The Approach to Answering Email That Improved My Communication and Lowered My Stress, From a VP

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Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America.

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Fairygodboss
April 19, 2024 at 10:46PM UTC

As acting Vice President, Technical Compliance at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA), Adriane Belton manages a team of lawyers and engineers across five states to ensure vehicles comply with applicable laws and regulations from the time the vehicles are developed until the time when they are sold.  

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Like you’d imagine, Belton’s role requires juggling a multitude of tasks, calendar invites, emails and relationships. Still, she’s found that spending time on other passions — including her background in Studio Art and her love for working with other women to develop their careers — helps improve her performance. 

Recently, she provided Fairygodboss some career success “hacks” that have worked for her. She also shared why MBRDNA has been a great place to work and how The Daimler Group can be the perfect next step for any woman’s career. 

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

I started as Vice President of Technical Compliance at MBRDNA on March 1, 2020.  Previously, I was the General Counsel at Mercedes-Benz Vans, LLC in my hometown of Charleston, SC.

Describe what you do in one sentence.  

I manage a team of lawyers and engineers strategically placed across the U.S. (Alabama, Atlanta, Michigan, Long Beach and New Jersey!) who combine their legal and technical expertise to provide guidance on issues such as safety, emissions and certification throughout the life cycle of the vehicle – from product development to aftersales.

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

At the end of each day, I set aside a few minutes to organize my calendar in Outlook, planning for the next day and the next week. It is not uncommon for me to have three meeting invites during the same time block, so this helps me decide which meetings take priority and when to reschedule or decline others. 

How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day? 

I have found through much trial and painful error, the best way for me to prioritize to-dos is to ask three questions: 1. Who is asking?, 2. Who does it affect? and 3. How long has it been on my to-do list?

How would you describe your leadership style?  

I work hard to be collaborative and empower those on my team, but I will admit I struggle sometimes with my strong drive to get things done and control the outcome. I really enjoy working on personal development and learning about myself. It is important for me to continue to challenge myself — especially to be a better leader. I am diligent about soliciting feedback from others on my team.  The Daimler Corporate Academy offers some great courses. I also enjoy listening to podcasts on leadership. 

What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about your company? What about those who are in a more advanced career stage?  

The Daimler Group has nearly 300,000 employees with different companies located across the globe. This platform provides for excellent networking and possible job opportunities, even outside of MBRDNA, for candidates of every experience level and of varying backgrounds. It’s common for employees to change jobs throughout their careers to broaden their experience base and stay engaged and challenged. There are opportunities for everyone.

How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work? 

In the past, I have set aside time to have lunch with other female colleagues outside of legal who I work with – sometimes at MBRDNA, or sometimes at other affiliated companies, or even external. Now that we are mostly remote working, this takes the form of a video conference, but still usually over lunch. I always feel like I learn more from them than they learn from me! I try to do this at least once a month. 

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

I really enjoy communicating both in writing and verbally. This helps me be efficient and effective in my work, and it also helps me build relationships. 

What about outside of work? 

In college, I minored in Studio Art. I don’t always make time for it, but finding time to create art helps me relax outside of work. Sometimes this takes the form of drawing, photography, playing the piano or decorating houses. I also really enjoy spending time walking outdoors with my springerdoodle “Hunter," playing with my kids, reading on the beach and doing yoga. When I make time for myself outside of work, I find that I am much more focused at work. 

What are you trying to improve on? 

A constant struggle for me is to not “react” immediately or emotionally when challenged. As a litigator, standing in a courtroom being questioned by the judge or opposing counsel, this trait was often helpful. However, I have found that it is not always helpful in the corporate world, especially when working with internal business partners on common topics. In the last few years, I have made some progress with this, by, for example, “sleeping on an email” before sending it. I have found that this new approach has led to greater results, not only with regard to the subject matter at issue, but also by improving my job enjoyment and reducing my stress level. 

What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate? 

Humility, analytical skills and collaborative focus. 

Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women? 

MBRDNA has several women in management positions, including Grace Kim who heads up the People Team. The People Team has a lot of programs in place to support a healthy work-life balance which is very important to me.  

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