Around the Water Cooler With a General Motors Vice President

Diana Tremblay shares tips for taking the driver’s seat in your company and career.

Diana Tremblay shares tips for taking the driver’s seat in your company and career
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In most negotiation situations you can end up with a win-win. If you can identify the things in your proposals that are good for the other party, as well as the things that are good for you, that certainly helps move the negotiations along.

What should employees who face foreseeable layoffs or furloughs do financially to prepare?

Somebody told me this along time ago: Pay yourself first. By that I mean put money aside in whatever account you're comfortable with first out of your paycheck. Don't leave it until the end when you've paid everything else, and you see what's left over. That never works no matter what your income is. So set some money aside first for the future so that you've got that, and then you have some time to either retrain, develop a new career, whatever it is that you want to do, depending if it's a temporary situation or long-term situation.

With everything going on regarding Detroit's bankruptcy, some people are saying GM has an obligation to help support Detroit. What's a realistic way for executives to support a city that their company is headquartered in?

Obviously being headquartered here in the city center is a big piece of what we do. There's a lot of jobs that come in here every day. All you have to do is drive down I-75 heading south any time about 6:15 until about 9:30 [a.m.] to see traffic that flows in because of people like us who have their main headquarters downtown.

The second thing is partnering with agencies like United Way and making contributions out of our foundation to help support school systems because if we can help kids be successful from an education standpoint, that of course leads to success later in their life. We're doing something this summer where we've brought some retirees back, and we have what we're calling a Retiree Corp. It's targeted at kids to help with their education. [GM retirees mentor Detroit high school students one day a week.]

The other thing we can do as leaders in GM is join boards. So I'm on the board of directors for Focus: HOPE [a Detroit nonprofit]. So not only give money, but give our time and leadership.

[Read: Around the Water Cooler With Panera's CEO.]

What's the best career advice you've ever received?

There are two things that come to mind: The first one is don't think because you're a leader that you have all the answers. You should make sure you're spending as much time listening, if not more, than talking. And make sure that you're not afraid to ask for help if there are things you don't know – I can guarantee there are things you don't know. It's OK to reach out and ask for help, and allow those people that have that expertise to contribute. You don't have to know it all because you're the leader.

As I've watched people through my career, the ones that seem to struggle the most are ones that haven't continued to develop. So the second piece of advice that I've heard from people is always learn and grow. You never "make it." You're always changing, developing, growing – particularly at the pace that the world moves today – and if you're not growing, changing, developing, constantly learning, you are going to fall behind. I think that's even more important today than it was when I first started my career, but arguably it's important all the time.

Editor's Note: Around the Water Cooler is an ongoing series, in which U.S. News talks with company executives to get their career advice for employees and managers.