MTS Systems (NASDAQ: MTSC)
Laura Hamilton has served as chair of the board and chief executive officer for MTS Systems Corporation since 2008. She has held executive positions in the company since 2000. Prior to that she worked for Quest Diagnostics, Corning, Inc., and Arthur Young and Company.
What are key factors in selecting members of your board of directors?
Integrity and ethics are a given. Then, we want to assure alignment with our core principle that by building a great company — one that focuses on creating value for customers and a performance culture where employees can develop and contribute — we will deliver lasting shareholder value. When this alignment exists, it’s much easier for the directors to work in concert as a board and with management. We work to ensure a diversity of skills, views, and perspectives that leads to diversity of thought. Good directors help management by asking thoughtful questions that encourage dialogue.
What single strategy has been most effective in helping employees advance at MTS?
Over the past five to seven years, we have placed a high emphasis on management and leadership development, especially as it relates to leading change. We’re a small company, and resources can be quite limited, but we’ve had leadership conferences, brought in one-on-one coaching for many managers, and facilitated a lot of on-the-job learning in change management. However, we need to develop people at all levels of the organization to successfully attract and retain great people who can execute our strategy and secure our long-term future. To do this, we need strong managers and leaders who understand people.
What leadership qualities are most important in a senior executive?
I believe effective leaders act in the best interest of the company and its employees and shareholders; check their egos at the door; have the courage to act; set high expectations; and hold themselves accountable for behaviors and results.
You don’t stereotype women and men for particular abilities. Do you have advice for other companies striving to create gender-neutral environments?
MTS hasn’t achieved “gender-neutral.” But we stay focused on performance, creating an environment where all employees can grow and perform, and we’re working to ensure that we access a broad pool of qualified candidates when hiring and promoting.