In the Lead: With Natalie Panetta

Group of Women Supporting each other

Leading a team can be equal parts rewarding and challenging, especially for newly minted leaders. In our monthly series, In the Lead, we’ll speak to female leaders to understand how they motivate their teams, what barriers they’ve overcome in their industries, and pick their brains to get their best advice for new female leaders.

This month, I sat down with Natalie Panetta, a Senior Recruiter at a North American based creative staffing agency, in order to understand how she mentors new recruiters and motivates her team.

Natalie Panetta

Natalie is a seasoned Creative Recruiter with almost 9 years experience, but she started right where a lot of her recruits are: as a graphic designer working in the corporate world. When I asked her what motivated her to make a career transition, she explained, “There were a lot of factors, but one of the biggest was being able to better use my core strengths, like communication. I also knew I could take what I learned working as a designer to help people find their dream job.” 

As a leader in her company, Natalie spends a lot of time advising and training new recruiters and has a hands-on approach when it comes to guidance.

“This might come across as cliché, but I like to lead by example. Beyond modelling what needs to be done and the best way to do it, I teach how to handle the ups and downs of a volatile business like recruiting.”

Natalie explained that in commission-based industries like recruiting, metrics are the way the company measures your success, and results vary from week to week.

“Some weeks, you’ll find the perfect candidates for open positions, make the match, and hit your goals. Those are great weeks. But, there are bound to be weeks where you don’t meet your targets and those are hard weeks.”

I was curious to know how she motivates her team despite obstacles.

“I come with a lot of energy!” She laughs. “Sometimes the office morale is low because of the metric-based system. Being a Senior member of the team, I feel a responsibility to help the junior team members get through the not-so-great weeks. So, even if I’m having a bad week, I shake it off, show up for my team and improve the team atmosphere. I’m known as the dancing queen in my office! I think it’s important to bring our human selves into the workplace. Work doesn’t have to be 100% serious all the time! Taking time in meetings to talk about what happened on the Bachelor or what pump up songs we love at the moment helps us bond as a team.”

“I’m known as the dancing queen in my office!”

Her favorite song to get through a hard week? Let Your Hair Down by Magic. Natalie also encourages junior team members to talk to her anytime they need to. “I have an ‘open-door’ policy and try to provide a ‘safe-to-fail’ environment.”

Hearing Natalie describe her team dynamic made me think of some of the great leaders I’ve had the privilege of working for and how they’ve impacted my leadership style.  I asked Natalie if she’s modelled her own mentoring approach after any of her former managers.

Unfortunately, like many others, Natalie did not have a great experience with former managers, which is another reason she left the design world. Natalie explains that part of the appeal of recruitment is that she’s on the front lines of helping people identify and leave toxic work situations.

Unfortunately, I think empathy is a trait that’s missing from a lot of people managers.”

“A lot of people don’t know the first thing about leading a team. Leading a team isn’t just about mentoring or hitting targets, you’re working with people who have responsibilities outside of work. Sometimes life gets messy, and a good people leader is invested in the well-being of their team members. Unfortunately, I think empathy is a trait that’s missing from a lot of people managers.”

Natalie meets a lot of people leaders in her role and is well-versed in the barriers women face in their careers. I asked her to tell me about some of the common barriers women face on the track to leadership.

“I can talk about this forever! I’ve seen it all honestly. Gender bias, stereotyping, family responsibilities, and ageism are in the top. Women raising a family find it hard to balance personal and professional responsibilities since unfortunately, even in 2022, most family duties fall on mothers. I’ve witnessed a lot of women decline promotions or leadership roles because they know the extra responsibility, plus rigid workplace hours, mean they’ll miss too much of their children’s lives. No one should have to decline a promotion because their workplace culture is so rigid. We need to find a way to help everyone progress in their career, despite what’s going on in their personal life. This is where empathy is truly vital. The pandemic is a perfect example. A lot of women resigned from their positions to care for their children or ill parents. We didn’t see the same impact on men.”

“Giving employees the choice to work the way they feel best can be a game changer and lead to better results and happier team members.”

There are ways that workplaces and managers can help support women in their professions. Since she works with so many companies, Natalie is privy to how workplace culture evolves. She urges employers to speak to their teams and find ways to help everyone thrive in their roles, despite personal challenges they face.

“Since the pandemic, we’re seeing companies offer hybrid work-from-home, 4-day work weeks and project-based work versus set daily 9-5 hours. It’s a huge step in the right direction. Giving employees the choice to work the way they feel best can be a game changer and lead to better results and happier team members.”

As a closing thought, I wanted to know, with so many barriers for women to face on the track to leadership, how can we support new women leaders?

“I’d advise new leaders to seek out a mentor who has been on their career path and to ask them as many questions as possible. Also, be kinder to yourself and don’t underestimate your worth. I figured that out much later in life. And don’t expect to know everything right away. Confidence takes time to build, and over time, you learn to have faith in yourself and your abilities. You got this!”

We’ll be back next month to chat with another inspiring female leader. In the meantime, make sure to check out all the amazing content on Bosstrack!

Lisa Stanton is a Toronto based writer and entrepreneur. She loves to explore the intersection of the worlds of business and the metaphysical through writing


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