Exploring Nissan's path to workplace excellence with Michael Colleran

Exploring Nissan's path to workplace excellence with Michael Colleran

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Welcome to the first episode of Season 5 of the Automotive Leaders Podcast. In this season opener, Jan Griffiths interviews Michael Colleran, Senior Vice President and Corporate Officer at Nissan North America. Michael started his professional journey as a US Marine Corps Captain and later worked at General Motors and Saab before joining Nissan. This diverse experience gives him a unique perspective on the shifts in the auto industry.

The conversation starts with a study from Great Place to Work, revealing that 77 percent of Nissan’s employees deem it a great place to work. Mike shares what factors contribute to this recognition, exploring the essential elements that shape Nissan’s exceptional workplace culture.

Michael highlights the changing dynamics of customer interactions, emphasizing the shift from transactional to experiential relationships. Essential leadership qualities, accountability, and the significance of setting examples within leadership teams are discussed, and challenging norms by acknowledging past success behaviors may not ensure future achievements. These perspectives not only give a glimpse into how leadership operates at Nissan but also offer valuable lessons for adapting to the ever-changing world of the automotive industry.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Nissan's journey and transformation.
  • The necessity for behavioral and cultural changes to drive success.
  • Adapting to changing customer expectations from transactional to experiential.
  • Evolving dynamics of leadership in the automotive industry.
  • Balancing innovation with a strong sense of accountability in leadership.
  • The influential role of leadership teams in setting positive examples.

Featured: Michael Colleran

What he does: Michael is Corporate Vice President at Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Senior Vice President for all sales and marketing activities for the Nissan and INFINITI brands in the US. A former Captain in the United States Marine Corps, Michael brings a dynamic blend of strategic vision and operational excellence to the automotive industry.

On leadership: “When leaders replicate good behaviors, people will follow. They want to follow; they want that example out there... Leaders can get out there, set an example, and use their experience.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[00:02:53] Michael's corporate odyssey: Follow Michael’s journey as he transitions from a US Marine Corps Captain through roles at GM and Saab to his impactful position at Nissan, revealing the changes in leadership dynamics along the way.

[00:08:36] Cultural transformation at Nissan: Exploring the essential cultural shifts and behavioral changes that positioned the company as a great workplace amidst the rapid transformations in the automotive industry.

[00:20:01] Innovation through accountability: Jan and Michael tackle the fear of failure that is prevalent in leadership. Michael advises leaders to encourage risk-taking, emphasizing the importance of learning from failures and swiftly moving forward. They also discussed accountability dynamics, steering away from blame and fostering a culture that encourages positive accountability.

[00:33:29] Authentic leadership traits: Discussing the 21 Traits of Authentic Leadership, Michael emphasizes the essence of being a leader with Gravitas, summarizing the comprehensive qualities required for authentic leadership.

[00:35:54] Executive beyond the boardroom: Explore the personal side of an auto industry executive as Michael Colleran shares insights into his life outside the corporate world, uncovering exciting details such as his music preferences and hobbies.

[00:40:37] Michael’s advice: In an industry where stability once prevailed, Michael urges leaders to stay attentive to the shifting ground, continuously questioning and adapting while acknowledging the influx of new competitors.

Top Quotes:

[00:04:17] Michael: “Where to place your trust, how to earn trust, and how to make sure that your people and the teams around you trust each other are crucial… That's true in our business today. Employees want that level of trust and transparency. It was probably one of the key things I learned from my days in the Marine Corps.”

[00:09:55] Michael: “Most would say the big challenges in the industry are ICE to EV, autonomous drive, or connected cars. At Nissan, we reject that. Big change is coming, no question. But the biggest change is the battle for the customer. At the ultimate decision point, the customer has to make a decision for your brand.”

[00:11:16] Michael: “We're going to make the best ecosystem possible, one that people just don't want to leave. They truly love the brand. Right now, we're reinventing our team into a very customer-focused team, moving the business from transactional to experiential.”

[00:14:30] Michael: I truly believe that really great leadership is forged in the furnace of experience.

[00:14:54] Michael: “I'm a big believer in looking for curiosity in people; curiosity to me means you're still growing, and I can't coach and mentor someone who stopped learning.”

[00:32:13] Michael: “Leaders, focus will set you free, and it also allows you to be true to your core values. When you're focused, and you know what you're trying to accomplish, and you never lose sight of that goal.”

[00:34:11] Michael: “If a leader sees the business as their own, they're going to make better decisions for the company, for their people, for their partners, and for their customers.”

[00:41:15] Michael: “I would say, keep your head on a swivel. You need always just to be looking around and asking yourself, why?”