The 25 MPWIB

#10 Donna DeMaio

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Donna DeMaio has no trouble saying what she thinks.

But a great lesson in leadership she learned just recently is that sharing opinions with her typical passion can have a downside.

"I think sometimes you have to have a little more even temperament," DeMaio says. "At this level you can't show your emotion as quickly."

Such insight is proving useful in her daily interaction with colleagues.

Over the past year MetLife Bank has been busy integrating thousands of people from several businesses, including top executives who report to her. It became one of the largest lenders in mortgages and reverse mortgages in the country after buying First Horizon Home Loans and EverBank Reverse Mortgage in 2008.

So DeMaio brought in a leadership coach this spring to help her team mesh faster. "We had the acquisitions, and everybody was kind of new," she says. "We had so much to get done, and I wanted to make sure we jelled as quickly as possible."

The coach sits in on meetings every once in a while to observe the group dynamic and later speaks with the executives individually to offer suggestions on how they can communicate better with each other.

He took DeMaio aside to point out how she could elicit more input from others. "He said, 'Have you noticed that others shut down because you're so forceful?'" she says.

She hadn't, until then. "Sometimes when you're so overly passionate, others don't want to contribute because they're taken aback," DeMaio says. "They think, 'Whoa, maybe I'd better keep my mouth shut.' People are intimidated."

Now she is better at letting the conversation flow.

"I'm like, 'Take a breath. Don't jump in,' because I'd get excited and I'd want to talk," DeMaio says. "To me, the biggest point was, 'You hired some really good people. Let them speak.' Then at the right time, that's when you shut it down."

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