2018 MEET: Individual Speakers Recap
This year’s MEET event featured a brand new format and a fantastic lineup of speakers. The feedback from attendees highlighted the calibre of panelists, all of whom were engaging and had a lot of experience to share. Smaller round-table discussions with each one allowed our emerging talents and students to have close conversations with them.
To help facilitate ideas, we provided several starter questions each round focused around the event themes. As a reminder, here are those themes:
- Authenticity in Action: Experiences with personal and social expectations in leadership
- Power of Attitude: How outlook and attitude affect career development
- Art of Decision Making: Increasing confidence in decision making ability
We had some fantastic volunteers take notes on all the discussions; our speakers and attendees had created great stories to share. We have captured some interesting points for each speaker below.
Kristen Rasmussen (Vice-president of People and Culture, TELUS)
Kristen’s approach in many of the topics involved logic and perspective contributing to personal growth and leadership. During the discussion about age/experience bias, Kristen reinforces that being aware of bias is the first thing we need to recognize as people have unconscious bias constantly; be who you are and stand your ground for who you are. Bias is overcome through experience and proof – everyone has things that fit a stereotype and things that don’t. Biases can also be used as your strength – play to your strengths and be just good enough at the things you’re not good at.
Reflecting back on the last 15 years of her career, Kristen confirms that she was never purposeful about her career; rather she always liked to just work hard and with good people. In particular, it was good leaders who advocated for her, opening the opportunities from role to role. It is tough to know when to follow your gut feeling, but remember to say YES to opportunities that come your way even when you’re not 100% sure (try it). When asked for advice on how to seek someone to advocate for your skills, Kristen shares that you need to be focused on the collective success of the people around you, and if you live and work by that your leaders will recognize it. Pick a leader who has attributes you value and admire, and that the organization would value. Advocacy will naturally flow.
Lastly, Kristen emphasizes that perspective is important in maintaining a positive attitude – ask yourselves, although the current situation is bad, how can we make it better? There is always an opportunity to change in a bad situation and a chance to reinvent yourself, it’s all about perspective. Kristen emphasizes that creating an environment where people have a voice and feel supported and trusted inadvertently instills positive attitude in the team. Be proactive in your team – give context for every ask and don’t leave anyone in the dark. Decision making was a reoccurring topic in which Kristen simply tied the conversation in with logic. Making decisions is a thoughtful process; follow a framework that takes yourself out of the scenario to think about how you will make the decision. We only get better at making decisions by making decisions time after time, so trust that your instincts around your decisions.
Jayne Landry (Vice-president and Product Management for SAP Leonardo & Analytics, SAP)
Attendees had a few questions on gender roles at work, such as women supporting other women and expectations for women in the workplace. Jayne emphasizes finding one’s own leadership style and aligning it with the company. For example, being aggressive doesn’t suit her, so she adjusts to play on her own strengths — putting observations/ data together and then making her case. She also notes the importance of careful communication around personal restrictions. Balancing her home and work life means discussing caregiving with her husband, but not necessarily bringing up those same issues to customers. Instead, when a customer books a meeting during her family time, she suggests a time that is closer to the rest of her meetings to better proportion her schedule.
Jayne suggests reviewing one’s personal energies and values in order to create a life “balance” that works, even if it isn’t necessarily a balance. Some days she will plan to work longer, but her online calendar captures it all so others know exactly where she is (including lunch breaks!). Consequently, she spends more time on the weekends doing things that are uplifting (spending time with her family, going outdoors etc.). She maintains strict work and social time blocks.
From a leadership point-of-view, Jayne tries to get to know her subordinates one-on-one; communication styles and personal goals vary from person to person. This includes discovering an individual’s passions and dislikes to find the right position for them, but this always involves some risk. It is important to be open with leaders and colleagues.
Ria Stone (District Manager, Sodexo)
Ria has a pragmatic and realistic view of dealing with expectations and difficulties in the workplace. As a leader she notes sometimes hard conversations are necessary for the organization as a whole. Proactively asking for feedback and addressing value misalignments directly (between the team and the company) are some actions she has to take. This includes talking to individuals about their performance and behaviours.
For women in particular, she emphasizes support for female co-workers and finding reliable male allies. Surrounding oneself by positive colleagues also helps dissipate negativity. Then, ensure to take proper credit for work and speak up when somebody else tries to claim it.
A recurring idea Ria comes back to is that it isn’t possible to be perfect — there isn’t a “perfect leader” or approach to balancing work and life outside. However, it is very possible to look busy and yet be ineffective. Alleviate the “busy work” through delegation, and review what is really important during the work day. Strategies Ria outlines include declining meetings with unclear agendas and taking time away without feeling the need to ask all the time. Confidence and trust play into this; seeking validation too often leads to “analysis paralysis” (doubting one’s decisions), which prevents career growth.
Finally, Ria touches on the value of getting outside of one’s comfort zone — whether that be by choice or the universe’s events. Look back at failures and be confident in moving on. Networking is vital for career growth but not everybody is comfortable doing it. Bringing a networking buddy and incorporating it into everyday interactions can help, but everybody has to do it to develop.
Ria’s recommended podcast: Harvard – Women at Work https://hbr.org/2018/01/podcast-women-at-work
Recommended books: How to Drop Balls, Nordic Theory of Everything
Caroline Schein (Vice-president, Human Resources at Vancity)
Caroline provides advice by reflecting back on her experiences. Speaking up, taking chances and listening are ways to keep up and get ahead, but it is also hard to be driven without being authentic. When behavior doesn’t match with values, it often leads to a blame game. Recognize when this line is crossed to avoid negativity from oneself and others.
Further, people are responsible for their own self-development. Information is freely available, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn on the go. Proactively asking for feedback (including specific details of what you are interested in) and taking ownership for failures can boost the atmosphere at work. Being quiet doesn’t always help the situation; mistakes need to be acknowledged otherwise emotions can escalate negatively. For example, when there is a difficult person in the workplace, that person may simply not be aware of their faults. It isn’t necessarily a good thing to keep quiet to avoid hurting their feelings. Egos also don’t help; admitting to a mistake can help lift the burden off of everyone.
Caroline pointed out that for her, she had to set goals early and take time for that self-development. She noticed leaders make a few common mistakes, and these can affect the people around them. Working constantly isn’t a healthy example to set for others, and neither is failing to indicate weaknesses and strengths to colleagues. It is important to recognize that as a team, things will work out and each member’s attitude affects the people around them.
Gopi Chande (VP and Controller, TELUS Finance)
Gopi expresses how a positive outlook and curiosity are key in navigating through tough moments, whether in the workplace or in your personal life. Curiosity helps to keep up to speed in the fast changing digital age. Shifting your mindset to focus on enjoying the process of doing the work rather than simply getting the work done naturally brings curiosity, resulting in the ability to learn faster. Attendees added that it’s all about being adaptable during the era we are in. Gopi shares that the top 3 key critical skills for the future are: critical thinking, collaboration, communication. She emphasizes that you do not have to know all the answers; know what to look for and who to talk to in order to get your answers.
Gopi brings to light “imposter syndrome” during the discussion about pressures of being a ‘perfect leader’. Imposter syndrome is when you think you are in a role where you are not worthy. In her experience, Gopi used to put pressure on herself, always asking “what would other women leaders do?” In time, being transparent with your team builds understanding and cuts the pressure off of being that ‘perfect leader’. She also shares that dealing with negativity in the workplace can be broken down by recognizing what is a fact and what is a feeling, and spinning negativity into something positive. Recognizing the baseline of negativity people are coming to you at, and working with that. Approach each situation with humanity. Gopi advises to try to be curious about the source of the negativity with people, find a way to connect with the negative person, find their happy place, and realize where your positive energy is coming from.
From Gopi’s perspective in working smarter vs. working harder, use the theory: what do you need, when do you need it, why do you need it. Be at work because of your curiosity and recognize how you work best – know when you are most efficient, when your energy is the highest, and communicate that to your team. Gopi also shares that confidence in decision-making is something she learnt and developed throughout her career. She used to think about decisions as binary: either right or wrong. Rather, it is important to ask others what they think and put out open-ended questions. When discussing issues, talk about – what, now what, and so what. Decision-making is a muscle that you train.
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