The biggest leaps I have taken in my career occurred when there were the fewest certainties. For example, I was asked to build a new line of business for which there were no rules and few experiences for me to lean on. This kind of opportunity usually arose because my superior believed I was up to the challenge, or when the idea for the new effort was my own, and I had a plan. The most important talent asset I had to rely on in these situations was my ability to lay out a long-range strategy, and then identify and assemble the right team to achieve my goal.
Once I had a plan and a team, the ability to keep to the plan and modify it as needed was essential. In my experience, the greatest threat to success comes when there is no long-range plan and people are forced to merely react as their environments change.
In terms of knowing when to make a leap from one workplace to another, I have been lucky to have chosen well in terms of the kind of organization I wanted to work for—one where I felt my contributions were valued and the people I worked with were competent and worthy of my respect. I would look for the same characteristics in any prospective organization. Any workplace I choose much have a clear strategy, well-articulated objectives, and an environment where ethical behavior, contribution, and competency focused on customer outcomes.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Leadership is such a personal thing, but if I had to find a common denominator in the type of business I’m in, I would have to say that the ability to lead a team is essential. No one in this line of work can do it alone; you have to recognize talent and recruit team members based on their skills. It takes a village to be successful.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
I have worked with too many great role models and mentors to name just one. Each taught me something different about leadership and how to get the most out of myself and my team. Collectively, they inspired me to know where I wanted my organization to go, evaluate and understand the risks, and have the confidence and courage to stay the course.
On Facing Challenges
There are many situations that generate stress; generally the toughest ones were always the ones that had the most impact on the lives of the people who worked for me.
Barbara’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
First and foremost, master your field. Then, have the confidence to apply your competence. People won’t follow the lead of someone who is not competent. They should run from someone who is confident, but incompetent.