Authentic Leadership: How This Business Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lead Supports Her Team

Sponsored by RTX

Jocelyn Williams

Photo courtesy of RTX.

Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
May 18, 2024 at 3:44PM UTC

Jocelyn Williams, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lead at RTX, describes herself as a “connector and motivator.” A longtime leader, she credits her success to her team, as well as the solid support she has experienced at RTX, a leader in the global aerospace and defense industry. 

When discussing her leadership style, Williams emphasizes the importance of spending “the time to ask questions or offer support. I’m all about resolving problems and working toward solutions, but sometimes people just need to be heard or feel supported — ‘Listen more than talk.’” 

Williams spoke with Fairygodboss about the authentic relationships she develops, the skills she gained at RTX and her belief in the “art of possible.”

Tell us about your job.
I work on strategies that involve people and transforming culture. I’ve been in this new role for a year. Formerly, I was a senior HR manager supporting Systems Engineering.

How has your work changed since you became a leader?
I’ve been in a leadership role for many years. Since taking on this new role, I spend much of my time working on approaches to transform our culture. I also help leaders understand both the business case for diversity and how it can only work when all are included in the discussion. We must have an employee value proposition greater than what we’ve relied on in the past.

What’s one management strategy you’ve used that’s been particularly effective?
Increasing awareness: the business case to improve allyship to accountability and measuring results. Cultural transformation doesn’t take place overnight — it’s a journey. There’s no silver bullet that will get you there.

You must be invested in the journey, the long haul. I work with leaders to increase awareness toward action.

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for other women moving into leadership?
Get out of your head. If you know you’ve prepared, and you know you’re more than capable, stop talking yourself out of your greatness. But also recognize that as soon as you become a leader, it’s never about what you do individually, but what you do for the collective.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I operate with transparency, vulnerability and candor. I don’t shy away from difficult conversations. I can be hardcore when it comes to getting work done, but I’m understanding of unique circumstances, too. 

I take my role seriously, but I don’t take myself so seriously that I become unrelatable. I’ll always find a way to laugh with others.

How do you ensure your direct reports feel well-supported?
It’s important to check in and see how your direct reports are doing. Leadership is less about yourself and more about helping others grow. This doesn't mean you should forget about self-care, but it does mean you must understand what you signed up for as a leader. I’ll always encourage taking time off to decompress. Whatever you need personally or professionally, let's figure out how to get you there.

What’s the No. 1 thing managers must do when onboarding new employees?
Check in — spend the time to ask questions or offer support. I’m all about resolving problems and working toward solutions, but sometimes people just need to be heard or feel supported — listen more than talk.

While building your team, what surprised you most?
I’m perfectly fine not being the subject matter expert on all things. While I have a great deal of knowledge, I love diversity of thought, perspectives and skills. Leaders, you don't have to be the smartest person in the room and frankly, you probably aren't. Your role as a leader is to bring out the best in everyone.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?
Taking risks. At first, the risk may not seem "worth it," but if it was for you, it’ll all work out in the end.

How do you prioritize your to-do list each day?
I know what’s a priority based on impact or necessary strategy but can also get mired down in my need to respond to everyone. I’ve had to learn to shut out the noise, take it in stride and focus on what’s most critical at that time.

Can you identify anything you did that earmarked you ready for advancement?
I am both a visionary and believer in the "art of the possible.” I felt safe to be my authentic self.

What were your initial thoughts when you learned you were moving into a leadership role?
I had imposter syndrome at work. I am plain, simple, ordinary and want others to achieve. Who was I to lead anyone?

How has RTX helped set you up for success?
My success has everything to do with my team, my supervisor and how I’m supported. I feel bad for those who don’t feel safe being authentic. I’ve had great leaders and horrible ones (so I know what I won’t do). But I’ve had the pleasure of working for some really awesome leaders.

What are you best at outside of work?
I’m the friend you call at 2 a.m. just for an ear with no judgment — just to listen.

What are you trying to improve on?
I’m great at presenting, inspiring and motivating. I loathe having to spend the time putting presentations and charts together. I know what I want to say, but I rely on others to bring my vision to life on the pages. So, I work on it a little because I need to but have zero shame in asking for help from those who love creating slides.

What career move are you most proud of?
I took this DEI role terrified. We were in the midst of merging two businesses and three companies, all during COVID-19 and civil unrest. That’s one of the best career decisions I have made to date. I’ve never been intimidated by the murky waters before, so why would I say “no” now? I told myself: “You’re made for this, right now. Just go for it!”

What opportunities did RTX provide that ultimately helped you land your role?
Exposure and sponsorship — someone advocated for me based on my brand, experience and credibility. Sponsors spoke out on my behalf when I wasn't even there. That’s the game-changer.

Who is/was the most influential person in your professional life?
My father has always been my best supporter, pushing me to be the best version of myself in all aspects of my life. I’ve also had some incredibly smart women supervisors who supported me throughout my career journey.

How has having a mentor/sponsor enriched your work experience?
Mentorship was the most important early in my career. And I have my own board of directors both professionally and personally. It also changes with my seasons of life. Sponsorship or supporters have been the game-changer, helping me “level-up” in my current role.

What’s led you to stay at RTX?
My support systems: my current and former supervisors. I have the honor of working with brilliant people every day. While the job is challenging, I believe in our mission, our purpose and, for the most part, our leaders. I feel supported and valued, which is an imperative.

What’s your go-to stress-relief activity?
I’m a former recreational and professional dancer. I teach Zumba when I can. Sometimes, I go into a room, turn on the music and just move to release it all out.

What is your favorite perk about working at RTX?
The authentic relationships created — we can get together outside of work and just laugh.

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