Influential Interviews: Lisa Laronde on being a better leader

RSG’s president talks books, learning golf, mentoring and why she’s inspired by her Gen Z daughter.

* Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series of interviews conducted with winners of SiteNews’ recent awards program, Construction’s Most Influential People

As the first female president of RSG International and president of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC), Laronde isn’t just breaking down barriers for women in construction. She is obliterating them. Laronde is widely known for her passion around building psychologically safe work environments where diversity and inclusion are at the forefront. Her impact has gone far beyond just construction. Last year she was recognized by the Women’s Executive Network as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. Check out our interview with Laronde to get her thoughts on leadership, golf, mentoring and more.

SiteNews: Is there one book, podcast, video or piece of content that you think everyone in construction should check out?

Lisa Laronde: I think anyone in leadership and construction should check out ‘No Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention’ by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. It is almost like a guide to forward-thinking and outside-of-the box management practices, and it also makes a good argument as to why employees need to critique their leaders.

Did you have a mentor or role model early in your career? How did their guidance or example shape your path in construction?

To be honest, throughout my career, I didn’t have any mentors guiding me down my path. The urge to lead was developed at a young age, as was my drive. What I did have were examples of people I knew I just didn’t want to be like.

I was lucky to grow up with a strong and independent mother who taught me to fight for what I believe in and to stay true to my morals and ethics. She also taught me that a good sense of humour goes a long way. My mother has always been my role model; she instilled confidence in me, self-awareness, and a belief that I could do anything I could put my mind to, but she never allowed me to expect that it would necessarily be easy.

Believing in yourself is essential for overcoming barriers and setbacks and for pursuing ambitious career goals.

Along with my mother, I look to another powerful woman in my life, my Gen Z daughter, who has been my source of inspiration, and I am continually motivated by her remarkable journey as she sets an example of what is achievable.

At 24, she embarked on a journey to pursue a career in a foreign country. I have watched her navigate an unfamiliar language and social landscape with grace and determination. Observing her accomplishments professionally with confidence, integrity, and excellence ignites a sense of aspiration that motivates me to continue to be an advocate for gender equity and pushes me to continue to be an inspirational leader in the construction industry.

What was the biggest calculated risk you took in your career, and what were the rewards (or lessons learned) from that experience?

In 2015, I made the decision to leave my job to pursue a position at a company in a different industry that was located four hours away. My plan was to relocate after a year, but just one week before I was about to put an offer in on a house, I was fired. It was a tough blow, but one that taught me a valuable lesson: getting fired isn’t the end of the world.

To be honest, I had known deep down inside that the organization wasn’t the right fit for me, despite my efforts to make it work. I learned the importance of staying true to my core values and not compromising on what truly matters to me. And, in speaking with successful entrepreneurs, I have discovered that failure is often part of the journey to success. The experience taught me not to let the fear of failure hold me back from trying new things or speaking up for myself.

What advice would you give to your younger self, just starting out in your career?

Be confident, believe in yourself, take risks, be willing to fail, and when you do, pick yourself back up and try again. You will encounter challenges and obstacles, so surround yourself with people who believe in and support you. Don’t listen to the negative things people say or do.  When I stepped into an executive leadership position, I quickly realized the importance of learning golf. In the corporate arena, countless crucial deals and networking opportunities unfold on the green, and to be part of those discussions, I had to be out on the course. Learning the game wasn’t about becoming a pro; it was about levelling the playing field with my male counterparts. I often encourage women to learn the game, as I believe it fosters a sense of balance in leadership dynamics, and by participating in the traditionally male-dominated game, women can help dismantle barriers and foster mutual respect and inclusive decision-making processes.


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