Published: August 18, 2020
Published: August 18, 2020

‘Dare to Be Transparent and Vulnerable’

Cyntosha Drewry, PPG leader of human resources (HR) operations in EMEA, was one of our global leads responsible for global HR transformation. Soon after this, she found herself in another personal, yet equally challenging, transformation: moving from the US to Barcelona, while leading a brand new team!

Total Cultural Emersion

Cyntosha joined PPG eight years ago as HR business partner for our Packaging Coatings business in North America, before moving over to support Architectural Coatings for the US and Puerto Rico.

She then became part of the HR transformation team as one of the global leads for the new HR operating model, which launched with the start of the year in 2019. And, just three months after the transformation kicked off, she was relocating to Spain to take the role of leader of HR operations in EMEA!

Her role in Barcelona now consists of leading the team of HR operations in countries across EMEA. This includes HR managers and coordinators, payroll teams, and labor relations specialists, as well as the PeoplePulse Support Centre, which supports fellow employees in all HR-related matters.

Not only was I moving my family to a new country, but I had to learn the local practices and cultures of multiple countries I was responsible for in my new role. It was a lot to take in at once.

Listen and Learn from Your Team

There was so much to absorb in her new role, but Cyntosha made this her strength.

Leaders often arrive wanting to make bold changes. My first priority, however, was to listen and learn. It was my second concern to take leadership and decide where we needed to go.

Though Cyntosha at first felt intimidated by leading people often more senior than herself, she took a transparent and vulnerable approach. She asked for feedback and always adjusted accordingly.

I wanted my team to know that I didn’t think I had all the answers or that I knew more than them. We became a two-way team; I taught them, and they taught me.

Then, six months into the new role, Cyntosha was approached for The PPG Way Sprint.

Sprinting Toward a Deeper Team Connection

The PPG Way Sprint is an intensive seven-week stint where teams find ways to produce their desired changes.

Cyntosha’s role was to connect HR leaders spread across the diverse, often quite fragmented, region, and lead them through a complex transformation of processes, ways of working and structures. Because of this, the team chose two pillars to focus on during their sprint.

While still in the middle of the transformation, Cyntosha admits the team felt reluctant to be spending their energies on anything else at first. It took the team a couple of weeks to connect and start seeing the value in the project.

As trust accelerated, the collaboration opened. The team started relying on one another more. Where there had been reluctance and resistance, there grew a ‘yes’ team with a can-do, make-it-happen attitude. One of the discoveries Cyntosha made was that she didn’t have to be the leader for every project. As her team grew in confidence, they were able to take things over.

If you invest the time to create an environment of collaboration, empowerment and fun, it comes back to you. This deeper team connection truly proved to be invaluable during the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis hasn‘t been easy for us, but having that foundation of a team gave us a level of comfort.

‘You Gotta Cut It Off, Spend Time with Your Family!’

The experience of moving to Barcelona has been a positive one for Cyntosha’s family. They have made friends and embraced the local language and traditions. It seems her transparent and vulnerable approach is working here too: “You’ve got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

The move to Barcelona made Cyntosha re-evaluate her previous life standard ‘work first, life second’ and adopt a healthier work-life balance.

I was probably close to a burn out at one point, with a three-month-old baby in a very demanding project and travelling a lot for work. I have to give credit to my team. They said ‘You gotta cut it off, spend time with your family!’ Thanks to them, I am better at setting boundaries for myself.

Cyntosha points out that one of the most important steps toward a better work-life balance was to accept you are never done, work will wait for you. It is easier to say prioritize than really do it.

Now, I look at each task and evaluate how much impact it makes and how much energy I should give to it. I can’t give everything 100%. I am making sure I take care of myself to be fully present at work too.

Back to top