Fairygodboss

Elena Holder, a Trane Residential HVAC & Supply Sales Leader at Trane Technologies, is obsessed with effective leadership. For her, breaking down a problem with her team — and then solving it using everyone’s unique talents — is a passion point. But she realizes that good management is hard. It requires an acute sense of priority management, the emotional intelligence and empathy to decipher someone’s strongest skills and a whole lot of trust. 

Over the course of her career, Holder has learned good leadership from some of the best leaders in the business — and by learning from her mistakes. She’s now leading a team that problem solves for clients (and drives revenue along the way). And she’s doing so at a global manufacturing company, operating in an industry that is traditionally male-dominated.

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We spoke to Holder about what defines good leadership, how she’s learned best practices and how she’s working to improve her management skills every day. She shared how Trane Technologies has empowered her to be a strong female leader in the manufacturing business and how other women can make their mark in whatever leadership role they’re in. 

 How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I have been in the sales leader role for one year. Previously, I was working in a business development role focused on growing an underserved market segment for our residential business. Prior to that role, I served as a Territory Manager, calling on residential and light commercial HVAC contractors in the greater Nashville area after graduating from Trane Technologies' Accelerated Development Program.

 What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day? 

The first thing I do at work in the morning is look at my task list for the day and prioritize. Finding a system to organize and prioritize was critical for me as my responsibilities and job scope changed. Outlook Tasks has been a game changer for me.

 What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company? 

I think what’s most unique about Trane Technologies is that we are made up of different brands that provide different value to different customers and businesses around the world. Not only do these brands serve different industries, we happen to be the leaders in each market we serve. It’s easy to work for a company like Trane Technologies that is an innovator and is committed to delivering better value to our customers and shareholders every year.

 What’s something you think most people (perhaps even current employees) don’t know about your company that you think they should? 

Trane Technologies has so many excellent benefits, including everything from a fitness reimbursement program that financially contributes to a healthy lifestyle to a career development portal that can help employees discover new opportunities in the company.

 What’s something you’re especially good at at work? 

I believe that one of my strengths is problem solving. I enjoy working with my team to break down a problem with a customer, ask questions and get to the root of the issue — then find ways to mitigate the risk or problem moving forward. I look at problems as opportunities to develop and empower those around me to get creative and implement their ideas.

 What about outside of work? 

Outside of work, I love to travel and experience new and exciting places, foods and cultures. I enjoy the outdoors and I’m a fitness junky as well. I’m also a self-proclaimed baker, so I love trying new recipes and baking for others.

 What are you trying to improve on? 

I am trying to improve on my ability to coach using situational leadership. Situational leadership in short is matching your coaching style to an individual’s aptitude and motivation on a particular task or skill. This means that you have to coach differently depending on the individual and their ability and willingness to accomplish the task at hand. It isn’t easy. Being skilled at situational leadership coaching will help to elevate the morale and motivation of my team, which will produce better business results. I try to focus and practice getting better at this every day.

 What’s your favorite mistake? 

Tough question! We all make mistakes; I make them every day. Often times, we are our own worst critics. I find that very true for myself. I have spent a lot of time beating myself up for responding in a curt way in a moment where I may have been preoccupied or not clearly communicating the reason behind why we are pursuing a strategic initiative. I am challenging myself to start looking at these “mistakes” through the lens of “how can I do better next time?” Opening our minds to allowing ourselves to fail in order to be better long-term isn’t easy, but it’s working for me.

 What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

I am most proud that I had the courage to move from a marketing role to an outside sales role. I have a degree and early career experience in marketing, which made it difficult to change directions. However, it was the best decision I ever made. Sales has taught me so much about the customer experience and the importance of considering the customer in every decision that we make as a business. Pursuing non-traditional paths that may be out of one’s comfort zone is not only thrilling, it’s propels your mind to think in a completely different way.

 What do you love most about your job or your company? 

I love the endless development opportunities at Trane Technologies. I think the driver behind those opportunities is the people that work for the company, as well as the organization acknowledging that companies that have employees with diverse perspectives, experiences, and gender, racial and cultural representation are more successful than those that do not. At Trane Technologies, I feel like I can grow, learn and develop with so many wonderful leaders and mentors.

 What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 

Currently, I’m about halfway through “Becoming” by Michelle Obama on Audible and I’ve got “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday in the cue. My favorite show that I’ve been Netflixing with my husband has been “How to get Away with Murder.” I’m a sucker for thrillers and mysteries!

 What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?

 My advice would be to own your strengths and skills, and don’t get bogged down in the details. Often times, women disqualify themselves from opportunities because they don’t technically meet all the requirements, or haven’t mastered all the skills recommended to be successful. Focus on the strengths that you bring to the table and leverage others around you to help you fill in the gaps. It makes a stronger leader to delegate and trust your team to be the subject matter experts than to master the subject on your own.

 Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why? 

The most influential person during my childhood was my father. My dad pushed me from a very young age to be kind and listen to others, always do the right thing even if it’s not easy, and to do the job right. The job may have been dusting when I was a child, but I mastered it! As a result, I believe that I have a compassionate heart for others, I put my values and integrity first and I am disciplined in my work. My husband, Lakota, is also a huge influence in my life. He is the most intuitive and curious person that I know and he has pushed me to think in ways I didn’t know that I could. I have a long list of things I love about him, but his consideration and awareness for how others are motivated, think and feel has pushed me to approach situations with colleagues, friends and family differently. I am grateful for that. 

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received? 

It was from our CEO, Mike Lamach. He said: “chase experiences, not titles.” 

What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had? 

I really enjoy working for leaders that are good listeners, and not just because I like to talk a lot! Having the ability to listen to people’s ideas — even if the leader thinks they may have a better solution — is not an easy skill to master. I have been fortunate to work for several leaders that are patient, listen to the ideas or solutions I bring to the table, and let me either tackle the obstacles myself along the way or jumped in and climbed the hill with me to get to the finish line. I hope that those I work with feel the same way about me and how I embrace their thoughts, ideas and passions.

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