The business world has presented numerous opportunities in 2023 and experienced a major shift in leadership approaches. The role of visionary leaders has become more crucial due to transformations that took place in business, economy, and technology. In this ever-changing landscape, Tatyana Nelson (CFO and Head of Quality and Supply Chain Operations at CARR Biosystems) has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities along with forward-thinking strategies that made her stand out in her field. By encouraging her team members to fulfill their potential, she is making the wave and leaving a remarkable impact on the business world.
Consistent Improvements at the Professional Level
Tatyana Nelson comes from a vibrant educational background. She received education from Carroll College and the University of Montana from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration: Finance, Management, and Economics and a Master of Business Administration, respectively. Later, she worked in positions focused on finance and partnered with other teams, including Sales, Marketing, Operations, Supply Chain, Service, etc. This gave her exposure to all key areas of a typical company..
Alongside this cross-functional exposure, Nelson worked at every level leading to the Chief Financial Officer position—from financial analyst to FP&A Manager to Finance Director to VP of Finance. Nelson intentionally sought out opportunities for companies in various industries and ownership structures (public, private, private equity (PE), venture capital (VC)) to gain as wide and as diverse an experience as possible.
She focused on improving skills at a professional level, including participating in executive leadership courses, obtaining professional certifications, reading business books, and staying current with the business press. She worked with some of the best minds in business, learned from them, and shared the knowledge with teams. She enjoys leading teams, finding solutions, and then bringing them to life. Moreover, she prioritizes creating an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their ideas openly. This opens up many two-way learning opportunities.
Creating Opportunities for Everyone
Building relationships outside of the organization is an important component of staying up-to-date and successful. Catering to this, Nelson participates in networking opportunities such as the ones offered by the Association for Corporate Growth and as a Board Member of multiple organizations. All of this contributes to who she is today. Tatyana Nelson enjoys growing and transforming businesses while creating opportunities for all involved.
Nelson had some pivotal experiences that played a major role in achieving success. The first one was a leadership school that she attended during her teenage years. She learned how to work with a diverse team and bring them together, even if they have different interests and agendas. The second one was related to leading the Social Women’s Club for 15 years.
She learned invaluable lessons in how to lead in a situation when there is a lack of formal authority and how to motivate people to come back and bring their friends. Another pivotal experience was working with individuals and teams. Nelson elaborates, “It’s important to remember that you can be a leader no matter what your title or position is. I did use this logic my whole life, which allowed me to practice and improve my leadership skills every step of the way.”
The Key to Growing Companies
Many people focus on strategy only, but the key to growing companies is execution. Having a transformational leadership style, Nelson inspires and motivates her teams to achieve their full potential by sharing a vision and setting high standards. She focuses on creating a clear vision for the future, communicating it effectively, and empowering the teams to take action toward achieving it. It involves creating something that passes her excitement factor, sharing and discussing with others and fine-tuning it along the way, finally presenting the vision, getting buy-in, and moving forward with the execution.
Tatyana Nelson aims to develop strong relationships, encourage thinking outside the box, and foster innovation. Moreover, she believes that work should be fulfilling and enjoyable. She creates an environment where every team member can be themselves and communicate openly and transparently. Nelson follows a flexible leadership style that is grounded in the core principles she described above. She concentrates on taking into account the strategic objectives, aligning the strengths of team members with required actions, and making sure that each individual feels like a VIP. The success of this approach is confirmed by the results her teams had achieved in the past.
A Fully Engaged Team
Effective communication is essential to leadership. It all comes down to caring and building relationships. Nelson adds, “If you have those components in place, everything else becomes instantaneously easier.” By learning about people and what they care about, she connects with them based on common interests or helps connect people holding the solutions to the people that are seeking them. She helps them build relationships, listen, and make sure they feel heard. Nelson ensures that she is connected through all levels of the organization so that she can learn different perspectives and make her company a better place for all involved.
During the pandemic, when business was disrupted rapidly, many leaders in her company at the time concluded that there was no way they would meet their goals for that year. Being an eternal optimist and a believer in the fact that there is always a solution to any problem, Tatyana Nelson chose not to give up. She communicated with everyone regarding what was required and created a vision of how things could be executed.
She involved people in co-creating the solutions, as there is nothing more powerful than a fully engaged team pulling in the same direction. It took hard work and some long nights of various scenarios that the team ran through, but once they settled on the best option, they never stopped moving toward the goal. Despite the nay-sayers, that year her team exceeded the plan by 10% and achieved a double bonus payout. It was a huge shift from having no solution to achieving goals and bonuses.
“Success is always tied to strengths”
According to Tatyana Nelson, to achieve personal or professional growth, the first step is to identify the person’s strengths and then tailor the growth plan that is tied to the strengths. She adds, “You have much more leverage working on your strengths versus eliminating your weaknesses. No one ever achieves success by eliminating their weaknesses. Success is always tied to strengths.” Thereafter, the plans for growth could be achieved by ensuring that the team member gets to work on stretch assignments or by adding formal education options such as training courses or trade shows.
Coaching also plays a key role in growing team members. A strong leader and coach asks a lot of questions and allows the team members to answer them on their own versus providing them with all the answers. Encouraging team members to find new opportunities to learn is also a great idea. This could range from reading and discussing books to enrolling in classes at a local college. Nelson believes that setting an example by own actions is an important component. Growth is encouraged when the team observes that the team leader is focused on consistent learning.
Unorthodox Approach towards Growth
By emphasizing the strengths of every team member, Tatyana Nelson ensures that everyone works together and capitalizes on their strengths to achieve long-term goals. Often she asks the team members to expand their skills to a completely different area of the company or to take steps to learn the bigger picture.
For example, she knew that leadership and execution were required to turn around a specific team and that she could safely leave the deeper technical aspect to the other team members. Her team member, who was strong in both leadership and execution, agreed to take on the new challenge and responsibility. Many would call this a very unorthodox approach. The results have been fantastic! The team has made significant progress, and the leader had a great experience of learning and making an impact in a different department.
Diversity of Opinions and Exposure to Discussions
Disagreements are inevitable in business. If individuals and teams have achieved a high level of trust and transparency, open discussions take place naturally and leave no space for conflicts. Powerful organizations create an environment of psychological safety and competent leaders stress the fact to their teams that they want unfiltered opinions. Catering to this, her functional and leadership teams know that she will speak openly and encourage team members to do the same.
When a new employee joins, her team deliberately builds trust and transparency to expedite the creation of a high-performing team. The diversity of opinions and openness to discussions is one of the important factors that help teams and companies make progress and become leaders in their sectors.
Nelson is an admirer of thinking outside the box. Progress takes place when solutions are created through innovations. It is exhilarating to think of new and better ways to do things, and that is what creates progress at companies and in the world. The team’s support is important, as they have to be active contributors to the solution. According to her, taking calculated risks is fine as long as the benefits outweigh the potential costs. She believes in transparent communication with her team members and requests their unfiltered views.
Twofold Involvement in the Category of Innovation
Innovation comes in different shapes and flavors. It includes how to do things better and finding even better solutions for the customers. There is also technical product or service innovation. In the category of continuous improvement, Tatyana Nelson is a Chief Innovation Officer as she looks for out-of-the-box solutions and encourages the team to do so. She challenges team members to come up with improvements and never fails to implement them.
This improves the experience of customers as well as teams. Nelson’s involvement is twofold in the category of product or service innovation. She encourages new and improved solutions and also finds a way to support them financially. Nelson asks the team many questions and gets comfortable with the return on investment and timeframes. She sets up milestones to keep the company on the right track to the goal or determine if it is time to change approach or stop the project.
Transforming the Status Quo
Nelson questions the status quo and comes up with major initiatives. After joining one of her companies, she questioned the way budgets and goals were set and actual results tracked. Along with her team, she launched an initiative to revamp the planning and reporting process and the related cadence. Finance and operation teams worked together to build a granular plan and ensured that the team members bought into the new approach and signed up to deliver the results.
They created weekly reporting and discussion, which allowed them to review and act quickly if course correction was required. In just a few months of sticking to a new plan, they have successfully turned the operations team’s performance and went from underperforming to being an example to the rest of the company.
Nelson emphasizes building a high-performance team in which team members build strong relationships and cultivate trust and transparency. Moreover, she takes care of alignment, which allows everyone to discuss approaches and then come up with a final path that everyone is bought into, even if it may differ from some individual inputs. She ensures that her team members are comfortable about asking for help. The goal-setting process also requires buy-in and challenging and she believes in regular check-ins versus annual reviews.
Trust, Transparency, Commitment, and Accountability
In cases of underperformance, it is important to recognize the issues early and course correct them. If the foundation has been built on trust, transparency, commitment, and accountability, then course corrections become much easier. Nelson explains this with an example of a Quality Assurance team struggling with a documentation backlog. After identifying the root cause, it is important to involve the right people and discuss the process adjustments that would be needed and to get their commitment to change. In parallel, Nelson’s team set goals to close the current backlog and now, there is a roadmap to success that everybody agreed to.
Ethical leadership is paramount. The internal ethical compass guides Tatyana Nelson. She explains, “When you are ethical and authentic, your life experience is so much better as it allows you to be open. You sleep better at night, you build stronger relationships, and hence, you enjoy life fully. I am not interested in alternatives to this.” She finds herself lucky when she teams up with people who have similar ethical beliefs. The foundation of trust and relationships has been key to being able to come out on the right side of ethics. In any tough situation, there has always been a discussion, and Nelson’s teams have always come up with ethical ways to proceed.
Having an engaging vision is truly inspiring for an organization. Leaders’ choices drive people, so it is important to determine what needs to be accomplished and how it will make the world a better place. There is no bigger de-motivator than unachievable goals. Co-creation is important as it is the quickest path to buy-in and alignment.
Nelson’s company conducted a Vivid Vision exercise to envision how they want the company to be in three years. They described details in categories like Culture, Operations, and Innovation. In a company-wide exercise, team members read the vision and shared their thoughts and feelings. The exercise paved the way to keep the long-term goals in mind while making progress toward them in everyday actions and achieving short-term results.
Opening the Doors of Creativity
The foundation of successful transformation lies in trust, relationships, and buy-in. When team members understand what impact the changes will have on them, customers, and the world, it becomes much more exciting to drive toward the common goals and opens the door to creativity to come up with solutions that might not have even been on the table before. It engages people in improving both the internal processes and customers’ experiences.
Learning is also a gateway to creativity. Throughout her career, Nelson has sought out opportunities to learn. These include obtaining Industry certifications, participating in executive leadership programs as well as reading business publications, and listening to business and leadership audiobooks (40 minutes per day).
Additionally, she actively seeks opportunities to learn from professionals outside her organization. Currently, she is the President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants, a Finance Committee member of Safe Children Coalition, and an advisory Board Member for the L.E.A.D.S. (Leadership, Empowerment, Action, Development, Service) program for women at Benedictine University.
These things contribute to who Tatyana Nelson is today. She has been recognized as Best Life Sciences Equipment Manufacturing CFO 2023 by Acquisitions International magazine. Being one of the most iconic leaders in business in 2023, Nelson advises emerging leaders:
- Learn to listen, build trust, assemble an “A” team, be brave, and keep questioning the status quo.
- Communicate with all layers of the organization and involve people in creating solutions.
- Understand the industry and the company.
- Focus on execution and achieving short-term results while always keeping an eye on the future.
- Continue to expand your knowledge, be it through formal opportunities or books or by joining professional organizations.
- Make it fun and make this world a better place to live!