Denice Torres remembers having the “crummiest” summer jobs while growing up in Indiana. From digging ditches at a steel mill to working as a female janitor, she realized at a young age that it was up to her to take ownership of her life. With her mind set on leadership, Denice understood she would face obstacles more often than not. Now a top executive, she shares her strategies for dealing with resistance and coming out on top.
Resistance #1: If someone isn’t motivated to participate in a project
Find out the reason for their block. Is the person risk-adverse? Does the project have negative implications for them? Then evaluate how the outcome of the project can benefit that person specifically. Find ways to get them more involved, like assigning them a critical role, making it a win for them.
Resistance #2: When someone doesn’t share your innovative vision or ideas
Don’t put yourself front and center, or there will be natural resistance. Be a flame-starter, but don’t take full credit. The best leaders will get their teammates involved so that the team will feel they have created the idea. It’s a position of strength—you have to be confident in yourself to allow others to win.
Resistance #3: To overcome any preconceived ideas people have toward you
Be authentic. Stereotypes and judgments are a result of what others don’t know about you. As I get older the line between my personal life and my work becomes more imaginary—they both run in parallel. At work I talk about my family and personal experiences. It’s part of my story and allows others to better understand me.
Resistance #4: When your supervisor doesn’t trust your ideas
If she allows you to proceed anyway, do so with confidence. Keep her updated on your progress and share your successes along the way. You have to be your own public relations agency for your team.
If she outlaws your idea, ask yourself if it’s an idea worth fighting for. If so, be willing to bet on yourself. In the long-term, however, you shouldn’t stay in an environment that limits your potential.
Resistance #5: If your own self-doubt shuts you down
Call on your strengths and the other roles you play. Sometimes self-doubt is the little girl inside of us. I remember once having to talk in front of two thousand people; my daughter, Sierra, was two or three at the time. I said to myself: “Denice may be nervous, but Sierra’s mom is tough!” As women, we play multiple roles—I’m a mom, and if someone got in the way of me and my daughter, I’d be brave.
*At the time of this interview, Denice was the President, CNS, N.A. Pharmaceuticals with Johnson & Johnson.
On being a leader:
“I have such huge conviction that as groups of individuals we have more power to change the world than we know. If we harness that energy, we can do amazing things—and always have fun doing it. I love to laugh!”
On creating diversity:
“I’m very passionate about people bringing themselves to work. Sometimes we lock our personalities in the car and think we’re supposed to be a certain way. One of the best things I can do is create an environment where all people can and want to be themselves, regardless of their age, race, or sexual orientation. More diversity of thought means more challenge; if we’re all the same, where’s the fun in that?”
“As leaders, we shouldn’t wait for someone’s hand to rise up. We should open the door and pull people through. True leaders should have a lot of self-confidence, so it’s not about a competition. My job is to champion, not just mentor diverse talent. I tell them that I believe in them and check in on them often. I love watching people grow.”
On being herself:
“In my early 30s, I went on an Outward Bound trip in the Sierra Mountains (that’s how my daughter got her name). At night, I was alone with nothing but water and a journal. I could hear all the sounds of the mountains—the animals and streams. The quietness of it all led to personal reflection. I reflected on entering corporate America and trying so hard to fit into the mold of what I thought I was supposed to be. It was a growth-experience; I found that I had to work on being myself.”