KERRY CRANDELL

Kerry-241 (2).jpg

KERRY CRANDELL
on dreaming big & setting yourself up for success

 

Kerry is inspiring for many reasons, but I think the thing that I find most impressive about her is that she has done the work to put herself on a personal and career path that truly fulfills her.

It wasn’t always that way. As an ambitious woman in the world of finance, for much of her career, she was motivated by external factors—status, money, promotions, and recognition. After years of grinding and achieving what she reached for, she found that being at the top was ultimately very unfulfilling and empty. (I mean, let’s be clear…she felt good about what she’d accomplished, but also realized that that wasn’t enough for her.)

So, she got curious and explored where the feelings of dissatisfaction came from. Thanks to some soul-searching, she realized that she wasn’t connected to a higher purpose. After getting a coach that helped her tap into how she could matter on a greater scale, she knew that she was ready for a bigger, bolder step in her life and career. A little while later, when her company got acquired, she got the sign she needed that it was time for her to make moves.

It was then that she started WoMAN – the Women of Mergers & Acquisitions Network. WoMAN is a networking group for women in finance where Kerry fulfills some of her higher purpose by providing members not just the opportunity to connect with each other, but also to learn and serve others. She intentionally created WoMAN with three pillars – Info, Connect, and Serve to help her members to connect with their heads, hearts, and hands.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. TRUST YOURSELF ENOUGH TO DREAM BIG

Now that Kerry has WoMAN up and running, she has identified a super ballsy goal for WoMAN’s growth over the next couple of years. It struck me as she was telling me her plans, that this lady has no question that she will achieve it.  

Many women I know (myself included) are incredibly creative when it comes to imagining the worst. As soon as an idea strikes, we invent a million reasons that it would never work.

When I asked Kerry for her take on this not-so-rare phenomenon, she boiled it down to love and fear. When we have something that energizes us, we love it. But very quickly most of us flip to fear. Kerry says it comes down to which of those two reactions we choose to feed. She suggests that people acknowledge when those fear thoughts come (without ignoring or shunning them, or alternately getting consumed by the fear), and from that place take control of it.

Kerry talks about seeing the fear, understanding where it came from, conceding that it may be valid—but still choosing to act. This reminds me a lot of what Katica Roy said in her Doyenne Chat about feeling the fear but doing it anyway. I also recently saw a quote by Katica that emphasizes this concept, “Your brain is not wired to make you happy, it’s wired to keep you safe.” 

Those fear feelings are natural. That doesn’t mean that we need to let them run the show.

What I noticed in Kerry’s response was that she has an innate confidence that she’s allowed to have what she’s reaching for, and she also trusts in herself to know that she will accomplish what she sets out to do.

When you embark on a new journey, there will be countless unknowns, but there will always be one variable that is held constant – you will be the one taking the journey. There’s power in that.

 

2. SUCCESS IS IN THE JOURNEY

Kerry admitted to me that while it comes fairly naturally to her to let love win out over fear, she is not fearless when it comes to reaching her ballsy goal. However, she also acknowledges that who she becomes in the process of striving for that goal is really where her feelings of success will come from. Kerry told me, “I have not met the me that has reached this goal.” On the path to reaching her goal, she will become that person.  

She continued, “Even if it takes me much longer to reach my goal, everything will have worked out just how it should have.” 

It’s easy to get singularly focused on the end goal, and miss all the rich learnings from the journey there. I think it’s particularly seductive for perfectionists, who see setbacks and detours as failures along the way; but, I love Kerry’s framing of the whole situation! She’s got her goal—and that motivates her—but how she’ll measure her success is based on who she becomes and what she learns in the process.

I think this concept is also a very powerful, practical antidote to the fear we talked about in the first takeaway. I’d venture to guess that the roadblocks and detours that we anticipate or imagine are the very things that we fear and use as evidence for why we can’t reach for our lofty goals. However, if we see each of those events as opportunities to grow into the person or professional we want to become rather than threats, what is there to fear? Seems like you’ll either succeed or grow.

3. STACK YOUR SUPPORT CREW

This last Takeaway almost felt like a throwaway for Kerry—like it was so obvious to her that she was ready to blaze right on by it. But it was such a smart tactical next step for achieving goals that I doubled back to it and pumped her for more info.

Kerry said that once you choose love over fear and decide to act, the next step is to surround yourself with the people that will help support you to achieve your goals.

Too often, women think that if we are to find success, that we need to do it on our own. Like, somehow our achievement is invalid unless we can take credit for every lesson learned, every milestone hit.

I asked Kerry for more details on this idea of building a group of people that can help you get there. She approaches this with intentionality and makes sure there are a few key members in her support crew:

  1. The Pro
    When you’re setting out to reach for a new goal, you may not have the skills or knowledge needed to get there. Kerry suggests bringing in someone who has been where you’d like to go and make time to learn from them.

  2. The Cheerleader
    Making moves and taking risks can be exhausting and painful work. Make sure to have someone in your inner circle who understands your vision and potential and keeps picking you back up when you fall on your face.

  3. The Creative
    This is the person who understands your potential and can mirror back to you all that you can be. They see things from a different perspective and help you push your ideas to the next level.  

  4. The Realist
    It can also be extraordinarily helpful to have someone that you trust to tell it like it is, who can pressure test your ideas, and help identify roadblocks and brainstorm solutions. This is not your “yes man”, but rather someone that pushes you to do even better.

It’s a natural tendency to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, but that probably isn’t going to be particularly helpful if you want to do big things. Kerry shared a quote with me from Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.” You might as well make sure that that inner circle includes the people who can help you accomplish what you want most.   

ALISA FREDERICK

Alisa spends most of her non-working hours with her pup.

Alisa spends most of her non-working hours with her pup.

ALISA FREDERICK
on going after your target position and keeping your eye on the long game

 

A mutual friend connected me with Alisa Frederick (Kate Brown – go read her post if you haven’t already!), and I’m so grateful that she did. Like Kate, Alisa is a bit of a unicorn in that she is one of very few women in a very male dominated world—Alisa works in finance. She is a Partner and Managing Director at Caltius Structured Capital, a firm that provides subordinated/mezzanine debt, minority/structured equity, and unitranche solutions for middle market companies. (Is it obvious that I just copied that explanation from Alisa’s LinkedIn? I don’t know what most of those words mean, but essentially, her company invests millions of dollars in businesses to facilitate things such as buyouts, recapitalizations, growth, and acquisitions.)

In addition to being a powerhouse finance exec, she also happens to be an incredibly thoughtful, kind, and self-aware individual that is generous with her time and wisdom. During the course of our long brunch together, she shared enough career lessons for a few blog posts, but I chose my favorites to share with you here. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR BEFORE YOU’VE EVEN WALKED THROUGH IT

Although Alisa has been in the finance world for many years—nearly two decades just at Caltius—Alisa revealed to me that earlier in her career, she never would have imagined that she could be a partner at a private equity firm. She didn’t even study finance in college! She graduated with a political science degree, but followed her interest and applied for a bank credit training program in NYC. She didn’t have the right qualifications on her resume, but she went for it. When the interviewer asked her what she would contribute to the role, she responded, “I can write well and I’m good with people.”  As it turns out, that was the ticket. They knew that they could teach her the banking credit and leadership skills, but her other skills were seen as particularly valuable.  

Alisa told me, “It doesn’t really matter what’s on your resume. If you see a position that excites you—go for it.” This urging reminds me of the research that revealed that men will apply for a job if they feel that they fulfill 60% of the qualifications while women won’t spring for the role unless they’re confident that they meet 100% of the requirements.

We women have a terrible habit of closing the door on ourselves before we even try and walk through it. We make the [often false] assumption that we will be found wanting, and instead of letting the interviewer be judge of that, we eliminate ourselves from the running without giving ourselves a real shot.

There are three things that employers assess when going through the interview process with a candidate: 1) qualifications, 2) desire, and 3) fit. Notice that being qualified is only one factor that they consider. Especially earlier in your career, culture fit and a desire to do the job are often weighed much more heavily. So, be a little bolder and apply for those roles that excite you.

Sure, Alisa also recognizes that there are roles and industries that really won’t give you a second look if you don’t meet their criteria, but she makes a good point here as well: It’s still worth putting yourself out there. The process of reaching for the role may be what forces you to take a look at where you are and make necessary adjustments if that’s really where you want to go.

 

2. TAKE COMFORT IN THE LONGEVITY OF YOUR CAREER

For many young ambitious women, the overthinking and self-doubt doesn’t stop once we’ve landed the job. Alisa was telling me about some mentorship that she’s done with young women in the business program at my alma mater, and she reported that many of the young women are just panicked. Everything feels so high-stakes to them when it comes to their careers.

I love Alisa’s perspective on this. She says to “recognize the longevity of your career and all that you have ahead of you. Look at each little thing ahead of you—each ask, pitch, project—in the perspective of your career. It’s just so immaterial. Not everything is a throw in the towel moment.”

In Alisa’s career, there have been countless times that she could have fallen apart if she hadn’t had this perspective. She’s responsible for winning business for the company, and there are dozens of deals that she loses every year. Fortunately, she recognizes that winning or losing those deals has very little to do with her. Not everything is going to be a win—or even needs to be.

She illustrated this concept by comparing it to a game of golf. You can hit some terrible shots and get a really crappy score on a hole, but then—you get to choose whether or not you take that with you to the next hole. What’s done is done; that next hole is still waiting there with a new opportunity for that hole-in-one. 

In the long careers that we can expect to enjoy, there will be things that go wrong. We will make mistakes or poor decisions that have consequences, but it’s what we do in those moments that matter. Our thoughts about these situations have the power to stall us in our careers, or allow us to keep pushing on and growing. It’s important to keep the mindset that we can learn from these experiences and know that there’s always the next “hole” (or project, or client, or pitch…) that we get to take another shot at.

This is called resilience and persistence, and it’s critical for achieving all that we hope for.

3. RECOGNIZE THE UNIQUE VALUE YOU BRING

Another antidote to the anxiety and self-doubt that so many of us experience is to get clear on the skills and perspectives that you bring to the table that provide value in your team or organization.

Earlier in Alisa’s career, she was insecure because she thought she had to emulate her male peers and be a “schmoozer” to win business and grow her realm of influence. But, through time…and trial and error…and self-reflection, she found that the way that she can provide the most value is by doing what comes most naturally to her. Her team needs her to show up the way that she does best. She’s not flashy or loud; she balances her team by being the thoughtful listener, the one attuned to her clients’ needs. She’s a trust builder. She’s the level head in the room that helps her and her partners navigate tricky situations.

It’s a beautiful irony that it’s actually the things that make her different from her male peers that make her most valuable to the team and company. At a certain point, she started to see herself in that role, and the insecurity started to melt away. She told me, “The result would have been so different without me,” and that’s where she puts her focus.

Finding your unique value is a quest that involves paying attention along the path of our careers to find the confluence of where our skills and what energizes us creates the greatest impact in the organization that we work in, and then continually working to flex and grow those.

KATE BROWN

Kate repping some Boulder Organic! Soup gear in her hometown - Boulder, CO.

Kate repping some Boulder Organic! Soup gear in her hometown - Boulder, CO.

KATE BROWN
on self confidence and modeling what to do when you’re wrong

 

I can’t think of a better person to kick off my return to writing this blog than Kate Brown (not the Governor of Oregon, but another very impressive Kate—the Founder and CEO of Boulder Organic! Soups). I took a little break to get settled in my job and life after the whirlwind that was the MBA program. But now, I’m back at it and looking forward to learning more from kickass female bosses, and sharing those takeaways with you.

Now, let me introduce you to Kate.

Kate is the type of person that makes everyone she talks to feel like the most important person in the room. She is warm and charismatic and incredibly generous. She’s also a super savvy individual and a very hard worker that has created a successful business from a humble little venture that started in her kitchen.

Here’s the story of how she created and grew Boulder Organic! Soups: When Kate’s young daughter got her tonsils out, Kate ran to the store to get some soup that would be easy to swallow and would free Kate up to so that she could just spend time with her daughter while she recovered from the tonsillectomy surgery. What she found at the store was congealed, canned, concentrated “soup” that was full of preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients. So, since she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to do something about it. She started making soup out of her kitchen for friends and family, and after a Whole Foods buyer heard about it, the rest was history.

Flash forward 13 years, and you can find her delicious soups in plastic tubs in the refrigerated section of grocery stores across the nation.

In Kate’s life before her soup venture, she was a therapist, which I think you’ll see evidence of in the takeaways from our convo that I share below. I think you’ll agree that she’s incredibly self-aware.  I hope you enjoy her perspective as much as I did.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. DON’T OUTSOURCE YOUR VALUE

While more and more women are finding their way into leadership in business, manufacturing is still very much a boy’s club.  So, when I asked Kate about her experience being a woman in leadership, I was really surprised by the response that she gave me. She said, “I just don’t accept pushback or negativity. It’s just so stupid.”  

That’s a nice sentiment, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around its simplicity. I asked her how she doesn’t get pissed off when she’s underestimated because of her gender. Her response is the real nugget: “I have complete 100% confidence in myself. I would have died on the vine if I had looked for outside sources of approval. Looking to others for approval is a guaranteed heartbreak.”

Throughout our careers, we’ll all be presented with countless occasions when our skills and qualifications are doubted, or when the people we look to for support are not in our corner. One of my favorite quotes on this topic is from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which goes like this, “I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.” That’s profound (and also much easier said than done).

There are a few strategies that I’ve come across that can help in this effort that I’d love to share with you:

  • Recognize when you’re outsourcing your worth – Pay attention to when you’re looking to others to validate your value. This is the very first thing to get a handle on, and it may be hard at first since many of us have been hustling for approval from others, especially those in power, since before we can remember.

  • Get clear on how you want to measure your worth. When I think about the things that are truly important to me, qualities like grit, generosity, hard work, resilience, optimism, and being a good teammate come to mind. These are some of my values and things that I choose to attach my worth to. If I’m out of line with my integrity on these things, then I’m in trouble and I need to work to find my way back to them.

Then, there are things that don’t get to determine my worth: things like how good I am at statistics, how eloquent I am when addressing a crowd, how good I am with managing the big picture (or the small details), or even how good I am at my job.

You see, these are things that I do, not things that I am. That’s why, even if I am falling short and want to improve in any of these areas, I get to choose to not allow any of them to affect my worth. It’s important to draw the distinction between those skills or traits that you want to develop from those things that you hang your worth on. This way, you can acknowledge the areas where you want to grow and lean into them without finding yourself in a full-blown identity crisis.

  • Question feedback – both the bad and the good. When you get negative—or positive—feedback, ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it guiding me in the direction that I want to go?” If not, disregard (yes, even the compliments). Since you’re not hanging your worth on this feedback (see previous bullet point), then you’re able to assess feedback in a productive way.
    Now, why question positive feedback? Because it’s fickle. If you depend on the positive feedback of others to feel good about who you are and how you’re doing, then what happens if they change their mind? Or move on to the next thing?

  • Finally, get choosy about who’s opinion matters to you. Here’s a new concept for a number of you: not everyone’s opinion matters. Kate has this concept on lock down. She is selective when it comes to listening to criticism. In the case of her business, she’s worked hard to develop a strong leadership team who she trusts and welcomes feedback from and has created open lines of communication with her staff, but when it comes to people that underestimate her, she says “I know who I am. I feel totally uninterested in what someone else thinks.” She knows that she’s acting in line with her values and integrity, and that’s all that matters.

 

2. THE UPSIDE OF BEING WRONG

Because Kate is incredibly honest and totally relatable, in the next breath after telling me the value of trusting in her confidence in herself, she also shared with me that sometimes she trusts her north star too much—even when she’s wrong, she feels really right. (See? #relatable) 

While she has a sense of humor about this aspect of herself, she also pointed out that this tendency can be dangerous when you’re in a leadership position—it’s not like people are lining up to tell the boss how wrong they are.

I love Kate’s perspective on this. She opens herself up to feedback and says, “You have to be willing to not have it be an ego dig. There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. I don’t have to be right all the time.

Before I could really process that concept, she continued, “Being wrong in a leadership position is really important—you get to model for your group how you handle it. How can we learn from this?” 

There are a couple of key learnings here. First, it’s okay to be wrong sometimes**.  I know women often feel the pressure to have it all right, all of the time. But, there’s also value in being wrong—it allows us to model for our group how to handle it. There is something really powerful about a person that is able to acknowledge where they went wrong, own those mistakes, and then take the strides needed to right the ship. In addition to setting the tone for others to take risks and make moves, it also builds trust. Because she’s honest with her people even when it’s hard, they know that they can also own up when they’ve made an error.

**Note: Kate and I did talk about how not all company cultures support this, but as a leader, she feels it’s important to set the tone that it’s okay to be wrong—as long as it’s handled appropriately. This may be something to consider when evaluating culture fit at a new job, or something to model if/when you’re in a place of influence.

HEATHER DUPRÉ

Heather Dupre

HEATHER DUPRÉ
on forging your path and not taking "no" for an answer

 

Heather is best known for co-founding Egg Strategy– a successful marketing strategy agency that she led for 16 years. She was able to retire last year after growing Egg to include three offices, in Boulder, Chicago, and New York City, and developing an impressive portfolio of cutting-edge consumer insight and strategy work for brands including Hershey’s, Neutrogena, Clinique, and Remy Martin. She now teaches marketing classes to lucky undergrads in the business school at CU Boulder (and will soon be teaching innovation – her sweet spot). 

Her path started long before her time at Egg, though. Her story is one of reaching for ambitious goals, not taking “no” for an answer, and believing in herself against the odds. She had to overcome personal and professional obstacles to create a great life and career for herself, which you’ll learn about below. In addition to her inspiring story, I also got the goods on her philosophies on leaning in and advancing one’s career. Read on…

 

TAKEWAYS

1. BELIEVE IN YOUR POWER TO CREATE THE LIFE YOU WANT

Heather got married when she was still in college, which wasn’t all that uncommon at the time. A few years later, her marriage started to crack and at the age of 29, she found herself divorced with a little boy to support, and a fairly worthless degree in Art History. She had an urgent realization that she needed to figure out how she was going to support her little family. 

She decided that an advanced degree was in order, so she studied hard and did well on the GMAT, and got into the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. For most of the three years she was in her program, she attended classes at night and worked out of her house during the day raising her son and doing graphic design. (Talk about grit...)

When one of her advisors at Kellogg told her that she was too old to get into advertising, she set out to prove him wrong. Weeks later, when she received her acceptance letter from her target advertising firm, Leo Burnett, she marched down to her advisor’s office and taped the letter to his door along with a note that said, “Don’t ever tell anyone that they can’t do something.” 

Her persistence and moxie remind me of a quote that I recently came across by Oprah Winfrey. She said, “I am where I am because I always believed I could get here.”

She didn’t let setbacks constrict her world around her — she believed in herself and her abilities, and whole-heartedly pursued what she wantedIt would have been easy for her to feel like a victim of her circumstances following her divorce, or to reign in her goals following the discouraging feedback from her advisor, but she doubled down and pursued her objectives with all her energy. 

We all have the power to develop this type of grit in our own lives. It requires making the decision to believe in our abilities over and over, with each new challenge, so that we can keep driving toward our goals. (Remember, beliefs are just habitual thoughts.)

 

2. DON'T TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER

Refusing to take “no” for an answer is a theme in Heather’s career. After excelling at Leo Burnett, she moved to the brand side and had successes with all sorts of consumer products companies, including food, household products, spirits, and pharma. 

My favorite story that she shared with me is from her time at Kellogg’s. 

She had research that showed that people purchase a surprisingly large amount of their Rice Krispies to make Rice Krispy Treats. Given this info, Heather knew that she could grow the brand by encouraging people tomake more treats. Her idea was to create festive-colored Rice Krispies that people could easily use to make even more special-looking Rice Krispy Treats (with that “oooh-ahhh payback factor”) around the holidays. 

We all have Heather to thank for these glorious treats.

We all have Heather to thank for these glorious treats.

History has proven that this idea was genius, but at the time, she got major push back.

But, she didn’t back down. Heather knew that the idea was worth fighting for.

So, without any support from her immediate higher-up, she got the right people on her side to figure out the formulation and how to put holiday Rice Krispies into testing and then production. In the first year — without any advertising — the Christmas colored Rice Krispies flew off the shelves. They became an important part of the portfolio for years. 

Heather’s refusal to take “no” for an answer with the Holiday Rice Krispies resulted in a big win for Kellogg’s, but it was definitely a risky move. 

That brings me to the next takeaway…

 

3. WORK WITHIN THE CORPORATE CULTURE

Heather has often been called a “change agent” in her career. She told me she thinks that label might be a little strong, but I suspect she is just being humble based on her advice:

 “You need to believe in yourself. Be cognizant of the corporate culture, but be willing to push sacred cows out of the way – in a way that’s acceptable. There are times when getting your opinion out there will result in you being taken much more seriously and respected.”

A lot of Heather’s success has to do with the fact that she spoke up. She bravely stood by her ideas and vision because she knew they would have an impact for the company. Speaking up and advocating for her ideas allowed her to be seen as a leader, and she was able to accomplish great things throughout her career as a result. 

If you aspire to leadership, you need to believe in your ideas and abilities and make your voice heard — and, there is a careful balance to strike

It sure is appealing to zero in on that sexy part that says, “be willing to push sacred cows out of the way”, but don’t overlook the fact that it’s sandwiched between two really important statements. 

It is critical to promote your agenda in a way that is acceptable within your company’s corporate culture. You need to use discernment to know when to push the boundaries, and when to pick your battles.

One more thing on the subject: don’t forget that if you want to make changes, you need to bring people along with you. Heather never could have brought her festive Rice Krispies to market without the support of a handful of people in other departments that believed in her vision. You need buy-in from others to become an effective “change agent”.

CARYN GILLEN

Caryn and her husband Todd enjoying their little one Liv. 

Caryn and her husband Todd enjoying their little one Liv. 

CARYN GILLEN
on overcoming limiting thoughts and reaching goals

 

Caryn is a little different than the rest of the women that I have interviewed to date. I’m lucky to have had Caryn in my life as a friend for quite a few years now. I’ve been around to witness a bunch of milestones in her life and career. In the time I’ve known her, I have seen Caryn secure her dream job, excel in that role, start her own side gig, grow her side gig to the point that she could quit said dream job, and now she’s killing it running her own business. Oh, and she also bought and updated a house and had a little girl in this time. 

This is a woman that is 100% in the driving seat of her own life and relentlessly pursues what she wants. It has been an inspiration to watch her go after (and get) what she wants. 

Caryn trained as a psychologist and life coach, and was able to use her killer leadership skills and training in her most recent gig as a program manager for Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), a non-profit research center dedicated to increasing the scientific understand of psychological processes related to healthy development and family functioning. I remember when she got the job and how happy I was for her that she snagged her dream job. 

While she really enjoyed her work and made an amazing contribution at OSLC, her dream has always been to be an entrepreneur. So, she did the work of peeling back the layers of what really set her heart on fire and found that she is most passionate about helping powerhouse women reach their goals. She then dug even deeper to discover that her niche is helping high-achieving women end their struggle with their weight and food. 

As a powerhouse woman that works exclusively with powerhouse women, she has a lot of insights into living your best life and taking charge of your life and career. 

 

TAKEWAYS

1. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK

We have a couple of strong biases in our lives that often keep us from achieving what we want – negativity bias and confirmation bias. 

Negativity bias is the concept that negative thoughts and emotions affect us more deeply than equally powerful positive thoughts and emotions. I’m sure you can think of examples of this in your own life. We ruminate on failures and upsetting interactions, turning them over in our minds (sometimes for decades!). But when was the last time that a memory of a positive experience kept you up at night? See?  

Confirmation bias is the tendency to cherry-pick evidence to confirm the beliefs and theories that we already hold, often overlooking compelling evidence that would be counter to our beliefs. This shows up everywhere — in politics, religions, workplaces, interpersonal relationships, and even in our relationship with ourselves. 

In Caryn’s work, she works with clients that have been very successful in many areas of their lives, but struggle in one area. Due to their negativity bias, their struggles eclipse their triumphs and they believe that they are deficient. Thanks to their confirmation bias, they focus on the experiences that are consistent with that belief. “See? I knew I couldn’t keep my word to myself,” or “I knew I wasn’t brave enough to reach for that stretch goal.”

Caryn has a simple solution to this line of thinking: curiosity.

She says we have to ask ourselves better questions. Curiosity staves out judgment, giving ourselves the space we need to make the positive changes in our lives and careers that we hope for. 

Here’s another opportunity to be kind to yourself and ask some probing questions, gently. “When are some times that I did show up for myself?,” “When was I brave, even in a small way?” 

Caryn says beliefs are just thoughts that you think over and over. They’re habitual thoughts, and...they’re changeable. I guarantee you that when you go looking for evidence that supports the life you want, you’ll find it. It may be slow at first, but with a little effort, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. 

 

2. GET THE RESULTS YOU WANT

I want to talk a little bit more about our thoughts because they’re our greatest change agent. Caryn uses a framework for coaching her clients that looks like this: 

Our thoughts create our feelings -> Our feelings drive our actions -> Our actions deliver results. 

If we don’t like the results that we’re seeing in any area of our lives, we need to change our thoughts. Thoughts are where it all begins. 

Take a moment to notice how empowering this concept is. I know a lot of people that feel beholden to their thoughts — that their thoughts happen to them. Well, good news folks: We absolutely have the power to control the thoughts that we think. Even deeply-held beliefs are changeable (remember they’re just habitual thoughts). 

To illustrate how powerful this framework is, I’ll give you a little personal example from a few weeks ago when Caryn helped me through a career obstacle.

As I was approaching the end of my MBA, I could feel my mind constrict around my desire to find my dream job. I wanted the job so bad! I’ve always been pretty good in interviews, but I could feel the limiting beliefs that I had allowed to accumulate to start undermining me. I wanted my interviewers to like me and choose me. I had fear about going for too long without an income. I had a belief that the jobs that I would really enjoy were a scarce resource. 

Those powerful negative thoughts are very damaging. I mean, what interviewer wants to offer a job to the lady that’s desperate? (The answer is none.) :(

Caryn guided  me through the framework starting at the end result: What result do you want? (To be seen as competent and valuable to the organization.) What action will that require? (To present myself as calm, competent, and confident.) What do you need to feel in order to act that way? (That I will get the job if it’s meant to be, and if not, it’ll all work out for the best. That I know that I have a lot to offer and I trust others to see it.) What do you need to think in order to feel that way? (I'm a catch! I will land well. People that I respect mirror that back to me all the time. I have been working toward this for a long time. I have what I need to be successful. In the past, when I didn’t get what I thought I wanted in the moment, I was glad with where I ended up.) 

Once I figured out which thoughts would help me get the results I wanted, I repeated them a bunch of times, especially whenever doubt encroached on me. And, guess what… It really works. I was able to loosen my grip on these jobs and bring my best self to the interviews. #winning #thanksCaryn #results

 

BONUS

Caryn generously made this offer to Doyenne Project readers: 

If you are interested in ending the struggle with food and your weight click here to get your FREE copy of Caryn's book, "I Wanted It."

#thanksagainCaryn

JANE MILLER

Jane signing copies of her book  Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success) . 

Jane signing copies of her book Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success)

JANE MILLER
on resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks

 

Jane has had a tremendously successful career. Her resume is practically littered with the words “President”, “Director”, and “CEO”. She has contributed to the success of big and small businesses throughout her career. Her career started at Frito-Lay, and she went on to hold influential roles at Bimbo Bakeries, the Kraft Heinz Co., and Hostess. A number of years ago, Jane switched to use her business super powers to support smaller brands including Rudi’s Organic Bakery and ProYo. If that’s not enough, she also wrote a book (Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths about Business Success) and built an online career resource center (www.JaneKnows.com). This lady gets things done! 

It would be really easy for someone like Jane to become affected by her success, but she is strikingly humble, open, and generous. I’ve had the privilege to hear her address groups and I’ve sat across the table from her a number of times. Every time, I have been floored by what a good listener she is and how willing she is to share from her own experiences to provide helpful insights. 

Given the bio I just laid out, it may be surprising that most of the topics that Jane and I discussed during this particular conversation centered around failure. But, I can’t think of anyone better to learn from about resilience, risk-taking, and growing from setbacks than someone who has learned how to manage the difficult parts of career development to achieve great success. 

Get ready folks. Below are a couple of powerful takeaways.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. FOSTER A RESILIENT MINDSET

For someone that has had so many powerful positions and so much responsibility, I was surprised when she told me that she has no regrets about her career. How is that possible? I have regrets about what I ate for breakfast this morning! 

She told me, “I made the best decisions I could based on the info I had at the time. I know more now.”

I want to take a moment and just acknowledge how powerful that statement is. 

Jane’s antidote to feeling regret comes from her practical and constructive mindset. The way that she looks at her career and accomplishments has two powerful characteristics: 1) she is generous with herself, and 2) she is learning-oriented. 

Let’s break that statement down: 

“I made the best decision I could based on the info I had at the time…” 

Notice how she gives herself the benefit of the doubt. She is kind to herself. Of course, those moments when things don’t turn out the way you want are painful for anybody, but she didn’t add to her own suffering by jumping to punishing herself. She retained her confidence in herself, her judgment, and her abilities. 

So many of us high-achieving women try and perfect everything we do, even those things that have already happened. We replay what went down and fantasize about what we should have done and how much better that alternate fictional outcome would have been. 

Hopefully, reading that last paragraph points out for all of us how futile those efforts are. I have learned that being hard on ourselves after a misstep or failure has the opposite outcome that we hope for. We hope that being hard on ourselves will ensure that we learn our lesson so we never make the same mistake again, but really, it just makes us more fearful of taking risks in the future. 

In these moments, a helpful strategy is to treat ourselves like our own best friends. We would never talk to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves. We would comfort them, providing support and understanding. We can extend that same support to ourselves. 

Jane models this concept really well when she gives herself credit for doing the best she could in the moment. The generosity she shows herself opens the door for the next characteristic of her mindset. 

“…I know more now.”    

Jane is oriented to learn from her experiences. 

If you just stop at the first part – giving yourself a break –  then you don’t grow from the experience and the pain of that failure was in vain. 

Personal responsibility is critical — in the right measureToo much and you make yourself miserable and allow your world to constrict around you to match the size of what you know you can accomplish perfectly. Too little personal responsibility and you can build a poor reputation for yourself since you fail to be accountable for your actions, and you miss out on opportunities to grow. 

The immediate next step after comforting yourself from the pain of setbacks and failures is getting to work on understanding what you can do differently in the future, and then integrating those learnings. 

 

2. GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH RISKS

I was recently privy to the info that came out of some focus groups that the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder did with executives at high growth companies. The focus of the study was to learn what companies are looking for in candidates so that the MBA program can turn out highly effective graduates. 

One of the surprising insights that came from this study is that these coveted employers want candidates that have experience with failureSo many of us put an incredible amount of energy into racking up accomplishments and avoiding failure, but failure is an excellent teacher. 

Jane’s powerful and positive mindset shows up here as well. She says, “The anticipated consequence is often far worse than the actual consequence you find with failure.” 

Living in the headspace of anticipated failure keeps us from taking the types of leaps that are necessary for achieving the sort of success that Jane has had. 

She does also recognize that this gets easier as you advance in your career. With more successes and failures to learn from, you just have more data points to gauge and mitigate risks.

If you don’t have decades of work experience under your belt, don’t worry. This is an opportunity for vicarious learning:

  • Lean on mentors and sponsors that have seen more in their careers and are invested in your success. Trust Jane that the fear of the consequence is generally worse than the actual outcome, because people like her have learned that lesson first-hard. 
  • Practice. A couple of posts ago, Katica Roy told us that courage is a muscle – it gets stronger when exercised. I think the same can be said for resilience. The more we face risk and endure setbacks, the more likely we are to bounce back faster and easier. 

ERIN COSTA

Erin along with her husband in beautiful Hawai'i. 

Erin along with her husband in beautiful Hawai'i. 

ERIN COSTA
on following your heart and the value of authenticity

I already knew who Erin was before I met her. She was on a short list of people that I wanted to seek out and connect with at a networking event I had planned on attending toward the beginning of my MBA experience. She had a strong reputation as a successful brand marketer in the consumer packaged goods space. While we initially connected through networking, she has gone on to become one of the most valuable people in my network.

In the year and a half that I have known her, she has generously given me advice, made recommendations and endorsements on my behalf, and kept me in mind as she has come across resources and opportunities. I have been incredibly grateful for her generous sponsorship.

Since she’s given me such a wealth of valuable input during this time, I asked her to lunch so that I could pump her for more wisdom to share with you.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Many of us find ourselves overthinking our career advancement strategies. It’s easy to try and plan and perfect our future career trajectory. Particularly in the MBA world, there is a lot of pressure to find the right job post-graduation. You know, the one that will set you on the right path for the career of your dreams…

I asked Erin for her thoughts on the job search because she’s been killing it in the time since she graduated with her MBA.

Her advice for me wasn’t tactical. She told me to follow my heart.

I know it seems obvious, but there is so much conflicting advice out there. It’s easy for all the “shoulds” that people throw our way to drown out our internal voice.

I’d like to say that as soon as she told me to follow my heart, clarity struck me about what I needed to be doing and where I needed to work, but that’s not the case. In truth, I’ve been reencountering my internal guide in the weeks since our conversation.

I recently realized that I have been pursuing a particular job simply because it was pretty much a sure thing. I have a handful of contacts at the hiring company and have all the requisite skills they were asking for. The trouble is that as I’ve gotten more honest with myself, I have discovered that I am pretty sure that I would not enjoy the work or the company culture. Just because it’s a good job doesn’t mean that it’s a good job for me.

Coming to terms with this hasn’t been easy. It would have been so nice if this “sure thing” were something that I wanted. Since it’s not, I have to open myself up to the uncertainty of not knowing what my next step is again.  

Erin told me, “You have to believe your own why.”

I have had to do the internal work to reconnect with my confidence in my own skills and abilities. I have had to muster the mojo I need to put myself out there for jobs that I would thrive in. I have had to dig in to job postings and spend the time to adapt my resume and craft new cover letters for each position.

For me, that has meant reminding myself that my work experience and education have prepared me to do amazing work in the industry and field I want to work in. It has meant taking stock of my values and work ethic and recognizing how valuable those traits are to an employer.

Following my heart right now is effortful. Even though pursuing “sure things” feels safer at the moment, I’m making a choice to believe that the career that I want – and that I know I’m capable of achieving – is within my reach.

The good news is that the more time I spend in this space, the more certain it feels. I’m looking forward to amending this post to let you all know that I’ve found a job that is both challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Stay tuned…

 

2. AUTHENTICITY IS IMPORTANT

Erin’s second piece of advice fits with the theme of following one’s heart. You need to be real with people. It’s important to be yourself.  

She told me, “I’ve gotten where I am and have had the success I’ve had because of my realness and authenticity.”

I believe it. Erin has authenticity on lock down. You know exactly what you’ve got with her. She is open and transparent. She speaks her mind and doesn’t dance around difficult subjects. She is an active participant in conversations and makes people feel seen and heard. She is not protective of herself or her image and shares her experiences readily.

The thing about authenticity is that it breaks down walls. Erin’s authenticity makes her likable and trustworthy. It puts others at ease. It makes people want to work with and for her.

Authenticity has another powerful benefit: when you’re truly yourself, you attract opportunities that are a good fit for you. For example, my outgoing nature would be wasted doing solitary work. And while I love a good Excel spreadsheet, my creativity would be squandered if my role were limited to crunching numbers all day every day. I think we all want to work somewhere where our skills, abilities, and personality are seen as assets. When we show who we truly are, it helps people to see where we will shine.

So, be authentically you. The right company (or friendships or relationships) will find you.   

 

CAROLINA FRYER

Carolina and her family in the Eiffel Tower at the beginning of their 10 month trip around the world. 

Carolina and her family in the Eiffel Tower at the beginning of their 10 month trip around the world. 

CAROLINA FRYER
on luck, networking like a pro, and retaining your freedom

Carolina seems to operate on another plane than the rest of us. She just seems to know things that about career development that the rest of us have had to learn (or more likely, are still learning). The most exciting part about talking with Carolina is that she doesn’t just have an intuition about career development, she is also able to clearly articulate her ideas on the subject. (Of course, this is my take. She is much too modest to ever talk this way about herself.)

After getting her start at Proctor & Gamble, Carolina has had a successful career working with consumer packaged goods (CPG), driving innovation for WhiteWave Foods (makers of a lot of the natural food brands you know and love). She is now Managing Director at Mission Field, an agency focused on supporting Fortune 500 CPG companies with new product innovation with an entrepreneurial focus. Since she has been very much in the driver’s seat propelling her own advancement throughout her career, I was really happy to get her ideas on the subject.

Below, you’ll find the biggest takeaways I got from our conversation.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. LUCK DOESN'T JUST HAPPEN TO YOU

When Carolina was pursuing her MBA, she got a coveted internship at Proctor & Gamble just a few weeks into her program. Some might call her lucky. She went to a conference, showed up at the career fair, got an interview on site, and then *poof* she had the job.

Carolina acknowledges that it was extraordinary to have such a sought-after internship so early in her MBA program, but she also shared that there were a number of things that aligned to allow this to happen – luck being just part of it.

There is that famous quote by the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.  Carolina likes to imagine this as an athletic stance. You can picture it – standing on the balls of your feet, eyes open, ready to jump when the ball comes your way.

So, in the case of Carolina and her MBA internship, while she was lucky to have the opportunity present itself, she also did her part and seized the opportunity. She was in that athletic stance at that conference.

I love the image of the athletic stance because it is empowering. I have come to believe that we can make our own luck. We do this by increasing our exposure to opportunities that may be advantageous for us, and then leaping when opportunity strikes. The more we say yes, the more likely we are to come across those “lucky” breaks.  

What does increasing exposure to opportunities look like? Well, the luckiest people I know share a number of characteristics:

  • They are not afraid to ask for things
  • They show up
  • They say yes often
  • They aren’t shy about letting others know what they’re looking for
  • They are willing to go with the flow and just see where things lead

If you’re like me, when you look at the characteristics listed above, it triggers a couple of things. First, like many women, I’ve been trained my whole life not to take up space. Asking for things and being transparent about the opportunities I’m looking for is really uncomfortable! Second, as a recovering perfectionist, saying yes to things that I’m not certain will be fun or interesting or beneficial does not come naturally to me.

The good news is that I believe that welcoming this type of luck and opportunity into your life is a skill that anyone can cultivate. It may take time and effort, but consider for a moment what you have to gain from the extra luck and opportunity that you welcome into your life!

 

2. YOU'RE AS STRONG AS YOUR NETWORK 

A couple years ago, Carolina went on 10 month around-the-world adventure with her husband and son. It was the result of many years of planning and a very intentional decision to quit her job and shake things up.

When she got back to Colorado and landed a great job within just a couple of months, people remarked at how lucky she was. (Are you seeing a theme here?)

What people didn’t see is that she met with nearly 50 (yes, FIFTY!!) people during the eight weeks after returning from her travels. She hustled for it. She reached out to her network and was explicit about what she was looking for, and it was through her network connections that she found her current position. She wasn’t just in her athletic stance, she was out there on the field making things happen.

Carolina has lots of thoughts on networking. Making connections with people seems to come naturally to her, but she’s also strategic about her networking efforts. Here are a few of her thoughts on the subject.  

  1. It’s important to have non-overlapping groups of people in your network. This one feels obvious, but I’ve never heard anyone articulate it before. Having a broad network exposes you to so many more opportunities than you would otherwise have access to if everyone in your network knows the same people. She advocates getting involved in areas that genuinely interest you and expand your horizons at the same time.

  2. Be generous. The more that you’re generous with others, the more folks will be in your corner. You want people to want to pick up your call when you need something. In Carolina’s case, she also feels that sharing what she’s learned with the next generation is the right thing to do.

  3. But, be generous without the expectation of future favors. The goal is to make and maintain genuine connections with people, because you are really interested in their views, you share a passion or have similar expertise and ambitions. It’s the idea of “paying it forward” - give often and freely and you will reap the benefits – sometimes when you least expect and most need it. It’s not about cultivating “useful” connections in the traditional network “meet & greet” sort of way.

  4. And, be in it for the long haul. Maintain your relationships over time and you’ll be surprised when old friends come back in and out of your life is surprising ways.

 

3. PRIORITIZING FREEDOM

Many of us know the feeling of being trapped in a job that we hate because we have to support ourselves…where every morning you need to give yourself a pep talk to get out of bed.

Well, Carolina has arranged her life so that she doesn’t have to experience that agony.

She has developed a Freedom Fund – a savings account she can use to cover living expenses in the event that she needs (or wants) to quit her job. She told me, “It gives you choices”. Just imagine what it would do for you to have the knowledge that you don’t have to work.

Building a savings safety net is not a subject that people talk about much, but there are some major benefits of saving up for yourself. If you like the job you’re in, you have the added psychological benefit of knowing that you are choosing to be there. You’re in the driver’s seat.

Would that feeling of freedom make you enjoy working more? Perhaps it would make you feel safer taking risks at work?

Obviously, the greatest benefit is that if you truly hate your job, you have the resources to make a change. You don’t have to suffer through it.

Sure, it’s not easy to eke out a bunch of savings, but it certainly is possible. It requires making it a priority. In Carolina’s case, she values the freedom that comes with financial security, and she’s worked toward that goal.

 

GINNY CORSI

Ginny addressing a group of women on the topics of leadership and risk-taking. 

Ginny addressing a group of women on the topics of leadership and risk-taking. 

GINNY CORSI
on authenticity, risk-taking, and life-long learning

 

Ginny is a magnetic individual. She is incredibly positive and engaging. It seems that she is at ease in every setting. In fact, she is so at ease with herself, that her ease becomes contagious. You can’t help but be at ease around her. It just might be her superpower.  

Things weren’t always so sunny for Ginny, though. By age 21, both of her parents had passed away. She didn’t have a safety net or models for success. She created both for herself.

Despite the major hardships she faced as a young person, she has been able to build a very successful career for herself. Glancing at her LinkedIn profile, you see a bunch of director-level positions. She ultimately built her own consulting business, Corsi Associates, which provides executive teambuilding and consulting. (It’s not a coincidence that her company carries her name. She built the business.)

 

TAKEWAYS

1. ALWAYS BE YOURSELF

Ginny has known me for about a year and is aware that I’ll be graduating soon and on the post-MBA job hunt. So, our conversation naturally turned to job interviews. Given Ginny’s superpower, what came out of her mouth was no surprise. She believes that people are looking for two qualities in their candidates:

  1. That you’re competent – (obviously, you have to be able to do the job)
  2. That you’re comfortable with yourself

Easier said than done, I know. But, I think that there is a lot of wisdom to this line of thinking. I decided it would be helpful to unpack why comfort with one’s self is so powerful. Here goes:  

  • Emotions are contagious! Think about some of the first dates that you’ve been on. *cringe* Sitting across the table from an awkward person you barely know can be excruciating. On the other hand, spending the evening with someone that is lighthearted and helps keep the conversation afloat can be a really good time! Interviews are kind of like first dates. You’re really checking each other out to see if you live up to each others’ expectations.
  • Authenticity is disarming. Interviewers are humans, that are hiring humans. You need to be relatable. If you have 105% of the qualifications, but the interviewer can’t see themselves working with you, you’re not getting the job.

  • You instill trust. When your words and your body language are consistent, you’re believable. Your confidence in yourself communicates to your interviewer that they have no reason to doubt the words coming out of your mouth.

When you believe that you’re awesome, you’re much more likely to convince your interviewer to agree.

But how?! I have two pieces of advice:

  1. Fake it until you make it.

  2. Be really nice to yourself. Treat yourself like your own best friend.

 

2. ASK. JUST ASK. 

Having lost both parents at an early age, Ginny had the very real knowledge that her ability to support herself was a matter of survival. She told me a story about one of her early job interviews that includes a lesson in it.

She moved to a new community and went up for job at a local school. The superintendent let her know that he regretfully would be unable to offer her a job. (This is where the story would end for most of us. We’d thank the superintendent for kindly considering our application and ask him to keep in touch if anything else came available. Right?)

But not for Ginny. She had done her research before arriving in this town and knew that there was a small local paper. So, she asked the superintendent if he knew the managing editor and asked him to make a connection for her.

I thought this was craaazy!! This guy didn’t owe her anything! In fact, he had just given her a rejection of sorts by not extending a job offer at the school.

You know what, though? He did make that connection for her and she ended up getting that job over at the local paper. (As a little side note - it's worth mentioning that Ginny has paid this kindness forward generously throughout her career. She loves to use her personal friends and resources to help others in any way she can.)

I asked her where she got the audacity to make that first ask, and that brings us to another of Ginny’s operating principles:

 

3. PEOPLE ARE MOTIVATED BY THE ESCAPE FROM FEAR, NOT THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

Ginny’s willingness to take risks didn’t come from courage (though she developed it later), she simply didn’t have another choice. She asked herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” After losing both of her parents, the risk of getting a “no” from the superintendent when she asked for a connection was trivial.  

She was warm and likeable and created a situation where the superintendent wanted to help her. She gave him the opportunity to be generous.

Ginny found that the more risks she took, the more certain she was of her competencies, allowing her to take even more risks in the future. It’s a virtuous cycle. She also found that when she asked for things, she would get them (and then did her part to work her butt off to deliver on her promises). The result was that she became less fearful.

There are a couple of lessons that I’d like to pull out.

  1. Don’t pre-eliminate a possibility. I would venture to guess that most of us reading this would never think of making an ask like Ginny did. We are trained subtly (and directly) by our society that we shouldn’t impose on others or take up too much space. We jump to the end of the story and put ourselves in the minds of those we’re asking and make wild assumptions about what their answers may be. When we fear the answer may be “no”, we end the conversation before it even began. Ginny shows another option: be someone that people want to help, and then give them an opportunity to do so. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

  2. Adjust your lens. Many of us live with limiting beliefs that hold us back from living our lives to the fullest. A common limiting belief is that risk is scary and dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Did you catch that Ginny doesn’t credit courage for her risk taking? Necessity drove her to take risks, but then she noticed the results. She was attuned to the fact that her risks paid off. She allowed her worldview to shift based on her experiences. (Of course, she could have also looked for all the ways that life is dangerous and would have found plenty of evidence for that as well, but that’s no way to live.)

 

4. SEEK A FULFILLING LIFE, THE CAREER WILL FOLLOW 

As has been firmly established in this post, Ginny has had a tremendous career and achieved notable success. When I asked her about her secret, she told me that she just wanted life to be interesting.

She said, “If I had had a 5-year plan, I would have missed out on the most incredible career.”

She didn’t aim for status – she aimed for new challenges, tackling something different, not being bored, and learning opportunities. She trusted in herself that she could accomplish anything that she put her mind to, and she jumped at opportunities that came her way.

This approach has paid off for her. She has excelled in business and had incredible experiences that she cherishes.

I think the key here is that she reached. In reaching for the things that fulfilled her, she was always growing and finding new places to showcase her unique abilities.

KATICA ROY

3V1A7177.jpg

KATICA ROY
on gender equity, risk taking, and knowing your value

 

Katica Roy is an impressive individual.

As the daughter and sister of refugees, she fostered a deep reserve of grit, understanding the importance of always doing her best and never giving up. She leaned in throughout her career, choosing challenging roles, and rose to the position of Global VP in the Office of the CEO at a multinational enterprise software corporation. That’s a big position at a big company.

Then, she took a big leap.

She ventured out on her own to start a company to address gender inequity in the workplace. She makes a persuasive argument that we won’t achieve gender equity until we make it an economic issue. This is why she left her successful career and founded Pipeline, a company that makes software to increase financial performance of companies through operationalizing gender equity.

The data is strong that shows that diversity is good for business and that getting more women into all ranks of business improves financial outcomes. Essentially, Pipeline is software that connects to the company’s own human capital management system to “make recommendations that support improved financial performance for the organization, as well as growth for the individual”. It essentially ties gender diversity and inclusion directly to the economic outcomes for the companies that use it. A practical solution to a big problem.

(Told you she is impressive.)

Katica and I spent considerable time talking about the barriers that women face in achieving gender equity and also touched on a few other meaty topics. You’ll find my biggest takeaways below.

 

TAKEWAYS

1. GENDER EQUALITY REQUIRES STRUCTURAL SHIFTS

As a business woman still early in my career, the topic of gender equity is routinely on my mind. I have spent a lot of time researching the barriers that women face in business. Most of the articles and research I have read make a moral argument for gender equality, that it’s the right thing to push for. The trouble is, not everyone agrees (or cares), in fact, some people outright resist women’s advancement in business.

That’s why, when Katica shared her perspective that we won’t shift gender equity until we make it an economic issue, I felt the lightbulb go on. Gender equity is not just the right thing, it’s the smart thing.

And the data is strong that shows that diversity is good for business. Here are just a few tidbits to blow your mind:

There’s clearly a strong business case for increasing racial and gender diversity in our companies, but as Katica and the folks at Pipeline point out, we have to “fix the leaky pipeline”. It’s not enough to know that our businesses will benefit from diversity, we have make changes in how we hire, promote, and compensate women and minorities to reap their benefits. If we just stay our current course, It will take 168 years to reach gender equality in the US. :(

If you want to learn more about what’s getting in the way of gender equity, and some of the solutions that are bubbling up, check out the resources linked at the bottom of the page. There are a bunch of killer articles by Katica as well as the LeanIn.Org/McKinsey and World Economic Forum studies which are jam-packed with good info.

 

2. TAKE CALCULATED RISKS

Growing up in a single-parent household where the money was always tight, I developed a pretty strong aversion to risk. (It’s really hard to free-fall into uncertainty when there’s no safety net to catch you.)

I have worked for many years to get more comfortable with risk taking, but I am still blown away by people that believe in the power of their ideas and have enough fire in their bellies to go after their dreams.

Katica is one of those inspiring entrepreneurs. It took a lot of courage for her to leave her successful career at a global organization to invest time and money in creating, launching, and building Pipeline.

When I asked Katica about her thoughts on risk-taking, her responses were so good that I just started writing down everything she said, verbatim.

  • “Courage is a muscle ­­— when exercised it gets stronger.” I love this! Not only does it help you muster courage in the moment, keeping this little refrain in mind gives hope that these moments will get easier in the future.
  • “Mindfulness matters. There is a difference between how we feel and how we behave. I can feel the way I feel, but I don’t have to act on it.” Ya’ll, we don’t have to act out of fear! This reminds me of the popular saying “Feel the fear. Do it anyway.”, but goes a step further to give you a tiny roadmap for how to do what scares you. You pause. Check in with yourself. Question the fear…and then move. This approach acknowledges that jumping from fearing to doing isn’t straightforward or easy.

She also recognizes that there is a practical, tactical approach to risk-taking. “Don’t be foolhardy. Do your homework. Minimize the downside, and then jump.”  

A lot of work went into launching Pipeline. She didn’t blindly fall. If she had found that there wasn’t a market for Pipeline or that it couldn’t be done technologically, I’m sure she wouldn’t have pursued it.

Good news: you can remove a lot of the risk in risk-taking just by doing your homework.

 

3. SERVE A HIGHER PURPOSE

When I asked Katica how she manages the desire to be liked, her answer surprised me. She told me, “My value is that I’m a truth-teller. That’s not always popular, but it’s valuable.” Of course, she clarified that she is mindful to say things in such a way that the people she’s telling would be receptive. “It’s not about being nice, it’s about being effective”. It’s about identifying what the important goal is (the success of the project), and working toward that end.

She knows the value she provides in a team or an organization, which provides a higher purpose that is greater than her desire to be liked.

This reminded me of what Sarah Williamson had said to me just a few days before – that being respected is different than being liked. It’s about doing the right thing, even if it’s hard.

One final thing on this topic: I think it’s very powerful to find (and flex) the thing that provides value to your organization. But, don’t forget — you must use that power wisely.

Sure, it’s not about being nice, but being effective means that your approach needs to be appropriate for the situation. If you’re a truth-teller like Katica, then you need to make sure to read your audience and deliver your message in a way that they’ll be open to. If you’re decisive, you might need to bring others along in your decision-making process. If you’re good at predicting roadblocks, you may have to keep an open mind so that you’re not obstructionist.

You get the point.

 

HERE’S THAT BONUS MATERIAL I PROMISED:

From Katica:

LeanIn.Org/McKinsey & Company:

World Economic Forum: