The Women in Strategy Summit, which took place in New York on March 19 & 20, 2015, wrapped up recently and I am still energized by the thought provoking topics tackled by a dynamic group of female executives from Mondelez, Pepsico, ESPN, NASCAR, Citi, and other well-known brands. Yet, the presentation that really stuck with me was the one entitled “Pioneering Success,” given by the Chief of US Navy Reserve, Vice Admiral Robin Braun, about how lessons learned on the trail by women taking part in this country’s early westward expansion can be applied to today’s workplace. In addition, Vice Admiral Braun drew on her own experience and journey to become one of the highest-ranking women leaders in the US Navy, and a true pioneer.
According to Vice Admiral Braun, here’s what it takes to be a pioneer in the workplace:
1. Commit to the journey. The pioneer’s westward journey was long, harsh and physically demanding it took courage and unrelenting commitment to make the 2,000 mile trek and settle the land. Are you committed to the journey? Are you willing to do the hard work of self-examination and improvement? Do you believe in yourself and trust your gut to stick it out, even during those times you want to quit? If you can commit to the journey, you will achieve success. So stay on the trail until you reach your destination.
2. Travel light. It was important for pioneers to “travel light” and take only those things they needed for survival, and leave behind the things, like trunks, beds, clothing and even cast iron stoves, that would slow them down. Apply the same “travel light” idea to your own career by leveraging your strengths and staying focused on priorities (and understand the tradeoffs) to ensure career agility.
3. Develop stamina. To survive as a pioneer, women needed to be rugged and strong – both physically and mentally – to endure the journey and take care of their families. To build your own mental stamina takes training and discipline; start by reducing stress and getting a good night sleep. Think positively, be confident and visualize your success. And don’t let a few bumps in the road set you back completely, regain focus and keep moving forward!
4. Keep a sense of humor and strong sense of self. We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine plus having a sense of humor has been known to help reduce stress, alleviate pain and help us deal with tough situations. Combine your ability to laugh with a strong sense of self – a deep understanding of who you are – and you will develop the confidence and emotional maturity to manage and navigate what life (or work) tosses your way!
5. Stay connected to other women. Pioneering women sought each other’s support and developed close bonds that uplifted their spirits and provided the structure and emotional support of their lives. Let this be an inspiration to you as you cultivate and nurture relationships with other women in your professional and personal life, these bonds will be invaluable.
So let’s take a moment to celebrate the pioneers who committed to the journey and settled the west, blazing the trail for the many influential and pioneering women leaders today.