Episode 15: Women in Leadership Panel at Twin Cities Startup Week
In 2019, 29% of senior management roles are held by women, the highest number ever on record, but there is still so much opportunity for women to have a seat at the table.
OST’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Lisa Jilek, moderated a panel with four female leaders at Twin Cities Startup Week in Minneapolis. Joining her was:
Beth Klawitter – Sr Director Customer Success & Operations, Attivo Networks
Kathleen Miner – VP Solutions Marketing, Thomson Reuters
Tammylynne Jonas – Global CIO, Self Esteem Brands
Tonia Teasley – VP & General Manager, Capella University
During this panel, they discussed lessons they have learned, what has worked, what continues to be a challenge, and ways they have gained influence in an organization.
Lizzie Williams: Hey, everybody. This episode was recorded live from the Women in Leadership panel at Twin Cities Startup Week in Minneapolis. OST vice president of sales and marketing, Lisa Jilek, moderates a discussion between several successful females from the Minneapolis area about gaining influence and inspiring innovation. Enjoy!
Lisa Jilek: All right, welcome everyone. We’ll go ahead and get started. First, just a thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day, your workday, your personal life to travel probably for some of you traipsing across maybe getting into downtown and traffic and whatnot. So really, really appreciate you taking the time to be here today. My hope and commitment to you as the moderator of this panel is really, at the end of the day, when you walk out of these doors and walk back to your car, or walk back to whatever life has for you this afternoon, that you take away one phrase, or word, or story, or feeling from our esteemed panelists up here that carries with you. Whether it is a conversation you have tonight or a decision that you might need to make next week or in six months, whatever that is. I know that is a little bit of a lofty goal to say that, but hopefully, you take something with you when you leave here today that has meaning for you. So that’s the goal.
So, I’ll introduce myself briefly and then we’ll have the panelists introduce themselves.
So, my name is Lisa Jilek. I’m the vice president of sales and marketing for a company called Open Systems Technologies or OST. We’re an IT consultancy and we help companies go digital, whether that’s digital experiences, mobile applications, migrating on the IT side into the cloud, and becoming digital and having digital competencies in that area. So lots of exciting work at our company. In a minute, I’ll ask each of you to introduce yourself, your name, your role, but one thing I want to add on to this is to have you share as part of your introduction, a piece of bad advice that you have gotten in your past—
–or maybe something that was seemingly good advice at the time that just did not pan out. We’ll try to keep it interesting here today. Not so much cookie-cutter and try to kind of get some real, interesting dialogue going. So Tammylynne, if I may start with you.
Tammylynne Jonas: Sure. Good morning. My name is Tammylynne Jonas. I’m the CIO for Self Esteem Brands based in Woodbury. Self Esteem Brands is the parent company of Anytime Fitness, Waxing The City, which is a coed waxing studio which is exactly what it sounds like.
So there’s an equivalent to a female Brazilian, so you can just check online and see what that would be.
The brand voice is very irreverent. How we describe the services is very funny, so just take a look. Also, Basecamp Fitness, which is like a high intensity, CrossFit, Orangetheory hybrid, as well as, The Bar Method which is actually right around here, which is a ballet bar workout. I started there in May. Before that, I was the CIO for Holiday companies, which is a local convenience store chain here based in Minneapolis. Before that, I spent 15 years at Kohl’s Department Stores in Milwaukee and with Accenture before that.
A piece of bad advice that I’ve gotten… I think it’s something that you’ll hear a lot. The classic, “Oh, there are no stupid questions.” I think there are—
–and I think you need to be cognizant of your environment. I won’t give an example for my current company, but when I was at Kohl’s, we would have a Town Hall meetings with our CEO and in that forum, with that being your only impression with our most senior executive team, maybe you don’t want to be the guy who asks, “can we have nap pods?” I just think you do need to be aware of your audience and what you’re asking about.
Beth Klawitter: That’s great. So, my name is Beth Klawitter and I’m with a company called Attivo Networks. We’re a cybersecurity company based out of Fremont, California, about 250 employees. I wear a lot of different hats at a start-up. So, I lead a team for sales operations, customer success, and then our inside sales team. And in terms of bad advice, I actually think for me, looking back, it’s staying in a role that’s safe and secure because you know it, you have done it before, and not being your own advocate in terms of going for the challenge. Especially at a smaller organization, I think it’s so important to charge your own goals and make sure that leadership is aware of them.
Kathleen Miner: Hi everyone. I’m Kathleen Miner. I’m the vice president of marketing at Thomson Reuters, which is a global organization, information technology. We serve the legal market, as well as, corporations and tax professionals. I’ve been there for about thirteen years. Prior to that, I was with Ecolab in St. Paul. I’ve been in larger organizations for most of my career. I would say, with that in mind, bad advice, or bad ideas maybe that were put into my head early on in my career was related to evaluating a job based on pay or title. I’ve learned that I’ve been more successful and happier in my positions when I’ve put those… Of course, those things are important, but I’ve deprioritized them. And for me, I’ve found my own criteria. For me, personally, I focus a lot on the individual who I’ll be working for. That’s just my style, it matters a lot to me. And so, I think it took me some time to get out of that mindset and to reframe how I evaluated new opportunities.
Tonia Teasley: Hey, I’m Tonia Teasley. I work at Strategic Education Inc. but you probably know it better as Capella University, which is just down the street here. I’ve been there for about seven years. Before that, I was at Thomson Reuters. I actually now call myself a recovering lawyer because I started out my career practicing law and I’ve been told you can never actually not be a lawyer anymore, so I’m recovering.
And the bad advice that I got, I think was, “Oh, we tried that already. It’ll never work.” And you hear that a lot, I’ve heard that a lot in my career, and fortunately for me, I took that as a challenge, not a deterrent. Because it has actually allowed me to take on things that people thought could not be done.
Lisa: Awesome. As you can see, we’ve got a, I think, depth and breadth here on the panel of industry, of a function, of size of organization. So I’m excited to hear more from each of you women.
So my first question and as you saw from the title of this, it’s Women in Leadership; gaining influence and inspiring innovation. I’m going to carve those out into two buckets, starting really first with influence. So, Tonia, since you were speaking last on the mic, I’m probably going to start with you and ask the question. We just heard about bad advice, so flipping that a little bit and thinking about as you have had success in your career with influence, what would you say if you had to look back and tell your younger self, what advice would you have given to your younger self related to being influential?
Tonia: I would say at its heart, it’s probably, don’t take no for an answer. I think the things I’ve learned, and it took me a long time to learn this, was I have really strong opinions. If you’re trained as a lawyer, you always think you’re right. So going into a meeting, when you’re trying to advocate for something that you think should happen, if you stick with, “I know I’m right. I have to keep pushing until my idea comes through,” you’re going to run up against a lot of obstacles that you probably should run up against. So it took me a long time to learn, going into those meetings with a point of view and advocating for what I think we should do but also knowing that I don’t know everything that everybody else in the room knows. So asking the right questions and making sure all the voices in the room are heard, so that ultimately, collectively, you make a better decision, is probably the best way to influence across the organization.
Lisa: Before moving on, anybody else has anything to add onto that, just personally?
Kathleen: I would just say, I agree with you. I think being influential really depends upon building a track record, right? Track record of being someone who collaborates, someone who listens, someone who works with you. If you do that, over time, your ability to influence others only increases. And, I think for me, personally, tons of our writers went through a culture training several years ago and one of the key concepts that they helped us with within the culture was when you’re working with other people, assume positive intent. And I think it’s really powerful. It just really struck me as a really good way to ground yourself no matter what you’re trying to accomplish, assume the person on the other side of the table is there with positive intentions. And it’s amazing what actually starts to happen when you approach situations from that mindset. So it’s also something that’s really helpful in your personal life too. Right?
So just something that has been valuable to me.
Lisa: I love that, Kathleen, and maybe even more difficult in your personal life to assume.
Kathleen: Yeah. It takes more deep breathing.
Tammylynne: One of the things I would add is if I had known earlier in my career the importance of just being the type of person that people wanted to have around, I think it would have helped. We take our careers very seriously, we take ourselves very seriously, but I’ve worked with some people throughout the years and honestly, they got in the room, being–whether that is being on the jet, or in the meeting, or in the dinner, or whatever, they got in the room just by being the type of person that people want to have at dinner, or on the jet, or in the room, they’re in a good mood, they’re positive, they’re enthusiastic. They’ve got maybe some funny stories to share. But it’s that type of thing where people forget that those personal skills are really important and so you can demonstrate those at any point in time in your career. You can be enthusiastic. If somebody has to plan the Twins game, be the person who plans the Twins game and do that and just show that you’re capable and credible and have enthusiasm for doing things. The people that I choose on my team are the people that act excited about doing something. It may not be the most glamorous task, but I find that they’re going to do it in a credible way. They’re going to do it well and they aren’t going to be like, “Oh, yeah. I could do that.” They want to do it. Those are the people that you really seek out and find opportunities for.
Beth: Yeah, I can’t agree with you more on that. I think the important part of that too is being genuine and authentic when you’re in that role, right? And in terms of being positive and actually believing that you’re there because people want you to be there, right? I think you’re spot on.
Lisa: I think this is a good segue into the next question that I’ve got, which to your point, Beth, is about authenticity. And so for this one, I’m going to circle back to you, Tammylynne, for a response on this. And I’m going to read this specifically, is everybody knows Megan Markle? Love her, love her. She is fantastic. So she was, as you may have seen this in the news, she was in South Africa towards the end of September. You might have seen a video, but she said this quote, “I’m here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of color, and as your sister.” And in reading through some of the materials afterwards, there’s a contributor for an article in Forbes Magazine that said this about her comment: “The different roles we hold as women make us powerful and more influential. Rather than diminishing a woman’s ability to lead, these distinct roles serve to strengthen it.” So Tammylynne, coming back to you, how does your role help you be more influential?
Tammylynne: I think at a certain point in time in my career, I really separated a lot between my personal life and my professional life, and I think part of that was getting into leadership positions very early. I was wanting to be, like, and act like I was older than I was and so I would feel more like I fit in. When you’re twenty-five and you’re trying to find common ground with a bunch of guys that are silver-haired and they’re pale and they’re male—
–and they got other things that they’re talking about… like, what do you talk about? So I think for me a lot of it was just trying to be something that I was not, and as I became a mother and went through more life experiences, I realized that that authenticity and really embracing all those roles that you have throughout your life, that those make you more relatable and it doesn’t diminish your ability to be an executive because you have kids. The fact that you do that probably gives you more common ground with other people in the room. I think the more you embrace all those things that you are, I think it gives you vulnerability, it makes you more relatable to people.
I guess the biggest example I had of this is we have three kids. My son is ten, my girls are seven and five. We had a son, Alex, who was born after Benjamin, but passed away before Molly was born. Going through that experience, you have to go back to work and you have people that wanted to know. He was two months, so I was still on maternity leave when he passed away. So you go back to work, people were like, “how was the baby?” And you’re like, “oh, yeah.” Those are hard situations, right? And so when you show up at those situations not just as this executive and not just as this technology person, but you show up as a mother, you show up as somebody who has been through loss, you show up as a friend, and a confidant, you show up in all those things, I think it just gives people more touchpoints to relate to you. I think that makes you more authentic. I think it makes you more genuine. I think it gives you conviction about the things that are important to you, and I think that really fuels the work and makes you more successful. So taking all those spheres of influence and really acknowledging and owning that that’s part of who you are, and that’s how you show up at work.
Lisa: Well said. One more follow-up question on the topic of being influential and going back to your point about being vulnerable. So here, in this moment, I guess my question would be, maybe open up to the other three of you, if anybody wants to share, where would you want to do a do-over as it relates to being influential or where have you struggled?
TammyLyne: Go ahead.
Beth: I can think of an example when you were talking about that. I feel like in terms of my career I’ve oftentimes shied away at taking a seat at the table. Part of that I think, is because I work in cybersecurity and most of my peers are men. I oftentimes talk to a couple of people before, I’ve oftentimes been the only female in the room, right? So I’ve been afraid of stepping forward, voicing my opinions, and standing firm in terms of knowing my content. Because oftentimes, if I felt like I shouldn’t have stood up, I probably should have because I had a seat at that table for a reason. I earned that right and what I could have brought to the organization in terms of driving value would have been very important. So I think if I would change some of the things that I did when I was younger, would have been just if you had earned a seat at the table, and you can you have a command of your content, make sure that you voice it. I think it’s really important.
Tonia: Sort of personal though, being a woman in other roles that you have some feedback. I got not all that long ago was, “you behave as though you’re impervious to anything. Nothing bothers you, nothing upsets, you’re always calm,” which I thought was a good thing. And so they said, “people need to see you and the parts of you.” So I made a really deliberate decision to talk to people about more personal things, share a story. I have two special needs children, one of whom has pretty severe disabilities. So I started talking about that more, not for the purpose of people saying, “Oh, poor Tonia,” but so that they would understand more about my life and know that there are things that make me emotional, etcetera.
And then, the other thing more about influence is, about two years ago, Capella had a general manager model where the general managers actually competed against one another for resources, which was not a good idea. So about two and a half years ago, they narrowed it down to two general managers and they both were women and I was fortunate enough to be one of them. That one and I made a very deliberate decision that we were not going to compete, that we were better together, that we helped one another. We actually have different strengths. So we helped each other and it was the most successful—everybody at Cappella will tell you that that was the most successful partnership of people that made the biggest influence on Capella in a really, really long time. It was a very deliberate decision to be from a place of abundance and supporting one another as opposed to competing because there aren’t enough resources, which isn’t true.
Lisa: I think as most of us in the room would agree, regardless of where you work, the need for organizations to innovate is critical for long-term success. Whether you’re at a start-up, or a midsize, or an Enterprise company. So with that in mind, in the topic of influence and then thinking about innovation, as leaders on the panel, you all have a critical part in influencing innovation within your organization. So with this portion, thinking about innovation, I’m going to ask each one of you, maybe an individual question just as it relates to your role in the organization that you sit in because, again, as mentioned earlier they have a vast range here. So, Tonia, I’ll start with you. Because of your perspective in the academic setting at Capella University, what are you seeing with regard to some of our newer workforce coming in? What’s the innovation mindset with that new workforce and then maybe bringing it to you, personally, how do you inspire innovation in your role?
Tonia: I would say two things. I’m fortunate that I have a whole group of people who will do research for me because that’s their job. And so you have probably read some of these studies about the half-life of skills. Things that we learned five years ago—only half of them are still relevant today. And that window keeps getting shorter and shorter and shorter. So in higher education, which isn’t all that fast to change, thinking about how do we keep up with the pace of innovation and the pace of what the workforce would our employer partners need, is a huge challenge for our university. So inspiring innovation in an organization that’s by tradition not very fast to change is a big, big challenge. We went through a merger a little over a year ago and our new CEO used to be the CEO of Epcot at Disney. He thinks anything and everything can be done in 45 days, which isn’t true—
–but he still doesn’t believe me. He doesn’t actually believe that, but that’s the way he speaks, and by talking about that he causes everybody across the organization to think differently. If I had to do this in 45 days, what do I need? Do I need money? Do I need people? Do I need to break the rules? Do I need to change a policy which is a big thing in a university?
And so just thinking differently about innovation and how fast we can go, because if we don’t keep up, higher education is going to be left behind. And that’s not a good answer. In terms of inspiring, that’s a pretty easy part of my job because we have about forty thousand learners, seventy-five percent of whom are women. About sixty percent of them are women of color and they’re dispersed all over the United States. I get to meet them, and I’ve heard women tell me that because they took their doctoral degree at Capella University, they’re still alive. That they were so depressed, they were thinking about suicide and this gave them something to live for. So my job in terms of inspiring people is super easy because all I have to do is go spend a little time with our learners and gather these absolutely amazing stories. So when you were talking about good intent, everybody I work with, the learners is the thing we’re doing. So you keep meeting every decision, every meeting circles back to that’s why we’re here. So inspiring in our organization is a pretty easy job.
Lisa: Yeah. Beth, I’ll jump to you.
Lisa: So as you think about innovation, you being the collective you, I think people in general when they think innovation, they think entrepreneurship, right? That there’s this hand-in-hand, or if not entrepreneurship, in terms of startups, but just entrepreneurial mindset within organizations. Beth, you have got a unique perspective on this panel being at a start-up and having a history of other startups, as well. So, how do you see that in your role within a start-up? What’s innovation look like in that space?
Beth: Yeah, so I’ve been at large organizations, as well, and I think the reason that I get drawn to being at a start-up is because of the ability to build so quickly, and you have to rely on the teams that you have and the lean resources, get creative, and figure out a solution to the problem that helps the business outcome. Particularly in my role, I think about sales operations in general, I think my customer is the sales team and how do I help them move faster, be quicker, and sell more so that the company can be more profitable and our customers win with our technology.
I think at the end of the day, since we have to be lean and try to figure out processes and mature as the organization is growing, I think you have to think about innovation, how do you do a process differently that’s going to get to a quicker result with what the tools that I have and the resources that I’m given? Maybe it’s not like we can’t buy the fanciest tool to make this go faster, but we can get creative, and help the teams in different ways. And so I think that’s a big piece of the draw to being at a start-up is being able to build, to align on resources, and then to execute flawlessly. That’s it. That’s a huge piece of it.
Lisa: Yeah, good answer. Thank you. On the other end of the spectrum, Kathleen, from a size of a company perspective, Thomson Reuters being huge, obviously, how does Thomson Reuters think and act like a start-up in terms of innovation within a global enterprise company?
Kathleen: Yeah, it’s actually a really timely question in regards to where Thomson Reuters is at right now. Interestingly enough, we’re going through a process right now of implementing Agile Methodologies throughout our organization. I’m assuming most people are here which really, to me, is just bringing a start-up mentality into the way, into a big company and the way we work. And what I’ll say is it has been fascinating to watch. I have a love-hate relationship with Agile right now because I’ve never heard so many squad, and pod, and there’s just a lot of—
Kathleen: Yeah, lingo! That I’m like, “Wait. What? There’s going to be a ceremony and what’s gonna happen?”
Yeah, there’s a little crazy. But the other part of it is also and maybe a lot of you in this room can relate, there are things about this methodology that I say, “this isn’t rocket science.” This comes down to, go and get stuff done. Everybody, throw your title out the window. Everybody has a good idea, go after it. So, I’m kind of a chop-chop, like let’s get this done sort of personality anyway. So, there was a part of me that says, “We should be doing this, anyway. We don’t need to hire consultants and have them come to talk to us about squads and pods and stuff. We should be able to do this.”
But I think for a big, big company, especially one like mine that has been successful in doing things the way they’ve been doing them for many years, it probably takes more than just Kathleen Miner Singh hop-to-it.
So it’s interesting and I think more and more big companies are trying to bring this methodology into their organizations because they see the benefit. You don’t innovate, you’re limiting your company’s potential if you don’t use the collective brainpower of whomever is in the room, right? So it’s kind of fascinating. Sometimes I say, “if I were not part of the company, it would be really fascinating to sit back and watch,” but I am. So now it’s just fun.
Lisa: And, Kathleen, to be clear because of the influence you do have at Thomson Reuters, people generally do hop to it when she said that.
Kathleen: Or they pretend to.
Lisa: So Tammylynne, a question for you then on innovation. As an executive at a really successful, fast-growing company, how do you think about the… I think one of the missions if I understand right, is improving self-esteem globally with your organization. How do you see the relationship between self-esteem and innovation?
Tammylynne: Well, I think they aren’t that similar. Self-esteem is very different from Innovation. But I think the commonalities between the two are there in theory. They’re nebulous topics, right? So with self-esteem, you’re never there, like you’ve got it, and you’re done. I think that’s the same thing with Innovation. It’s not a destination. So the important part is continuous, all the things that you’re doing to improve it going forward. It’s a cliché. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. True. From an innovation perspective, you’re never there and you’re like, “Hey, we’re finally innovating.” You have to keep working at it. You have to put the reps to make that successful. The same thing with self-esteem, that as we’re looking to improve the self-esteem of the world, it’s not a single destination that we get there, but it’s today and this week, is it better than it was before and what are we doing to actively drive that. So sometimes the results that you see aren’t necessarily immediately apparent, but what have you done to ensure that that’s a focus and that you’re continuing to make it better?
Lisa: Yeah, thank you. I would like to open it up to all of you. We’re going to do and just to prepare the panelists, I did not tell them which questions I would be asking towards the end here. There will be a lightning round coming your way in a few minutes but first I want to pause and see what questions will come from the audience. So anything goes, it could be a question on anything that they shared here, with a story, or specific to innovation or influence. Go ahead. And so just real quick, to repeat the question if you did not hear it quite in the back. You’ve been in a situation where in your life there has always been that one guy who seems to get in the way. How do you handle that or how do you approach that? You said it much better, but hopefully, I articulated it.
Kathleen: Yeah. No, so it’s funny when you said that. I’m like, “oh, I know who that one guy is.”
I have that one guy and for me… with that person in mind, it’s a business partner that I have to work with. I’ve worked with this individual for now four or five years, and I’ve come full circle in how I deal with that person. Initially, I just had this expectation like, “no, we’re going to be pals. We’re going to work together. We’re going to collaborate. You have a goal, I have a goal. They’re common, it’s all good.” That did not work and then I went into: now I’m mad; like, “now, I’m going to avoid him.” It went to the, “I’ll just go other ways. I’ll get things done in other ways.” That did not work, that only made it worse. And finally, where I’ve landed and it has made it a much more successful relationship. I just grounded myself in, “I know what I bring to the table. I know what my goals are, the personal stuff even though I did not want to say it was personal, it did not matter. This is a professional business relationship. We have a transactional working relationship. I ask you, you ask me. That’s the end of the story and then we move on.” Once I was able to frame my mind that way, my attitude about it was better. I don’t know if it’s what caused his attitude to be better or what, but we just kind of coexist and do well and work together and we move on. It was a hard transition for me because that’s not usually how I work with my business partners, but I realized it was on me to make that shift. I was not going to change him. So that’s–that’s my one guy story.
Beth: I actually went after trying to change him. So it doesn’t always work, but I read a book a long time ago called Crucial Conversations and I’ve read like it twenty times because I keep practicing. So it—twice with and it’s a guy isn’t it? In this situation I can think of… actually went in and had a conversation and said “There’s something going on. There’s something about me that’s not working,” and I said it, left it open that it could be me. I said “There’s something about working with me that’s not working right for us. So tell me what you’re worried about? What do you think about? What could I do better and by opening up the conversation and being open to the fact that maybe it’s me, it actually fixed the problem and it was not me.”
But it opened the door for him to say, “Is there something I’m doing that I do need to change?” Once he finally articulated, he had a misunderstanding of what I was thinking, what I was doing, what I was feeling, and once that I said, “Well, no. I don’t actually think that. Here’s how I approach,” then he is like, “Oh, okay.” So it doesn’t always work, but I’ve tried it twice. Once it worked, once it did not, and then I went to where you are, Kathleen.
Lisa: Awesome. Great question.
Tonia: Okay. I think the other part of that too is that you need to not internalize it but you need to look objectively and see, is the common denominator this guy though too? Is this a person that has a problem working with everybody? In which case, you look at it very differently than if this person has an issue just with you. I think, there’s some things in a Minnesota nice-culture where it’s hard to sometimes get these things on the table, and based on how secure that person is, sometimes you can’t go directly at it and say, “Hey, what’s going on? I want to fix this.” You don’t have to own it but like, “I want to fix this.” They may not acknowledge that, but I think the other thing that you can do is make that person the outlier, right? So if you’ve done what you can and you’ve done what you can to neutralize it or just make it better and you’re just not getting there, think about all the other people that you guys have in common. Their co-workers, their boss, their subordinates, all those people, and if you can build a really strong relationship with all those around them, make that person the outlier. If they’re choosing not to work with you, it becomes pretty evident that it’s their issue, not yours. I think it’s brave and courageous to call somebody out with that. But if you have somebody who’s really insecure, who’s trying to undermine you or whatever, they aren’t going to tell you why they’re like, “I just I thought I was supposed to get your job, that’s why.” They’ll not do that. Something you can do actively is just make sure that it’s clear that you can work with all those people around them and if they have an issue with you, personally, that that’s more on them.
Lisa: Excellent. Thank you for asking that question. I think you would raise your hand next and then I’ll come to you. I think that’s a great and relevant question. So again, the short version, if I may repeat that’s, in dealing with another woman when there’s an issue of potential jealousy or competitive issue. How do you deal with that?
Beth: Yeah, I can actually think of an example in my career where that has happened to me as well. I think from female to female, I feel sometimes having the conversation maybe doesn’t help. Maybe it’s something where you need to, as she was saying earlier, just determine how can you align on what the goals are that you’re both trying to accomplish? And then keep in mind sometimes, I think, we often forget that we are all individual people. I think everybody has different things going on in their personal lives that we may not be aware of, that they may be bringing into the workplace. I saw that the recent thing with Ellen and she is talking about, be kind. Be kind to people even if you don’t share the same opinion and it just really resonates me because I think it impacts all of our work lives significantly.
Tonia: I think in those situations, you can have the conversations but your actions are important. So if you can share credit for things, if you can bring complimentary feedback about her team, to her, if you can do things to let her know that you aren’t only going to be… You want to have the conversations and be amicable but you’re going to be a visible supporter and sponsor for her personally and professionally, I think it can change the dialogue on that. The competitive things, she may be reading something into it but the more your actions speak, that you’re trying to build her up and you’re trying to support her team, I think it helps to change the dynamic there.
Lisa: Good question, Kate. Thank you. Have you used mentors and how do you identify them? And how do you help them in your own growth?
Kathleen: So my mentor is actually a man, which was interesting. We work together for a while and then we moved into different parts of the company, but I continued to use him in that way and for me, the reason he was a good fit for me was he had this ability to see things that I was capable of doing that I was like, “No way.” He would be like, “Kathleen, you can totally lead this project,” and I was like, “Are you crazy? I can’t do that.” And sure enough, I took the step and I did it and over time, I trusted him for that reason. He helped me take blinders off and many many leaps that I took in my career, I took because he was a sounding board that was like, “yeah, that’s not that hard.” I’m like, “what are you talking about? It’s not that hard like it
scares me.” So having someone like that who over a long period of time I could build that trust with but who also was looking further ahead than I was, was really valuable. And so for me, I mentor people myself and that’s a perspective that I try and bring to those relationships and then especially for women on my teams, mentoring is something that we really try and put in place because I think having that outsider perspective to help you see things that you wouldn’t see, take those blinders off and just tell you, “It’s going to be okay. Just take the step,” is really, really valuable, especially when you’re earlier in your career. I think sometimes that’s what helps people move forward when maybe they would have taken longer on their own. So I think it’s a really powerful part of anyone’s development and career for sure.
Lisa: Excellent question. Thank you for asking that.
Tammylynne: I have a different perspective on that. I think one of the things that you mentioned is like it’s based on where you’re at in your career, right? So when you’re earlier in your career, I think it’s a lot easier to find a mentor who can help you get to that next level and to do something. And as you progress in your career, it’s harder to find somebody at that next level who can offer you the insights or the information you need to get to the next step. So I might be a little too high maintenance for a mentor—
–so I’ve used an executive coach to do that because if there’s specific things that you… I think you can be pretty self-actualized about what you need to do. And so if you can find somebody that can help you round out those skills, specifically somebody who’s paid to be there, I think that’s helpful. And I think as you’re looking to get to that next level or you’re looking for just general support on things, I don’t think there’s a single person that does that. I have a group of executive women that I get together, specifically in technology, and I think the benefit of that group is everybody has a slightly different experience based on their industry or what they’ve done or what their strengths are. And so you get really the power in numbers of that of getting multiple people’s perspective on things because I think based on where you’re at in your career, that mentor has a perspective. And they may know you very well, but they have a perspective from their own and so I think there’s almost collectively power in numbers with that. So instead of looking, I guess I’m going to raise the bar, instead of looking for one person who’s gonna help you get to that next level, find a whole group of people. All that are trying to get to that next level or that are at that level to see what common threads you can find from that.
Lisa: Thank you. Thought I saw one more hand pop up. Go ahead. As it relates to women in leadership and you think about the younger generation and all of the social media and this need to be perfect and all of these things. Facebook and all of these experiences that they’re going through today that relates to self-esteem, what advice would you have for that younger generation?
Tammylynne: Yeah, it’s a really, really important question. And I think the reason I’m stumped because I really worry about it. I certainly worry about it for women, but I worry about it for our younger generation as a whole. Being a mom, it worries me. I think for me, just the first thing that comes to my mind is, I think it’s on all of us to make a consistent effort to help the younger generation know it’s not true. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect in the workplace. It’s a fallacy. It doesn’t exist. It’s on all of us to be a bigger voice than the voices that they hear through their phones and whoever, where else, that’s what I would want that generation to know. It’s not true. It’s not real, you’re going to fail and so does everybody else. Men and women of all walks of life. It’s a really important issue for all of us to work on.
Kathleen: Yeah. I think it’s a phenomenal question. I think about it often as well. I’ve got young kids and it’s constant now like asking for phones and everything else. They’re so young, they don’t need a phone.
But I think that a lot of it is teaching the younger generation, especially when it comes to the workplace that failure is okay, to your point, and that we’re here to support you. That part of leadership is teaching that failure is okay, as long as you learn from it, you learn from mistakes, and then we’re here to make sure that you’re successful and my job is to make you successful. That’s why I’m here every day. I think a lot of it is making sure that the right leadership team is in place and has the same philosophy. That we’re here to help, enable people to be more successful.
Tammylynne: This was at a previous job, I was having a really bad day. I felt like I had a bad touch with my boss and my team was not listening. It was a whole big mess. I was commiserating with somebody that I used to work with and the advice that he gave me was not about building an action plan to correct things with my boss. It was not about this and building the team dynamic. He said, “find three people on your team that you can express gratitude to. Write them a thank you note, do something nice for them.” What I really loved about that reframe is like, “stop making it about you and make it about what you can do for other people.”
With my kids, sure they want phones and they want all kinds of stuff or whatever, but the less I make it about them and help them to understand other people’s perspective, it’s better. So if I feel like we’re getting super materialistic about things, we’re going to spend a couple of hours, we’re going to go through the house, we’re going to find a whole bunch of stuff to donate. When I’m going to tell them about the different charities that were donating to, “this one, for stuffed animals for kids in hospitals, this one is for this.” Just get them out of their own head because when you’re thinking about kids that are recovering from cancer and that’s where all these stuffed animals are going to, I think you’re going to complain less or think less about your ACT score. It just helps to reframe things. I think in those types of moments in their fear, they’re worried about perfection, or ACT scores, or whatever it is you’re talking about, just making it less about them and helping them to understand the bigger picture helps.
Lisa: I love that answer. We’ll take two more. We’ll start with you and then head over to you. So go ahead. Speaking of failure, how have you failed and how have you bounced back from it?
Beth: Yeah, so I was working at a couple of different startups. I think that one of the things that that I’ve failed at is probably hiring too quickly and making a decision to need to bring on resources when we probably aren’t quite there yet. We want to ramp really quickly, and I think that having gone through a couple of those experiences, it’s very painful. It’s personal, it impacts a lot of different people. I think that learning from those mistakes and planful consideration in what exactly is needed, is just incredibly important, especially when you’re so small and tiny and have a growing team. It’s just incredibly important.
Kathleen: I guess for me I would build on something you said earlier. I’ve failed at a lot of things throughout my professional career. I think initially for me, if a launch did not go well or a campaign did not work, I would take that all on my shoulders and it would be, “I have to do better next time,” and all these things. I think what changed for me is what you said earlier. It’s not about what happened, it’s about, “did you learn from it?” When I was able to reframe my thinking around, “yeah, the launch did not go well, but what did you learn and what are you going to do next time?” It helped me to keep going and helped me to reframe and see like, “oh no, this is a process. This is a consistent path. There’s no hard deadline on like, I have all the answers now and I’m done.” So that has just been a mindset shift that I’ve been able to make that has been helpful for me.
Lisa: One thing just adding onto that, Kathleen, just because I can’t resist, I think that that’s such an important point. I think at least what I’ve experienced is that people appreciate when there’s some debrief or some meeting afterward to say, “Hey, this did not go as planned. What did we collectively learn from it?” Just have a dialogue around that, having that forum, I think even gives you more credibility and more like, “not everything is going to go well,” but you’re going to be intentional about learning from it in a specific way and having a conversation about it.
Kathleen: Yeah, and I would just add to that back to earlier conversations about influencing and what have you, being willing to say, “Yeah, I made that call and it was the call that made the thing go bad.” I know that sounds obvious, but sometimes if you’re holding it too dear, if it’s like, “oh my god, this was a complete failure and I have to own it?” that’s pretty uncomfortable. Again that reframe makes it easier to say, “Yeah, I made that call. I thought it was the right thing to do. It was not.” It’s a great way for people to build that credibility with them and connect with you. So take a—dip your toe in that water.
Tonia: And we have here extra hands. So again, all my people who do research for me, when you’re in an innovation organization and you’re really trying new things, they say that the rate of failure of the things that you try is between twenty and fifty percent. Our CEO actually will tell us, if you don’t fail twenty-five percent of the time, you aren’t pushing hard enough. And so, I can do three out of four.
I can find a way to do that. So I’ve started with my team. We used to, at the beginning of every, meeting, talk about what great thing happened last week. What success did you have? Now, I asked them to come with what risk did you take last week? And we celebrate that people took risks. And that’s a very different mindset than talking always about what went well and it has changed the conversation.
Kathleen: One of our sales leaders a couple of years ago, they would have a sales meeting, they would have a session called The Circle of Failure and they would literally, sit in a circle and they would go around the table or go around the room and be like, “well, I tried this and that did not work.” And to your point, people started to feel the pressure of if I don’t show up and say I took a risk or say that I’ve failed in some way because I took a risk, now I’m going to look weird which is totally different. What a great way to turn it on your head and people loved it. Sometimes it was funny because you were like, “wow you did that? That’s nuts.”
Like, “that’s awesome.” I think it was inspiring for people too. So I’ve always thought that was a great way to look at it, right?
Lisa: Awesome question. Thank you for that. One more. What strategies have you tried with regard to work-life balance and which of those do you maybe wish you would have tried earlier?
Beth: For me, work-life balance is a passion of mine. I think you have to figure out what your non-negotiables are. What you’re willing to do, what you’re not, to be really clear with your partner on, “are you aligned on those too?” Their definition of what’s okay and your definition, those need to be in sync. That’s all more important than you and your workplace. You and your partner need to be aligned on what the parameters are and from there, I think you can–you can make it easier. For me, I come from another environment where work-life balance was not really a priority. So my one non-negotiable was that like, “I’ll do anything but I’m never going to move a family vacation. So if I have a family vacation plan and we’re doing it, I’m never moving that. So that was my non-negotiable. But I think as you think about the things that are important to you and you’re establishing work-life balance, I think for a lot of us, especially in leadership, it’s not so much like what your peers thinks and what your boss thinks, but what will your team think? Like, “gee, if I work from home a second day this week because there’s a lot of snow, how will that look?” So, I think the best thing that we can do in those examples is just to set the pace. If I’m going to leave at three o’clock because I’ve got to go watch a concert where they’re going to sing songs about teeth, which really, actually happened—
I’m super vocal about that. I’m not saying like, “oh, I’m going go to the office of three.” I’m like, “Hey, I’m going to go and watch a concert about teeth. I don’t know what that is, but I’ll tell you tomorrow. I think you leave your calendar open and you make it okay for people you talked about like, “I’m leaving to do this. I’m going to the orthodontist.” Instead of just trying to sneak out and not let people know. I think the more you normalize that behavior, I think that notion of work-life balance is important to everybody and as long as you and your partner are really aligned on what does work-life balance look like, then that’s important even more so than you and your manager.
Kathleen: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think I mentioned this in the blog post that was written but for me, early in my career, I felt bad about wanting work-life balance. I felt like people would perceive me as not driven or not results-oriented or not committed. Fortunately, for me, after I had my son, it gave me the time to say, “okay, what are your priorities? What are those non-negotiables?” And again, it helped me to start to say, “No. This is important to me. I’m a better employee because I have balance in my personal life and professional life. I’m not burning the candle at both ends.” And to your point B, I’m honest about it. My team knows where I am. I encourage them to live their lives the same way. The other thing for me, there was a point in my career where due to some different situations at home, I wanted to work from home. It was at the time in our company’s culture, it was like, “No, people don’t do that.” I went to my manager and asked him for this arrangement and he was pretty resistant initially, but going into that conversation, I knew my walk away points. So I knew if he couldn’t do this, that I would leave the company. I did not threaten any of that but I knew what my levers were and I knew my plan and I had a back-up plan and it ended up working out. He took a leap and it was a big fat nothing and so that was great. But I think there are times in your career where you have to make those decisions for yourself, right? You have to have your non-negotiables. You have to have your backup plan and then you got to act, and it helps you feel even more confident about your decisions when you do that.
Lisa: Right. Thank you for asking that question. All right, we’re going to wrap it up with a lightning round where I’ll ask… We’ll just go down the line here, Tammylynne, you have the benefit of being closest in proximity so we’ll start with you and go down the line and loop around. So the first question and just answer it either one word or whatever. A short answer would be great. So the first question, what’s one of your favorite resources as it relates to either innovation, influence, or even just inspiration, in general. It could be a blog, could be a book, could be a podcast, could be a speaking event. Whatever that is, what’s one of your favorite resources?
Tammylynne: I have got a pretty good network of peers. And so I use them for new ideas and inspiration.
Beth: Brene Brown. I just absolutely love all of her work.
Lisa: Say that again?
Beth: Brene Brown.
Kathleen: For me, it was Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I read that many times. Very inspiring.
Tonia: In my case, it’s our learners.
Lisa: Say it again?
Lisa: Oh, your learners.
Tonia: Students. Most of you would call them students, at Capella, we call them Learners.
Lisa: All right, round two. Who’s an influencer in your life? Somebody else can start first, by the way.
Beth: I would say, my grandma, Ada. She was a very, very strong influence in my life and always continues to be.
Tammylynne: My mom. She raised me as a single mom for a long time, went to nursing school, and just a huge support and best friend.
Tonia: In my career, I would say it was the managing partner of a law firm I worked at, because he was one of those people that Kathleen talked about. That knew I could do more than I thought I could do, and he just put me in the spot to be able to do that.
Tammylynne: My middle daughter is seven and she is very bossy and very Jan Brady-ish. And so if I’m not sure about something, I think about, “Am I setting a good example for her or what would she think of this?”
Lisa: Love it. Actually, I did have a few more plans, but I want to honor your time because we were close to one-thirty. So I’m actually going to stop there and just say a huge thank you for making it here today and being part of this with us. This was–when we thought about as OST, we were interested in being part of startup week because it’s a thing here in the Twin Cities and why not. When we were thinking about what was the topic, we wanted to make it something that was meaningful and so, really appreciate you showing up for it and thank you to our panelists. Round of applause. Thank you.
Lizzie: OST, changing how the world connects together. For more information, go to ostusa.com/podcast.