Be The CEO: By Women Who Lead
What’s it feel like to Be The CEO? We really just went there courtesy of five women CEO’s sharing their personal experiences on leadership, work/life management and oh so much more.
The event, held at Stahl Construction in the historic Miller Textile Building and hosted by Sarah Edwards and Bumble Bizz (the business connectivity version of the Bumble dating app), was captioned Be The CEO. The panel of women shared at least one commonality — they are all leaders in industries and roles that are primarily male dominated. The panelists included Jessie Houlihan Bingen of Stahl Construction, Heather Manley of On-Demand Group and Crooked Water Spirits, Jasmine Russell of Monicat Data Creative, Jacqueline Griffith Crowley of City National Bank, and Zoe Stern of the Minnesota Vikings.
If you attended thinking you might be able to suss out similarities in personalities, roles in the workplace, teams. career paths, education, you came up empty handed. These ladies’ stories reconfirmed that the secret CEO sauce doesn’t lie in external achievements or scenarios. It lies within. Self-doubt, perfectionism, fear of failure, out-of-whack hierarchies, over-extended passion and drive, and being physically out of sync all rose to the top in conversation over the course of the evening. How these CEO’s handled the negative inner voices, their relationships, their mental and physical health was their commonality. Through these insights, we got glimpses of CEO-ness.
Particularly in their work in fields from engineering to finance and technology to distilling, as females, they may have had to work extra hard to prove themselves. No different than any person who is stereotyped or discriminated or whose worth is under-valued, which I personally discerned as a valuable takeaway. It was refreshing to hear Zoe’s creative approach — calling upon her personal strengths to amp up her human-being-ness until her employers caught up with her job skills wow-factor.
Space To Move Past Putdowns
In primarily male-dominated environments, one can imagine some common assumptions and comments these women have encountered. I’m sure we can also imagine how men might feel in female-dominated environments or how anyone might feel if they appear atypical to someone’s preconceived idea. Based on panel comments, these women don’t seem to be overly ruffled about these scenarios, but most could mention one trigger-type comment related to age, gender or role that causes them to pause. As Jessie shared, she’s learned to create a way to have presence in these moments and share effective respectful and direct responses.
State of Sway
I am relieved that conversations as of late are moving away from the term work/life balance. To be balanced or always in a state of balance is delusional. It implies perfectionism, which is increasingly a word more women are vowing to strike from their thoughts and actions. I’ve heard the concept we’re working to convey termed sway or in the state of pursuing balance, which can look different every day. When it comes to sway assessment, Jessie suggested that it’s a more holistic look at our attention and activities than a daily view. Perhaps we assess these things over the course of a month because that just feels more reasonable as a healthy check-in. Sigh of relief there!
Privilege of Hierarchy
Jacqueline talked about maintaining a clear hierarchy in one’s personal and professional life. By doing so, everyone — you, your family, friends and employer — benefits. Understanding the full picture of relationships, tasks, goals upfront makes it easier to make the daily decisions necessary without zapping all of your mental energy. Communicate your hierarchy and your reasoning as needed to get the support you need. The goal is to feel guilt-free wherever you are and be present in your life. An underlying thought of importance here: we should all be so lucky to have full lives and the privilege of creating a hierarchy.
If Not Me, Then Who?
Our hard-wiring doesn’t always help us. Let’s get out of our own way and go for that job or take on that task! Women who are 110% qualified will obsess over applying for a position, while men who are 60% qualified will confidently apply, a stat Heather recalled for us. Jessie touched on this idea of if not me, then who? This mantra helped her quiet self-doubt and an unchecked checklist of achievements or background she thought necessary to tackle a task. She just started going for it.
Lifestages of Leadership
Use your newness to your advantage. Ask questions. Always be about discovery. Jasmine, diving right into her masters a year after undergrad, gained insight into company structure at a young age and as a result, she can suss out how cultural weaknesses can impact any project to the negative. As her career has evolved into leading a 7-person team, she noted and others seconded that there’s not a lot of time for self-doubt. Self-doubt is a spiral effect that teams just can’t afford. As a leader, if you need to let it creep in, chose your moment, keep it concise and dive back into positivity. The team and end-goal depends on it.
Be The CEO successfully created time for networking and connections, valuable panel conversations and post-event continued conversations. I most definitely enjoyed chatting about dating apps and Bumble Bizz with Lisa Harris (@fashionmeetspoetry), Shayne Brown Barsness (re-imagined fashion) and Sarah Edwards. The space, swag, food, drinks and company made for a great experience that leaves me looking forward to the next event (note: Stahl Construction is available to host community gatherings and events and it’s a beautiful space). I know there were also many more insights I haven’t recapped here. Existing or aspiring CEO’s of MSP and all attendees — what were your takeaways?