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Jan Griffiths MBS - Copy.JPG Tom Murphy
Griffiths stirs up the crowd at MBS.

Singing, Dancing on Precipice of Change with Jan Griffiths

“We are on the precipice of massive transformation in this industry. Do you see this as an opportunity or not?” asks Griffiths, the president of Gravitas Detroit.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – “We have the power to change the room,” says the woman who had a ballroom full of automotive executives dancing to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” five minutes after she walked on stage.

Appearing to be equal parts motivational speaker and management guru, Jan Griffiths, president of consultancy Gravitas Detroit, delivers a rousing call for culture change at the Management Briefing Seminars here.

COVID-19 has altered forever the way we live and work, but that also makes the pandemic a catalyst for positive change, she says.

Gravitas Detroit is a company committed to transforming the work experience by breaking the mold of corporate leadership, she says.

A big part of that mold is the old-school Command and Control management style where managers are obsessed with metrics, micro-management and minutia.

“There’s a lot of that in the auto industry,” she says. “Command and Control is out. It cannot be your go-to model of leadership,” Griffiths says, in part because it stifles creativity but also because it’s a huge turnoff to the new generation of talented Gen Z workers everyone wants. “They will not come anywhere near you,” she says.

Griffith quit a dream job as an executive at a major auto supplier because of that type of management. Being told exactly how to sit and cross her legs for a photo with her fellow male executives – who received no such orders – was the final straw.

Jan Griffiths MBS2 - Copy.JPG“You don’t take an out-of-the-box thinker and then put them in a box,” she says.

With her company and “Finding Gravitas” podcast, Griffiths now advocates a different type of leadership style that stresses factors such as these:

  • Managerial self-awareness: You have to question who you are. Get opinions of other people around you.
  • Psychological safety: When (colleagues) feel like they can be heard, and you’re not going to get your head taken off.
  • Mutual trust: Trust can’t be well defined. It is a feeling. “When someone has got your back.”
  • Flexibility: How many days should we be back in the office? It is not a matter of policy, it’s a matter of culture. Work flexibility.
  • Transparency: Water cooler talk is important. You have to be intentional about doing things as a team. There is no cookie cutter answer. Authentic leadership is about being transparent, being vulnerable and knowing it’s okay to make mistakes.

“We are on the precipice of massive transformation in this industry. Not only from a product and mobility standpoint, but also in the way that we work and the culture we operate in and perpetuate in this industry. It is up to us. We can do this. Do you see this as an opportunity or not?” she sums up.

And then she gets the audience to sing and dance again.

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