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AVP, Southern Zone
State Farm Insurance
More From Denise
On navigating work and family. When my children were younger - they’re now in their twenties - I was based in Maryland, while they were living in Kentucky. I was driving or flying down to see them every weekend, and I eventually asked to step down from my VP role until my son graduated from high school. State Farm was gracious and let me work in Kentucky—I got the call to move to the AVP job the week my son graduated.
On women who inspire. My mother, Marilyn, was a schoolteacher. I watched her balance taking care of my sister with caring for three other children. She was always clear and direct with us, and I'm so grateful for her influence.
As a child, Denise was told that she could accomplish anything she set out to do—and she did just that, scaling the ranks at State Farm to become the company's Agency Vice President. Denise's younger sister, Deena, is mentally and physically handicapped, and navigating these unusual family circumstances taught Denise how to maintain a positive attitude in the face of challenges. Borrow this dynamic leader's strategies for dealing with difficult people and gaining respect in return.
Practice empathy. People who put up a difficult front aren't typically expressing their full potential. I want to support them and help bring that out, but also hold them accountable for their behavior. I try to see the total picture and ask myself, Who is this person? What is their motivation? What do they need to develop and learn?
See the other side. I look through a lens to see how others might perceive a given situation. More often than not, if you say the same thing to ten people, you’ll end up with ten different interpretations. I want to be aware of how people absorb what I’m saying. If I think about how it will be interpreted, I can convey my intentions more clearly.
Have a heart-to-heart. Reframe a challenging relationship by having a talk with the individual. Explain that you want to work through your difficulties so that both of you can have a better experience. If the person in question is your supervisor, ask for permission to be vulnerable, and explain that you simply want to do the best job that you can.
Meet resistance head-on. When I approach someone, I look them in the eyes. I'm authentic. I don’t sugarcoat what I have to say—I behave just as I would when dealing with anyone else. I want the person to know that a resolution is important to me, and I want both of us to learn from the encounter.
Work toward a solution. People tend to bottle up their feelings in challenging situations, but this causes those emotions to fester and become even more difficult to handle. Address concerns sooner rather than later, or inappropriate behavior may result.
Share the blame. No one person owns 100 percent of a conflict. Both parties must be aware of what they have contributed and take responsibility for their side. If you focus only on what frustrates you about someone, you won’t get anywhere. I try to keep the other person’s positive traits in mind while reflecting on my own role in the situation.