Patty Azzarello: Finding Success Through Unstructured Conversations

By Gabrielle Garofalo

Not too many executives start their tenure by speaking one-on-one with the 100 employees they’ll lead. But that’s what Patty Azzarello did before entering a leadership role at Hewlett-Packard (HP).

“The beauty of this approach is that people feel like their ideas have been honored and considered, so they are motivated to personally engage,” Patty said. “I got so smart because I was given the chance to learn what was needed.”

In just two weeks, Patty had completed 100 unstructured conversations, learning what was needed in her new position. After speaking to person after person, it became apparent that no one had ever asked the staff simple, yet vital questions:

  •  What was working?
  • What was broken?
  • What did they think was the roadblock to change?
  • What was the pathway to fixing some of the company’s smallest and biggest problems?

The information she gathered and her unique leadership approach helped her to quickly rise through the ranks of the male-dominated technology world. She was the youngest general manager ever at HP. She was a CEO by the time she was 38.

Patty, a Monmouth County native, will share her experience leading tech companies, as well as the impact of those 100 one-on-one meetings in her talk, Unstructured Conversations, at TEDxNavesink on Saturday, May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

“Business leaders avoid unstructured conversation because it seems messy, or un-businesslike, and therefore risky,” Patty said. “But the real risk comes from never getting to the bottom of why people are stalling, blocking, or disengaged. It’s trading a superficial level of comfort in the moment for a slow-moving train wreck down the road. Getting business moving is getting people moving – and people only move when they believe something personally.”

Once she saw the results of these unstructured talks, she knew there was a direct link between positive results and allowing others to be their authentic selves and truly help change their workplace for the better. And that approach is what makes her unique in the corporate world.

“It’s just my willingness to swim upstream in the corporate culture, and to work and interact in a way that I saw no one else doing,” she said. “The world will always conspire to make us less than we are. I think as individuals we have to assert ourselves and decide how we are going to fight back against it.”

At TEDxNavesink, Patty will share the impact of her approach with the hope that the audience is inspired to find a way to bring their true selves to work and watch the positive impact it can make.

“While there are so many examples of assholes that are successful, you don’t have to be one,” she said. “There is another path.”

Hear Patty and other dynamic speakers share ideas worth spreading at the fifth annual TEDxNavesink. Get your tickets today to join us on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in May.