risk taking

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”.

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. 

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

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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: