Geraldine Vetterhoeffer (Energy)

Vice President of Quality Operations, GlaxoSmithKline

I first met Geraldine Vetterhoeffer in 2008 when she was Site Director for GlaxoSmithKline in Marietta, PA, as GSK was nearing commissioning of this pharmaceutical site.

I was fortunate to be selected to coach Geraldine and we began by identifying what outcomes she was seeking.  We identified clarifying why she did what she did, how to navigate the transition from functional to strategic leader, what it takes to build nurturing relationships and what practices she needed to keep and add in order to achieve her desire to “get to the next level of contribution.”

I interviewed Geraldine in May 2016 when she was site director of GSK’s largest manufacturing facility in St Amand, France and found her still working on her outcomes and dreams.  Since that time, she’s become a Vice President of GSK, with global responsibilities in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sites.  She continues to “get to the next level of contribution.”

Geoff: Why are you a leader?

Geraldine:  I became a leader before I had the title.  There’s something in me that wants to get things done – to transform.  One of my motivation levers is to transform.  After ten years, I became a team leader.  Later, I discovered what I like is to work with people and have a positive impact on them.

Geoff: What do you do that makes you a leader?

Geraldine:  Understand the situation and listen.  Listen, learn, and lead.  Wanting to create clarity of what we want to achieve together.  Coordinate action to achieve results with people.

Geoff:  I remember you came up with a purpose for Marietta as it was coming on line.  What was that?

Geraldine:  One team, saving millions of lives.

Geoff: Who influenced you in your leadership development?

Geraldine: I had several models, both positive and negative, and both helped me.  As a technical leader, I realized it wasn’t enough to be a technical expert.  I developed my own, new way.  As someone told me, “Be yourself because everyone else is taken.”  I continue to do the best I can and am trusting myself more and more.

Geoff: How do you lead?  What do you do?

Geraldine: There’s the planned and the unplanned.  I’m still trying to plan.  I end my week by listing the top two or three priorities for the next week and leave time for the unforeseen.  Each week I build in time for reflection.  I also set aside time for planning and time with people.

People time is where I spend most of the time.  Time with my team in stand-up meetings, look ahead meetings, and one-on-one meetings.  I also have a lot of interaction with people on the shop floor to see how we’re implementing and how to improve.  I also believe that mentoring and coaching are two important responsibilities.  And of course, there are strategic interactions with the corporation and helping influence decisions.

But there’s also the unforeseen messy stuff.  If there’s an accident on the site, I go to the shop floor.  Announcements I have to make on behalf of the corporation.  Union interactions and government affairs.  There’s never enough time, but you have to decide where to spend it.

Geoff: What’s your leadership philosophy?

Geraldine: It’s an art.  There is nothing you can foresee.  It takes emotional intelligence to understand and adjust.  Listening and observing are important.  I’m consistently readjusting the way I interact with people and situations – top-down and bottom-up – and adapting to many situations.  The pleasure of leadership is to see people grow and see my leadership matters

Geoff: What are some of the greatest leadership challenges you face as a leader?

Geraldine: The constant VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) of leadership.  People changes, take a new position, maintain equilibrium, values-driven issues, union movements, organizational changes, process and communications issues, constant change.  How do I deal with all that in the moment?  How do I make sure I work on the right priorities?  How do I preserve time for myself, family, and friends?  How do I stay true to meaning and maintain equilibrium?

Geoff: What’s your greatest success story?

Geraldine:  I gained the insight that my life was about purpose, making people proud, celebrating contribution.  Putting people first resulted in wonderful, memorable experiences.  I learned that I have and share emotions; that it’s okay to be myself; and am continuing to work on the goal of being an authentic leader.  Today I see the trees differently.  I was reborn.

Geoff:  What’s your biggest failure?

Geraldine:  Not addressing people issues when they needed to be addressed.  Trying to accommodate situations and thinking I could make them work. I didn’t save the person, me, or the business.  Not realizing the wrong fit with people earlier.  I tried too long to make them fit.

Geoff:  What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about leading?

Geraldine:  There’s no defined rules or defined way of doing things.

Geoff:  What’s one thing you wish you knew how to do that would make you a better leader?

Geraldine:  Have more compassion with myself and others.

In my next blog, we’ll take a brief look at Vision and why it’s vital to any organization.

© Geoff Davis 10/19/18



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