Today is a day that resonates, at many different levels, with men and women across the globe: International Women’s Day. It’s a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
This day feels especially pertinent to me this year. In these three short months of 2017, I’ve been jolted to reflect on and recognize the amazing people that inspire me, many of whom happen to be women: my mother, my colleagues, my friends, U.S. Congresswomen, Malala Yousafzai, Ellen DeGeneres and individuals in the BetterWorks client base.
That’s right—I looped my mom, Ellen DeGeneres and BetterWorks customers into the same group of courageous women I’m empowered by.
Many of these incredible leaders we work with wouldn’t have reached where they are without the support, radical candor and mentorship from others. So, I thought what better gift to give on a day dedicated to women than advice from some of the most successful women in their industries?
Read on for their powerful insight:
Bhavna Dave, VP of Talent, Frontpoint:
“Focus is the best way to balance personal life and achieving work goals. It has taken me time to figure this one out, two kids and a strong, growing career later. When you’re at work, focus on work; when you’re with your family, focus on your family. Set boundaries and allow for uninterrupted time with your family every day (or at least almost every day). This break can also invigorate you, fueling your own performance.”
Sharon Kaufman, Chief People Officer, GetWellNetwork:
“One of best pieces of advice I received was from a senior executive when I worked in the financial services industry. She sent an email to her leadership team one afternoon saying she had come across the following quote: “When you die, your inbox will still be full”. It’s been a reminder for me in the 20 years since that email that there will always be more to do, always another item on the to-do list. So, you have to learn how to prioritize, how to say no, and not to lose sight that there’s more to life than working all the time.”
Pam Poisson, CFO and Senior Vice President of Operations, American Wind Energy Association:
“Trust yourself and get your message across effectively: Be appropriately commanding in discussions. Be concise, don’t apologize, don’t hem and haw. Ensure your delivery, posture and use of physical space clearly convey you are an equal — lower your pitch, up your volume and take up some room at the table! If someone co-opts your point, jump on that opportunity to note you’re glad they agree with you, then expand on your idea. Bottom line? You are in your role because you are very good at what you do, so act accordingly.”
Shari Stier, Vice President of Global Human Resources, Pact World:
“I always had to navigate leaving a full-time job early to pick up my kids. Or better said, I had to leave on time but it felt early. Do it with pride; never sneak out. Say good-bye. Don’t feel badly or apologize for being a working mom.”
Michelle Wagner, Senior Vice President of People, Evernote:
“Experience matters. Someone once told me that I was “immature”— I was crushed. I was also 24, a first time manager, and not experienced enough to know that she meant I just needed more practice which only comes with time. Experience doesn’t mean checking a box on an action item, it means truly understanding the journey of the experience, being prepared to fail and learn again and being prepared to have that learning fail you in the future – being agile enough to adjust course and not give up, all while being focused on your ultimate goal. This also encouraged me to try new things, get creative about how to accomplish goals and not be limited by how things have always been done.”
Kelly Buchanan, VP of People, Revinate:
““You are magical and divergent”— One of the best managers I’ve ever had articulated this sentiment to me a few key times over the two years we worked together. What was so powerful about it is that she saw and communicated to me what she thought was truly special about me and the way I worked. When someone really “sees” you and appreciates you, at the most fundamental level, it creates a sense of confidence and possibility that is the most inspired way to work. So what I learned is #1— to really appreciate and value and trust my own unique strengths — especially when you find yourself in a storm of people or projects that get you down; and #2 — as a leader, to proactively tell the people you value the most how much you value them and why. It is so easy to get caught up in busywork and meetings and trying to be ‘productive’ and we often miss the opportunities to really articulate what we value about each other — which is not just a ‘nice thing to do’ — but a way to amplify engagement, productivity, and trust.”
Penny DeFrank, VP of People, Marqeta, Inc:
“If I could rewind my career, I would devote more time earlier in my life to proactively mentoring and coaching others (men and women alike). I spend a lot of time doing so now with friends, former peers and direct reports and find it deeply rewarding; I just waited until later in my career to make other people a priority. You learn over time that not only is it a gift to be able to contribute to another’s career and life blossoming, but if you pay attention, you get as much (or more) than you give. Essentially, my passion is to share what you can only learn by doing; no classroom or case study can teach you the things I find the most valuable around developing meaningful and lasting personal connections and the impact those relationships can have on both personal and professional success.”
Kate Hyatt, Human Capital Executive, Healthgrades:
“The ability to adapt is going to get you far. That holds true to people of all generations and we should be sensitive to how others communicate and work. My millennial children used to get frustrated with my tech skills but I recognized this gap and attempted to learn. Proven by the fact that I communicated with my son over Snapchat for a year when he lived abroad!”
Haley Barrile, Head of Customer Success, BetterWorks:
“Women are notoriously hard on themselves. Be conscious of your inner voice and the role it plays in your professional life. The same voice that makes you doubt the way your butt looks in jeans may be undermining your self worth at work. Become aware of your inner voice, and the times when it is doubtful and discouraging. Reprogram it to become your biggest champion. Yes, what you have to say IS interesting. Yes, you really DO deserve that new opportunity!”
The best advice I ever received was to stay true to my leadership style. If you know me, you know I’m a sincerely empathetic person and years ago I thought that was a trait that would limit my career trajectory. I made the assumption that to level-up I would need to be detached and distant. Instead, I’ve let empathy become my style, which I now own unapologetically.
I hope you can leverage the advice of these incredible women like I did to help you succeed in your own ways—and Happy International Women’s Day!