Sheri Ruggles is the President at Abacus System Solutions. We asked Sheri to share with us her leadership journey and the wisdom she’s gained along the way.
What is your leadership philosophy?
Solutions Focused Servant Leader.
While at FedEx, I was exposed to People, Service, Profit. This philosophy creates a positive work environment for employees, who will in turn, provide better service to customers. This results in satisfied customers who continue to use your services and recommend your company to others.
How do you align Abacus with your vision and mission?
We've had a lot of change in the last several years. As we have evolved and our vision and mission has changed, the key has been communication. Sharing our vision and mission with the team has been critical. This knowledge gives team members an understanding of how they fit in the big picture and what role they will play in our success.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
I believe that individuals are their own best motivators. I believe my job is to find out what is important to each individual (recognition, money, work-life-balance, career development) and then develop a plan and create an environment that maximizes their contribution to our team and minimizes conflicts and obstacles.
What one thing makes you most proud?
I am most proud of my current company’s HR team. Over ten years ago, I was given the opportunity to build the department from ground-up.
I started the process by asking leaders within the organization what they needed from an HR team. Taking this information, I educated myself on requirements, built a multi-step plan, got consensus and implemented the plan. Of course, goals and objectives were reviewed and updated along the way. The team is one of the most efficient and effective teams I have been a part of in my career.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I listen to podcasts, books on leadership and I attend online development webinars. Additionally, I meet with others that I identify as successful in similar business situations. I also seek feedback from leadership within our organization and from direct and indirect reports. Connections with team members and informal conversations often times provide the best feedback.
What memory from your youth applies to your business approach today?
My freshman year of high school, I was on a team that was at our final practice before a big event. We were terrible. We were all over the place and didn't look like we knew what we were doing. Our coach kept us after practice and delivered a few harsh words about what he had just witnessed. Then while still shaking mad, he offered that anyone not willing to give it their all, should leave. He didn't want us if we weren’t going to be our best. He set the tone and led by example, He taught us to plan, prepare, help one other and to give it our all. That was followed by his ongoing encouragement as we began to experience success.
What lessons have you learned from your education?
On the first day of my MBA program, we were asked to select a team that we would work with throughout the next two years. With little information about each person, we had to quickly select our team. This is a lot like a work environment in that you don't often get to choose or take time to select your team members. I learned that people’s unique backgrounds, areas of expertise and knowledge contribute to success. Collectively, we are stronger than we are as individuals.
What are the most important traits to look for when hiring a new employee?
Cultural fit. Will they work well with others in the company and do they exhibit values important to our company. Resumes and work experience may fit the job description, but personality traits and values are critical to aligning with the company culture. I'll take a less qualified candidate that I can teach, over a highly qualified candidate that doesn't "fit."
Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
Other leaders in my company, former managers and colleagues.
What do you do to keep your family Priority #1?
This is an ever evolving process. Things that were effective yesterday may not work as well today. Another approach may be necessary in the future.
When work takes more time, I am open with my family and explain that to them.
But, when my family needs me, I am there, focused and unplugged from phone and email.
We spend dedicated time together throughout the week. We may be cooking together or going for a walk around the neighborhood, but we are focused on what is going on in our family.
What is your “Secret Sauce?” I.e. what are the 3-5 Leadership Principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?
1. Lead by example.
2. Be human and admit mistakes. Learn from your mistakes so you can avoid them in the future.
3. Develop others.
4. Strategic approach to understanding the impact on the big picture and the importance of each individual’s contribution.
5. Ask for feedback.
What three books can you recommend on leadership?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
What are the keys to developing the next generation of leaders in your world?
Communicate the Big Picture, Empower them, Hold them Accountable, Provide Coaching and Mentoring, and Align their Development Opportunities with Company Vision and Strategy.
Relationships – How do you continually develop your personal relationships with your clients/customers/staff/peers/leaders?
I believe the best way to develop relationships is to pick up the phone to work out an issue, grab lunch and write down important dates mentioned in conversations (anniversaries, birthdays, their kids events). Then drop them a message on that day.
What questions are you asking yourself lately?
With the changes in the workplace as a result of the global pandemic, I have been asking a lot of questions. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way? Can we automate? How are employees doing and how can we make it better for them? As the new President of Abacus, I am asking myself how I am taking the lead, how can I help, what can I do to strengthen our company culture. Those things are important to me on a daily basis.