Cheryl Coletti-Lawson, 2021 Outstanding Women in Business recipient
Cheryl Coletti-Lawson is the Chief Operating Officer of The Lawson Group
With more than 25 years of operational expertise, Cheryl Coletti-Lawson was the appropriate person to step into The Lawson Group in 2017, when the company was in need of reorganization.
Based in Concord, The Lawson Group is a health and safety consultancy that manages workers’ compensation programs for more than 300 New Hampshire companies employing nearly 20,000 workers.
Coletti-Lawson came with a background in proper operational controls and administrative and reporting procedures to ensure operational efficiency and financial strength.
She had previously steered the nonprofit HOPE for NH Recovery to financial sustainability and developed an infrastructure of recovery support service professionals. At Casella Waste Systems, Coletti-Lawson had risen through the ranks, achieving the role of regional market manager in 2009, after selling Casella her own company, Atlantic Waste Systems, in 1998.
Bringing this knowledge base to The Lawson Group, Coletti-Lawson earned the respect of her colleagues as she engaged energetically with them to determine positions better suited for their skills, increase accountability and implement a responsible budgeting system. She also implemented a leadership development program that has strengthened The Lawson Group’s internal management team, most of whom are woman.
The result is a more focused business with improved profits and happier employees.
What have you learned about managing effectively?
It has been my experience over the past 25-plus years that effective leadership begins with empathy followed by accountability. Your ability to understand and share feelings for another is a critical step in effective communication and results in your staff feeling heard and appreciated. That is not to say I agree with everyone’s opinion and suggestion — nor is it to say I let people miss deadlines and fail expectations — it is simply a way to be human and connect on a deeper level with your team. Accountability is very important as well. It has been said that freedom without boundaries results in chaos. Holding people accountable while at the same time giving them the freedom to think and act has proven quite effective.
Have you had a mentor or served as a mentor?
My paternal grandmother was my greatest mentor. She was strong, resilient and self-sufficient. She survived in the face of adversity throughout her entire life.
Professionally, I served as a mentor in the fall of 2019 in the UNH Meaning of Entrepreneurship program. Besides this organized effort, I suppose I can say that I hope I have served as a mentor to many young women through my own example of hard work, fair play and judgement.
Being a mentor is to be a trusted advisor. I always interact with employees and colleagues with the highest level of honesty and integrity. Not knowing an answer does not make you weak or incompetent — it shows that you are
human and need others to be effective. Displaying that level of vulnerability allows for a deeper connection with others.
Our organization employs 38 employees, 75% of them are women. Even in today’s professional environment, fewer women than men hold senior-level positions. I can demonstrate through collaboration, dedication and compromise that women can succeed.
How do you balance your personal and professional lives?
Ha! Balance is a word that simply does not exist. For me, the best way to be “in balance” is to prioritize. My family is the most important thing in my life. Everyone around me knows they come first. Having this commitment to them allows me to enjoy everything motherhood offers, while at the same time allows me to create a culture here at our company where employees can do the same.
What advice do you have for young women just starting their careers?
It’s quite simple: work hard, always listen. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Continue to be open to learning new things. Be kind, be honest and true to yourself. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Above all, have respect for yourself and for others.