Forbes | Mentors Matter: There Are So Many Different Ways To Mentor
When I ask women to name someone who has been a meaningful mentor in their lives, the most common response sounds something like this: “There are so many. I don’t know where to start.” But when you pin them down, they usually come up with someone, whether a boss, a teacher, parent, grandparent or partner. Here's what these Forty Women Over 40 honorees had to say:
A Grandmother Ahead Of Her Time
Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, an attorney and Founder & CEO of BUILD, which teaches disadvantaged youth entrepreneurial skills, names her grandmother, Ruth, who lived to be 97. “Ruth was a warrior. She went to Cornell at 16… when women (especially Jewish women) rarely went to college. She graduated and travelled the country as a playwright. She married late, had children later and went back to school in her 70s to get an advanced degree and founded a non-profit.”
The maternal mentor—a mother or grandmother, sometimes an aunt, who has modeled ambitious life success is a powerful and recurring archetype. Women also acknowledge their fathers and/or grandfathers. Says Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, “My father was, by far, the most valuable mentor in my life. He was an incredibly smart, innovative, and principled leader…he was my greatest leadership teacher. After his retirement, he continued to mentor me for 25 years – through every stage of my career – until his death in 2009.”
A husband is the top pick for some women, like Naama Bloom, Founder and CEO of HelloFlo. “My husband has provided more guidance and support than I could have ever dreamed. Since he’s an entrepreneur himself, he can empathize with the struggles and provide great counsel. As well, he’s an unbelievable strategist so I know I can always use him as a sounding board when I’m feeling stuck. Lastly, I tend to denigrate my accomplishments and he never lets me get away with that.”
Then There are Teachers
Educators get a shout-out, as by Ruth Ann Harnisch, President, Harnisch Foundation, who acknowledges “Buffalo NY Public School 72 Assistant Principal Dorothy Wolf who included me in the group of children who received the accent elimination coaching and declamation lessons that equipped me for my career in broadcasting.”
Forbes | Stacy London On How To Wear Life Well
So says Stacy London, longtime fashion guru, on-air consultant for television programs as diverse as Today and Rachael Ray, bestselling author (The Truth about Style), and host of reality shows What Not to Wear and, more recently, Love, Lust or Run.
I recently interviewed London for the Disrupt Yourself Podcast and was struck by how her career journey through the fashion industry is an archetype for the rapidly changing, ephemeral nature of technology, education, work and life choices many of us face and are challenged by, again and again. Phrases like “seasonal fashion trend” and “fad” can feel like labels applied to us and our daily lives. We all know that “what’s trending now” is different than what will be trending tomorrow—even if it’s us. Relevance can yield to irrelevance faster than the styles of springtime are replaced on the rack by those intended for fall.
So I found London and her insights on aging in her industry to have universal application. All of us are aging and all of us are dealing with disruptive forces that unsettle. London’s hopeful message is that though sometimes painful, the transition from what we have been and presently are to what we will be can be accomplished with wisdom acquired and fresh relevance in the future.
“When people talk about women being older, you know, ‘She was in her forties….’ And I’m like, “That’s…what? You’re talking about me. I’m sitting right here. What do you mean, ‘older?’ I’m shocked by it.”
London acknowledges that the work she did in television fashion no longer resonates broadly. “What I do, and what I did, in terms of makeover? That kind of process is no longer attention-getting. It takes too long. Makeovers now are really about digital because you can do it in five minutes. You can see a before and you can see an after. You don’t need to wait a week to see another makeover; you can go online and see 5000 of them in an hour.”
“I had a very specific kind of role in terms of fashion and maybe being my age doesn’t suit that medium.” In fact, change in the fashion industry is not just too quick for television, where a season of episodes is filmed months before it airs; it is so rapid that we have coined a name for it: Fast Fashion. From the runway to the rack is a short, rapid journey. The goal is to have the very latest trends be readily, widely and cheaply available in the shortest amount of time possible. The actual price tag for this constant turnover is quite high.
London is more of a fashion classic, like a great pencil skirt that is always in.
But trying to figure out how to wear that piece in fresh ways is an ongoing challenge—and reward. “Even now when I do stuff for Rachael Ray or I do stuff for Access Hollywood and people are like, ‘Oh, I know, you’re that girl from that show. Oh, I used to love you. What have you been doing; where have you been?’ It’s almost like I can’t outrun the What Not to Wear reputation. And in some ways that’s a little bit hard for me. It’s like a ‘Whatever happened to?’ or ‘Where is she now?’ When I feel like the years since What Not to Wear have been some of the most productive for me.”
She sees this act of self-renewal and self-creation as being foreshadowed by the transformations she has facilitated for other women in the past, while hosting What Not to Wear, for example.
“There are so many stories where women literally changed their circumstances based on being able to see themselves differently. Getting better jobs, leaving bad marriages, having a different kind of relationship with their children. That was the end game for What Not to Wear.”
I often ask women for a quote that inspires them to keep moving. Not surprisingly, London fixes on one that resonates in her period of transition. “I have been thinking about a Zadie Smith quote that I read recently about not allowing your mind to put limits on you that don’t exist.
“I don’t want my mind to stop me from all the possibility that there is in the world. I’m happy for the first time. I’m usually like ‘Who cares it’s another year? Who cares about time?’ It’s just a random demarcation of days.
“I am now going to take steps to reclaim the spirit and the energy that I want in my life. Not that I want to reclaim who I was; I want to reclaim who I am and who I’m going to be.”
If you can see it, you can be it.
This post originally published at Forbes
LinkedIn | You Are Successful. It’s Time To Do Something New. Now What? Talk to Stacy London.
Personal disruption can be surprising and not at all welcome, at least in the near term. Yet we often look back and realize that the jolt that bumped us off the track also launched us into a new, more productive path. If we could have stayed in our prior situation, we would have missed it.
Why wouldn't we remain in our comfort zone? It's comfortable.
In Episode 9 of the Disrupt Yourself podcast, Stacy London shares her insight on this subject. She reflects on being fired from her job at Cosmopolitan. On how being disrupted feels as we get older vs. how we experience and cope with it in earlier stages of our careers. London has long been a prominent voice in the world of style and fashion; the co-host of What Not to Wear, a reality TV makeover show, fashion reporter for The Early Show, the Today Show and Access Hollywood, among others. Most of us have seen her in action at one time or another. She is also the author of the bestselling The Truth About Style.
Despite her high profile, London finds herself confronting the disruption of her personal career. And also of her entire industry at a time of life which in which we incline to reflection. There may be a degree of uncertainty about the work we have done, and may yet do. The disruption is unsettling. “There is this sense of fashion being about privilege. And that privilege has to do with wealth, youth and thinness. I’ve spent my life sort of arguing against those things,” she says. “What I didn’t realize was that I was not going to feel 47 when I turned 47…and the kind of reality jolt, the shock…of being this age and feeling like, ‘Oh, I’m not in the game anymore in the same way.’”
London is not the first person, nor fashion the first industry, to struggle for relevance in the face of time and change. Many of us will hear echoes of our own experience in her words. She's spent a good part of her career in television. A medium which she says is no longer particularly fashion-friendly. “We went from being a how-to culture, with reality television that was meant to educate. To a me-too culture that came with the birth of bloggers. Instead of expertise we’re looking for mutual and shared experience—which doesn't require expertise.”
What do we do when the expertise we’ve spent a career acquiring is no longer valued as it once was? When it has been overtaken by new technology, or changing norms and cultural preferences? For London, the high-profile has been a coin with two sides. “Even now when I do stuff for Rachael Ray or Access Hollywood people say, ‘Oh, I know you. You’re that girl from that show. Oh, I used to love you. What have you been doing? Where have you been?’ It’s almost like I can’t outrun the What Not to Wear reputation.”
In the midst of her soul-searching, London is planing a new book. She will explore the issue of envying the young. “Having younger friends at the beginning of their career. They’re launching websites and television shows and they’re 30 or 31 or 32, just when I started.” And the necessity to experience and work through and then resist, envy. “I don’t want to envy my friends.”
Rather, she wants to support and help. To offer her hard won expertise or a connection that can lift a promising career. “I experienced such graciousness, such generosity from women I worked with when I started in television. These women blazed a path for me and then said, ‘Walk down it.’ I don’t ever for a second forget how important that is. I don’t want to be the woman who’s kicking and screaming, who doesn’t want to let go because I’m jealous.”
It’s a brutally honest interview about both the pleasure and the pain that we encounter during the changing seasons of life and career. Success and failure. Waxing and waning. Invention and reinvention. If you haven’t felt the emotions that London expresses, your day will come. I invite you to listen here.
This post originally published at LinkedIn
Forbes | Travel Alone- You’ll Be Surprised At What You Discover
I used to be surprised when I reached out to someone after a contact hiatus of a year or two and discovered they were off on an entirely new adventure. No longer—it happens too often and happened again recently with Paula Froelich.
When last we communicated, she was Yahoo Travel’s Editor-At-Large. She had a wonderful series going titled “A Broad Abroad” and under her leadership Yahoo Travel had become the largest travel content site in the world. Her novel Mercury in Retrograde was a New York Times bestseller. She had fine-tuned her skills as a savvy senior writer at Newsweek and as a freelance journalist covering politics, travel and pop culture. Froelich also profitably passed 10 years as the Deputy Editor of the New York Post’s “Page Six.”
Fast-forward 18 months from our last contact and she’s multi-tasking as the on-air travel expert for HSN, an ambassador for the benefits of American Express’s Platinum Card membership and a Contributing Founder and on-air talent for PYPO (Put Your Pretty On), a newly launched digital platform for women-created content promoting social change. Try to keep up!
When, at the ripe old age of 36, I quit my high profile job, ditched all of my success, for the great unknown — without another job waiting.
My friends threw me a huge 30th birthday party and it was great, except I imbibed too much and gave myself a raging hangover the next day as a present. My 40th was way better — I took myself to Egypt to see the Pyramids and Luxor—by myself. No hangover.
Since then, I make it a rule to travel by myself on my birthday every year . It's a great way to celebrate what has happened, and to really unplug and connect with myself — and to understand where I want to go in the year ahead.
I was living in England and cold-called every single features editor of every single paper – only the assistant to the features editor at The Guardian was too polite to not hang up on me. I got the job.
Back in the U.S., I got a job covering interest rate swaps and over-the-counter derivatives at the newsletter division of Institutional Investor and was then recruited out by Dow Jones as they didn’t have anyone doing that at the time.
Wars, Guns and Votes by Paul Collier, and all of the Elana Ferrante books in the ‘My Brilliant Friend‘ series. Paul gave me perspective on why the world is the way it is and Elana Ferrante gave me insight into my grandmother, who was from southern Italy and whom I didn't know that well. I love books that give me historical perspective. Especially these days when it all seems like it's falling apart – they allow you to say, “Ah. Wait a minute. We've been here before. Chill out. This too shall pass.”
Accomplishment That Makes Me Smile
All of them. Every single one. I’m even proud of my failures (which have been spectacular), because I did them on my own, and learned from them all.
I wake up at 5 but don’t get out of bed until around 7 — I use that time to dream, think and thank the universe. I get up, walk and feed the dog, have breakfast, take a shower and go!
Feminism. Which, in case someone doesn’t know, just means EQUALITY.
Not as often as I should. I unplug on planes… and by reading. A lot.
I have had several — all women. My first boss, Clare Longrigg was invaluable, and I have a close circle of friends who are all successful in business.
Best Networking Contact
I’ve had several people change my life just by meeting someone who knew someone…the thing is: always be nice. Always be courteous and remember Manhattan is a small island.
Song I Can't Get Out Of My Head
It depends on the day. I once went to Kmart and a Muzak version of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting For You” was on – I dreamed about it for a year. I haven’t been back to Kmart since.
This post originally published at Forbes
Forbes | To Get Ahead, Figure Out Your Boss’ Biggest Challenge, And Solve It
Liz Wiseman delivering a keynote speech.
After the publication of the bestselling book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, and the launch of leadership research and development firm, The Wiseman Group, of which she is President, Liz Wiseman popped onto the scene as a leading management thinker, writer, speaker and trainer. She followed with Rookie Smarts: How Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work in 2014. Her leadership career follows 17 years of success at Oracle where she rose to become Vice President of Oracle University. How can we not love someone who is committed to ridding the world of bad bosses?
Pivotal Moment of Reinvention
My big pivot came when I left the comfort of a great corporate job (I was the VP of Oracle University) to go out on my own as a consultant and executive advisor.
Oracle has a true growth mindset – a belief that smart people can figure out hard things. As a result, I faced a steady stream of stretch assignments. I was 40 years old before I had a job that I was actually qualified for! I found the work as thrilling as it was challenging.
At the end of those seventeen years my colleagues and work conditions were still fantastic but I wasn’t being challenged and the exhilaration was gone. I stepped out of my comfort zone and set out to research and write a book on leadership.
Valuable mentor or sponsor
Ray Lane, former president of Oracle, gave me roles that were at least two sizes too big and then let me suffer a bit while I figured it out. Phil Wilson proactively advocated with the top execs for a sizeable raise for me. It was initially rejected. He felt so strongly that I should be paid at the level of my responsibility that he put his own job on the line. It was approved. This kind of sponsorship is particularly needed to support women willing to stretch themselves and take risks. CK Prahalad, the late, acclaimed professor from University of Michigan, taught me to ask hard questions and opened doors that allowed me to pursue my current work in research, writing, and teaching management.
Developing a blueprint and toolkit to help companies build a Multiplier culture and a set of strategies to help people deal with the diminishing managers around them.
My husband and I love to travel to new countries with our four children. We travel at every opportunity, but in particular, we take two to three weeks each July and go with our children somewhere in the developing world. We don’t turn on our cell phones and typically have spotty Wi-Fi access.
I was pregnant with my first child on my 30th birthday, so I felt as if I was making a major life shift. I had spent the first thirty years of my life focused on me (my education, my career, etc.). I realized that I would now spend the next thirty years putting many of my needs and goals on hold while I put my family first. But, ironically, in focusing on others in these last twenty years, I think I’ve learned more and achieved more professionally than in the first thirty.
I am not-so-secretly trying to rid the world of bad bosses. People come to work each day ready to give 100% of their capability. But many face a cement wall of management where their ideas aren’t heard and their true capability isn’t seen. We face many seemingly insurmountable challenges (in both the public and private sector), but I believe we have the collective intelligence to solve them. My mission is to develop leaders who can take on the world’s toughest challenges by using all the intelligence and human capability around them.
Accomplishment that Makes Me Smile
Writing a book as a novice and having it become a best seller.
What is the latest business book you read?
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
I was contemplating an internal transfer and was interviewing for a job with Bob Shaver, an Oracle VP. I described the kind of work I wanted to do and what I hoped to accomplish in the job. Bob assured me that my intent was worthy but that it would be far more helpful to him and the company if I figured out my boss’s biggest challenge and helped her solve it. I reoriented my thinking which helped me build a reputation as someone who understood the strategy and got the most important stuff done. This has opened up many career opportunities to do work that I truly love.
This post originally published at Forbes