Courage to Do the Right Thing

“What’s the right thing to do?”

It’s a simple question but one that had a profound affect on Cynthia Williams, who is now a senior executive vice president and the chief communications officer of BB&T. It may not have been the defining moment when Williams decided to continue her career at BB&T, but it was certainly one that influenced her decision.

cynthia-williams_BB&T-Perspectives-Magazine

Cynthia Williams, Senior Executive Vice President, BB&T

“The previous bank I worked for had merged with BB&T, and I was in a management meeting,” Williams said. “We were trying to determine the best solution for a difficult situation. I’ll never forget my manager asking that question. That’s when I knew I was in the right place.”

That question also gave Williams significant insight into her definition of leadership. It’s a question that points to honesty and integrity, traits she says are critical to leadership because people can believe in leaders they trust.

Leaders With Values = Strong Organizations

“You can’t judge strong leaders by their appearances,” she said. “You must understand their values. That’s one of the reasons I started my career in banking. The people I knew in the industry had strong values. They embraced the values reflected in that question. All of my managers at BB&T were walking examples of integrity, and they inspired me to do my best.”

Today, Williams has more than 30 years of experience in leadership positions. Not only are her leadership skills recognized at BB&T and in the financial services industry, her community recognizes them as well. Williams serves as a board member for five community and educational organizations, and the city of Winston-Salem, N.C., named her an “Outstanding Women’s Leader” in 2012.

The daughter of a U.S. Army veteran, Williams was born in Japan and moved to America with her parents when she was 1. Her family moved to Hawaii when she was 11 because her father wanted Williams and her brother to be exposed to their Japanese culture.

“I’ve found there are many differences across cultures, but core values and goals are very consistent,” Williams said. “People look for and value honesty, integrity and courage in their leaders. I share those beliefs.”

Demonstrate Courage

Courage is an attribute Williams believes leaders demonstrate by asking tough questions and challenging the status quo.

“Asking questions and exploring new ideas are important to identifying optimal solutions and to identify opportunities for improvement. But, it can be particularly difficult in businesses or industries that have a lot of tradition – like banking,” she said.

When searching for solutions, Williams delves into the details and encourages others to do the same.

“If you thoroughly understand the pros and cons of Option A and Option B, you’ll likely discover there’s a less obvious Option C or even an Option D, which may actually be your best option,” she said. “I’ve always appreciated the value we place on independent thinking at BB&T. Having team members ask difficult questions is crucial for effective solutions in any organization.”

Practice Makes Leaders

As a leader it is important to provide your team the support they need to be the best they can be. “Giving team members plenty of opportunity to take responsibility and gain experience – and coaching them on how to improve is essential,” she said. “There’s nothing more valuable than hands-on experience.”

Courage to Do the Right Thing

“What’s the right thing to do?”

It’s a simple question but one that had a profound affect on Cynthia Williams, who is now a senior executive vice president and the chief communications officer of BB&T. It may not have been the defining moment when Williams decided to continue her career at BB&T, but it was certainly one that influenced her decision.

cynthia-williams_BB&T-Perspectives-Magazine

Cynthia Williams, Senior Executive Vice President, BB&T

“The previous bank I worked for had merged with BB&T, and I was in a management meeting,” Williams said. “We were trying to determine the best solution for a difficult situation. I’ll never forget my manager asking that question. That’s when I knew I was in the right place.”

That question also gave Williams significant insight into her definition of leadership. It’s a question that points to honesty and integrity, traits she says are critical to leadership because people can believe in leaders they trust.

Leaders With Values = Strong Organizations

“You can’t judge strong leaders by their appearances,” she said. “You must understand their values. That’s one of the reasons I started my career in banking. The people I knew in the industry had strong values. They embraced the values reflected in that question. All of my managers at BB&T were walking examples of integrity, and they inspired me to do my best.”

Today, Williams has more than 30 years of experience in leadership positions. Not only are her leadership skills recognized at BB&T and in the financial services industry, her community recognizes them as well. Williams serves as a board member for five community and educational organizations, and the city of Winston-Salem, N.C., named her an “Outstanding Women’s Leader” in 2012.

The daughter of a U.S. Army veteran, Williams was born in Japan and moved to America with her parents when she was 1. Her family moved to Hawaii when she was 11 because her father wanted Williams and her brother to be exposed to their Japanese culture.

“I’ve found there are many differences across cultures, but core values and goals are very consistent,” Williams said. “People look for and value honesty, integrity and courage in their leaders. I share those beliefs.”

Demonstrate Courage

Courage is an attribute Williams believes leaders demonstrate by asking tough questions and challenging the status quo.

“Asking questions and exploring new ideas are important to identifying optimal solutions and to identify opportunities for improvement. But, it can be particularly difficult in businesses or industries that have a lot of tradition – like banking,” she said.

When searching for solutions, Williams delves into the details and encourages others to do the same.

“If you thoroughly understand the pros and cons of Option A and Option B, you’ll likely discover there’s a less obvious Option C or even an Option D, which may actually be your best option,” she said. “I’ve always appreciated the value we place on independent thinking at BB&T. Having team members ask difficult questions is crucial for effective solutions in any organization.”

Practice Makes Leaders

As a leader it is important to provide your team the support they need to be the best they can be. “Giving team members plenty of opportunity to take responsibility and gain experience – and coaching them on how to improve is essential,” she said. “There’s nothing more valuable than hands-on experience.”