Ford Motor Company’s Shawn Thompson talks success

Shawn Thompson, Ford Car Marketing Communications Manager (Photo Credit: Shawn Thompson via Ford Media)
Shawn Thompson, Ford’s car marketing communications manager (Photo credit: Shawn Thompson via Ford Media)

Shawn Thompson is a true Female Success Factor. She started her career at Ford Motor Company in their Ford College Graduate (FCG) program after earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Until recently, Shawn was the Multicultural Marketing manager where she oversaw all aspects of communication strategies and plans for Ford and Lincoln brands for the African-American consumer market. While in this role, she developed vital relationships with Essence Communications and the Essence Music Festival, Steve Harvey and the Neighborhood Awards as well as Tom Joyner and his Fantastic Voyage cruise trips. Thompson recently received another promotion at Ford, effective December 1, 2015, making her the Ford Car Marketing Communications manager. In this new role, she will help bring a “total market” approach to Car Communications in order to help align marketing communications in this highly competitive segment.

Shawn has been the recipient of many accolades and awards, including receiving the MAAX Marketing to African Americans with Excellence Award for being the Marketing Executive of the Year in 2013. This year, she was presented with an award by the Ford-Employees African American Network for her years of continued dedication to the FAAN Network during their annual Black History Month Celebration (pictures below). Her most recent recognition came from Black Enterprise for being a 2016 Top Woman in Advertising and Marketing.

Rolling out caught up with Thompson to find out what helps shape her into a Female Success Factor. Read the insight she shared with us below.

Kudos to Thompson for continuing to lead the way and being an inspiration to others.

Tell us about how education has played a role in your success.
I did not do the usual four year college tour.  My family could not afford to send me to college and nor did I want loans.  So I found work with an employer who paid for my college tuition upfront as long as I achieved a certain GPA.  It may have taken me longer as I could only attend evening and Saturday classes but I graduated from The University of Michigan Dearborn without any college debt.  Going at night and on the weekends taught me discipline.

Please describe your professional achievements. What pinnacles of success have you reached?
I have had the pleasure of being recognized for my marketing achievements as being named one of the “Top Executives in Marketing & Advertising” by Black Enterprise Magazine, highlighted in a feature article, “Game Changer,” that appeared in NV Magazine, saluted by The Michigan Chronicle as one of the “Women of Excellence” honorees,  Uptown Detroit Catalyst by UPTOWN magazine, the recipient of the MAAX Marketing to African Americans with Excellence Award as the Marketing Executive of the Year, appeared on the cover of DRIVEN – A Tribute to African American Achievement in the Automotive Industry Volume III and most recently received the Strategic Partner Award from Rev. Jessie Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow PUSH & Citizenship Education Fund Organization.

Tell us about how your laser focus on your efforts has factored into helping you get to where you are today.
Like the “Serenity Prayer” says:  accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. In moments of leadership, you have to take charge, evoke confidence and have a fastidious approach. All these things and more have aided me in my marketing and communications prowess.

How has goal-setting factored into you being able to attain success?
Setting goals, writing them down makes it visible and holds you accountable. It’s sort of like when you get to the end of a good book.  I close it, hold it close to chest and take a deep breath.  There’s no greater reward than completing a project and placing a check mark next to that accomplishment.

What is the “art of communication” to you?  How has your communication style “factored” into your success?
Listening is the key factor in my communication style. This allows me the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood/misconstrued.

Has being driven been a key factor in your success?
Being driven to do the “right thing” with dignity and integrity is what motivates me more so than one upping my neighbor.  When one of us succeeds, we all do.

Describe how making hard choices has factored into your success?
The art of saying “no” is a hard discipline to master.  You have to decide and accept that you can’t do it all, make the hard choices and accept it’s for the best.

How has being “empathetic” and listening to others helped shape your success?
As mentioned previously, listening is key, whether it’s listening to your heart, your body and or colleagues. Having an empathic ear is imperative. The best advice I received after adopting my son was “you can’t do it all” from a fellow working mom.  She told me it was okay that beds are not be made when leaving in the morning or a dish or two left in the sink would be okay.

Please describe your leadership style and tell us why you think it works.
Team.  There is no “I” in team.  When one of us falls, we all do.  It is important that you gain the trust and respect of your team but remember you have to give it in order to receive it.

How did/does mentoring factor into your career and/or personal life?
I have the pleasure of having a couple of key executive mentors in my career that I often turned to for advice on both a professional and personal basis.  You need someone that will tell you when you are headed in the right direction or to be brave enough to tell you when you are going down the wrong path.

What has been the motivating factor that’s attributed to your success?
My son. I adopted a baby boy ten years ago and when he was placed in my arms, I told him through my tears that I would always do right by him and his biological mother.  I was “chosen” to be his mom and would do everything to uphold that honor.  He once gave me a Mother’s Day card in which he wrote as a reason he loves me is that “she works hard for me”.  No other recognition is needed.

Tell us about how building and fostering relationships has been a key factor to your success.
It takes a village. By this I mean, I have positive relationships with co-workers that I can turn to for advice on projects to standing in for me when personal situations arise such as child care.

How has affecting change and taking calculated risks contributed to your success?
I do not know of any successful person that obtained their level by remaining status quo.  I’ve always taken risks and/or spoke up because I felt it was the right thing to do.  If I made the wrong call, then I contributed that to being a lesson. Learn from your mistakes and make a touch-down the next go around.

Photo Gallery Credit: Hobson Media Group

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