Monthly Archives: April 2017

High-Powered Women Share Their Secrets for Success

I probably don’t have to remind you of the statistics about women in high-level leadership positions in the U.S. (And if I do, let’s put it this way:They’re grim .) Most of the time, all you have to do is look around the C-suite of your company, and the picture will be all too clear.

But there are plenty of women who have made it to the top—and today, they’re sharing their secrets for success. To learn more about their journeys, their career paths, and the advice they’d share with others, I recently chatted with six of the most prominent leaders I know. If you’re aiming for the top , read on for their quick nuggets of wisdom on leadership.

Kathleen Tierney

Recruited out of college to work at Chubb Insurance, Kathleen Tierney learned very quickly that she could distinguish herself by volunteering for projects and initiating ideas. Her strategy paid off, and after working in many different business units, today she sits at the helm as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. She is also the first woman to run a business unit at the organization.

Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Leaders need people skills, organizational skills, and the ability to ask really good questions even when they don’t always have all the answers. Great leaders are able to see trends that others can’t, to see the big picture, to ask the pointed questions, to set the goal and get people to that common goal, and to celebrate successes or quickly rethink and retool.”

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

“There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or take a chance. Just take the moment—don’t let thoughts like ‘I don’t feel like I’m ready’ get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good.”

What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?

“If you make a mistake , own up, apologize, and move on—don’t ruminate. Appreciate feedback, and think, ‘What can I do with this?’ If you’re not making mistakes, you may not be doing something interesting.”

Nita Lowey

After a career in local activism, grassroots politics, and state and local government, Nita Lowey has served as a U.S. Congresswoman since 1989. She is the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and was the first woman of the Committee to lead either party.

Define a political leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

“Someone who’s effective in achieving priorities. An effective leader should also understand the unique ability elected officials have to influence policy that helps improve others’ everyday lives.”

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in politics?

“For women who are eager to enter into public service, I think they should keep in mind that women’s experiences as mothers, daughters, wives, and primary caretakers, as well as employees, businesswomen, and community leaders, often make us uniquely qualified to address through public service the issues facing our families.”

Reasons You Can’t Take Shortcuts on Your Path to Success

So, you’ve got a bunch of friends who keep getting promoted and landing awesome new jobs (with accompanying awesome titles) and you’re feeling like your career is falling behind. You just can’t stop asking yourself how you’ll ever catch up.

Remember that old story about the tortoise and the hare? Well, as someone who’s always been in a hurry to get to the next level, I’ve come to realize that slow and steady is actually a really great approach. There is simply no substitute for hard-earned experience if you truly want to be successful in your chosen field.

My career’s journeyed for over 20 years through the airline industry, the music business as it was imploding, sports footwear, apparel, and nutrition where I ended up as Global President of Gatorade, and finally my most recent role as President of Equinox, the leader in the fitness industry. I’ve had some amazing team successes on my journey that’ll forever take me to that happy place in my mind—and I’ve also had some epic, epic fails.

Yeah, I’m not talking the type of fail like when you mistakenly forward an email to a giant CC list and announce a crush on your co-worker to your entire company. Nope. I’m talking the kind of fails where you get fired, laid off, and lose your legal right to work in this country. My path is certainly not one that’s for the faint of heart!

And what I can say from my experience is that every time the big blundershappened, it was almost always when I had gotten ahead of my skis. Like when someone had promoted me to a big job with an even bigger title because I interviewed really well and came across as a smart thinker. But whenever that happened and someone had overlooked my lack of experience (no doubt because I had regaled them in the interview with my daaaaaarling Kiwi accent and my witty repartee)—that’s when I got into trouble.

Now don’t get me wrong , I don’t have any regrets. Because in the end, after lots of bumps and bruises, it’s all worked out. But what I do know to be true is that there’s no substitute for experience. You can’t jump the line of experience—you really need to get in there and do it to have the depth, resilience, and strength it really takes to be a powerhouse leader .

1. Depth Gives You Credibility

The higher up you get in an organization, the more people will look to you for assurance that you actually know what you’re doing. And here’s the truth: There’s going to be a lot of stuff that you’re asked to weigh in on that you actually don’t know much about and you’re going to feel really unsure of yourself a lot more than you’d like.

But if you have real depth in just one specific area—what one of my bosses used to call “your hit pocket skill”—then you’ll have one place in which you know you’re adding value to the team. And that’s where you will turn when you need a confidence boost.

This in turn will make you more comfortable to be more vulnerable and open to asking questions in the areas that are foreign to you. Leaders never have all of the answers, and one of the greatest traits of good managers is the willingness to acknowledge what they don’t know and ask for help . So, if you know you’re kicking ass and adding value because of your depth and expertise in one area, then you’re going to be far more likely to ask for help with your weaker bits. And that will make you far more well-rounded and less likely to have big, ugly blind spots that could drive your team into trouble.

2. The Power to Have Influence Comes From Real Experience

Leadership’s so much about your ability to influence others, especially with the pace of change in organizations today, and a major cultural shift away from “command and control” style leadership. Ultimately—even when you have a big title like President or Chief Something—people are not going to really follow you if you can’t inspire and influence them to do so. And it’s not just the folks that report to you—very often the toughest audiences are your peers or other stakeholders you need to get onboard with your team’s plan.

I’m a huge fan of Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Comformists Move the World . In it, he discusses his research around “power without status.”

“ When people sought to exert influence but lacked respect, others perceived them as difficult, coercive, and self serving. Since they haven’t earned our admiration, we don’t feel they have the right to tell us what to do, and we push back. 

It reiterates the fact that you really can’t influence people until you have had the experiences that earn you the right to do so.

I experienced this when I joined Equinox. Even though I came on board as the president of the company, I had this distinct feeling in my first year or so that people thought of me like a new season’s TV show. They might have DVR-ed me, but they hadn’t yet committed to watching because they didn’t know if I was going to be worthy of following!

So I spent time getting out into our field, working every position that I could in our clubs, from maintenance to front desk, to selling a membership and being a “floor trainer” handing out fresh towels to members. Not only did I have a blast, but by the time I came back to start thinking about the future of our company, I was so much more grounded in what really makes the business work. And, not surprisingly, employees were far more willing to give me input knowing that I had experienced the business properly.

3. You Need to Have the Courage of Your Convictions

To be a great leader, you have to be able to see a future that others are unable to see. And what that means is that you’re going to come up against weeks, months, and probably even years of conversations with people telling you all the reasons why your ideas won’t work. And let me tell you, it’s really freaking hard not to be affected by that. But if you have real depth of time and experience that enables you to see that future so clearly, you’ll have light years more resilience and drive to get to the future than if you don’t.

In my case, leading Gatorade from the world of sports drinks to the world of sports nutrition, or seeing Equinox as an “always on fitness lifestyle partner” instead of a gym—both of those experiences were hugely necessary in teaching me the grit required to drive innovation and change, and giving me the courage to launch my own business, EXTREMEYOU .

While I’ve had countless people tell me why this might not be for me—mostly because starting a business presents a very different set of challenges to revamping an existing one—I know the time is right for me to do this. With 20 years of experience under my belt, I have the mentors and relationships that provide the kind of moral support that’s hugely needed when you’re embarking upon something new and scary. And critically, I have legitimate subject matter depth on the topic of human potential, which is the area my business idea is focused on.
So, no matter where you are in your career: Remember that story of the tortoise and the hare. It’s important to keep feeling and encourage your restless desire to progress, but just remember, you can’t skip over the important experience steps if you want to really get the most out of your own potential in the long run.

How I Broke Into Entertainment: A Q&A With E! Anchor Catt Sadler

If you count down to the Oscars like it’s Christmas, pore over every page ofInStyle the day it comes out, and fill your DVR with every E! special known to man—well, Catt Sadler pretty much has your dream career. Acorrespondent and anchor for E! , she’s the host you see on E! News Weekend , E! specials, and all E! Live From the Red Carpet events.

But while her job is glamorous, the path to landing it wasn’t always. The “little girl from the farmlands of Indiana” got her start in a local news station in Indianapolis, and attributes her successful path to working tremendously hard, taking the time to learn the ins and outs of every part of the newsroom, and never letting the word “no” stop her.

Before you check Catt out on the red carpet this month , read on for her story on what it takes to break into broadcasting.

Catt, what did you want to do growing up?

To be honest, I always had a bit of the performing bug. I was in my school plays and when I was with my cousins, I was always creating scenes and directing everybody—that was our form of entertainment. Then when I got older (and I’m going to date myself here), when home video cameras became readily available, that’s when I fell in love with making videos and doing interviews. I would interview my friends and my family non-stop—I thought I was Barbara Walters, basically.

And that’s when I realized that I loved storytelling. But I was a little girl from the farmlands of Indiana—no one I knew was from the entertainment industry, so I didn’t even really gather that that was a career possibility until I got into college. That’s when journalism dawned on me , and that’s when the whole world opened up to me and when it became real that I could take my passion for arts and entertainment and storytelling and merge that with broadcasting.

I studied broadcast journalism, so I learned everything—writing, editing, producing, being on camera, doing stand-ups, interviewing subjects for my stories. I learned so much in college and during my internship at local news station Fox 59 in Indianapolis . That’s when it became really real to me what I wanted to do.

What was your first job in broadcasting?

I actually got my first job before I got my degree. While interning at Fox, there was a segment that aired on the 10 PM news, Youth Matters , which was targeted toward teenagers and young adults. It was a total break that the news director and producer gave me the opportunity to get involved with the segment. That was my first time on the air. So I was a part-time reporter while I was still finishing college—it was a dream come true and a massive learning experience.

About that time, I tried general assignment reporting, which meant covering fires and interviewing homicide detectives, a lot of doom and gloom, and that’s when I realized that this was not the kind of news that I wanted to do. I loved the arts, and fashion, and entertainment—so that’s where I decided to focus.

How did you get from Indiana to the entertainment capital of L.A.?

I was discovered, to be honest. When I was on the news in Indianapolis, I got a call from an agent at one of the most reputable firms in New York, and he told me—if fashion, arts, or entertainment is what you want to do, those jobs exist, they just don’t exist in Indiana. So we kind of orchestrated my career to get me out to the West Coast. My first full-time job was in San Francisco as an entertainment reporter. I was in there for four years, doing live shots, also anchoring, doing junkets in L.A. and New York, and interviewing celebrities for the first time.

Then I got married and had my first son, and I really wanted to get back to Indianapolis. So I moved back and took a year off, and then went back to local news for a while—but in entertainment, the arts, fashion, that kind of thing. In total, I worked in local news for about 10 years. And then, after I had my second son, I decided, OK, I want to go back to California. So I had the same agent, and I came out to L.A. and started to audition for various things. I got the job at The Daily 10 , which was the first show I hosted at E!, back in 2006.

Was your path the “typical path” into broadcasting?

I talk to so many girls who want to do this, and they ask me—what’s the right path? Do I go big market or small market? What’s the right way? And there really isn’t one answer, but I can say that there are benefits of doing local news. The grind, the early hours, the truly long hours, forcing yourself to know every level of making television, was so invaluable to this day. Knowing every part of what gets a show on the air, not just holding a microphone, is really, vitally important.

But I’ve heard so many different stories from so many different people—some people did the local news route, some people have always been in the big city, and some started on the internet .

That’s the thing that’s different today than when I got started. And I think it’s fantastic because people who want to break into hosting can. You don’t have to go hire a camera man from the local news station to go make a tape, you can do it on your iPhone! That said, the problem is that everybody and their brother is doing it, so the competition pool is ginormous!

Right! In some ways, it makes it easier to break in, and in some ways it makes the competition so much harder.

Exactly! And to combat that, my advice would be—and has always been to anyone doing this—is two things. One, is just to get habitual day-to-day practice. There is no other way to get really good at being on camera other than doing it over and over and over again. And that doesn’t mean you need to be on TV every day, but you should be in front of a camera. Looking at what you do, dissecting it, and figuring out how you can make it better, is so important. Experience is such an asset, and doing it over and over and over again is your biggest teacher. I mean, when I started, I was horrible!

The other thing that is important is being authentic and original—it is the only way to get noticed. There are a million and one copycats out there, and everyone’s trying to do the same thing, so you just have to find your authentic voice.

Why Women Must Ask (The Right Way)

Few Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA students would argue that Professor Margaret A. Neale is a powerful woman. At over six feel tall, even my male classmates would be intimidated to negotiate with her. And it’s not just because she often calls out students’ “sub-optimal” negotiation strategies in front of the whole class—it’s because she’s clearly a master negotiator .

Maggie, as her students know her, starts her two-week, highly sought-after Negotiation seminar by introducing people to the cost of not negotiating—which could be years of additional work to make the same salary as colleagues who negotiate. Unfortunately, women suffer the most from this—which is why Maggie spends much of her time outside of the MBA program, co-directing the Stanford GSB Executive Program for Women Leaders.

Personally, my most interesting moment in the class came when I was assigned to negotiate on behalf of constituents and I was able to play the mediator. It was also my best negotiated outcome of the semester, and that’s no coincidence—as I learned, women often do best in representative negotiations.

I recently sat down with Maggie in her Stanford office, me on a low chair in front of her packed desk, her towering over me on a blue medicine ball. Read on for the scoop on why women don’t ask—and what we can do to change that.

Why should women negotiate?

Linda Babcock did a study for her book Women Don’t Ask where she found that there was a 7.6% difference between the salaries that women MBAs were getting and those that men were getting. A lot had been written on the comparable work issue already and much of the blame for the difference had been placed on organizations—basically institutional sexism.

Linda doesn’t say that doesn’t happen, but she does ask if there is something more. One of the questions she asked people is, “When you got your offer, did you attempt to negotiate?” She found that about 7% of women attempted to negotiate, while 57% of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7%. So, you can see that if women and men negotiated in similar proportions, that 7.6% difference would be cut dramatically.

One of the things I ask my students is: If you think of a $100,000 salary, and one person negotiates and gets $107,000, and the other doesn’t—what’s the cost of that? In a simple-minded way, some people say, “Is $7,000 really worth risking my reputation over?” And I agree, $7,000 may not be worth your reputation.

But that’s not the correct analysis, because that $7,000 is compounded. If you and your counterpart who negotiated are treated identically by the company—you are given the same raises and promotions—35 years later, you will have to work eight more years to be as wealthy as your counterpart at retirement. Now, the question is: $7,000 may not be worth the risk, but how about eight years of your life?