Leader Q&A

Tough talks with the Wilmington chamber's Natalie English

W2w English

NATALIE ENGLISH became president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce in 2017. She has been a chamber executive for more than 20 years, including previously with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

This month, she is a guest speaker to WILMA’s Leadership Institute class, joining LISA LEATH, chief people officer with Vantaca, and RUTH SMITH, president of R2S3, to talk about team effectiveness and managing conflict in the workplace.

In light of the panel’s upcoming talk, WILMA asked English for her thoughts and advice about those topics.

When it comes to motivating teams, what resources do you draw on to help those around you?

“I am intentional about getting to know my team members and what motivates them.

Every one of them is unique. I have team members who like to know exactly what I’m thinking without beating around the bush. That’s my preferred style of communicating.

I have others who like to share their feelings, and I make time for that as well and learn things I might not notice about others without it.

Others on my team like to be given time to contemplate and consider. As impatient as I can be, I know I must give them that time.”

Resource recommendations: “I read Harvard Business Review newsletters as well as LinkedIn articles that focus on the articles related to leading teams.”

Conflict can creep into any group or organization, even with motivated teams. What is your advice for handling those kinds of difficult conversations, either internally with your groups or working with outside groups that want different things?

“I have always found that being gently direct and honest is the best way to resolve conflict.

Indirect communication leads to individual interpretations. I learned from a leadership coach years ago that when people don’t have information, they make stuff up to fill in the blanks.

I don’t always get it right. When I don’t, it’s hard to undo the misinformation train.

There is also a need to understand what’s going on away from the conflict.

None of us is perfect, and things that happen at home can impact how we react everywhere else.”

How would you describe your leadership style?

“My leadership style is to educate and empower my team members.

I’ve always led small teams, and they require self-starters. I love being involved in problem-solving and brainstorming.

I’m creative and entrepreneurial about addressing challenges. I try not to second guess or micromanage because that is so demotivating.

I understand that life brings seasons, and some of those seasons bring distractions. My team members deserve a little more leniency and grace during those times.

I work hard to recognize them and to have relationships with my team members that encourage them to share when they find themselves in one of those seasons.”


“(The chamber’s) Leadership Wilmington and our new program, Encounter Wilmington, are great programs to get involved in. Of course, for women, WILMA and The Inspiration Lab as well as a new group we’re launching this year for women business owners.”Influence Book 1

Recent book you’ve read and liked: “Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Ciadini. It applies not only to leading teams but also advocation with elected officials and raising teenagers (LOL).”

W2wleadershipspiersWho is another area woman people should know about and why? “It’s hard to limit to one. Other people should know about: LOUISE MCCOLL and DANA FISHER to learn from their experience in the Wilmington business community; SANDY SPIERS (above) and LISA LEATH for how they give back to our community; JUDY BUDD and TRACEY NEWKIRK for how they network; MICHELE HOLBROOK and CHAKEMA CLINTON-QUINTANA for their thoughtful way.”

To view more of photographer Aris Harding’s work, go to arisharding.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch