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Newsletter----Leadership lessons for career women

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  • John G. Agno
    Leadership Lessons for Career Women The following Q&A is from an interview with Stacey Allaster, the chairwoman and C.E.O. of the Women s Tennis Association,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 25, 2011

      Leadership Lessons for Career Women

      The following Q&A is from an interview with Stacey Allaster, the chairwoman and C.E.O. of the Women’s Tennis Association, in The New York Times, July 24, 2011:

      Q. Talk about your "light-bulb moments."

      A. Because I’m competitive, I was all about results and all about winning.  I probably spent too much time in the beginning being focused on the endgame but not recognizing that, to win the match, you really need to take the time to nurture your team, energize your team and understand what motivates your team.  Not everyone is motivated the way I am.

      It doesn’t mean that I’m right and they’re wrong.  You can all have the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t have the people who really are energized and motivated to deliver, you won’t achieve success.

      I have a diversified team now, with a variety of different skills. We all don’t need to be the same, nor should we be the same. It’s about understanding what everybody needs to be motivated and successful.

      Q. So how do you do that?

      A. I think it’s about time and communication and style.  And during those moments when you’re under intense pressure, you dial it back.

      Q. What do you mean?

      A. You have to dial back the energy of the discussion and just be more reflective and patient.  I think I’m more self-aware. So if we’ve gone off track for some reason, the first place I’ll start is: Did I not set a clear direction?  Did someone not clearly understand what we were trying to achieve? Was I asking too much of the team or the individual?

      Do we have the right skill set to achieve that goal?  So I’m much more aware now of looking there first, versus immediately going to, “they didn’t deliver.”  I just think that, now that I’ve matured, I’m a much better communicator and far more aware of everyone around me and their needs, versus just being focused on getting the result.

      Q. What were some other important leadership lessons you’ve learned?

      A. Well, there’s probably a culmination of overcoming adversity and challenge through my whole life. To give you an example, I wasn’t the kid who had one paper route.  I had three paper routes. We needed money and I wanted to play sports and my mom provided everything for me, but there was a limit, so she said I had to earn some money to be able to play sports.  So there I was in the middle of a Canadian winter, schlepping around to 1,500 houses every week. In the winter months I used the sled, and in the summer months I used the wagon.

      I can remember achieving a lot in sports just with the sheer tenacity that I will win and I’ll overcome it. I’m on the smaller side, so people said to me, “You can’t play tennis.” So anybody can say that to me, but I’ll just prove them wrong. I’ve always found a way, whatever the challenge is.

      Q. What advice would you give to someone who’s about to move from chief operating officer to chief executive?

      A. I’ve had that experience. I thought I knew what the C.E.O. role was when I was a C.O.O., but as I prepared before the interview process, I engaged a C.E.O. coach. I can remember that in the early days of preparing, I said to the coach, “It’s a natural transition for me to go from C.O.O. to C.E.O.”

      She said: No, it’s not.  It’s not a natural transition.  In the operating role, you’re very focused on the day-to-day, the tactical, to get the job done.  At the C.E.O. level, you’re going to step back.  It’s going to be about strategy.  It’s going to be about your vision.  It’s going to be about values.  It’s going to be about people. It’s going to be about you making sure you’ve got the right course and the right team, and that they’re energized and motivated.  It’s an entirely different thought process.

      Leaning In: Women Taking Responsibility for Success
      Sheryl_sandberg In May, Sheryl Sandberg was most concerned with the futures of the graduating class at Barnard College.  "A key part of what Sheryl does in her life is helping people advance, to be seen and to be heard," David Fischer, who was her deputy at the Treasury Department, and has worked for her at Google and now at Facebook, says.

      Her Barnard graduation speech, delivered without notes but with the assistant of a professional coach who worked with Sandberg on honing her delivery, made familiar points about inadequate female representation in leadership positions, about the importance of a life partner to share responsibilities of the home, about "leaning in" and "do not leave before you leave."  Remember this, she said, "You are awesome."

      Sandberg went on, "Don't let your fears overwhelm your desire.  Let the barriers you face--and their will be barriers--be external, not internal.  Fortune does favor the bold.  I promise that you will never know what you're capable of unless you try.  You're going to walk off this stage today and you're going to start your adult life.  Start out by aiming high....Go home tonight and ask yourselves, What would I do if I weren't afraid?  And then go do it!  Congratulations."

      At Harvard, Sandberg had graduated first in the economics department.  At her Phi Beta Kappa induction, there were separate ceremonies for men and women.  At hers, a woman gave a speech called "Feeling Like a Fraud."  During the talk, Sandberg looked around the room and saw people nodding.  At every stage of her time in school, Sandberg thought, I really fooled them.  There was "zero chance," she concluded, that the men in the other room felt the same.

      Sandberg says she eventually realized that women, unlike men, encountered tradeoffs between success and likability.  The women had internalized self-doubt as a form of self-defense: people don't like women who boast about their achievements.  The solution, she began to think, lay with the women.  She blamed them more for their insecurities than she blamed men for their insensitivity or their sexism.

      Sister CEOs

      Sister CEOs Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Co.'s next chief executive, has long enjoyed useful career advice from younger sister Maggie Wilderotter.  She happens to be CEO of publicly traded Frontier Communications Corp. 

      Ms. Morrison, 57 years old, takes command of the food giant on Aug. 1, marking the first time that two sisters will run big U.S. public companies, according to Catalyst Inc., a nonprofit women's research group.
      Thirteen months apart, the sisters are the eldest of four daughters, all of whom became executives.
      Their father, an AT&T Inc. executive, talked to the girls about setting profit-margin goals while they were still in grade school.  Their mother taught them that ambition is a part of femininity.
      They listened well.  Ms. Wilderotter has run Frontier, a regional telecom company, since 2004. Ms. Morrison joined Campbell in 2003, after working for several food-industry behemoths. She was its top North American soup official before being named last fall as CEO Doug Conant's successor.

      The sisters helped each other throughout their careers, says Ms. Wilderotter. For instance, Ms. Wilderotter coached Ms. Morrison on landing her first corporate board seat. "I told her, 'Start smaller.  Don't go for a Fortune 500 board right out of the gate,''' Ms. Wilderotter recalls.

      Early on, while a finance manager for a cable TV services start-up in the 1980s, Ms. Wilderotter sought Denise's guidance before taking over the marketing department because her sibling then was a Nestle SA marketing executive. "She took me through how to do (a marketing plan) on a shoestring, " Ms. Wilderotter says.  Her employer soon won a dominant market share.

      The sisters have taken frequent six-miles walks since Campbell's announcement last fall, strolling quickly through neighborhoods near their homes in Princeton, N.J., and Darien, Conn. During those power walks, Ms. Wilderotter says she urged her sister to use different approaches in communicating with Campbell directors during her first year as CEO: monthly emails about business results, calls about key decisions such as geographic expansion and face-to-face sessions for personal feedback.

      Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2011

      Book cover"When Doing It All Won't Do: A self-coaching guide for career women" (Workbook Edition) by Barbara McEwen & John G. Agno, ISBN-10: 0983586527, ISBN-13: 9780983586524

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      "You and I do what many dream of, all their lives."
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