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Leadership Academy reveals ‘how women think’

Thursday, December 5, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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More than 400 Network of Executive Women members learned how men and women communicate and lead differently and what that means in the workplace during the year’s final NEW Leadership Academy webinar on Dec. 5.

Renee Hay, vice president, human resources, retail stores for CVS Caremark Corporation, and Bethany Quam, vice president, sales, US channels for General Mills, shared their career experiences during "Men and Women, Leading and Influencing,” led by career coach Jo Miller, CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching.

During Hay’s early career, professional women were encouraged to tone down their femininity. "I attended classes that taught us how to be successful," she said, "by being more like men!”

For Quam, the differences between male and female work styles didn’t become more apparent as she advanced to senior roles. "Performance was always the driver for me. I didn’t want my brand to be ‘the first female’ as I felt I had a lot more to offer,” she said, adding "what I bring to the party” defines her work style, over gender.

Styles of communication

Hay soon realized "male counterparts asked for the roles they wanted, whether they were ready for it or not.”

Women, too, need to articulate what they want and where they want to go, she advised. "The more you believe in yourself, the more self-confident you become.”

Quam’s male peers typically use fewer words and are perceived as more "strategic,” she noted. To present ideas more effectively, Quam had to learn to pause and lead with strategic intent. "I was giving people the turkey dinner at times, when they needed the turkey sandwich.”

Quam’s own communication style evolved from trying to "fit in” with her male peers by telling bad sports jokes, to allowing herself to act as authentic self. Eventually bringing her full personality to her leadership style, Quam modeled a presentation to the theme of The Wizard of Oz.

Her supervisor congratulated the effort. "If there is something that only you can uniquely do,” Quam was told, "you should do that and you should own it.”

Hay once saw herself as "the shyest person on Earth” but found her strength as a communicator directly related to her passion for certain projects. When she was hesitant to take on a recruitment role, a leader shared an observation that changed her mind: "Renee, when you are excited about something, your eyes light up, you smile all the time. We’ve got to get you into something that is going to bring you out of your shell.”

After taking the new role, Hay said she understood senior leaders wanted her to be successful and that the opportunities to prove it were there. "They are truly looking for ‘you.’”

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