Opening the ‘Doors of Curiosity,’ Showing Gratitude, and More: 1 Director’s Best Career Advice

Sponsored by Seagate Technology

Christina Bassani. Photo courtesy of Seagate Technology.

Christina Bassani. Photo courtesy of Seagate Technology.

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April 24, 2024 at 8:9PM UTC

As the Director of Corporate Governance at Seagate Technology, Christina Bassani’s role involves engaging with her company’s senior leaders as well as their trusted advocates. “Our desired end-state is aligned decision-making, accountability, process, policy, and tools such that we can all execute our most critical priorities as a unified team,” she explains. “Done well, it turns a large, distributed enterprise into a well-aligned, agile team.”

Reflecting back on her path to this director role, Bassani notes that being open to new opportunities was key. “I had a naïve assumption early on that I knew where my path would take me — that a role in Marketing meant a career in Marketing with a linear path of progression,” she shares “But delightful surprises don’t always reveal themselves in a direct path. By being willing to participate in tangential project teams, doors of curiosity open, creating new paths for sharing time and talent.” 

And even today, Bassani’s role is not set in stone and continues to evolve. For instance, she tells us that her team started small and is growing as their contributions mature. “As stewards of valued company resources, it is important that we demonstrate material value consistently, growing impact in advance of growing our team,” Bassani says. And she is there to lead them through this process.

In this article, Bassani takes the time to share what she’s learned about leadership, including tips and tricks to help you during your own leadership journey.

To start, how would you describe your leadership style?

I keep a few things consistent: sharing details and making connections for team members to operate with as much context as is reasonable for their role; holding high expectations for quality contributions; trusting team members to actively demonstrate their perspectives and experiences; and balancing leadership support while also encouraging self-advocacy. 

What differs in my leadership style for each team member is something that I learned from another leader many years ago: there are some folks who require more proximity and coaching to be successful (generally those newer in their careers), and there are others who just need good context and direction and they’ll run with it. Knowing the difference and understanding what each team member needs to be successful requires flexibility and discernment.

How did your day-to-day work change after you went into leadership at Seagate? What about your overall approach to work?

In some ways, my approach to my work hasn’t changed at all since I took on a formal leadership role. Specifically, I’ve always looked outside of my own team and organization to find connections with peers from across the enterprise. By expanding what we consider our purview of responsibility and creating human connections with others who do the same, we have the opportunity to be far more impactful in what we do. This didn’t change when I developed into leading my own team.

As a team leader, though, it is my responsibility to set the conditions for my team members to be successful; to activate their capacity as productively as possible; and to do so with pride and confidence such that all contributions add up to a powerful shared execution. This requires setting a leadership intention to both coach and course-correct without compromising the humanity within our team. My expectations are high, and I am confident that, when we all show up well-informed and well-supported, our collective talent will deliver the results we need to succeed.

Christina Bassani. Photo courtesy of Seagate Technology.

As a leader with a busy schedule, how do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?

Like most people, I have an ever-evolving list that I review regularly. I manage my time based on relationship to business priorities, alignment with a business cycle, and interest. Our mobile devices, chat threads, and other instant communication devices have trained us to be hyper-responsive to most demands. In this environment, it can be difficult to focus well enough to deliver a quality outcome. With this in mind, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “by when do you need this?” In doing so, I set the conditions that, unless it is urgent and aligned with a priority initiative, I’ll deliver the highest quality outcome when I can make space in my day to think, design, and deliver with quality.

What’s one strategy you’ve used when managing an individual or team that you think has been particularly effective?

Demonstrating gratitude. I was working at another well-known Bay Area tech enterprise a few years ago and was speaking with a colleague. She said to me, “You use the word grateful a lot. I don’t hear that often. Why do you make it part of your language at work?” I shared with her that we all have a choice in how we show up every day in service of our company and in service of one another. 

I am grateful for those who show up with vulnerability, commitment, and contribution, because they choose to give of themselves and that makes a difference. Who wants to give their best if it feels like that effort goes into a void?

What’s the No. 1 thing you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you?

Dignity. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team, but they’ll only show up with their best gifts and effort if they feel like their humanity is acknowledged and respected.

How do you think about making sure your direct reports feel well-supported in their lives both in and out of the office?

Many years ago, I was curious about whether I could distill a few key human needs down to a list that was globally relevant. This is what I came up with and have found to be consistent no matter the level, language, or location of a team member: 

  • To belong

  • To contribute meaningfully to something that matters

  • To feel secure in their humanity

When these conditions are met, we can thrive as individuals and as a team.

What do you believe is the top thing managers must do when onboarding new employees? How did your own manager support you during this process?

Define the mission statement in terms of the company, the organization, the team, and the individual. It is important to know that a person’s job — where they spend a majority of their day — is contributing to something that matters.

My manager does this regularly through formal and informal forums. She leads through integrity, demonstrating the value that we bring to the business and the responsibility we have to bring accretive value by our presence.

Finally, what is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

It is the same advice I’d give anyone, really: get involved outside of your own team. Be willing to share time with other teams or leaders to broaden your context for why and how we do what we do. At the same time, you’ll be giving others a chance to get to know you and your capabilities.

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