Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Ann Vu
Title: Sr. VP, QA, RA, Clinical
Organisation: ZimVie Incorporated
For more than 30 years, Ann Vu, JD, RAC, has held progressive leadership roles in Quality and Manufacturing with major medical device, pharmaceutical, nutritional, biologics companies, including: Calgon Vestal Laboratories, Steris, Bausch + Lomb, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Ethicon, and Zimmer Biomet. She currently serves on ZimVie’s Executive Leadership Team as SVP, Quality Assurance, Regulatory Affairs, and Clinical.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
I think everyone wants to hear that it's technology, or pace, or domain knowledge. But really it's communication and the human side of what we do as leaders which is both rewarding and challenging. Being able to listen in a way which allows you to hear not only what is being said, but what is not being said during a conversation is essential. That's where you learn what's going on in the hearts and minds of those around you. Staying mindful as you listen so that you can capture those cues is most challenging for me.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I'm not sure one 'becomes' a leader- it's often something that you tap into or just 'do'. During childhood games, or groups, I've always been the one to organize, take charge, or 'make the plan'. I love seeing groups, teams and those around me to achieve what it is they are looking for- so it starts with knowing just that- the 'what' we are looking for, the goal. That may have been finding the hidden treasure at camp, or a far more impactful deployment of a transformational quality system- but it starts with knowing the 'what' you wish to achieve.
That has always been something very clear to me- knowing direction and where I want to go or where we need to go as a team. Throughout my career, I've also been one to eagerly 'jump in' or try things- including leadership. I asked to cover for a team member in lab scheduling, which led to becoming a lab leader. There is so much to be gained by sharing your vulnerabilities (I didn't know how to lead in that moment I took on the lab), and then working with those around you to define what needs to get done.
We worked together to assign duties, cover the testing and training, and flex across shifts, and make sure that nothing got dropped. The key was knowing that we were 'in it together', our 'what' was clear, and that we would stay in contact as we faced what may come at us day to day. Jocko Willink calls it 'Extreme Accountability'- that knowing what the end game looks like, understanding the mission. I think that really captures how I operate.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I'm so basic. A good cup of coffee and a review of what's ahead is how I start. My days are relatively structured, with meetings and what not. In preparation for each, I like to think about the 'what' needs to be achieved with each one. As I go through the day, I try and take a few minutes to connect with team members and 'check in' in addition to engaging during calls.
I close the work day with some get ready time for the next day and coming week. In the early evening, I make time for a short work out which helps me clear my mind and think through any items that are tricky, replaying conversations or pondering sticky issues. Dinner with my husband is a must (a foundation we started when the kids were little, and have continued throughout our 35 year marriage).
An evening walk after eating allows us to stay mobile and build relationships in the neighborhood. I try to spend some time volunteering at least twice a week, so some days it's a few hours with those duties. If time allows, a random episode of something mindless either as a podcast or tv allows me a few cuddles with the kitties on the couch.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Be mindful of the shadow you cast. This is one that I learned from a less than stellar leader many years ago, but was recently reminded that my team and those around me 'see' what I do and model that- for good or not so good. The example is about taking down time. I am not good at breaks, vacation, etc. A team member felt uncomfortable taking time because they didn't see me doing so- I need to remember to recharge, so that my team can see that it's necessary for all of us and feel good about recharging themselves. Do what you love.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Question Behind the Question, by John Miller. This is one that I come back to, over and over again. The 'big idea' is that asking questions such as why, who, when lead to victim thinking and procrastination. Asking questions such as 'How' can I make the situation better, 'What' can I do to change the situation lead to progress, resolution and action. Reading this book more than 20 years ago so resonated with me- I was in a role where I shifted from peer to functional leader of an area where I had no functional expertise. The team was very much struggling with me, and I them. This put things into perspective, and allowed me to focus on fixing me vs. fixing the team. That shift in mindset truly transformed how we as a team 'got things done'. I come back to this book over and over, and have shared with my teams, 'If you understand this book, you'll understand a lot about my expectations'. It's such a fast read, but truly powerful.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
1. You. Are. Capable.
It's easy to let doubt creep in to your thinking, but if you lead with listening, you will get where you need to go.
2. (if allowed :-)) Mistakes are ok. Don't repeat them. Learn and move on.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
It seems so cliche, but I want to be remembered for how I treated my team and those around me. I know of leaders that are truly tyrants, with an 'outer' persona that didn't match the 'organizational' persona, even though they have achieved what on the outside appears to be a pinnacle of achievement. I want those that know Ann Vu to be able to say that what you see is what you get- and that I'm consistent, kind and fair.