Ep 88: Michelle Greene: Bring Your Authentic Self

Diva Tech Talk enjoyed interviewing the well-traveled, accomplished, dynamic Michelle Greene, Vice President of Information Technology at Masco Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of products for home improvement, and the construction market.  An $8.5 billion conglomerate, comprising more than 20 companies, Masco operates nearly 60 manufacturing facilities in the United States and over 20 in other parts of the world.  It designs and produces cabinetry, windows, plumbing, and exterior products, with brands including more than 50 household names like Merrilat, Behr, Kraftmaid, Cardell, Delta, Brasscraft, Duraflex, Milgard, and more.

Michelle was born and raised in Valdosta, Georgia.  “My mother believed that, due to my close relationship with my aunt, I might be a school teacher.” But her predilections took her in a different direction. “What I recognized quickly was my ability to lead!” So Michelle completed her business bachelor’s degree at Valdosta State University, and a masters’ degree with a dual focus in higher education and information sciences from Florida State University. “I had a great mentor at Florida State,” she said, who assisted with her resume, negotiating skills and perspective.  With masters in hand, she entered the workforce as a business analyst at Mellon Bank, at headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa.   After two years, she migrated to Raleigh, North Carolina for another analyst position at Ericsson, “which soon became Sony Ericsson,” a global leader in mobile communications. 

Michelle progressed from business analyst to project manager, which eventually led her to accept a Sony Ericsson global program manager position. “I went to Sweden on a short-term assignment,” Michelle said.  That assignment doubled in duration, helping Michelle recognize “my own ability to make it work, wherever I am. If the opportunity and the job is good, I will figure the rest out!” She developed an appreciation for Sweden, the lifestyle, and customs.  The career positions helped hone her variety of skills. “The first big global program I led was a datacenter move,” she said, shepherding the company’s formerly outsourced center back inside the corporation. That project propelled a variety of promotions, with Michelle moving from managing the center, to a service management job back in the states, to the global management of Sony’s network services, to her final Sony Ericsson job, Director of Business Infrastructure worldwide. In that role, Michelle directed an annual budget of $70 million; managed all global infrastructure resources on three continents; and led global outsourcing, partners and suppliers for information technology. “That was the first time I had a leader approach me and say: ‘I am planning to move to something else; once I move, I would like you to be ready for this’….” said Michelle.  “I was groomed and mentored. It was amazing.” This resulted in Michelle getting promoted and returning to North America. “My reputation preceded me. I was someone who could get things done. I was a bit of a ‘turnaround’ person.” While she appreciated the promotion, she struggled with moving back. “I enjoyed living abroad!”

Michelle believes in the magic of connections.  Within a year of her return to the states, “The CIO for Sony-Ericsson (Colin Boyd) who had previously moved to Johnson Controls reached out and said:  “I think you will be great for this company!” Boyd was instrumental in providing the chance for her to move to that larger company, further test leadership skills, and take on new challenges. Michelle stayed with Johnson Controls for nine years, first working in their Buildings Division in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 3 years; then heading up the Automotive Electronics and Interiors Division in Holland, Michigan from 2012 to 2015. Then she moved back to headquarters as Vice President of Business Partnership, for the entire enterprise.  Like Michelle’s previous functions, this represented a chance to prove her ability to impel a turnaround. “Many people don’t get the need for partnerships from the IT standpoint,” she said. “I was the first person to do this job. We built a team and made progress from there.” Michelle credited her mentors at Johnson Controls, and outside the company, for inspiring and empowering her. “I have had some very good coaches, along the way.” When Masco reached out to recruit her, “I had people I could go to” who provided advice about the appropriateness of her next career steps. “At this point in my career, it’s about the next move.  Do I need to step outside my comfort zone?”  

Following mentors’ advice, in 2018, Michelle joined Masco, in her current role as Vice President, IT. “I have been blessed with good teams,” she said. “I’ve made it my practice, when I take over a new team, to do one-on-ones with every member, so I can understand and I can meet you, where you are.”  She emphasized that her mission is to offer “authentic and strong leadership” in her current role, and all future roles. “I feel like we don’t have enough leaders in IT. I have the ability to effect change because of my leadership style.” Michelle noted that her personal strengths include authenticity, being a life-long student of leadership best practices, and wielding “influence without authority” in order to “get things done” without direct resources, in some circumstances. 

Michelle’s primary rule is “take chances.” In her career, she has been unafraid to move or travel to new countries; tackle new problems; and start new initiatives.  As she coaches teams, she is a strong believer in clear communication. “I am finding, day-to-day, our biggest source of issues is you did not have a conversation with someone, or you did not take the time to be effective in the way you were getting across your message.”   She is enthusiastic about her “fantastic” Masco team. “The majority are long-time Masco” employees and seem to appreciate her “outside-in perspective,” helping Michelle “navigate the waters, internally, at Masco” while she offers them an external lens. Her plans include the ability to extend the benefits of the information technology organization throughout the larger global organization, not just at headquarters but across the enterprise. “We don’t always leverage and maximize our spending, our licensing, our approach, our solutions.” Her vision is to propel that, worldwide. 

Along the way, when she met either gender or race bias, Michelle candidly said: “I recognized, I cannot wear it on my sleeve. That’s their problem; not mine.” Her key pieces of advice when contending with prejudices are: “Don’t take it personally.  And don’t give away your power. Don’t let it define you; and don’t carry it around with a chip on your shoulder, because, in reality, there are more people who do not” exhibit racism nor bias.  

Michelle is often asked to speak to girls and women, on the topic of leadership.  She recommended a book by Carla Harris called EXPECT TO WIN, which outlines ten proven strategies for thriving at work.  Michelle also enthused about Marshall Goldsmith’s WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON’T GET YOU THERE, which exhorts successful leaders to examine the small “transactional flaws” that keep even the most high-performing individuals from reaching the next pinnacle . “We do need to make adjustments” along the way, according to Michelle. 

Key success tips Michelle often offers to girls and women are:

  1. “Be clear about who you are, and what you would like to do. Understand WHY you are doing something. Know yourself and be true to yourself.”

  2. Don’t give in to limits nor allow barriers to success. “We say we want these glorious and fantastic careers,” but then often make excuses, or compromises, that impede personal progress.

  3. Find the balance between “sharing too much” personal information and being both authentic and personable. “It’s important to be business colleagues but find a common ground” to cultivate empathy.

Michelle also stressed how crucial it is to understand “authenticity,” and clarify “what it means to you, so you know how to show up” in professional settings.  The earlier you get a mentor and a coach, the better it will be for your career development.

Essentially, Michelle is balanced, focused and extremely happy. “For me, I am working all the time: night, mornings.” She does commit to activities that allow for some life balance, defined as fluid for her. (“I love going to the spa. I enjoy traveling! Although sometimes traveling with my friends means I bring my laptop,” but then she puts it away to have fun.)  

In her volunteer life, Michelle is very active with nonprofit organizations to give back.  She sits on the board of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Goodwill; and is also a key board member for PEARLS for TEEN GIRLS, a unique leadership development program serving middle schoolers and high school girls in Wisconsin.  She also recently joined the board of Michigan’s DPTV, viewer-supported public television in Southeast Michigan. 

“I have been blessed to make conscious choices. I wanted to be in a position to focus on my career, and I don’t have to make compromises or sacrifices when it comes to my family or other relationships.”  The elements of her joy include: “great career and great wine!” She also stressed that “failure, for me, is not an option. I keep it in the back of my mind, to keep me grounded. But I am not allowing it to be an option.”

Michelle can be reached at mgreene0289@gmail.com or on LinkedIn.

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Diva Tech Talk Team

Podcast Divas