This week’s blog post is the perfect post for the first of the year – inspirational for both men and women. I keep threatening to write the “why I hate email” blog post but you were saved once again by a much better topic. I suspect you’ll see a lot more of guest blogger Stacey Sargent on this forum – I already can’t wait to see what she writes for us next!
BTW, don’t miss the big blog improvements this week – we’ve got facebook and twitter buttons! Whoo hoo!
Betsy Speare, Principal Program Manager Lead, Microsoft Windows Server, Happy Family member, new Green Lake, Seattle Resident, 15 years at Microsoft, EWU CIS grad and chicken farmer (up two chickens, now laying eggs – thanks to the Macleod’s).
Guest Blogger – Stacey Sargent. This awesome post is all you need to know (oh, and there’s more at the bottom about her…)
Last fall I had the opportunity to attend two women’s conferences in a row. The first was the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing in Atlanta, and the second was the Women’s International Network (W.I.N.) Global Leadership Conference in Paris.
There was one message that resonated from both experiences. It seemed to follow me where ever I went, hanging there like a brilliant star in the forefront of my mind. I couldn’t ignore it. At first, I felt the message might be shining just so I personally could see it and learn from it.
What I realize now is that everyone needs to hear this message – especially women. Women who thirst for more in their life. Women who aspire. Women who want something challenging AND meaningful.
The message was articulated precisely by Pascale Dumas, of HP France, at W.I.N. When asked what she would do differently if she had to do it all again, she answered simply (with a beautiful French accent of course), “I would take more risks.”
I would take more risks.
And then I watched two different panel discussions, each containing successful women leaders who echoed the same message.
I would take more risks.
For me, it translated into the present tense: take more risks. Now. Period. End of sentence. No caveats. No additions. No stipulations.
Take more risks. NOW.
With this new bright star message in my mind, it is now illuminating everything and I see the need for it everywhere. Opportunities to take more risk. Openings to define what risk might be for me. New ways to look at what taking risk gains for me or what is truly at stake if it goes awry (usually what might go wrong is less than I imagine). And I can see it in all of the women I work with – their struggle to have the self-confidence to take risks. .
“Really early in my career, I can remember being offered a big job. And I can remember [my] reaction to the person who offered it to me. I right away said, ‘You know what? I’m not ready for this job. I need more time, I need more experience and then I could really do it well.’
So I said to him, ‘I need to go home and think about it.’
I went home that night and told my husband, and I’ve been married 32 years now, and he’s just sitting there. As I’m telling him about this, he just looked at me and said, ‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?’
……What [that] taught me was you have to be very confident even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know. And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”
I believe taking risks is an important life lesson that we all must continue to learn and practice. To practice self-confidence even when we have doubts. To lean in and take more risks, and see what happens.
I have been practicing this art (not science) of taking risks more frequently and here are a few things I have learned:
- I am very often much more successful than I think I will be (read this as “don’t believe everything you think”).
- When I take the risk, something of value ALWAYS comes out of it. Aligned with what Rometty said, this is when I learn the most and gain valuable experiences.
- Taking risks doesn’t get easy. It is getting a bit more manageable, but I have accepted that it will NEVER be easy or simple.
- Having support through my friends, family and colleagues helps me bear the challenge of taking risks. But it only works when I SHARE it with them and talk to them about what I am trying to do. The icing on the cake is they are all there cheering for me regardless of result.
- It pays off. By taking risks I’ve had higher and higher degrees of accomplishment (my definition of accomplishment, not anyone else’s definition).
- It can have an exponential effect in many ways. More risk taking (with both success and survival) leads me to take even more risk.
- I now have real data that shows my success rate and the reality of what being unsuccessful feels like. I’ve learned that I survive the risks that don’t turn out well. I might be disappointed or sad, but that doesn’t last forever.
- A critical component is to PRACTICE my self-confidence (more on that in a future article!).
In my leadership and development work, which I do predominantly with women in technical companies, I see the challenges in building self-confidence and taking risks. It can be a battleground. But I have also witnessed a large number of women who continue to learn, grow, and RISK. What a privilege to be part of the tribe of women who forge this path every day.
Best of success (which means, best wishes in your learning)!
“Growth and comfort do not co-exist.” ~Ginny Rometty
Stacey Sargent is the founder and principal at Connect Growth and Development, a leadership and people development company that works with individuals, teams and organizations helping them create definitions of authentic success that can be leveraged to gain more satisfying and fully-connected results. Stacey has a passion for working with women who aspire to combine achievement and meaning in their work and life. She works with clients and groups at Microsoft, Amazon, Expedia and more offering long term growth programs, workshops, facilitation and coaching. Clients value Stacey’s ability to bring a supportive yet challenging nature, an approachable manner, to ask right questions and bring focus to what really matters. The company tagline, “WHAT REALLY MATTERS” is Stacey’s focal point for bringing her passion and support to her clients, in the places and ways that matter. She can be reached at Stacey@ConnectGD.com or at www.ConnectGD.com.