Five Questions For: Robyn Metcalfe, Director of Food+City at UT-Austin
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decisions on how you can contribute at different times. Be open to that and accepting of it.
X: What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned about managing people?
RM: The hardest lesson is just that you can’t make everybody happy all the time. You’re going to disappoint people. It’s just learning how to be more comfortable with that. I think a really good leader knows how to disconnect from that emotional vulnerability and keep the mission in front of them, and understand it’s not a consensus world all the time.
It’s been really helpful to me to be clear about leadership styles. The one that I usually opt for, the consultative one, letting everyone know there are some cases where we can engage in consensus, but in most cases, I will consult with teams, ask opinions, and then I will make a decision. I may not take your advice, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t listening or didn’t consider [your opinion]. It just didn’t happen to be what I decided to do. I need consultation from the team because I might be blind and might be wrong about my assumptions. But it doesn’t guarantee that I’m going to take your advice.
X: You’re married to Bob Metcalfe, an innovator in his own right. How did you meet?
RM: We met in 1979 at a tennis tournament in an apartment complex. We both fell in love, got engaged in November, and got married in February. That was 36 years ago. He was starting 3Com at that time at the kitchen table. I was just ending up nine years at Sunset magazine as production editor and starting my own consulting business in what was called lovingly back then electronic publishing. We were both doing businesses in different fields entirely.