Lisa Citton-Battel, executive director of marketing, sales and services at 3M Canada, returned from her first maternity leave struggling with the transition of going back to work. A supportive manager taught her the importance of having an advocate — a lesson that’s guided her own leadership style over the last two decades.
By Hailey Eisen
It was early in her career, 19 years ago, after her first maternity leave, that Lisa Citton-Battel realized the power of having a strong advocate within your organization. As a marketing supervisor at the time, she was still establishing footing within 3M Canada, where she’s now executive director of marketing, sales and services. After six months at home with a baby, she, like many, struggled with self-confidence as she transitioned back to work.
“I had this manager who taught me a lot about my own potential,” Lisa recalls. “Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself.”
Lisa went back to work and was promoted to marketing manager, a role she hadn’t envisioned herself being ready for at the time. “My manager said to me, ‘you have the ability, you can do this better than anyone else,’ and that was one of the most energizing and rewarding moments of my career,” she recalls.
“Sometimes it just takes one person to have 100 per cent faith in you, to recognize in you something you haven’t yet seen in yourself”
This invaluable lesson in leadership stayed with Lisa throughout her career, and has guided her own management philosophy. Coming off two-and-a-half-years as director of HR, she says her focus has always been on developing her team and the people around her. “While women tend to want to have all the qualifications ticked off before applying for a job, I’m always encouraging those I work with to apply for roles they may not have considered themselves for,” she says. “It’s important to support one another and remind people of their potential — to help counter self-doubt.”
And when you are given a promotion or offered a new challenge, Lisa advises not to be afraid to ask: why me? Why do you think I can do this?
Once you can see yourself from someone else’s perspective, it’s easier to believe in your own strengths and abilities. “As soon as my former manager told me why she thought I was right for the position, I jumped in with both feet. I didn’t want to let her down.”
Supporting women has always been on Lisa’s radar. These days she’s the host of a 3M “Lean-In Circle” within the company’s Canadian headquarters in London, Ontario. The purpose is to help women build courage and confidence in pursuing career aspirations and to discuss issues related to work life balance. As Lisa explains, it’s important for women to be able to lean on one another, to have somewhere to go for support and advice, and to encourage one another to embrace challenges and take risks.
“A key success factor for women in the workplace is to have a strong inner circle you know you can depend on at any time,” she says. “You want your circle to be made up of people who will give you good, honest advice and feedback you can trust.”
Within 3M, Lisa says she’s been greatly supported by the many managers she’s worked for, and the company’s flexible work program. “After my 29-week preemie was was born in 2000, I wasn’t able to go back to work right away for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I remember my VP at the time, who was male and didn’t have children, said to me, ‘3M will be here when you’re ready to come back, take the time you need.’”
In her most recent leadership roles, Lisa has always extended this same attitude to her team, knowing that when someone is happy and supported at work and at home, they always perform better. “I always try to make sure people are making the right choices for their current situation, if a child has a baseball game and you want to be there, work with your manager to ensure that’s possible — that additional stress doesn’t do anything for anyone.”
Lisa remains a strong advocate for flexibility, which is a priority at 3M, and she helps managers see the value in a work schedule that meets everyone’s needs. Whether an employee wants to spend a day working remotely, or shift their hours to balance other commitments, she’s open to making that work.
In her new sales and marketing role, which she began in early May, Lisa will continue advocating to create a work environment that’s supportive of women. When it comes down to it, Lisa says, you want employees to feel empowered in their development and supported in the work they’re doing.