mentor and advocate for other employees. At any given time, there are a number of people whom I’m advising and coaching, mostly through two organizations at Ford that are significant to me—the Ford Employee Resource groups: Women in Manufacturing, and the Ford African Ancestry Network.
If I have a mantra, it is this: it is the job of today’s leaders to identify and mentor the leaders of tomorrow, to ensure they have both the formal and informal business acumen necessary to succeed. Business today is morecomplex, global, and competitive than ever. The current environment in the industry is challenging, as it requires results-oriented leadership that centers on effective utilization of the talents and skills of many people. While today’s business leaders certainly need excellent technical knowledge, they also must have development of people as a priority, investing the time necessary to teach, coach, and mentor future leaders.
Of course, even though my daughters areboth adults, I still have plenty of working-mother guilt syndrome: I am constantly seeking that balance between work, family, and friends.
But overall, it’s a great life. I may not be working as a psychologist, but I’m still working with people—encouraging them to be the absolute best in whatever they select to be a part of, to think creatively, and to make a positive difference in their business, team, or organization.
One Comment on "Deborah Stewart Coleman"
I just wanted to say that I was so inspired by Ms. Coleman’s story here. I have been working a long time, and really desire to find that area where I can make a difference. Her philosophy (It’s important to center your work life on people – teaching, coaching, educating, and challenging people to think differently to resolve complex issues)has given me a new insight. I am encouraged by it and feel that I have something to work toward.