Tom Scalera, the CFO of the White Plains–based ITT Corporation, a 9,000-employee manufacturer of advanced engineering components for the energy, transportation, and industrial markets, once worked for the kind of boss you hear about but pray you’ll never have: a top-down tyrant. “He managed through fear,” says Scalera. “If he stopped you in the hallway and said, ‘How’s it going,’ and you said, ‘Fine,’ you could be at risk of being terminated at that moment.” Sound awful? It was, but it taught Scalera how not to manage, and he vowed to be an approachable, caring boss.
And judging by what his subordinates have to say—Director of Financial Planning and Analysis Michael Camera, for instance, says if he “could create his own boss, Scalera would be the result”—that promise he made way back has something to do with his early success.
“It’s about a people-oriented approach to leadership and understanding what’s important to each individual to help everyone reach their goals and get to the next level,” says Scalera. To that end, he starts every meeting with what he calls a “cultural moment,” 10 minutes of “checking in.” He says it’s about “having a collective dialogue around non-work-related issues, what’s going on with people, knowing where their heads and hearts are.” The effect is a stronger team with a more human connection.
Camera says that Scalera, knowing he’s a huge New York Yankees fan, honored him at a town hall meeting by explaining “what Derek Jeter means to the Yankees and how he contributes to the team’s success and that he believes I hold a similar role for ITT.” Camera was floored. “With each of his employees,” Camera notes, “he finds a common interest or an understanding of something meaningful that goes beyond” how you’d typically relate in the workplace.