Women's History Month

Lessons Learned as a CHRO in a Male-dominated Industry

By Kristin Glazner

Twelve years ago, I joined Wabash, the visionary leader of connected solutions for the transportation, logistics and distribution industries, as Corporate Counsel. Seven years into that role I took a leap of faith and change in career course when I became Wabash’s Chief Human Resources Officer. I had been a lawyer for a long time, so giving up those duties and stepping out of my comfort zone to stand up a people-first HR organization felt pretty scary at the time but turned out to be the right next step for me.

In addition to changing roles and growing in my career, as the only woman on the senior leadership team, I’ve also learned how to navigate what it means to be a woman leader in a male-dominated industry. Although every leader must find their own roadmap for success, there are five lessons that stand out in my leadership journey that I’d like to share.

First and foremost, I’ve learned to be a good listener and truly hear those around you. My professional success is not only attributed to the privilege of working with a supremely talented staff but being smart enough to listen to my team. I do not know it all, so I learned to be present by focusing fully in the moment and single tasking as much as possible. I’ve also learned to listen to everyone, from our customers to our community partners to our shift employees on the manufacturing line. Everyone’s voice matters.

Along with listening, I’ve learned to be curious and ask questions. Of course, it makes me better at running a people-first HR organization, but it also just makes me a better person. We spend far too much time at work to not really know your colleagues. I’m generally interested in where they went for vacation or what they are currently reading or their favorite family recipe. This life is meant to be shared, especially with the people around you.

To that end, I also believe you should share yourself. Women are often told to hide their vulnerability and not “get emotional,” but I have found vulnerability is one important part of real trust. When you put up walls, you are not making yourself accessible or fully available. Whether it is managing direct reports, speaking at a town hall meeting or a board meeting, or mentoring a colleague, I find it important to be authentic and vulnerable. This has been a real journey for me and took years to arrive at this place in my career. It’s not easy and may require small steps.

Next, I believe it is important to be comfortable with conflict. Maybe it is the lawyer in me, but I work hard to prepare for and show up for task conflicts. My opinion may not always prevail, but I’m always prepared with my “opening argument.” Open, honest, and sometimes contentious dialogue makes for a stronger organization. Do not be afraid to challenge ideas. Challenge leads to change. It’s made me a stronger leader.

Finally, I am a highly energetic person and I encourage everyone to bring the energy because it can be wonderfully contagious. Energy leads to engagement and engagement leads to better teams and better outcomes. Truth be told, coffee helps too!

When I came to Wabash 12 years ago, I was hired by a woman general counsel. It takes highly talented women in organizations to attract more highly talented women. The first step in recruiting more women to join a male-dominated organization is to nurture and develop the women who are already on our team. When I look at our bench of future women leaders at Wabash, I’m proud to see we are on the right track.

Kristin Glazner is the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer and General Counsel at Wabash

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