Volume 5, Issue 2 – April 2004
Institute for Women’s Leadership eNews
Welcome to IWL’s eNews designed to inform and inspire you about the progress of our global leadership community and commitments.
1) Alumni Profile
Toni Riccardi – PricewaterhouseCoopers
My team and I have definitely benefited most from the concept of context . It provides a great framework for analyzing one’s thoughts and approach to things. It’s also great for understanding the framework others bring so you can meet people where they are to develop an appropriate approach to each person.
For instance, in the US, many people still think of diversity as something you HAVE to do and something apart from the business. The context my team members and I share is that diversity is PART of business and critical to the sustainability of our firm. All we really have to offer is the intellectual capital of our people.
2) Coach’s Column – Successfully Navigating ‘Difficult’ Conversations
by Heather Hinrichs
” Have you ever faced what you considered to be a difficult conversation? You know, times when you were giving critical feedback, asking for more money, time or resources, voicing a disagreement or confronting a friend, partner or colleague?
A leader’s ability to communicate effectively is crucial to navigating difficult conversations successfully.” More.
3) Coaching Success *NEW*
When Susan McConkey joined Women Leading Change (WLC) in November 1999, it was during low ebb for her. Susan felt she’d hit a roadblock as to where to go next in her career and her life. Before WLC, she’d been contemplating leaving Compaq.
Afterwards, with new-found clarity and purpose, she decided to look for a new position within Compaq that would make better use of her interests and talents. From being an engineering manager on a debugging product she moved into a program management position within the New Opportunities Solutions Engineering team, where the focus was on a new initiative called zero latency enterprise (ZLE).
The ZLE initiative provided Compaq’s large customers with a real-time view of their businesses. Over the next four years, and through the very high-profile merger of HP and Compaq, the division and Susan experienced great success branching outwith the ZLE framework into the supply chain world in addition to retail and telecommunications markets.
In the late summer of 2003, Susan was successful AND exhausted. It was time to evaluate her career once again. “I was being very successful with my work but wanted to change the way I was approaching it,” Susan explained. “I was ‘pathologically’ a workaholic.” In the autumn of 2003 Susan requested a five week leave without pay and requested that the company fund her to take Women Leading Change again. Some of her friends thought she was crazy. “It was a difficult time economically and they thought I was risking too much by taking a leave at that time.”
As it turned out, the leave and taking WLC again were some of the most important things she’s done in her career, according to Susan. “I needed a new model for myself, one where I could be successful without burning out. I adopted Rayona’s model of ‘success with grace and ease’ as my own.”
Susan felt she needed on-going post-WLC coaching to fully integrate her new approach to work. She’d connected with an IWL coach, Lesly Higgins, during a pre-course call and felt they really ‘clicked.’ For Susan, working with a coach was a natural extension of her time off. She realized she could really benefit from having additional support to stay on track.
“Talking things through with Lesly helps me manage my energy level. I realized I needed to expand my network of support. I also proposed to my management that I get more involved with sales and become more connected with our customers.” Since then, someone else has stepped up to help take on the day-to-day focus, while Susan’s been working with sales and customers directly. “It’s been quite a journey,” reflected, Susan.
One of the benefits of WLC and coaching was that Susan realized how much of a partnership she now has with her own manager. “I asked my boss what had made the difference that allowed our relationship to grow and change,’ said Susan. “My boss told me that a defining moment for her was when I took a stand for myself and requested the time off. She knew I was successful and she knew I was burned out. What she didn’t know was how to help me . When I took a stand for myself my boss took it as a sign of my willingness to work things out. She said I gave her a way to help.”
Lesly, Susan’s coach, has helped her frame the context of conversations she’s having with third-party supply chain software suppliers. Once she was clear what she was looking for from the suppliers, the meetings went splendidly. “A coach isn’t mired in details,” said Susan, “and Lesly’s fresh, non-judgmental view of what is going on helps me to see things that aren’t immediately obvious. Lesly also validates and helps me notice what’s changing in me. I feel completely at ease talking about things with her whether or not they are going well.”
“Everything’s so different now. Even on hard days I’m very conscious of my energy level and whether I’m focused solely on the details. The way I do my job is different. I’m more in control of my own feelings and am not wound up and miserable . I’ve got my smile back. Before, I was working all the time. My life was work. Now that I’m clearer about what I’m doing, I don’t mind reading articles on supply chain at night if it will help me better connect with a customer the next day.”
Lesly Higgins, Susan’s coach, has been an IWL coach for the last year and a half. Coaching is a second career for Lesly. She spent 20 years in the high-tech industry ultimately holding senior positions within Charles Schwab and Commerce One. During her high-tech career Lesly was coached three times and all were transforming experiences. One coaching engagement provoked her to look within to see what she wanted her life to be about. “I saw a major misalignment,” relates Lesly. “Never a techie, I finally realized I was in a vocation that wasn’t meeting my overall goals of working with people.”
Lesly risked financial success by quitting a lucrative pre-IPO position and earned her masters degree in Organizational Development. Then she completed the New Ventures West coaching certification. For the last six years Lesly’s coached leaders in being effective and leading fulfilling lives. She’s never looked back on her career change with regret.
“This has been the most rewarding period of my life,” she enthused. I asked Lesly how it was that she became affiliated with IWL. “I see a real alignment between IWL’s and my approach. One of the things I notice is that Rayona emboldens women. One of my clients told me I do that, too. Rayona helps people get in touch with a power that was there but not tapped. That’s a huge area where we connect.”
And how was it for Lesly to work with Susan? Lesly felt a real connection with Susan from the WLC pre-course conversation. “We had made a similar journey,” said Lesly. “I encouraged her to use her time off to explore but not to try too hard to figure it all out. I encouraged her to let her thoughts percolate. During WLC, I could see that Susan was discovering a different way to be at work that allowed her to have more a strategic and fulfilling impact, and to live a more balanced and integrated life.”
“One of the things that makes Susan such a wonderful person to coach is that we’ve formed a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect. Susan is open and willing to explore anything. She embraces new ideas that may make her more effective. She’s always walking away with something from our conversations because she’s always open. Susan’s excelled at work because she did take a stand for herself. She acknowledged her burnout, gave herself a break, redefined her role and made it all happen. Every time we work together Susan’s gotten ‘bigger’ in the sense that she’s more able to see and to appreciate her own value in a variety of ways. It’s a pleasure to work with her.”
What tips do Susan and Lesly have for those who’d like coaching?
• Take a stand for yourself and the life you truly want to live. Everything flows from realizing your own value and that taking care of you actually benefits those around you.
• Be clear about the value you provide to your organization. If you’ve made significant contributions in your organization, know that. Balance the risk of how hard you push your request with the facts regarding your past contributions. Be confident and appropriate when requesting support for coaching.
• Give yourself the freedom to ask others for help. For Susan this was a new experience. Once she shifted her context she discovered lots of people willing to help. Being able to help Susan has actually inspired people around her.
• Get clear about what specifically you’d like to be coached about. For Susan it was to make a shift in her approach to her work that would expand and sustain her performance. The outcome has mutually benefited HP and Susan.
• Provide a specific context and outcome in your coaching relationship. Share with your management a register of accomplishments that will help tie together the benefits of your coaching relationship and good outcomes for your company.
IWL offers follow-on coaching for IWL alumni. Contact us if you’d like to participate.
A. News You Can Use
A new study released by Catalyst demonstrates that companies with a higher representation of women in senior management positions financially outperform companies with proportionally fewer women at the top. These findings support the business case for diversity, which asserts companies that recruit, retain, and advance women will have a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. More.
Shattering the myth that most businesswomen shun top-level leadership positions at work, a new survey finds that the majority of businesswomen want to be influential leaders in their workplace, with nearly half aspiring to the highest level of leadership in their organization. More.
Closing the Leadership Gap by Marie C. Wilson
Women comprise half of the U.S. population and workforce, yet they hold only 14% of seats in the U.S. Congress and 12.4% of Fortune 500 board positions. More embarrassingly, the United States ranks 60th in women’s participation in government, behind India and tied with Andorra. Wilson, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women and founder of the ‘Take Our Daughters to Work’ day, argues that the future could be a brighter place for all by “changing society from a system built on the labor of women to one led equally by their vision.”
C. Take Action
Learn about and support the National Women’s Health Network. It’s dedicated to improving the health of all women by developing and promoting a critical analysis of health issues in order to affect policy and support consumer decision-making. The Network aspires to a health care system that is guided by social justice and reflects the needs of diverse women.
5) A Note from Rayona
I’ve been watching the tiny little blossoms on the bulbs pop out and marveling at what a miracle is present when Mother Natures gives us the first signs of Spring. Imagine those crusty little bulbs buried under all that dirt, surviving torrential rains and freezing temperatures, and then one day these gorgeous, fragrant flowers burst out like popcorn. I’d like to share a metaphor of how this relates to me personally and my on-going discovery of what it takes to live a contextual leadership life.
While I never have thought of myself as a perfectionist I do have VERY high expectations of myself and others. When something goes ‘wrong’ at work, even little meaningless stuff, I generally get annoyed and have a ‘tizzy fit.’ While I generally try to keep my reactions to myself it spreads all over my team like a virus. They tend to get nervous or cautious about my mood and start questioning themselves about what they may have done wrong.
That is not an environment that I want for my team or me. When I took a closer look at what the prevailing context was that produced the outcome of ‘tizzy fits’ and disempowered team, I realized that it was something like“mistakes are bad and they shouldn’t happen.” Now of course I know better than to believe that mistakes are bad and they shouldn’t happen but left to my unconscious default context, that is what happens on my shift. This is like those crusty little bulbs of my true intentions buried under all that dirt, surviving torrential rains and freezing temperatures and years of habitual ‘tizzy fits.’
Having discovered the downside of that prevailing context, and the behavior and impact that it has, I chose to ‘trade up.’ My new context is “It’s just a hiccup on the road to excellence!” This gives me a whole new freedom to ‘be’ with breakdowns and not have ‘tizzy fits’ or dump them on my team. I’m very excited about the new possibilities and have asked my team to give me reminders about hiccups. I’m excited about blossoming as a better leader and giving my team a bigger field in which to make their contribution. Thank goodness that we all have the capacity to ‘trade up!’
As I mentioned in my last newsletter we are undergoing some very exciting staff changes in 2004 and in addition to the ones mentioned last issue, we are blessed to have Helen Waters on board as our new Director of Consulting Services. Helen comes to us with a stellar background in many business disciplines including finance, operations, and management consulting. Helen brings both a brilliant mind and a playful sense of humor to IWL so she fits into our culture very well and is a real hit with clients. Please feel free to contact Helen directly if you would like to know about our new and improved consulting services.
Another wonderful addition to our team is Jody daSilva. Jody is a very seasoned business leader and leadership trainer with many years and thousands of satisfied customers to her credit. Jody is training to be the first person to lead the Women Leading Change program without me and I couldn’t feel better about her capability. I will be co-leading with Jody for awhile but then she will lead solo as we wrap up 2004.
Jody and I will be co-presenting a session at the upcoming Women in Technology International (WITI) conferences throughout the US. The session is titled, ‘Transforming Your Future’ and will be conducted in Houston (May 5-6) San Jose (June 8-9) and Chicago (October 20-21). IWL alums will receive a special 5% individual discount to any of WITI’s conferences in 2004 if you notify our office in advance of registering.
IWL will also have a booth at the upcoming Professional Business Women of California (PBWC) conference on May 4th at Moscone Center in San Francisco . Please stop by to say hello and pick up your nametag star that identifies you as an IWL alumnae. We are always looking for ways to connect you with other alumni in hopes of being a resource for each other.
Our Women Leading Change (WLC) program will be breaking new ground in Alaska in late April. We have been hired by a large energy company to conduct an in-house program for their women employees as well as a few scholarships for some native Alaskan women. We hope to be there in time to witness the Northern Lights as well as the transformation of the community as it integrates the skills of Contextual Leadership.
Our Executives Leading Sustainable Change (ELSC) has received a great deal of publicity not only because it was the cover story on the award-winning San Jose Mercury News business section but it was picked up by the Knight-Ridder wire service and made appearances In major newspapers all over the US. We now have been approached by both a local and a national television news show to do a special segment on the leadership work with horses. Our WLC alumna and business colleague, Ariana Strozzi-Heckler, will be featured in this groundbreaking work of ‘equine education.’
We have been approached by the Centre for Business Dynamics School of Management, University of the Free State in South Africa which is in the process of establishing the ‘South African Women’s Leadership Institute.’ They are seeking expertise and collaboration from experts around the world specifically relating to training and are extremely impressed with what IWL has to offer. I’ll tell you more about this as it unfolds but at the very least we may be able to claim the presence of Contextual Leadership on yet another continent!
2004 promises to be the best year ever for IWL in so many ways. We are excited about the growth opportunities that await us as well as the ongoing privilege of being a resource to you and your organization. Please drop me a line and let me know what is new and exciting in your life and especially if there is any support you need in living a rich and rewarding life while you make the contribution you are destined to make.
With love and gratitude,
Institute for Women’s Leadership