Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
The comment stung.
“I found her to be self-promoting.”
Last fall, I presented at a women’s conference. My session topic was a favorite of mine: vision, encouraging women to create their own futures. Shortly after the conference I received the written evaluations from participants, and there it was. That comment. Ouch! It was like a dagger in the heart.
The comment brought me back to the work I’d done years ago with my own personal coach around the topic of being selfish and what that meant for me. Like many people I was raised to not talk about my accomplishments. And if I did, it wasn’t uncommon to hear my mom say, “Don’t break your hand patting yourself on your back Ginny.” And so I learned at a young age that it wasn’t okay to embrace my own successes.
During the women’s conference session, I did embrace my successes. I shared my own story of creating a 5-, 10- and 15-year vision and how that helped me to do the work I do today. I shared stories of women who participated in our Women in Leadership groups and the visions they created and accomplished.
Is it self-promoting to talk with others about our passions, to connect about how we’re working to make a difference? Is it selfish for us to focus on the reason that we’re on this planet?
As the sting of that “self-promoting” comment wore off, it made me think about my word for 2013.
As many of you know, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions because they don’t often lead to sustainable change. Instead, I pick a word for the year and make that my focus. I invite you to do the same by commenting your word for 2013 below. If you tell me your word, I promise to touch base with you throughout the year to see how it’s going.
I’m cheating a bit this year because I have two words: Purposeful Living.
My focus for 2013 is to continue living in accordance with my own purpose and to become even more diligent in helping others to live according to their purpose. It really does create a ripple effect. Think about the impact that you have not just on your co-workers, but also on your family when you are able to spend your day doing work that makes you feel alive. One of my recent MBA students said it well with these words in her final reflective paper: “Leadership can be defined in many different ways. Ultimately, I want to lead people, not with my title, but through my actions. I can’t do this unless I have a purpose and a vision. I wouldn’t start a road trip without a destination in mind, so why would I lead without a purpose.”
Success to me is helping others move closer to living in accordance with their life’s purpose. My own life purpose is to nurture and inspire others to reach for the stars. When I hear success stories from the men and women I am blessed to work with – whether those success stories are big or small – it reminds me that I’m doing the work I was put on this planet to do.
And I’m OK with promoting that.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go out and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Harold Whiteman
“The secret of success is not in doing your own work, but in recognizing the right person to do it.” Hasan Seleem (www.dirjournal.com)
It’s a big topic in our Management in Organizations class—either because people struggle with it personally or because they are the victim of others who struggle. What, you ask? Delegation—and managers who struggle to let go.
One of the first things that we talk about in class is the fact that the transition from individual contributor to being a first time manager is one of the most difficult transitions that happen in our work environments. That transition requires that you go from a role where you are primarily responsible for your own results, to a role where you are primarily responsible for helping others to be successful.
In our most recent quiz, I asked the students (all who are working full time while getting their MBAs) to talk about someone they believes struggles to delegate and what barrier(s) they think gets in the way. I also invited them to feel free and talk about themselves if they would like. Following is a sample of their responses. As you read them, I encourage you to decide if you fall into any of these categories.
“I have a manager that really struggles with delegation. She is always very busy (and often tells you so) but is unwilling to let go of some tasks. I think she struggles with letting go and giving up control because she things she can do it better than anyone else and is worried that if others take on these tasks, what will be left for her to do.”
“As an account manager, I struggle with turning over accounts to other account managers. I tend to elongate the transition period so that I can show the new manager how I do everything and expect them to do things the same way as I did. I do this because I believe that the way I do things is necessary to retain the account. However I need to realize that as long as the outcomes of account management are being met, the new manager is free to implement their own style.”
“Sometimes I struggle with delegation because I think it’s easier to complete myself or it will take more time to teach and explain it to someone else.”
“I am a horrible delegator (though I’m getting better). I often find myself with too much to do while my coworkers don’t have enough to do. I’m a class to-do hoarder. My biggest barrier is that I’m afraid to give up control over things I will later be accountable for. I’ve got an idea of what I want done but laying out my vision takes work that I don’t make time for. Ultimately I’m going to have to give up control.”
“I saw a manager that had a hard time delegating. He always thought it was faster and done better if he did it himself. He also had trouble letting go of control. As soon as someone deviated from his method, he jumped back in and took the task away again. He was not good at providing direction or providing support, and as such set his underlings up for failure, more often than not.”
“I’ve had a previous manager who only delegated to one or two people on the team because I believe he thought they were the only ones capable of handling the assignments. The manager would micromanage those individuals as well. I believe the manager made assumptions that since the people had more experience with the company they can handle a task better. Note—I and many others left his team as well. He did not have us engaged so we got bored.”
And yes, I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the idea. Did you see yourself in any of these examples? I hope not. But if you did, I recommend this website with steps, tips and a discussion of the real and perceived barriers to delegation.
It’s unique but it’s global. The differences are much less than you might imagine. During our Leadership and Personal development class in Italy, we heard the stories from two Italian leaders. As I sat and listened to both of them I was struck by the comparison in their messages with the leaders who have spoken to other MBA classes in the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. It really doesn’t matter where you are living and working; or where you’ve been raised. The messages are the same.
Marco Scippa, HR Director Imaging at Vitec Group talked about moving his family around—and the positive impact that those moves had on his family. He believes their quality of life was more interesting because they moved around. One of the things that I really appreciated about Marco’s message was his time in Moscow, Russia. Rather than live in the ex-pat village outside of Moscow, he and his family instead chose to live in Moscow, amongst the natives. They wanted to be immersed in the culture and the language. He said that his kids continue to be better at speaking Russian than he is!
Marco’s first message was that strong leaders capture the minds and hearts of their people.
Marco’s rules of leadership are:
- Be curious
- Get out of your comfort zone
- You must be able to communicate
- It is more important what we do than what we say
Our other speaker was Luca Semaniti. At the young age of 38, Luca is the Founder and co-Partner of Ideal Work, S.l.r. which provides products, tools and training for the Decorative concrete industry in the USA, Europe and Asia. Luca takes his definition of leadership from the landmark book, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. A leader is, “Someone who blends genuine personal humility with intense professional will. Somebody ambitious for the company and not for his Ego. Modest and wilful Shy and Fearless.”
“Early on, I didn’t want to be a leader, because I didn’t understand what leadership was really about. Leadership was a scary word for me.” He shared the five myths of leadership that he had to overcome:
- A leader is a Man
- A leader is POWERFUL and he knows what to do
- A leader has a BIG EGO
- A leader is a little bit arrogant
- A leader is a CHIEF
Luca talked about the importance of self-knowledge when it came to developing his leadership skills. He said the self knowledge was like someone said to him “Here is a box—you already have what you need to be a leader.”
Luca reinforced for the class that leadership is about our relationship with other people and our family. Like many other MBA speakers, he strongly encouraged the students to look for leadership experiences in other areas of their lives.
Thank you to Marco and Luca for sharing your stories with our students—and me. I am continually inspired by stories of people committed to their leadership journeys.
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Posted in Communication, Global Leaders, Leadership Advice, MBA Class, Self-Awareness | No Comments »
The following was written by an MBA student following our first full weekend of Leadership and Personal Development class:
“Absorbing the concepts from class, Ambassador Mary Kramer’s stories and previous lessons of life, leadership reminds me a bit of a trip to San Francisco I took a few years ago. Obviously the Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic image and landmark in San Francisco and even passers-through make an effort to see the giant structure. I wanted to see it as well so I made my way to Nob Hill, a well known neighborhood and then set out to find the famous bridge. The day I took this adventure, as many are in that area, was quite foggy so I couldn’t see the bridge from Nob Hill but I knew generally in what direction I needed to go. At first I could only make out the general impression of the bridge, almost like a shadow, as I descended the hills to the waterfront. Gradually though, the bridge became more and more visible and so did the ocean beyond. The closer and closer I got to that bridge, the more and more clear it became that the bridge was indescribably large and the expanse of ocean beyond was perhaps more magnificent. Leadership, to me is like that morning walk to the waterfront in San Francisco: the closer I got to my objective, the clearer it was that the objective was so much larger than a human can comprehend and the more the endlessness of the rolling ocean put my original objective into context.
I’m not sure I will (or anyone can) ever fully internalize a complete understanding of leadership. It’s probably not even worthwhile to try. When I finally got to the pedestrian access to the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided to study the cable supports and think about the engineering feats of that design. But I couldn’t possibly take in the entire structure, the span, the height, the roadways, the lighting, the views back to San Francisco and the inhuman scale in one brief visit. I think my application of leadership should be similar – purposeful but focused on a specific enough area of my personal life or career that I don’t get lost in fully understanding leadership when there is so much to be done once I apply what is relevant to me.
This, of course, is not to say that learning about leadership is a finite or terminable exercise that I should do once. I was reminded more in one weekend of this class than in any other setting over the past years that I have a passion and interest for lifetime learning. Leadership, to be certain, is something that I am interested in learning about and a skill I hope to develop. But I realize now that I have gone through cycles in my life, work life especially, where I have tried to understand and study leadership at the expense of putting anything I’ve learned into practice. I can now see that it would be far better for me to adopt a more cyclical pattern (maybe the Self-Directed Learning Model) of learning new leadership concepts, applying them in different areas of my life and then adjusting those efforts until they are comfortable and effective.”
By Michael Hass, U of Iowa MBA student, Spring 2012 Leadership class
Thank you, Michael, for letting me share your thoughts!
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Our University of Iowa MBA Leadership and Personal Development class was honored to hear from guest speaker Jim Israel last weekend. Jim is the President of John Deere Worldwide Financial Services Division. He shared his guidance for developing yourself, as a person and as a leader.
1. Get out of your comfort zone. Your success will be how effective you can rally your team. “To be a good leader you don’t have to be an expert. I see myself as the offensive line clearing the way for others to run and pass the ball.”
If you ever get the opportunity to do something new, do it. “If we make 100% of our decisions right, then we’re not making enough decisions—or taking enough risks.”
2. If you have a chance to do a global assignment, do it. The world is a lot more similar than it is different. Our customers and dealers have very similar desires and concerns. It is also great to see the United States through another country’s lens.
3. Set a clear vision for your organization. Jim talked about the power of aligning his division around a common vision. But creating that vision is only the first step. Then you have to motivate, align and inspire the organization. “And motivation isn’t about pom-poms. I have seen some soft-spoken leaders drive people to do great things.” (Jim also joked that he, however, isn’t one of the soft-spoken ones.)
4. Stay true to your own style. Do what your passionate about And have fun! “Going to work shouldn’t be drudgery. If you don’t go to work everyday excited about what you do, go somewhere else.”
5. Do things the right way. And make sure your “say-do” ration is 100%. “It is equally important how you accomplish something as what you accomplish. ”
6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You can’t over-communicate. You have to say things over and over. And people need different kinds of communication. “You also owe it to your people to talk about the bad news. People are afraid of what they don’t know. “ He talked about the credit crisis in 2008 and how they spent a great deal of time in straight talk with their people. Also, one of the most important parts of communication is listening. “Our greatest ideas come from people closest to our customers.”
7. Focus on developing talent. “The most important thing I do is get the right people in the right chairs.” Identify people who have potential and keep providing them with challenges. Stretch your high potential people. And remember for yourself not to focus on pay. “If you’re moving around alot, you’re going to be at the bottom of the pay grade a lot. Your pay will catch up with you. ”
8. Strive for work-life balance. Not only your own but for your people. “It used to be a badge of honor how many hours you worked.” But there are a lot of things in life you’ll never have the opportunity to get back. Work is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself, emotionally and physically. “I invite my grandkids to come and have lunch with me at work every couple of months.”
9. Give back to your community. Pay it forward.
Thanks Jim for these words and much more. And for providing a role model of authentic leadership for our class.
Posted in Balance, Communication, Global Leaders, Leadership Advice, Listening, MBA Class, Teams, Vision | 1 Comment »
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson
I’m not sure you can say that I write a “blog” when it has been two months since the last posting. I could say it is because I’ve been busy, but that would be an excuse. The truth is that I find myself wondering if something I write will be important enough to impact people’s thinking. Yes, this is ego at play. I find myself reading other writings and listening to other speakers and thinking, “wow, they have it together.”
And then I was introduced to the video link about everyday leadership and it has inspired me beyond words. In the past two weeks, I’ve shared the video with my MBA leadership class, our QC Leadership Academy and four of my Women in Leadership groups. In all cases, the results have made for engaging conversation about “lollipop moments” and yes, a few tears.
I encourage you not just to view this video, but to do two things. First, share it with others. And second, think about someone that has created a lollipop moment for you—and tell them about it.
Okay, one more request. Please share your moments with us in the comments section.
In teaching we learn…and in learning we teach. With his permission to share, following is a portion of a reflective paper written by a student in my UIowa MBA Leadership and Personal Development class.
I’m really intrigued by the concept of working towards becoming an Ideal Self. The idea interested me in our initial class discussions, but it became even more interesting during our class when we performed the “where-will-we-be-in-ten-years” visioning exercise. I closed my eyes, sat back in my chair, and I started to see my ideal future take shape before me. The family life was happy, content—similar to today only evolved ten years. What about the work portion of my vision? It was great too, but it was very different from what I do now.
I have a passion for both creativity and empowering people to think of unique solutions to problems. I have a passion for helping others learn how to help themselves. One of the problems with Corporate America as a whole is that we’ve become so process driven, we’ve taken some of the creativity and individuality out of jobs. As soon as leaders start treating people as ends to means instead of actual human beings, people become dehumanized and demoralized. Ironically, if we take away a person’s ability to think and be creative, our processes will never improve. The processes and the people will eventually stagnate and then deteriorate. Bill George made a comment in the podcast we listened to about most people won’t buy into a mission that says, “increase the share price.” I certainly attest to that. (reference www.http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1697)
I realized I like to do good and help others do good in the world. I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped being motivated by money some time ago. I now want to be in environments where I can help others succeed and grow. Don’t get me wrong, if earning money becomes a natural by-product of where my passion takes me, I won’t complain, but I keep thinking about the story Ginny told the first night of class about the charitable woman she met in South Africa. To me, this woman seemed fully satisfied. When that woman looks back on her life, she’ll know she made a difference. She won’t think, “If only we could have increased production capacity by 6%.” No one looks back on their life and wishes they had earned a few more paychecks. People look back on the relationships they’ve formed and the impact they’ve made.
I really liked what Dave Green, (CEO of the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center) said at the end of his presentation. He encouraged us all to get involved in our communities. This made me think about why I don’t volunteer more. At this point, I’ve stuck to helping people I know. Why don’t I give more time to the community? Then I learned something about myself: I want to help. I want to get involved, but on the nights I have free time, I’ll distract myself with something “easy” like a movie or a book instead of helping others. I’m always disappointed in myself when a night goes by where I didn’t accomplish anything. What I’ve noticed in the last few weeks is that if I don’t act on my passions, I start to get pouty and irritable. I’ll start to justify any lazy or procrastinating activities by saying, “it’s good to watch six hours of TV in a night. I needed to unwind.” Does that sound familiar? I’ll commit an act of self-betrayal—I’ll tell myself that I’m going to find volunteer opportunities, but then out of some fear of not being able to help strangers, I don’t.
Here’s what I need to work on the most: Executing my Passions. That sentence can be read in one of two ways, but I assure you I don’t plan to kill my passions once and for all. Instead, I need to start living them, being more active with them, and lead with them.
In my feedback interviews I was told I have, “a unique mind,” yet at work, any unique idea I have needs to go through two or three bureaucratic channels before being tested, let alone reviewed and implemented. That kills my creativity. I like to have passion for what I do. I like to know my energies are being put towards something I love. I want to know my work is appreciated. I want to start small—volunteering outside of work—to see what is out there. Who knows, maybe I’ll build the right network, learn the right skills, and start my own charitable group someday?
If that happens, my life will be much closer to my ten-year vision. What I saw when I closed my eyes was a man who woke up early, went for a jog before work (which means I must not be going to work at 6:00am anymore), had cereal with the kids, kissed the wife goodbye, and then went into the world to make it a better place. This man used his sense of humor and his ability to connect with people not for his own personal, financial gain. Rather he used it to help unlock other people’s creativity and spread joy throughout the world. Similar to the “multiplier effect” we attributed to good leaders in class, the man in my vision helped multiply his own joy for the world through others. It was a satisfying vision and hopefully if I learn how I spend my time, build a network of volunteer-oriented individuals, and keep my mind, soul, and body sharp, I can become that man.
“A ship in the harbor is safe…but that’s not what ships are for.“ William Shedd
The above quote has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. And this quote came back to me over and over as I wrote the following essay for the Athena Awards about empowering women.
Nurturing and inspiring a woman leader is about helping her find her own language, and gaining the courage to express her unique voice. A woman leads best when she truly knows who she is and understands how she operates in this world. While the languages and lessons are different for each woman, four common experiences emerge when it comes to empowering leadership.
The first is a woman discovering her purpose and leadership vision.
Teri, a recent student in an MBA class I teach, wrote about the challenges of reflection in her first paper. “I am becoming concerned that I may not be in the right position for my long-term happiness. I need to get a grip on who I am, where I want to go, and what I want to do/be when I get there.” One week later, she wrote about the power of gaining clarity on her purpose and vision. “My husband has known about my desire to own and run my own horse barn since the day we met. We are constantly looking for the right piece of land on which to build my stables. We have not found it yet, but at least now we finally are on the hunt. Even though I know I will be with Company X for the next three years, I am already planning my next steps.”
The next weekend of class Teri came and told me that they had just found 50 acres perfect for her horse business — and it was just two miles away from where they live. After discovering her purpose and allowing herself to dream, Teri is now on her way to making her personal vision a reality. I just received an email today saying “we didn’t end up buying the 50 acres we checked out. We ended up buying a 40 about 8 miles away, but it’s just gorgeous and is the spitting image of my dream place. It’s truly amazing. “
The second experience is a woman learning and embracing the differences in masculine and feminine styles of leadership. Each person has a unique blend. Finding the authentic style that works, while honoring her true feminine spirit, can be challenging for a woman. In the opening chapter of one of my favorite leadership books for women, Dancing on the Glass Ceiling, the authors share the story of a round peg trying to force her way through to the “other” side of leadership in her company — through a square hole. The round peg suffered because of it. The story goes on to say that only when the round peg is on the “other” side does she truly realize what was lost during her journey.
“Instead of recognizing our strengths, we have obsessed over our weaknesses. Instead of daring to stand out, we have ‘shaved off’ little pieces of ourselves so we could fit into the square hole — the accepted, masculine-driven pattern of business,” authors Nancy Fredericks and Candy Deemer write.
The third experience is a woman articulating her personal brand. This involves understanding her personality type and embracing her strengths, independent of her job, her company or any other life status. Two weeks ago, I sat with a woman and watched the “branding” light bulb turn on. “So, it isn’t about changing my style to become the person they (her male colleagues) want?” she said. “It is about me understanding my brand and how I add value to the business.”
The fourth experience is a woman connecting with other women leaders. For example, my own story of leaving my job as president of Midland Press to launch Integrity Integrated often serves as a motivation for others. A woman who comes to understand herself is prepared to become a great leader, and many times encourages other women to do the same. Sharing our stories is vitally important.
I identified my life’s purpose fifteen years ago. When clarity arrived, it resonated to the depths of my soul. My purpose is to nurture and inspire others to reach for the stars. Learning from my own experiences along the way I gathered insight into my own personal power. I also determined my leadership vision: To be an internationally respected teacher and coach whose work inspires others to discover new possibilities in their lives.
To develop more women leaders, we must encourage all women on this path of discovering their authentic leader within. I consider it an honor to help guide women on the journey.
“The gem cannot be polished without friction; nor the man perfected without trials.” Chinese proverb.
I continue to be inspired and it just doesn’t seem right to keep them to myself. After grading reflective papers and final assignments for our most recent MBA Leadership & Personal Development Class, I want to share just a few tidbits of wisdom from the students. As you read them, let me know how it inspires you to think differently.
CREATING A FIVE YEAR VISION:
“The visualization exercise where we pictured a day in our life in 2015 had a huge impact. Drawing it was even more fun. I do like to envision the future, but in the past many of my thoughts were more generic in regards to success and I’d never really defined what that looked like or meant to me. To put it down on paper made it real for the first time. To vocalize it had even more of an impact. For the first time I realized exactly what I want my life to look like and that my dreams are attainable, all I have to do is make sure I’m focusing on what’s really important.”
“Doing the “Where Will I Be in Five Years” activity was very insightful. So many times my wife and I casually talk about the future, but it seems like we are only caught up in what is happening today and in the next year. We never take the time to think about further down the road. Of course we try to plan for certain things, but to actually lay out a road map and hold ourselves accountable is another story. Taking the time to visualize where I will be in five years was critical for my development. Not only did it reiterate what would be most important to me, but it made me think of the exact actions I need to take right now to get there. And if I don’t like some of the things I see in five years, than I need to start correcting them today.”
ROLE OF OTHERS IN OUR DEVELOPMENT:
“It’s my responsibility to walk this journey of leadership, but that does not mean I have to do it alone. In fact, if there’s one immutable fact I’ve learned, it’s that taking this journey alone is a fool’s errand, and I have been quite the fool.”
“They complimented me on my willingness to grow as a person and wished me the best. This leads to a point of mine. It is human nature that we want to help everyone become better people. No one, or at least the people I associate with, wants to intentionally hurt other people. We are all here for one another and constructive feedback is part of life and the growing process.”
LEARNING WHAT NOT to DO:
“My current manager knows all the details and everyone comes to her for questions but her whole day is taken up by this and instead of being a manager she has become the subject matter expert. Instead of leading, she is telling.”
Okay, he wasn’t a student, but this is how John Quincy Adams summed it up (as a student reminded me): “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
I am inspired by the many students I had the privilege to teach. Many thanks to all of you.
I get asked a lot if there are differences between leadership qualities around the globe. And my answer is “no”, the essential qualities for leaders don’t differ, no matter where you are in the world.
Today, in the leadership class I’m teaching for CIMBA MBA students in Italy, we heard from an Italian entrepreneurial leader. Luca Seminati is the founder of Ideal Work company. (www.idealwork.it). He kicked off our class this morning by sharing stories and his 5 points of advice about leadership.
1. Get leadership skills and ideas from areas outside of just business. “You can learn a lot from people outside of business. “ Look to religion, community and politics for perspectives. “When I was a participant in leadership courses through CIMBA,” he said, “It was like they walked into my house and pointed to a box that was already there, and said, ‘open it.’ I realized that I already had a great deal of leadership skills but had kept them locked away inside.”
2. Don’t copy other people’s leadership style. Have your own style and remember that other people are always watching you. He cited the experience of the French soccer coach in the World Cup who didn’t cross the field to shake the hand of the other coach after France lost the game. He was later fired by the President of France.
3. Have Passion and Vision. “I have 2o people in my company and we’re constantly talking about the vision of where we are headed.”
4. Find a way to get feedback about your leadership skills. “As you move up the organization, you’ll find that people are more and more reluctant to give you candid feedback. That is when it is even more important.” When he found he was getting niceities and not feedback he asked “Are you SURE there isn’t anything I can do better?” After a couple times of asking, he started to hear better feedback.
5. The most visible person isn’t necessarily the leader. Last year, in 2009, his company sustained heavy damage from a tornado . “It impacted 50% of my business,” he said. He was honest and upbeat with his people and said that while this was going to be a tough time, “we do have insurance and we’ll cover the rest. It will be a difficult couple of months but we’ll get through.” And NOW, the kicker. A number of his people voluntarily slept in the building at night for up to three weeks in order to protect it from intruders. “All because they wanted to do it.”
Thank you Luca for your many words of wisdom!