Last week I had the good fortune to moderate a panel discussion for the Service Council’s Virtual Smarter Service Symposium that featured the perspective of amazing women in service – Cindy Etherington, Vice President, Dell EMC Education Services at Dell; Linda Tucci, Senior Global Director, Technical Solutions Center at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics; Dr. Marlene Kolodziej, Vice President of Centralized Services at RICOH USA; Sonya Lacore, Vice President of Inflight Operations at Southwest Airlines; and Sophia Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Telecom and Technology Business Unit at NCR Corporation. Those of you that have follow me for any amount of time know how very much I love moderating event sessions and facilitating insightful conversations – I must say, this was one of my favorites. These women are all so strong and accomplished yet were open, honest, vulnerable and really engaged with one another. I am going to discuss some of the highlights that I took away from the session and I’m also going to share the panel’s responses to a question we ran out of time for but you should be sure to watch the full session as well.
One of the points I took from the conversation is to embrace who you are – find confidence in your strengths and hone your skills. This point was made as two of the women described their quite different characteristics, and we discussed the fact that there are many “right” ways to be a strong leader. I shared that I’ve often wished away some of my own characteristics, wanting instead to be “softer” in ways. The conversation reminded me how important it is to focus energy on being your best self instead of wishing you were someone different – and it was also a great illustration of how women from different backgrounds, with different personalities, and having different leadership styles can all be significantly effective and successful.
Another point I loved is that good leaders know they don’t have to have it all figured out. In fact, good leaders know it isn’t a leader’s job to know everything – holding on to the fear of admitting when you don’t have an answer or need to call on a different skill set than your own shows a level of insecurity in your own strengths. A strong leader draws on the strengths of their entire team and knows that the sum of the team’s parts is far stronger together than any one is alone.
Finally, I loved the discussion we had around the importance of vulnerability – especially given this year’s challenges. Hearing some of the stories shared on how to lead by example when it comes to being vulnerable were enlightening around the power that comes from opening up and being human. I think there’s a misconception that if you’re vulnerable you will be mistaken for being weak, but as this conversation highlighted, I think that vulnerability is a critical strength in leadership.
Advice to Your 20-Year Old Self
I could have talked to these women for hours! I hope I’ll have the chance to do so again soon. We ran out of time before I was able to get to my last question – “what advice would you give your 20-year old self?” I asked the ladies if they’d be willing to send me their answers so that I could share them with you all here (and also because I was too interested in their responses to miss out myself!).
From Sonya Lacore, Vice President of Inflight Operations at Southwest Airlines:
- Don’t be so overly ambitious to make “getting there” or promoting your primary goal. Instead, the goal should be to love what you do, do it to the best of your ability and promotions will be the natural progression of your hard work and determination. Maya Angelou says, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
- You can have it all – you may just not be able to have it all “right now.” There are seasons in your life – so be careful not to miss them. As a parent, spouse, sibling or friend, there will be seasons that your desire or focus will require heavier engagement for periods of time and that’s okay. Just enjoy those moments and don’t overlook the value of those. Remember, at the end of your life, no one ever says they wish they had worked more or had more promotions – it’s always about family and friends instead. It’s a marathon, not a race and there is always plenty of time to achieve your goals. Timing is everything. Pauses are okay.
- Never measure your success to the success of others. Everyone is different – take time to discover who you are and then use those talents and strengths to make a difference, not only in your work or family, but in society in general. That is true success.
- Listen more and talk less. You rarely learn by talking!
From Dr. Marlene Kolodziej, Vice President of Centralized Services at RICOH USA:
- Don’t expect to always “know” what you are doing or how to do it. It’s okay to ASK for help.
- DO spend time to understand “office politics.” Not necessarily play the game, but be cognizant of the environment and the players, and participate wisely, if you choose. It’s not a waste of time, but a way to navigate the environment to get work done.
- Develop relationships outside of your immediate organization, and not only with peers, superiors, subordinates. Be sure to make time cultivating relationships throughout the company and business and use that information to be a partner in their success (and in turn, yours).
- Don’t equate the number of hours you work with your level of success or effort. Be sure you have a social life and room for family and friends. Respect the concept that time is money.
- Seek mentors and provide mentorship. Be sure to learn everything you can from those who came before you and be sure to pass along your knowledge to those who follow.
- While you don’t want to worry too much about what others “think” about you, be sure you know your brand and the perception of your corporate value.
- Be sure you and your work are respected. This is not a popularity contest so don’t be too concerned with being “liked” or being “nice.” If you are respectful, kind, considerate, operate with integrity, and your work is valued, solid, and needed, you will be more than “liked” or considered “nice” and adequately rewarded.
- Speaking of rewarded…KNOW your value to the company and to the people you work with and expect to be compensated appropriately.
From Linda Tucci, Senior Global Director, Technical Solutions Center at Ortho Clinical Diagnostics:
- Stop saying you’re sorry!
- Stay true to your core values. Live with conviction and don’t compromise!
- Stop thinking so much – get out of your head and live from the heart.
- Travel more for fun not just work, spend more time with family.
- Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people who will help you grow.
- Sometimes the best lessons are learned through our failures so take the time to learn from each experience.
From Sophia Williams, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Telecom and Technology Business Unit at NCR Corporation:
- Find a career that lets you do what you love. Life is too precious to do anything else with the majority of your waking hours. Time is the one resource you can’t replace – once it’s gone, it’s gone. So, make sure your time is well spent on something worthy of this investment.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. And, remember that just about everything, in the overall scheme of things, is truly small stuff.
- Be fearless – but not reckless or arrogant. Know your stuff better than anyone else. Then move forward and execute with confidence.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun!
From Cindy Etherington, Vice President, Dell EMC Education Services at Dell:
- Be deliberate about cultivating your professional and personal network.
- Continuously identify and build relationships with people who inspire you and who you aspire to emulate.
- Balance your network with coaches, mentors and sponsors. Developing a treasured and valuable network takes time and effort. Dedicate time every month and hold yourself accountable to specific actions to sustain a healthy network.