While visiting St. Louis (my hometown) to raise money and spend time with my dad for Father’s Day, I read this article in the Business section of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The journalist interviewed the five female CEOs of St. Louis public companies about their experiences climbing the ladder to success.
What I found really encouraging and empowering was each of the women’s refusal to blame “being a woman” as a setback.
This article also reminded me of the WSJ article How Women Can Get Ahead: Advice from Female CEOs. It seems every female CEO, much like any CEO, acknowledges challenge as the biggest factor of personal growth and success. In the WSJ article, Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, says “Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment you can find, and then take control.”
Suzanne Sitherwood, CEO of the St. Louis-based LacledeGroup, says something along the same lines, and emphasizes the importance of communication.
I seem to learn the most when I am the most challenged, or things didn’t go my way. Usually, that’s not the technical aspects of the business, but people experiences. You can have the best technical aptitude, but if you don’t understand the people aspect, you’re going to fail.
I spend between 30 to 50 percent of my time on people, either with employees, customers or investors.
I think the whole communication element is so important, and connecting with customers, employees and shareholders. . . . I feel strongly that employees have to be educated and informed, so they know about issues in the industry and other aspects of the business. If you don’t do that internally, my suspicion is that you won’t do that well with customers.
Sometimes I think we all have an idea of what a “boss” is like; a head honcho who sits in a big glass office and bosses people around via Blackberry while Skyping with investors. But doing the dirty work, constantly engaging with and motivating your team, and continuous customer development seem like three of the most important factors to the success of a company.