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Vision vs Strategy, Imposter Syndrome & Women in Leadership

You may be saying to yourself - wow that title is all over the place! The storyboard here is a visual articulation of my thought process but let me walk you through it and perhaps we can unpack each of these concepts and then look at how they intersect when comes to career choices.

It all started when ⏩I came across a statistic one morning while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, McKinsey & Company's Inside The Strategy Room. An internal report from Hewlett Packard, some years ago, found women tend to apply for a new job only when they meet 100 percent of the listed criteria, compared to men who usually apply when they meet about 60 percent.

Reflecting on this stark contrast in job application behavior highlighted by the Hewlett Packard report, it led me to introspectively examine my own approach when considering new career opportunities. How do these statistics resonate with my experiences and decision-making process?

My first thought was 'What percentage of the listed criteria would I need to feel I meet before I apply for a job?'. There is no one answer to this question. It depends on several factors:

  • What basic skills does the day to day job require? If the answer is math and working with numbers - my answer is right up there with the ladies at 90% or higher. On the other hand if it requires writing, people management, creative thinking, and/or a lot of soft skills then we move to a deeper personal assessment.

  • Does the work deeply interest me? How accessible are information and learning tools in the form of video or audio? (I don't do well reading it puts me right to sleep) How much prep-time do I have before I start?

If the stars align my answer is far lower than 60%, more like 30%. Sound overly ambitious? Depends on how you look at a new role.

This article from the 2023 World Economic Forum showed the top 10 skills employers were seeking in 2023 as well as the top 10 on the rise. What I see when I look at these TOP skills is that 70% to 80% of them are grounded in work ethic, and soft skills.

The current role I have at Phoenix was actually not offered to me as Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer. It was offered as Chief Program Director (Chief PD). At the time I proposed Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer (CTSO) its likely fair to say I could have checked at least 80% or the criteria boxes for the Chief PD role compared to, maybe 25% of the criteria for CSTO. You say WHAT? Then why the hell did you propose CSTO and double why the hell did your boss agree? Fair questions. It wasn't because I simply wanted what my colleague Jordan calls 'an obnoxious title'.

⏩ It went something like this: I started listening to podcasts (I love podcasts) about how to be a top program director as well as a few C-Suite oriented podcasts. Chief Strategy Officer came up a few times and a lot of the domains of the job really spoke to me.

Strategic Planning - Competitive Intelligence - Performance Management - Innovation - Foster a culture of innovation - Strategic Partnerships - Strategic Communication - Operational Efficiency - this is a language I naturally speak.

⏩ Good ideas are one thing - I am not one to make promises I can't deliver on so I took a deep-dive. I read every article, listened to podcast after podcast, anything I could find and the more I learned the more confidant I became that this role would be great for Phoenix and very rewarding for me. I made the proposal which included the similarities and difference between the proposed role and Chief Strategy Officer. My boss accepted.

My guess is he did so for 3 reasons: first he loves to see people grow, second he knows me well and how driven I can be when I'm fully invested in something, and third, the role actually did make good sense for the company.

➕ The addition of 'Transformation' was, again, not because and looks and sound impressive, actually the full title is a bit of a mouth full, however; we are at a breakpoint and likely to double in size over the next 12 months. Bringing me on with word 'Transformation' in my role title was intended to both signify change to our entire staff and remind me, personally, of where priorities need to be focused.

I assumed this role six months ago and while my very understanding wife would likely admit that I have been consumed with work for the past six months, I could confidentially check a good 80% of those criteria boxes today. I'm not sure I have ever been more captivated and motivated by a role. It helps that work with an amazing staff but even that plays into the role. We have a dynamic culture and maintaining that culture as we grow and diversify our service portfolio is at the forefront of our strategy.

I still have a lot to learn. There are tools and platforms that greatly impact both performance and cross-functional transparency. Not only what but how a company measure greatly matters. Finding the right approach for your culture and your team members is no small task. Do we use OKRs or KPIs or both? How do stay agile and pivot without loosing sight of our overarching goals and mission? How do we leverage AI and other technology safely, effectively, and a pace that doesn't overwhelm our staff? Here is a hard truth: every time I explore one of the domains and begin to discuss what it would look like to integrate it - from OKRs to the CRM we are about to launch - I get major imposter syndrome.

I have to remind myself that I don't have to know everything upfront. The key is being open to continuous learning and surrounding myself with smart, driven people who can help fill in the gaps. By listening, researching, and experimenting, we'll figure out the right tools and processes over time. There will be mistakes, but if we maintain transparency and engagement, we'll course correct. I'm confident that together, we can build something great. The journey of discovery is part of what makes this so rewarding.

'The key is being open to continuous learning and surrounding myself with smart, driven people who can help fill in the gaps.' - this is where I think it is important to point out that regardless how much more cautious women may be when apply for a role, when they get the chance to shine, they shine bright!

Our leadership team is brimming with some of the most devoted and talented women I know. Valerie Clark whose official title is Chief Operating Officer (COO), actually performs that role as well as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). Val is a powerhouse whose work ethic is beyond reproach. She has mastered the ability to be fun and personable until it's time to put on her 'Chief' hat. She resolves issues with a level of professionalism and justice that second to none.

Cheyenne Wuebker has worked her way up through the ranks from 'bright-eyed' young EMT who was willing to explore addictions services with the company to Director of Addictions Services and now Chief of Staff. Cheyenne combines a thirst for learning with deep empathy and a knack for getting to know our employees in ways that allow her to really make everyone feel heard and appreciated.

Leighanne Ellis has a thirst for educating. Its really inspiring to watch a very professional RN explore ways to inspire and educate others to pursue careers in healthcare. Leighanne is soon to add an escape room exercise to the EMT-B certification course she teaches and has become quite a co-conspirator in investigating ways to bring design learning to life in our curriculum.

Jordan Meyers directs our Occupational Health Division. Jordan's thirst and capacity to learn never ceases to amaze me. Systems and structure come naturally to Jordan yet she embraces the chaos alongside the best of us.

Each of these ladies brings so much to the table. They are 'smart, driven people' who do more than fill gaps, they are essential to our work and I learn from each of them daily. I have discussed the afore mentioned Hewlett Packard report with Val, Chey, Leighanne, and Jordan. With any luck we will see blog posts for them discussing their struggles and conquests with imposter syndrome.

I will leave you with this thought: the difference between a vision and strategy. A vision paints a picture of what we aspire to achieve – it’s our dream. Strategy, on the other hand, is all about the action plan that turns this dream into reality. Its very natural to doubt our skills, talents or accomplishments when we envision ourselves in an new role. Be bold, be brave, be adventurous and have a clear strategy for how you are going to skill up. I promise that every action you take and skill you learn will quiet that persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud" or not being as competent as others perceive them to be. One day you will realize that your vision has become your reality.

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