Artwork for podcast The Automotive Leaders Podcast
Meet Katelyn Davis, Ambassador for Millennials and Mobility
Episode 1916th June 2020 • The Automotive Leaders Podcast • Jan Griffiths
00:00:00 00:44:30

Share Episode

Shownotes

Download the 21 traits of authentic leadership e book

Katelyn Davis believes passionately about the future of the Automotive Industry and her dedication has never wavered even during the difficult times of the downturn she persevered and encouraged others to share her passion. In this episode, you’ll learn about Katelyn’s story, her automotive roots, and her leadership beliefs. Katelyn dispels some of the myths of the Millennial generation and shares with us how she approaches social media and how she embodies the header on her LinkedIn profile as “Storyteller for the Automotive and Mobility Industry”

Katelyn is currently a director at Lambert, a nationally ranked top-5 automotive and transportation public relations firm, supporting a number of key accounts in the automotive and mobility space. Prior to joining Lambert, Katelyn was the director of MICHauto, Michigan’s automotive and mobility industry association, and she held corporate affairs and communications positions with a Tier 1 automotive supplier and an OEM. During her career, Katelyn’s projects were recognized with four national awards which included internal communications campaigns and a user-generated social media campaign. Katelyn is a board member of the Automotive Public Relations Council, a co-lead for the Women in Mobility organization, and a graduate of Leadership Detroit Class XLI.

You can reach Katelyn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/katelynsdavis/

01:50 – Katelyn’s story

06:50 – Leadership style

11:41 – Influencers

13:48 – The leadership model for the future / Millennials – dispel the myth

19:06 – The power of the One on One meeting

22:16 – Being personable and maintaining respect

24:11 – Your voice on social media

30:50 – Gravitas

31:37 – Energy

34:55 – Mary Barra

37:35 – Continuous learning

39:08 – Advice to your 25-year-old self

41:44 – The legacy

Transcripts

[Transcript]

Jan: [:

[00:01:25] There is no doubt about it, and I am thrilled to have her here on the show. And I really want to pick her brains about leadership, about authentic leadership. I want to know what she thinks this industry needs for leadership for the future. Please. Welcome to the show. Caitlin Davis.

[:

[00:01:50] Thank you for having me. And

[:

[00:01:58] Katelyn: [00:01:58] Yeah, so, [00:02:00] um, my story is really interesting. So I grew up in Southeast Michigan, so right here and in the Detroit region. And, um, I grew up in what I call a car family. And so, um, my dad raced cars, the Detroit Dragway, before it closed, spend our weekends going to car shows and Sundays were spent, uh, in the backseat of a Mustang, just taking leisurely strolls.

[:

[00:02:40] It was bad. It was really bad. We are pretty much at the peak of the recession and no one was really hiring. So I basically spent eight months cold calling for jobs. So I had moved back home with my parents and I was calling anyone in anyone in the industry and selling myself. I knew two things about [00:03:00] myself.

[:

[00:03:19] The only way you were going to do that was if you could change the perception of your company and kind of a little bit of the industry and that this was a great place to work and a great place to build a career. I landed my first contract gig at a tier one supplier doing passive recruiting, which was looking for engineers who may not know they were looking for a job.

[:

[00:04:00] So knowing that I needed to learn more, I left and went to an agency where I was embedded at Ford. And I did a lot of internal communications at Ford. And then I moved into a PR role still working on the Ford account. After that I went back to, into the supplier world, into corporate communications. And then I landed a role as the director of MICHauto, which is the industry association for automotive and mobility companies in the state of Michigan.

[:

[00:04:40] Jan: [00:04:40] Sounds like your career is tracking to your, your mission and your passion for the automotive industry. It's something that's intrigued me from your story is that during the downturn.

[:

[00:05:11] Katelyn: [00:05:11] Yeah, I wish I knew who sent it, but at, at some point in my later years of college, I heard someone from the automotive industry speak at an event and.

[:

[00:05:42] Uh, around the world. And I was like, wow, like that really spoke to me like that. That's something I want to be involved in. And so that really won me over. And then knowing that this industry has been around for a long time, over a hundred years, I everything's going to have its ups and downs. If I [00:06:00] really was passionate about it, I could wait out those, those lows and I could ride the highs and build a career in this space.

[:

[00:06:08] Jan: [00:06:08] doing exactly that. And when I said you were at the forefront, I meant it. You were at the forefront with the auto show activity.

[:

[00:06:25] Jan: [00:06:25] in a leadership role in your current position, correct?

[:

[00:06:50] Who

[:

[00:06:55] Katelyn: [00:06:55] I'm very personable. I think that that's always been something before I was a leader. [00:07:00] I always want to, to be someone that people on my team, whether they're my peers or, or leadership could come to and talk to. So I've always prided myself on being very personable.

[:

[00:07:22] Katelyn: [00:07:22] I think there's two, there's two things. One of them is providing space to allow people to fail. And I know there's this big fail fast.

[:

[00:07:53] Fail fast kind of culture. So that's one thing that's really important to me. Um, the other thing really comes [00:08:00] down to, to passion and you kind of talked about that and in my intro, I really believe that. That me as a leader, I need to be really passionate about what I do, but then I also have to find ways for my team to find where their passions fit in the industry and fit in their daily work.

[:

[00:08:52] Jan: [00:08:52] So you're really taking the time to understand the strengths of your team members and constructing the work, if you will, around those [00:09:00] strengths. Right? Exactly. Wrap all of that with passion and purpose. And then you have, you have a team that's ready to take on the world, right?

[:

[00:09:15] But the other key of that is helping them to understand. What is, what's the larger role that they're playing in. I've worked with, you know, in past roles that, you know, you come to work and you're, you're working on this widget and it's day after day a day working on this widget. But, um, no one really helped you envision how you're changing the world.

[:

[00:09:45] Jan: [00:09:45] Yeah. And it's really getting that emotional connection for people to go that extra mile. I was talking to somebody the other day about this word volition, and it's a word that I'd heard, but I [00:10:00] hadn't heard much of, you know, in the last several years.

[:

[00:10:24] And I believe that truly great leaders, authentic leaders take the time to do that, to connect with each individual separately in a way that's meaningful to them. And it sounds like you've been doing some of that already during your time at Lambert.

[:

[00:10:44] So when I said that I was empowered by this person who I, I really wish I knew who it was, who explained the real implications of the global automotive industry. And that's what sold me. It gave me purpose to what I was [00:11:00] learning in the classroom and how I was going to apply it every day. Now, as we see the industry transforming from a consumer vehicles into more mobility options that go beyond, you know, single vehicle, uh, ownership.

[:

[00:11:40] Yeah. Who

[:

[00:11:51] Katelyn: [00:11:51] I've had kind of, I call them three mentor models, which doesn't mean they're individuals. The first one is an individual, one of my very [00:12:00] first bosses who, you know, really fresh out of college.

[:

[00:12:31] And I, I took that advice and I got those experiences and, um, and I'm very happy that that I've been able to experience those things. Okay. Secondly, um, I have a really great network of, of peer mentorship. So some individuals who are right around the same career level that I am around the same age, we're going through a lot of the same things together.

[:

[00:13:21] Like these are the things that I liked that happened to me. And these are the things that I didn't like that happen to me. And so I kind of make these mental notes of, as I, as I become a leader to more people, how do I, how do I incorporate all of this? Because. No two people are the same. So what might work for one team may not work for another team.

[:

[00:13:48] Jan: [00:13:48] Hmm. Yeah. Good point. Let's talk about the future in this industry. Um, and the future of leadership, which would go beyond this industry. [00:14:00] As you stand at this point in your career. Um, as I said, closer towards the gen X side of the millennial spectrum.

[:

[00:14:32] Katelyn: [00:14:32] think the key is, and I preach this a lot to people who are, who are inquiring about working with millennials.

[:

[00:15:00] [00:14:59] Um, no, we're not self obsessed. Um, we're comfortable being vocal about who we are and what we want. Millennials are addicted to technology. Well, we're using that technology to make our lives better, make the lives better for other people, and we're bringing it into the workplace so that we can do our work better, faster, and easier, more efficient for everyone.

[:

[00:15:49] But the companies who can fill those needs, who can recognize your personal and your professional growth and, and help you in some way, [00:16:00] those are the ones that are going to be more easy to retain the money.

[:

[00:16:15] Right. And we know that that model has been changing over the last several decades, really, but I think you're right. It's, it's not this idea that you want to job hop. I think that you'd be more than happy to stay with a company for whatever period of time. Maybe even decades provided you were given these opportunities to grow and you were seen as an individual.

[:

[00:17:03] What's your thought

[:

[00:17:31] And that's not about. You know, playing ping pong in the middle of the day, but where that comes in is. We work really hard. And sometimes you need some time to, to take a break, take a mental break. And that's where the ping pong table or the dogs may come into play.

[:

[00:17:55] Rolling their eyes going. Oh yeah. They want to be stroked every five minutes. You know, I'm going to have to [00:18:00] recognize them, give them recognition all the time, but I don't think that's what you mean. Is it.

[:

[00:18:28] Um, and to that, your leadership is. Aware of your, your interest in your own career path and that someone is taking time to either help you plan along the way or finding a way to, to keep growing you as, as a person. I think millennials don't want to be stagnant and sitting at a desk doing the same job for six years.

[:

[00:19:05] Jan: [00:19:05] You mentioned this one-on-one check-in point and there are leaders out there who wholeheartedly believe and understand the value of the one-on-one meeting.

[:

[00:19:34] Katelyn: [00:19:34] So for one-on-ones to work, they cannot be check boxes.

[:

[00:20:02] They can also be very detrimental to, uh, an employee if they're not done right. For me, the perfect one-on-one. I feel like this is like a date. Uh, the perfect one-on-one, um, would be different for each person based on, on either their interests or how we interact together. One-on-one so, um, for some people that might mean that we go for coffee.

[:

[00:20:54] Jan: [00:20:54] Yeah, it's interesting. The way you described that. Uh, when I grew up in the industry, [00:21:00] There was this idea that you had have a cookie cutter approach to everything, and you had to treat everybody right the same. And there's a definite, you know, one 80 of that approach right now. And it's manifesting itself in, in many ways.

[:

[00:21:45] And that requires the leader to be very perceptive and understand. What that is. And to allow that to happen, you can't go into a one-on-one with your team and saying, okay, this is the one-on-one format. We will all follow this exact same agenda in exact [00:22:00] same place in the exact same time. You've got to be sensitive to individual needs.

[:

[00:22:15] Katelyn: [00:22:15] Yes. So when I first started, it was definitely a checkbox situation. You're going to have them buy weekly. You're going to talk about X, Y, and Z on every fourth one, you're going to talk about your goals.

[:

[00:22:48] When I said that I liked leader my leadership style was very personable. I think this really plays into it. I like to break down the walls of a structured [00:23:00] hierarchical meeting. I like to remove the barrier of the table between us. And let's just be two people who are having a conversation. When

[:

[00:23:15] Katelyn: [00:23:15] No, I don't think so. I think they respect the openness that you bring to the table and they, once I think they know you as a person, it's much easier to work with people.

[:

[00:23:35] And if you allow that more personal side of you to come out too much, that that's perceived as weakness. And certainly the generation that I grew up in there was this definite you have to keep your personal life completely separate. And honestly, I did for many, many years, and now. The lines are so blurred.

[:

[00:24:18] Genuinely authentic. You're very, um, you're vocal on social major. It's always appropriate. It's always, but it feels like it's like, it's you. And that's something that my generation it needs to learn from. And it's hard for us to get over that mindset of. Putting it all out there. So what advice would you give leaders of a different generation that were struggling with this, you know, being out there on social media?

[:

[00:25:18] For me, I have been blogging since I was like 13 years old, started a podcast when I was in college and I've had most of my life, I feel like has been chronicled online and I don't know. I don't really sensor that much. I've never taken down anything that I've posted even like weird stuff as a 13 year old.

[:

[00:26:10] And I've made a lot of really good friends, um, which sounds silly, but through social media, our paths have now cross professionally, but may not have. And so I think, you know, Putting it all out there. Although sounds scary is probably what has helped me most in my career.

[:

[00:26:30] Yeah. That's great advice. And if I look at where you are today and where I was in my career, the two different, different generations, and you, you are who you are and you put that out on social media. It doesn't matter whether you work for Lambert or whatever company you're working for, because you're not going to change your leadership style is not going to change.

[:

[00:27:25] I don't know if it was fear, but very uncomfortable and very reserved, you know? And I've got to, I've got to believe there's many other people out there right now, listening to this podcast that feel the same way, but it's, it's a mindset switch, right? It's about being who you are putting yourself out there because.

[:

[00:28:11] Yeah.

[:

[00:28:30] I have to make a conscious effort that this is what's. This is what I want to portray as, as Katelyn Davis in an authentic way, because I, I would say if I didn't put a conscious effort into it, we would just have dog pictures all the time, because that's truly what comes naturally to me. Sometimes I may not have an in everyone will feel this.

[:

[00:29:14] And maybe for some people who may be kind of shying away from social media because of these insecurity, as you can kind of describe that would be a good way to kind of jump in.

[:

[00:29:41] That I was against a blue wall. I must've done. I don't know, 15 retakes. And now a year later, I don't even know, don't even think about what it looked like. I'll just throw an iPhone in my face and start talking. If I think it's something that's important that we need to start talking about. Um, [00:30:00] so it, it can happen.

[:

[00:30:27] Uh, so, but then this is what social media is all about, right? It's about putting good content and good ideas out there. So we can all learn from each other, which is a very different approach than perhaps we've seen in the past. Tell me. About the ultimate hallmark of authentic leadership, which is of course gravitas what to you is gravitas

[:

[00:31:05] I think so often. People feel that they come to work every day for that check. Right. And that's not how I want them to feel. I want them to be excited every day when they walk in the door, I want them to feel accomplished every evening when they leave. And all of that comes down to, again, being able to play off their passions and finding a way for those things to really be a part of their day to day work.

[:

[00:31:38] Jan: [00:31:38] Yeah. Well said, let's talk about energy, positive energy. When one of his matches he could, you could feel your energy, you could see it right away. How do you generate that positive energy? How do you keep it going? Tell us about that.

[:

[00:32:18] It's important that. I make a conscious effort to be positive every single day. Sometimes it's just finding the little thing in the day that we can all kind of celebrate around and it could be something very little like the brownies that we had today were amazing. And other days it's something really big, like a new business win, but it's taking the time every day to find something that we can all celebrate together.

[:

[00:32:54] Jan: [00:32:54] switch your energy sometimes when it's low, you know, for me, I'm. I, I love [00:33:00] ACDC and music and I play loud music. And if I'm feeling myself dipping, I will jump onto Spotify. And there we go.

[:

[00:33:19] Katelyn: [00:33:19] Uh, I take a walk. I said earlier, I'm big on walking meetings. I'm really just. Like to be outside, um, and being a working professional, you don't get to go outside a lot for me when my, when my, either my brain needs a second to rest and reset, or my attitude is just low.

[:

[00:34:01] It's that few minutes to just be alone or with the dog and reset. That really helps. Yeah.

[:

[00:34:27] Katelyn: [00:34:27] So I said earlier, I like to make a list of all of my leaders and things that they did that I liked and things that I think could have been better in any time that I feel stuck.

[:

[00:34:50] Jan: [00:34:50] Is there a particular quote that resonates with you that you like that you've come

[:

[00:35:05] But talent alone is never enough. One of the things that distinguishes those who truly make a difference is passion and hard work. There is truth in the expression that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. And the passion that drives hard work comes from doing things you really love.

[:

[00:35:28] Katelyn: [00:35:28] Then a quote for the last couple of years that I've had in my office that I've I've had on, on my website at various points. But it's something that, you know, I talked today a lot about passion, but I really think that you can exactly what she said. You can have all the talent there is in the world.

[:

[00:35:53] Jan: [00:35:53] I've been researching a lot lately, the psychology behind high-performing athletes. [00:36:00] And it's surprising, you know, many of these athletes don't have this incredible talent and it's it's.

[:

[00:36:34] On the ice, you know, I don't 10, 12 hours a day or something crazy. You know, they work at getting the skills, right. They work at repetition. They work at understanding the plays. What's coming at them, the psychology behind it. And they, they have that passion and drive that makes them into these superior performance.

[:

[00:37:12] When everybody else around them is saying that, you know, things are failing just like you did when you started in this industry and everything was falling apart and you saw something. And you said, no, I am in this, I'm committed to this. This is going to come back around. And that's something that I think all great leaders have is that bone deep commitment.

[:

[00:37:56] If I'm, if I'm coaching my team, that [00:38:00] they need to learn and understand the industry and that we need to know the ins and outs of how all of this works. I need to be doing that too. When it comes to that passion and drive that keep keeps people going for me, that's learning about this industry. So for as many hours as I put in at the office, you know, Working and being with my clients and providing the services I'm supposed to, I'm going home at night and I'm reading automotive news and I'm, I, I have a massive, uh, Twitter list of all the best, um, automotive journalists or thought leaders in the space.

[:

[00:39:00] [00:38:59] Jan: [00:38:59] Yeah, that's right. And of course, finding gravitas is on that podcast list, right? It

[:

[00:39:10] Jan: [00:39:10] What advice would you give your 25 year old self starting in the industry today?

[:

[00:39:33] Meaning I used to spend a lot of time replaying meetings in my head replaying exchanges that I had with executives in my head. And not being super confident in what had just happened. And honestly, there, there's no way I could fix what had just happened, but I would keep replaying those moments over and over and over [00:40:00] again.

[:

[00:40:29] None of that matters now that I know that I can. Stop and assess the situation after it happened to myself, acknowledge the fact that this could have been better, maybe come up with a plan for next time, but then just let it go. I don't let it eat away at me like I had in the past. And I w I wish I would have done that a lot sooner.

[:

[00:41:09] And you said you get that piece of advice a year ago. You know, I, it took me a lot longer. To learn that it was okay, and to be comfortable in my own skin. So I think that's a, that's a great piece of advice. So that's the advice to somebody starting in the industry. So let's go to the end, your career, which is you a long way to go before that happens, but it is important to have that end goal.

[:

[00:41:50] Katelyn: [00:41:50] So you're writing I've, I've a lot of time until I get to that point. And I, I, I don't have an exact answer on what that legacy will be, but it's something that [00:42:00] I think about every day, about two years ago, um, my, my mom and I became primary caretakers for my grandma who had Alzheimer's and I spent.

[:

[00:42:34] You're not guaranteed to grow old with your fun stories and grow old with your wins and your success. But what you can hope for is that you've made a lasting impression on someone because once you're gone, that's really all that's going to be left. So every day I strive to make some sort of. Positive impression on someone in hopes that over time they, those build up [00:43:00] and someone will have a great story to tell about that.

[:

[00:43:12] Katelyn: [00:43:12] on the podcast. Thank you. It was great being here. Thank you.