Alumna Anilu Vazquez-Ubari ’02 (chief diversity officer and global head of talent for Goldman Sachs) was interviewed by alumnus Jay Sullivan ’89 (founder of the Fordham Student Sponsored Fellowship), for a Forbes article where Vazquez-Ubarri shared her insights on successful leadership skills and team building.
For the past several years, “Anilu” has led the key people assessment and development initiatives that have helped Goldman achieve its status as the gold standard of Wall Street firms. She joined Goldman after a successful career as a corporate attorney. Anilu earned an AB from Princeton, and a JD from Fordham Law School.
Jay Sullivan: Where should business leaders focus their efforts for developing their people?
Anilu Vazquez-Ubarri: Focus on your managers. They are the key. Developing your managers gives you a “multiplier effect.” They are closest to the line professionals, so if you train them well, you reach the broadest possible audience. They become your ambassadors of new ideas, innovative approaches, appropriate practices and positive culture. Furthermore, managers play an integral role in creating a diverse and inclusive environment for those that they manage.
Sullivan: So being a good listener is paramount. What comes next?
Vazquez-Ubarri: We encourage managers to focus on the feedback they will be getting, instead of the feedback they will be giving. Obviously, we train our managers on how to delegate and give feedback to people. But we also help them understand how they will be evaluated, to make sure that they receive meaningful feedback from those around them. Sometimes, people think “servant leadership” is about being a nicer manager. It’s not about nice; it’s about effective. As a manager, if you are effective at developing your people, you are serving them well. That’s what it means to be in service of others.
Sullivan: What does it mean to “bind people to the firm,” and why is that important?
Vazquez-Ubarri: Every organization has a culture. For any professional, his or her direct supervisor is the purveyor of that culture. The senior leaders in an organization may believe deeply in, espouse and actually live the values they talk about. But if I’m a line professional, and my immediate manager doesn’t live those values in the way he interacts with me, I don’t experience the organization as holding those values. At Goldman we work hard to help our managers become self-aware. If I am conscious of my behavior, and understand my behavior, I can adapt my behavior to help grow other people. If I’m more self-aware, I’ll be more likely to help people adopt the values of the organization, rather than my own narrowed self-interests.