Graeme Gill first joined Volkswagen Group South Africa in 2006, where he was given the opportunity to be a part of the construction and commissioning of the company's new paint shop. He's worked in a variety of roles since then, including two and a half years at the VW/SAIC VW joint venture in Shanghai, China. During this time, he was employed as the head of assembly for their electrical vehicles factory -- the first-ever green field electric vehicle factory for VW. In May of 2021, Graeme and his family made the move to Tennessee. He currently serves as the head of electric vehicles production launch and is leading the complete production function of the ID.4 for Volkswagen Chattanooga.
What is your best business habit?
My ability to be open to criticism, embrace it, encourage it and reflect on it. It forms the basis of reflection for self-development and provides the opportunity to practice emotional distancing between who you are and what you may have done. Staying open allows you to mold how you want to be perceived and shape the behaviors that generate and inspire teams to perform at exceptional levels.
How did you discover or develop it?
Early in my career, I attended a formal development course on understanding the five types of power within a working environment. Some of these are granted by virtue of one's function, but both expert and referent power can be developed, and these are often most effective in influencing high performance teams. As a result, I actively sought out opportunities to develop both of these, both professionally and personally. In order to develop the referent power, I had to allow myself the space to reflect on my behaviors, in order to recognize the triggers that would lead to disempowering or demotivating interactions.
In the fast-paced world of production, it seemed to me that only quiet retreat was to run. And working in the production environment, this meant running in the dark due to the standard hours of operation. I quickly realized that this achieved two results. First, it allowed me time to think, order my thoughts and consider my behaviors without external triggers. And second, it provided the added benefit of keeping me fit and raising my endorphins. I use this hour every morning as key reflection time on what I need to achieve within the next day.
How has it improved your work and/or personal life?
On a personal note, running has also had a considerable impact on how I behave as a husband and dad. Being open to criticism from the ones closest to you is not always easy, but once you make the distinction between who you are and what you did, adapting your behaviors becomes extremely empowering. It has allowed my family to form incredibly close bonds and a foundation that completely supports all my career endeavors. Many say that behind every successful person is a supportive spouse, but in my world, it's more like a supportive family.
How might others apply it?
There is extensive research and literature on the benefits of quiet time. Quite moments provide time to reflect, review behaviors and develop important traits. There is no right or wrong way to do that. Some choose yoga, some read verse, some just enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the early morning. I choose running. One needs to find his or her personal passion and then find ways to commit to it. The only advice I can give is to make sure you use it actively to reflect, to ensure you remain self-aware and be prepared to change your behaviors based on these moments.