Igniting Social Communities of Women Leaders

Young business woman in social network

Originally posted April, 2014  on Women’s Center for Leadership

For Women’s Center for Leadership (WCL), we are, at our core, all about community. Our mission is about our members.

 WCL is a consortium of professional women joined in developing leadership skills, sharing knowledge and building community in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve been a member of WCL for about 10 years. My participation has evolved: from sporadically catching a monthly breakfast event at first, then attending more regularly as my daughter got older and could do more to get herself ready for school, and ultimately joining the WCL Board of Directors. I think many of our members have times when they are active, and times when they have to check out for a while to attend to other things. Many just do their best to stay in touch, even if it’s only reading the email updates and checking out a blog or two.  Having to make tradeoffs like this is just part of the reality for a lot of professional women.

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On Humble Confidence

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This blog is more of a short story about a leadership lesson I learned.

One summer when I was in college, I came home and took Thermodynamics at a community college. When I had some free time so I helped my mom by taking my grandfather, her dad, on his errands. One day when I picked him up, I had my Thermo textbook on the front seat. He went to get in and put the book on his lap. As I drove, he thumbed through it, then closed the book, looked up and said, “Kelli, I really like you because you are smart but you don’t show it.” Hmmm, was that a compliment? Oh yeah, it was. You see, my grandfather was a machinist who never went to college, but he was naturally smart at math. I know this is where my mom and I got our aptitudes for math. He knew it too.

Then he went on, “When I worked in the shop, I would get plans from the engineers. Sometimes they’d be wrong. You know I could figure it myself, so I knew if those numbers were wrong. I would go back to them, but they didn’t want to hear it from me. I was only a machinist.” I stopped the car at our first errand and my grandfather looked over at me and said, “I am so proud you are studying these books and going to be an engineer. Just never act like those fellas.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was urging me to be competent but not arrogant or too full of pride. He wanted me to act with humble confidence.

Over the years, I have realized that my grandfather gave me some really solid leadership advice. We all know leaders need to be competent and confident. But a leader who is that and also humble, is more human, more approachable and maybe even more respected.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.  -Thomas Merton

A humble leader listens because they can learn from others and they also own up to their mistakes (unlike those arrogant engineers my grandfather had to deal with).  This is the kind of leader that inspires me. The kind of leader I aspire to be.  And I think my grandfather would approve.

What about My Needs!

screaming woman

Recently, I watched an Omega Institute for Holistic Studies live webcast “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” with TED icon Brene’ Brown and Zen priest Joan Halifax Roshi.

They were talking about finding your strength and how important it is to know your capacity and own it. I loved that Joan Roshi said, “Remember to take an in-breath.”  Then she posed the question “How can you take care of the world, if you don’t take care of yourself? You must love and show kindness to yourself.”

“The female identity is being a care-giver or a do-gooder,” added Brene’ Brown. The conversation went on that it’s unfortunate that if a woman does take that in-breath, in our culture she is viewed as narcissistic. What I pulled from that part is that to have power, we also need to take care of our needs and not care how others perceive us. Sometimes you have to enlist the help of others and put down that do-it-all shield.

Talk is cheap, right? To really do this, you have to overcome your fear of what others think or any other feelings of inadequacy that you harbor. For women, it takes courage to take some of those “in-breaths” in our lives. And to really have power, you have to be your true self and speak your own truth. You have to speak up for yourself. If you have a supportive family and friends, it may be a little easier to do this kind of woo woo stuff in your personal life, but what about at work?

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Why We Should Mentor Millennial Employees

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When I graduated from university in the late 80’s jobs were hard to come by – even with a technical degree. You had to get experience wherever you could. I knew when I graduated that the easiest way to find a job was to work through the campus recruiters, but I ended up moving to Japan and doing some backpack traveling for a few years instead.

While I was in Japan I worked in a translating company that specialized in technical documentation. I checked and corrected Japanese product/service manuals and research papers that were translated by native Japanese speakers. I read all kinds of things: scientific papers on the effects of electromagnetism on cockroaches, recommendations on which potatoes to plant in SE Asia to prevent famine, computer user manuals, and lots and lots of documentation about tool die casting equipment. I’m talking tool die specifications, product installation, service manuals and marketing brochures. Did I say a lot? There were so many tool die casting manufacturers in Japan at the time.  Tool die casting was not sexy, but it was my big opportunity to get some technical experience that I could take back to The States when I was ready to turn in my backpack for a real job.

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Three Tried and True Ways to Let Your Inner Leader Shine

Summer landscape: beauty sunset over sunflowers field

So you are not the CEO, not even the manager, but you can hone your leadership skills and start behaving like a leader no matter what you do or what level you are in the company. The HBR article “Act like a Leader before You Are One,” author Amy Gallo outlines several strategies to start acting like a leader.

I have been employing a few of these over the past few years. Here are the ones I know work.

  1. Knock your responsibilities out of the park
    This one is a given. You have to be a rock star in your current job. Which means you have to pick jobs and assignments where there are meaty project you are passionate about. Make sure they are challenging enough to keep you engaged and that there are clear key performance indicators, so it’s obvious when you have nailed it. Or hopefully over-nailed it. And don’t be shy about letting others know what you have done. A great way to do this is to send a thank you to the people you worked with on the project thanking them for making the project successful. Build visibility and good will at the same time.
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Slow Down Ma’am!

Police Motorcycle Cop Mirror

I didn’t even realize it. In our modern world, it just creeps up on you, you know. I’m talking about busy-ness. Before you know it, you are taking on more juicy projects on top of your already full workload, signing your kids up for more and more activities, volunteering at school and in the community, pledging to cook healthy meals and exercise, and on and on. Then you have to make it all work. You have the entire day planned completely back to back. You have to make cuts. Drive time between events starts to seem frivolous, so you snip and cut to make everything fit into the day. And things like getting your hair cut is pretty low on the list. But you resolve to yourself that that’s the way it is.

Several months ago, I had to travel for work. My hair was a wreck, so I squeezed in getting my haircut during the day. The appointment was going to be tight, but I was pretty sure I could drive to downtown Portland and get back to my office for a meeting right after. In reality, the drive and the appointment both took longer than I thought they would. It’s a good thing I have a car with some guts! I broke out of the downtown traffic and the road opened up. I hit the pedal and I was going 45 MPH…55 MPH…65 MPH… I would make it back to my meeting on time, with good hair. Hooray!

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Building your Ability to Bounce Back

Resilience road sign

Originally posted August 9, 2012 on Women’s Center for Leadership

I was impressed by the determination and focus of the US and Canadian women’s teams in the Olympic Women Soccer Semi-finals earlier this week.

What made the biggest impression on me when I watched the game was the display of resiliency on both teams throughout the entire game – after every set-back, injury, questionable call, and penalty kicks. The teams rallied on. These female athletes exemplify resiliency – and it has stuck with me over the past two days.

We have all had career setbacks:  projects canceled, employees leave, funding dries up, and on and on. We all have had to adapt and rally.

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The Gift of Advice

Gift woman

Originally posted June 5, 2012  on Women’s Center for Leadership

Recently, the 2012 Fortune 500 list was released.  When I first saw the list I had no idea that there were a record number of female executives, until I saw in a blog that detailed, “The 2012 ranking of the 500 largest corporations in the United States includes a record 18 firms helmed by female CEOs, up from 12 companies in 2011. The previous record for women-led companies in the Fortune 500 was set in 2009, and included 15 firms run by female executives. Just seven Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs in 2002 and 2003.”

There are 2.5x more female CEOs than there were 10 years ago. So what advice do these accomplished 18 women have to share?  In Career advice from Fortune 500′s women CEOs, KeyCorp CEO Beth Mooney advises, “If somebody hands you a torch, what do you do with it? And I think the answer is easy. You light the way for others to follow.”

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Welcome to my Blog

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Kelli Gizzi – Lead and Live from the Heart

I just wanted to welcome you to my blog, Lead and Live From the Heart. I hope you enjoy reading about the various things I’m passionate about: women’s leadership, information technology (IT), social media/marketing 2.0, raising kids and life. I would love discussing these topics with you – and find out your point of view. Please let me know your thoughts or share links to additional information – there’s just so much to learn.

Sincerely,

Kelli