When you’re a top executive at a major US corporation with more than 300,000 employees, it’s crucial you know how to work well with others.
As Beth Comstock, vice chairwoman of General Electric, said in a recent interview with Adam Bryant of The New York Times, “When you get the teamwork right, it’s like magic because everybody has a role. You’re different, but you come together and you have a mission.”
But as Comstock admitted to Bryant, she’s never been an innate people person.
The GE executive explained that she is naturally more like her father, who she describes as “reserved, very creative, a quiet person,” and she has tried throughout her career to emulate her mother, who is more outgoing and knew everyone when she was growing up in their hometown of Winchester, Virginia.
“If you sit next to my mother on a plane, she’ll know your life story. Whenever we wanted to know something, we went to my mother to do the reconnaissance,” Comstock told Bryant.
While Comstock admitted she feels more comfortable in reserved kinds of roles, she appreciates the ease with which her mother could make friends. “I could not do that early in my career, but I see both of those things in myself now,” she said.
Early on, Comstock said she really had to work on not letting her shyness hold her back.
“There were times in a work setting that I wasn’t being heard. I’d leave a meeting, and I’d be thinking, ‘ugh, I didn’t speak up,’ Comstock said. “So I’d start to feel like I wasn’t able to contribute like I wanted, and I had to force myself out of it.”
Since then Comstock said she’s grown much more comfortable really liking people and delighting in hearing their stories.
“Being part of collaborative teams, I’ve come to appreciate the power of them a lot more than I did early on,” she told Bryant.
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