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Q&A with Monica Hernandez Alarcon

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Monica Hernandez Alarcon, HR Director for Africa and Middle East at General Motors

How could you describe your career path in few words?

Exciting, full of passion, learnings and alignment with my personal purpose. My career started in the manufacturing side of the business when the automotive industry was dominated by men and GM was starting a conscious effort toward a diverse workforce by increasing the female population. Then and there, my passion for inclusion started. I met with fierce, capable, and talented women, who today, have climbed up the career ladder occupying leadership positions across GM. I remember that influencing others was something that I found challenging, yet satisfying and rewarding at the same time. And, I was able to positively change and improve the working environment, while supporting the company’s objectives.

My leadership journey has been a continuous evolution based on inspiration from role models, framed to complement my own perspective in matters. I am proud to be a leader that transforms and multiplies every team member to maximize their capabilities, helping them reach their full potential to grow.

Having international exposure in a multidisciplinary team, or going on an assignment was always energizing and kept me challenged. Frankly, that is why I volunteer for such projects all the time.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

I have been through different positions, projects, and situations that, at that time, were challenges to me. Looking back, each of those moments were learning opportunities, even though sometimes the outcome was different from my expectations. This has shaped my character and mindset in many ways, especially in balancing a human-centered approach with business needs, which is not always easy or comfortable.

Early in my career, I remember being involved in union negotiations that required solid, long-term relationships based on trust and empathy. Preparation and stakeholders’ involvement was crucial to end up with a win–win agreement. The experience I gained helped me develop a strategic approach and outlook when negotiating with any vendor, leader, or employee. It reinforced in me that building positive relationships can help my team and I find common grounds and solutions. Another moment I recall was the first time I was offered a seat at the site decision-making table as a staff member. Since I represented not only my team, but the Human Resources function, I took the role seriously with full responsibility, keeping in mind being fair and winning with integrity. At this moment, I realized I needed to overcome any fears, be bold and trust my knowledge, all while remaining flexible as other leaders brought different perspectives to the table. When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?

Actually, I am comfortable with uncertainty and drive my team to think about various scenarios and outcomes. Most importantly, one must remain calm, so the team involved doesn’t panic, lose focus or control.

My leadership style is to ask questions to connect the dots in my mind, assess risks, and forecast possible outcomes to make a suitable recommendation. Moreover, I apply this style of coaching with my team, so they learn how to map out the situation and come out with solutions, find root causes, learn, and share the knowledge with peers.

When we are encountered by a curveball, I drive myself and the team to prioritize. That way, we are all aligned and can brainstorm together to find a solution and transform the way we assess and support our clients.

When uncertainty is a constant, it creates stress. Therefore, it is imperative to be mindful, and take quiet moments to think, relax and find balance.

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

GM is synonymous with transformation and innovation, from a products and services perspective, as well as in culture and leadership. We achieve this through fostering a psychologically safe environment, promoting process simplification, and nurturing collaboration in all its forms. Today, successful leaders face an ever-changing, ambidextrous, including a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. It demands from leaders, regardless of their gender, to remain active within their internal and external networks, to seek for innovation and look ahead.

In addition, female leadership are challenged by social expectations, which don’t evolve with the same speed as the workplace. As a result, it becomes key to have a support network that allows them to focus on their professional careers. Female leaders need to embrace the differences that our gender offers and avoid emulating male styles. Women bring to the table a balance and point of view that complements decision-making processes.

Leaders and employees need to seek for companies that fit and support a flexible and inclusive environment where work-life integration and mental health are a priority. This will drive them to succeed in their jobs and serve their personal purpose.

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