Renee Rashid-Merem is a General Motors communications executive with vast Fortune 100 company experience. Representing corporate communications at our 2018 Leadership Summit, she presented practical tips on navigating the path to leadership and outlined traits of an effective leader.

In this Q&A, she talks about key points, challenges and influences in her own career.

Q. What attracted you to corporate communications?

A. I’d like to say I had some grand plan for my Communications career, but that isn’t how it happened. The reality is, I was working in a new business development role in Finance and a Communication leader recognized my capabilities and recruited me to his team. I’ve never looked back. It’s a dynamic profession and I’ve been lucky to build a very satisfying career in it.

Q. What was the key turning point in your career?

A. There have been many turning points. One particular point where I saw my career start to take shape as a leader was after being part of a small core team responsible for managing a spin-off and establishing a new company, a new brand and all of the “firsts” involved with a new, public company. That role required that I leverage all the skills and capabilities I had learned to that point in my career.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

A. My father. He was a 40-year “car guy” who had an amazing work ethic and understood the power of relationships. He influenced my love of cars and taught me the importance of hard work, relationships and integrity.

Q. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your work?

A. Not fitting into a specific profile or mold. A lack of appreciation in the differences of people. If you shift the focus to the results a person delivers, and less about their approach to work, their style or their titles, you’ll have more engaged people, stronger organizations and better results.

Q. What is the best advice you’ve gotten? 

A. “Learn to say no.” By nature, most people are pleasers. We want to say ‘yes’ to everything and do more for our peers, partners and leaders. Sometimes, saying ‘no’ is the better answer. By saying ‘no’ to work that doesn’t support your organization’s goals, or work that doesn’t make an impact, it allows you to focus time, resources and talent to the things that really matter and move the needle.

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Renee Rashid-Merem is Director, Global Manufacturing & Labor Communications at General Motors.