The catalyst for writing this column was the snarky question, “Can Women Lead Other Women?” The answer for me is yes. I believe it requires women who are self-actualized, altruistic and authentic. Leading women is different from leading men. Just as the communication styles of each gender are diverse and their leadership development is divergent.
During my career, I’ve been fortunate to have three extraordinary leaders who mentored me and influenced my leadership philosophy. The first was Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association. The second was Karen Forgus, senior vice president of operations for the Cincinnati Reds. The third was Jane Wildman, retired global vice president of baby care for Procter & Gamble.
You might have noticed I used past tense and wrote “mentored” me. It’s because each of these women became a close and valued friend. In my world, friendship is way beyond mentoring. It’s a lifetime investment and 24/7 commitment.
When Native Iowan Susan K. Neely mentored me, I learned the value of calculated risk taking. She taught me, “Take action and apologize later.” Among her many ground-breaking career achievements, Susan was elected the first woman president of both the 100-year-old Washington Rotary Club and the 108-year-old University Club of Washington, D.C.
Karen Forgus is one of the highest-ranking and successful women in Major League Baseball. She taught me that positive thinking leads to positive results. Karen is extremely personable and her intellect hides behind a smile. I would gladly trade my professional skill sets for Karen’s unusual gift of deeply connecting with others.
A partner at The Partnering Group, Jane Wildman is an incredible business woman and individual. Jane is the retired vice president for global baby care as the Pampers Global Marketing/Brand Franchise leader. This role included leading the global marketing for P&G’s largest brand, Pampers, in over 90 countries. During her tenure, the business doubled from $4 to $8 billion. Jane taught me how to handle difficult people. My favorite coaching from Jane was the phrase: “Did you really think [insert name] was going to change today?”
I owe so much to Susan, Karen and Jane. They helped shape my thinking, decision-making and leadership philosophy. But not everyone has a trio of women as talented as these individuals. That’s why, I wanted to mention the “Iowa Women’s Leadership Conference” (IWLC) taking place in Coralville on Tuesday, April 23. While the main event is sold-out, seats remain for the pre-conference workshops.
According to IWLC Executive Director Diane Ramsey, this event began in 2007 to address a serious opportunity gap. “Women in Iowa, at all levels in their careers and from all walks of life, needed access to more ways to learn about effective leadership, to strengthen their own leadership skills, and to network with other women seeking to become better leaders in their lives, careers, and communities,” explained Ramsey.
Two central Iowans serve on the IWLC Board of Directors, they include: Angel West – secretary shareholder, Nyemaster Goode and Hannah M. Rogers, counsel in the Legal Department at The Principal Financial Group.
This year’s IWLC main event may be sold out, but it reinforces that mentoring women and understanding how differences in gender affect leadership are year-round topics.
Mentoring and developing female leaders requires individual initiative and organizational focus. So let’s keep these discussions alive. In doing so, we’re helping the next generation of “Susans,” “Karens” and “Janes” make a difference in business and society as a whole.
Last week, I was visiting with an energy executive about his thoughts on leading others. First, we discussed leveraging assessment tools that accurately predict workplace behavior. These are tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or the Predictive Index System.
Using these type of tools, some leaders gain in-depth understanding of their team members’ strengths and weaknesses. This understanding helps them manage the behaviors and performances of employees. For instance, they may want to assign a complex, fast-moving project to “Team Member A” who is strategic and decisive rather than “Team Member B” who does best with structured activities having clearly defined deadlines.
Then, our topic moved on to ensuring that diversity of thought occurs in strategic planning sessions. The energy executive said these sessions are more effective and certainly more interesting, if you invite people with different perspectives, skill levels and varying approaches.
But, it was our last subject that really surprised me. We talked about leaders who are high achievers and legitimately experts in their industries, yet personally they feel like imposters. Dr. Gail Matthews from the Dominican College in California estimates that approximately 70 percent of all people have suffered from “Imposter Syndrome” at one time or another in their careers.
Individuals who suffer from the Imposter Syndrome display the following behaviors*: Difficulty accepting praise as being genuine; feeling that peers with the same responsibilities are somehow more qualified or better at their jobs; afraid of new responsibilities or challenges because they’re afraid of failure; abnormal reaction to constructive criticism; and anxiety over others “seeing through” their lack of ability.
This subject is gaining buzz among both men and women. In fact, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg covered the Imposter Syndrome concept in her recently released book, Lean In.
Another author, Dr. Valerie Young, offered a few suggestions in Fast Company magazine on “how to” manage the Imposter Syndrome. She encourages people to try to keep track of what triggers their Imposter Syndrome. Then, learn to identify those thoughts and actions as not being based in reality.
Another thing to do when a person feels like a fraud is find trusted business colleagues who can help him or her work through the negative internal dialogue. Dr. Young also suggested instead of dwelling on situations that turned out badly, think about how to do things differently if faced with them again. Focus on positive future changes rather than past negatives.
The Imposter Syndrome is a fascinating topic. I certainly didn’t anticipate it coming up during a discussion on leadership. Yet, if 70 percent of people have suffered from this condition during their careers, it’s a worthy subject to bring up or increase awareness among business leaders.
*SOURCE: Fast Company magazine
Gut-wrenching incidents in the workplace happen when you least expect them. Everything seems normal. You wake up in the morning and mentally skim your list of priorities. Then, you drive to the office, abstractly thinking about the day’s meetings or projects.
Upon arriving at work, you pleasantly greet your colleagues and gear up to begin your day. But what you don’t know is this day is anything but normal. This day is wrought with emotional circumstances. This day will demand your very best leadership and empathy.
What if that day kicked off with one of your team members being held hostage overnight by an abusive boyfriend who threatened to kill her?
Or how would you handle a day in which a team member went home the previous evening and found her spouse unexpectedly deceased?
What if an employee asked to privately meet with you and shared that the love of his life has a terminal disease? He’s not sure if it’s even possible for him to keep working right now.
What would you do? How would you react?
Believe it or not, these incidents happened during my career. It was important for me to help each person through his or her personal crisis while at the same time providing a normal work environment for others. It was a delicate, but necessary balance.
Leadership during tragic circumstances is very personal and surreal. You must be compassionate and competent.
You must be empathetic and effective. You are concurrently a human being sensitive to the suffering around you and a leader charged with keeping the business going.
That is why you should mentally prepare yourself every day to succeed. First, succeed as a person and then as a leader.
A few weeks ago, I received a pleasant note on Linked In from Global IT Executive Randy Wadle who is a world traveler and marathon runner. He also is the sole owner of Strategic IT Consulting.
Randy is a talented individual who effortlessly blends IT knowledge and business acumen to benefit a wide range of organizations. In his case, Randy’s career spanned Aviva, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Maytag Corporation. (Our paths first crossed when we both worked at Aviva.)
Technology always has intrigued me. So when Randy and I reconnected, it seemed only natural to pick his mind about how technology is impacting business today. Randy was thoughtful. Then, he began sharing how changes in approaches to technology increase the speed at which businesses can respond and level the playing field for entrants in many industries.
“The availability of cloud-based software and consumerization of technology makes it easier for large companies to try new things and smaller businesses to have some of the same capabilities as big corporations,” explained Randy.
“Specifically, in the last five years, the availability of software such as Office 365, cloud-based SharePoint and software as service products such as Salesforce.com and even Enterprise Resource Planning has made a big difference for companies of all sizes.
“In the past, it could take weeks to months to purchase a server, add a core operating system and load and configure application software. Now with the availability of new software and using a cloud provider infrastructure as a service, it’s possible to be up and running in 30 minutes.
“Cloud-based software is a fraction of the cost and can be implemented more quickly than the traditional cost of a capital investment in technology. It is analogous to being able to pay by the drink versus having to stock a whole bar.”
Randy went on to say that software is being used to help IT and business leaders understand the marketplace on a deeper level. “Many times, new software engages people not only throughout the organization, but throughout the market. It is encouraging flexibility, innovation and integration across the workplace.”
As our time drew to an end, I asked Randy, “What are three questions that CEOs or entrepreneurs should ask themselves when considering the implications of changes in approaches to technology.”
He replied, “Ask yourself, ‘how knowledgeable is my IT and business leadership in this space?’ Then, consider whether your IT department and business unit heads are working together to assure its fit to business purpose and integration. Lastly, does your finance department understand how to take full advantage of moving from fixed expenses such as buying multiple licenses and servers to provide greater opportunity to flex with variables in your environment?’”
When our conversation concluded, my first thought was: “Randy was the same dynamic individual that I remembered from Aviva.” My second thought was: “Thank goodness for Linked In, how can I bring his depth of expertise and experience to benefit others?”
Nearly a decade ago, my husband and I went to a car dealership to purchase a vehicle for me. I knew the exact model, accessories, color and budget to meet my needs. This was a result of my online research, conversations with family and friends along with test-driving several different brands. When we walked into the showroom to negotiate a sale, I was excited. My checkbook was in hand and all that remained was negotiating the price.
So what happened? First, the salesperson greeted my husband and asked for his name while briefly shaking my hand. Next, he steered my husband over to look at the latest car models. Then, as my husband and I emphasized that the vehicle would be for me, surprisingly, the salesperson kept “selling” my husband and ignoring my presence. Needless to say, the dealership did not land my business.
Perhaps my car-buying experience would have been different if that person knew the following facts: Women buy more than half of the new cars in the U.S. and influence 80 percent of all car purchases; women control over $20 trillion in world-wide spending; and women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases.
Tapping into the women’s market is relatively easy. I’ve spent nearly half my career specializing in marketing to women. During that time, I’ve seen hard-hitting research, successful case studies, effective product development, game-changing customer service and ongoing marketing to this unique segment.
For CEOs or others who hope to have women as loyal customers, I wanted to share three considerations. Your number one priority should be establishing and maintaining a conversation with women. Women are highly engaged in their purchasing decisions. So it’s critical to provide them with multiple opportunities to interact with your company and products.
Women also are connectors. They connect with brands that are meaningful. They connect with each other by sharing stories about great customer service or poor experiences. That’s why companies that know how to “connect” with women are able to grow their customer base.
Lastly, women comprise a special community within the marketing world. This community spans different ethnicities, geographical locations, income levels, etc. They are diverse as individuals. However as a community, women are powerfully aware of how companies treat them, products developed with them in mind and messages created for them. Smart marketers understand this concept of community and harness its power.
The women’s market does not require female salespeople, special pink products or entirely new outreach efforts. It just requires a strategic decision to align business activities around the wives, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and other women who account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases.
Shortly after my arrival at the Iowa Lottery Headquarters, CEO Terry Rich warmly shook my hand and we casually walked to a conference room. For the next half hour, our conversation focused on creativity and innovation in the workplace.
Terry’s reputation for creativeness was launched in the early 1980s when the town leaders of Cooper, Iowa, (population 50) called their native son. They invited Terry back for their Centennial celebration. The town leaders said he was Cooper’s most famous person.
Right away, Terry joked and said “Well that’s why we need to adopt somebody else. We need to reach out to some ‘real’ famous people and adopt someone as our 51st citizen.” That’s when Terry wrote a news release and sent it to 44 media outlets.
At first, it was disappointing because 43 of the 44 news organizations declined to run the story. But, finally, one national wire service broke the story. As a result, the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” called Terry to invite him along with two others to be on the program. Johnny Carson had agreed to become the 51st citizen of Cooper.
For Terry, appearing on the Tonight Show was just the beginning of putting his creative juices to work for the betterment of others. He later went on to hit creative home runs at a variety of organizations including the Blank Park Zoo.
With that in mind, I wanted to know the secret to Terry’s creativity and his passion for innovation. What was his philosophy? Terry leaned back in his chair and began sharing his thoughts.
“I truly believe innovation is creativity put into practice. You have to take risks and learn from your failures. If an idea fails, you’ve finally taken the appropriate risk,” said Terry. “At the Iowa Lottery, I encourage people to be innovative. People need to know it is okay to dare to dream, dare to act and the role that failure plays in innovation. It’s important to me that everyone can give ideas and they are considered.
“That’s why I started putting ‘COT’ in my email subject lines to employees. COT stands for ‘Consider or Toss.’ Too many times, when people receive an email suggestion from their CEO then they immediately jump into action without considering alternatives. Iowa Lottery employees know when they receive an email from me with COT in the subject line that it’s merely an idea or suggestion. They are empowered to consider other options or simply toss the message. It’s that freedom to embrace or decline an idea that helps drive innovation in our workplace,” stated Terry.
We’re lucky to have Terry as a CEO in central Iowa. Just as athletes have a deep passion for their sports, he has a deep passion for innovation. It is a cornerstone of Terry’s business drive and a core element of his personality.
As a public relations professional, I was glued to the endless news coverage about Carnival Cruise Lines’ 4,200 passengers on the smelly, germ-infested and disabled “Triumph” ship. I saw passengers build a “tent city” on the upper deck. I heard how they survived on cucumber and onion sandwiches. I felt their anxiety to be reunited with loved ones. I celebrated their victorious return to shore.
Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
I thought about Mr. Buffet’s quote when pondering the cruise line’s missed opportunities. For instance, Carnival Cruise Lines could have earned the Triumph passengers’ hearts and minds for life through outstanding customer service. They could have bonded with the passengers’ families by offering them an extraordinary level of support. They could have been a leader in the industry through flawless execution of crisis communications. However, in the end, their corporate reputation was buried at sea.
The Triumph cruise incident gave me a strange sense of camaraderie with its passengers. I wished Carnival Cruise Lines would have done things differently a long time ago. My one and only Carnival Cruise experience also was filled with missed opportunities during a time of need. (Please know our voyage significantly pales in comparison with the Triumph cruise. Yet, it resulted in strong feelings of disappointment and distrust in the world’s largest cruise line.)
In the fall of 1996, my husband, Jeff, and I joined his family on a Carnival Cruise ship for his brother’s destination wedding. It was a seven-day cruise. We were looking forward to visiting exotic ports, relaxing on the ship and spending time with family members.
Instead, Jeff experienced Salmonella poisoning from a tainted meal on the cruise ship. The sickness confined him to our cabin for four days and he missed the wedding.
Despite repeated requests for help, the Carnival Cruise staff did nothing. The ship’s doctor refused to see Jeff or confirm an appointment. Instead, the nurse endlessly shared tips on how to weather sea sickness.
Jeff was seriously ill. As soon as we returned to the United States, Jeff visited his physician who diagnosed Salmonella poisoning. Post-voyage outreach to Carnival Cruise Lines about our experience fell on deaf ears.
Now, 17 years later, the Huggins family maintains two strict rules. No matter what – don’t be a passenger on Carnival Cruise Lines – and never order chicken while on a sea voyage.
When the Iowa Legislature is underway, we carefully follow the Governor’s priorities, partisan politics and controversial issues on a daily basis. Yet, we rarely hear about the lobbyists and their work in silently driving the life or death of legislation.
That’s why I recently visited with Dave Scott who is a multi-client lobbyist representing the interests of trucking, engineering, construction, transportation, tobacco and oil. For more than 30 years, Dave has navigated the intricacies within Iowa’s legislative process.
What is lobbying? What really happens during a legislative session? What is the value in hiring a lobbyist? Dave and I explored these questions. It was an intriguing conversation and I wanted to share the following few excerpts with you.
“Iowa legislators do not have year-round staffers to delve into each bill and every issue of interest,” explained Dave. “They depend upon industry experts, department liaisons and lobbyists to share the pros and cons of legislation.”
While the House and Senate have limited research staffs, often times the researchers are faced with short deadlines on complex issues. According to Dave, in a 110-day session, there may be 600 to 700 bills introduced along with nearly 2,000 amendments.
“Bills can be complex. It’s important that legislators understand the realities and the impact each bill has on individuals, communities and businesses,” said Dave. “After all, ultimately it’s up to our elected officials to sort out the competing interests and determine what is best for Iowans. They push the voting buttons and answer to the public”
He went on to say, “For long-term lobbyists, it’s not unusual for legislators and their staffs to seek opinions or resources to understand the impact of a particular bill. The lobby, as a whole, helps present both sides of an issue, and that’s extremely important.
“Lobbyists help legislators with the nuances of issues and they often find a champion for bills. During the session, it is a cumbersome and time-consuming process involving committee meetings, subcommittee meetings, daily bill packets and study bills.”
As our conversation drew to an end, it was clear to me: Lobbyists are vital brokers of information and their personal credibility determines their value. They are paid advocates, yet conscientious individuals. Lobbyists truly are the creative artists within an intricate process that we call democracy.
One sunny Tuesday morning in 2010, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet visited the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He brought with him a message of optimism peppered with accountability toward humanity.
As I was sitting in the full-capacity audience (comprised of several thousand of my “closest friends”), it dawned on me that the Dalai Lama would have made a great CEO.
What if the Dalai Lama had chosen to be a CEO instead of serving both as the head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet? Just imagine what the world’s business titans might have learned from Tenzin Gyatso.
Considering his keen intellect, natural curiosity and humility, I believe Tenzin Gyatso would have significantly redefined Corporate America. This transformation would have been a result of the Dalai Lama’s ongoing emphasis on being compassionate, establishing harmony and driving to learn. Just consider these three lessons conveyed by the Dalai Lama during his trip to America’s Heartland.
Lesson #1 – Compassion Can a CEO be compassionate? The Dalai Lama certainly thought so. He believed having common experiences and using our common sense makes each of us more compassionate. During his UNI speech, the Dalai Lama stated “when we appreciate others above ourselves it provides a strong sense of confidence that leads to imagination and vision for those individuals. Therefore, being altruistic is the real power and serves as the foundation of knowledge in life.”
Lesson #2 – Harmony (Mutual Respect) How does a CEO bring harmony into the workplace and make it part of the corporate culture? According to the Dalai Lama, harmony is built upon mutual respect and mutual admiration. It also means being a strong proponent of embracing different viewpoints. He emphasized such viewpoints have a special richness because different or contradictory philosophies teach us valuable lessons. The Dalai Lama shared “offering just one philosophy won’t work in life because it doesn’t suit different people. Humanity needs different philosophies. We also need common experiences and common sense.”
Lesson #3 – Learning is like a Lamp Does a CEO have to know everything? Not necessarily if you consider “Lesson #3” from the Dalai Lama. When asked about the value of education, the Dalai Lama responded: “Learning is like a lamp…it is the best kind of wealth and an utterly reliable friend. Knowledge is a friend that never changes when your fortune goes down.” And then he chuckled. “Knowledge is most precious. However, knowledge alone will not bring inner peace. Education alone is no guarantee to bring happiness to self or the community.”
As the crowd expectantly leaned forward in their chairs hoping to learn the meaning of life, the Dalai Lama warmly smiled and concluded by stating, “Then, what do we need? We need a sense of responsibility and oneness for humanity.“
If you’re still skeptical or wondering whether Tenzin Gyatso would have made an exceptional FORTUNE 100 CEO, let’s consider his earlier quote, “Being altruistic is the real power and serves as the foundation of knowledge in life.”
Based upon that one thought, let’s be just a bit more powerful and knowledgeable in our lives. Who knows, maybe one of us might be the next transformational FORTUNE 100 CEO.
Sometimes, a reflective mood hits me and I want to go somewhere “where everyone knows my name.” As a baby boomer, it’s a malady known as lingering “Cheers Syndrome.” The only known cure is walking into a favorite place and immediately being greeted by name. (If the person shouting your name is Sam or Woody, consider yourself permanently healed.)
- In central Iowa, my personal “Cheers” establishment is WineStyles which is nestled in West Glen. WineStyles is a national wine boutique franchise. It has a warm, inviting atmosphere and some of the friendliest folks around. Two of those WineStyles people are Bryan and Andrea McGinness.
“We visited our first WineStyles in 2005 and fell in love with the concept of demystifying the wine buying experience. From there, we launched our initial store in West Glen and it quickly moved to the top within the franchise organization,” explained Bryan.
“When former WineStyles CEO Robert Spuck decided to retire in 2012, he approached Andrea and me about purchasing the entire national franchise. He felt we had the passion and winning desire to grow the company. We were excited about the opportunity and it has proven to be a profitable, recession-proof business.”
It’s easy to see how WineStyles in West Glen has achieved double digit growth every year since 2006. CEO Bryan and COO Andrea grew their business through unwavering passion, smart business strategies and a strong work ethic. They also invited Bryan’s brother (Jeff McGinness) to join the business as general counsel and chief compliance officer.
When asked about what makes WineStyles different, Bryan smiled and said, “We offer the only wine club with a club house. There are a lot of wine clubs across the U.S. that ship wines to their customers. However, at WineStyles, our stores have a distinctly warm feeling when you walk inside. We encourage people to taste, learn and enjoy wines as well as beers, chocolates and cheeses.”
Right now, 50 WineStyles stores can be found across the country located in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, California, Illinois and Iowa, to name just a few states.
It was fun listening to Bryan discuss his transition from franchisee to franchise owner. As I left WineStyles, two thoughts popped into my head. First, entrepreneurialism is alive and well in Iowa. Second, I have to get back soon to try out the latest chocolates and cheeses, and okay, perhaps a glass of wine too.