Within my organization, a predominantly male environment, I stand out just by being there! But, for me, that’s not enough. I focus on being deliberate about HOW I show up. I deliver the financial results to which I have committed, challenge the status quo, and promote diversity of approach and opinion, which is what I believe true diversity is, and needs to be.
However, just doing a good job is not sufficient; one needs to broaden her exposure and develop a strong network. I’ve never believed in networking for the sake of networking. I have to have a purpose for broader engagements. The vehicle I’ve used to operate outside my business has been talent development. I participate in leadership training, serve as a faculty member for development programs, and mentor people from a wide range of businesses.
My advice would be to focus on delivery—be clear what you want to be known for, and ensure your actions are consistent with those beliefs and values.
On the Importance of Doing the Inner Work
I learned early that not all people are motivated or like to be coached in the same way. My natural style works for some, but for others, it can be overwhelming. So my inner work over the years has been to be more perceptive of others’ needs and styles, and to try to frame feedback and coaching in ways that resonate with each person. The same applies to how I show up in meetings and interactions. I endeavor to understand the group I’m stepping into and then, depending on the situation and intent, choose a style that will make a specific impact.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Staying competitive is all about delivering results, and I can’t do that on my own. So it is also about people—helping people grow, motivating them, rewarding them, and watching them develop and do more than they thought they could. The other element necessary for success is taking risks. Sustainable results require making things happen and pushing boundaries. You can’t do that by playing not to lose.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
No one mentor comes to mind, but I have been lucky enough that a number of different people believed in me and were willing to take a chance on me at key points in my career.
On Facing Challenges
Earlier in my career in a functional role, I found myself at a point where I had to keep my team focused and motivated, despite a lack of support and confidence from senior leadership. As the leader, my role was to absorb the doubt and pressure from above, so it didn’t distract my team from the path we had laid out. We stayed the course and was able to deliver!
Elen’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
You have to make a lot of tradeoffs, so know what you stand for, what’s really important to you, where you won’t compromise on, and where you might. If the role or the organization you’re in doesn’t work for you, look for a situation that will recognize and value what you have to offer.