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Rachel Barger, Cisco’s Senior Vice President of the Americas, Encourages Us to Always Keep an Open Door

Rachel Barger Headshot
c/o Rachel Barger
In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, leadership speaker and storytelling expert Don Yaeger sits down with Rachel Barger, Cisco's Senior Vice President of the Americas, to discuss strategies for building genuine connections with your team.

Despite being a standout athlete in field hockey for the University of Delaware and Team USA, and a successful business leader who now applies her competitive spirit and teamwork skills to lead a dynamic Cisco team across 17 countries, Rachel Barger still considers herself a “diamond in the rough.”

The kind of person who does all the things she needs to do when no one is watching and often requires the mentorship of someone who “sees something” in her. She admits to having had coaches and other leaders, alike, who “saw some talent and potential” in her. Now she has made approachability and dedication to finding other diamonds in the rough an important part of her leadership playbook.

“A big part of my whole methodology and philosophy is always keeping an open door, because not only can I get the opportunity to coach and mentor, but I also feel like you learn so much by talking to people in all positions in the company—understanding what’s really going on for their day to day.”

Lots of leaders pay lip service to being approachable and having an open door, but Barger has walked the talk by making it an active piece of her leadership style—even as Cisco, like many other companies, now offers a hybrid workplace. In the podcast, listeners will learn how Barger encourages others to come in and talk to her, using her “super skip level” technique of asking her leaders to refer their team members for 15 minute chats with the big boss. This allows her to offer coaching to her team, while hearing conversations she wouldn’t have access to otherwise. 

Lessons include: 

  • Four questions Barger asks employees to foster positive learning conversations with her team.

  • The best way to identify a “diamond in the rough” who may be hiding in your business.

  • How to implement and maintain an open door policy in a hybrid work environment. “Make it super clear you want them to reach out to you … then actually get back to them,” said Barger.

Barger adds that, in addition to providing coaching and talent spotting opportunities and an ear to her organization, having an open door policy also builds a web of engagement among her team, who come to appreciate their leader as a real person. “When you’re managing very large teams, you can just be a face in a box,” Barger admitted. “And so how do you try to give that level of accessibility so that people feel like they know what you’re about? So they care a little bit more about what you’re telling them?”

An open door can go a long way.


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