Leadership- You Take It With You

Posted on LinkedIn Influencers on August 14, 2014

Leadership. It’s a very big topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately. One of the main reasons I’ve been giving it a lot of thought is because I was asked to talk about leadership in the context of my career at Goldman Sachs and my current role as CEO of Women Moving Millions by Porsche as part of a series they are doing called, “There is no substitute for….” The videos include profiles of many amazing leaders, including Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of Indiegogo, Brian Spaly, CEO of Trunk Club, Ruth Zukerman, Founder of Flywheel Sports, Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, and Kenny Dichter, Founder and CEO of Wheels Up. Needless to say, I was beyond honored to be included. The shoot was in July, and the completed video was just released.

Of course, I tried to prepare for the shoot, but the goal was to not have something scripted out, but rather for it to just be in conversation about the topic. What you see above is a few minutes of a very long conversation. Flying home that night from Los Angeles, I drifted back to so many memories from my time at Goldman, and in particular, to the work I did in those last few years that really ignited my interest in leadership development. I was part of a core team that created the first conferences for women at the firm (1990s), and I obsessively collected and shared the best articles I could find on subjects ranging from creative thinking to team building, facilitation, time management, listening, change management, and much, much more. I still have all of those articles, and I store them in a dedicated file room in my house that continues to expand on a daily basis. I think this shows commitment. My kids call me a hoarder.

photo 2[1]Back then, Goldman noted my obsession with the concept of leadership development, and I was invited to serve on the initial task force that created Pine Street, Goldman’s leadership development effort, as well as helping to hire the firm’s first Chief Learning Officer. During the course of that process, we held endless conversations with experts in the field, and I consumed massive amounts of research on the subject. Not only did I want to be a great leader, but I wanted to understand how to help others become leaders as well. It was that work that helped me to see how connected those two things really are. I don’t think you can truly be a great leader without being a great teacher and a mentor to others as they move through their own leadership journey. Looking back I realize that while doing the best I could at the time, with the knowledge and wisdom I had, I could have been so much better.

What I wish someone would have told me earlier in my career, is that leadership, and management, is something you can truly learn. You need to learn. There are skills involved with both that don’t just ‘happen’ when you get promoted. How you learn it is by watching others’ actions closely, by reading everything you can get your hands on, by putting it all into practice, and intentionally monitoring outcomes and being willing to adjust. Ideally, you put it into practice on behalf of something you are truly passionate about. (If you watch the other Porsche videos you will see some amazing examples of this.) I said in the video that for me, being a leader is not the same thing as having a big title. There were and are a lot of people with big titles who are not strong leaders, or good managers. At In fact, one of the reasons why we created Pine Street was because we realized that there were many senior member of the firm with big titles who were managing lots of people and running big business areas, but did not have the skills they needed to excel in their roles which included developing the talent underneath them. Thankfully, there were a lot of excellent ones as well. We also set up the firm’s first executive coaching program and if you have the resources, there is perhaps no better way to accelerate your development.

photo 3[1]I loved the work I did at that time so much. I could not get enough of it. Though I did not think about it like this at the time, I now see that my life’s work would become centered around helping to develop and advance women’s leadership. In fact, one of the last major projects I did at Goldman was to help launch ASCEND: A Women’s Leadership Exchange, which brought together internal women leaders at the firm with the most senior external women leaders from all areas of business that had touch points to Goldman. The year was 2002. It seems almost silly now, but one of the reasons we did it was to prove just how many women leaders there were out there and how incredible they were as leaders. Because we were inviting only the top women in the areas of money management, corporate CEOs/COOs/CFOs, wealth holders, and such, it was not until we actually put the list together that people came to see the growing power and influence of women. In other words, we were trying to prove the business case for women’s leadership. That event was a game changer for me. I realized that although deeply honored to be a senior woman, I was also tired of often being the only woman in the room, and I wanted to be in places and spaces where I could learn from amazing women leaders.

photo 1[1]When I left Goldman, I did not go on to another paid position, but instead, I began working full time in service of a bigger mission and purpose: to make the world a more just, equitable, and gender balanced place. For a while, it felt really weird to not have a big title and a team of people to work with, but over time, I came to see that you can take your leadership with you. By that, I mean that when you leave a leadership role, you can bring all of the skills and knowledge you have acquired and apply them to your next role. For me, it took a while. It was 10 years later, in 2012, that I became President and Chief Engagement Officer of Women Moving Millions. I now lead a small team of amazing staff, partner with an incredible Board of Directors, and I do work that helps to amplify the leadership of over 200 women (and a few men) who have given large gifts in support of girls and women. To do this, I often find myself digging through the piles of books, research, and notes that I was surrounded by 12 years ago, and pulling them out for current use. The great news is that women and men, but according to studies, more women then men, rank making a positive difference in the world very highly in terms of what to do with their time and money.

So I write, give speeches, host events, serve on boards, and do all that I do because I have grabbed hold of a vision for what I want the world to be like, and with everything I have, I will it forward. Does that make me a leader? I hope so. But as I said in the video, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to ever be called one.

I am feeling this leadership theme and will do some other posts on this topic including my favorite leadership books, articles and quotes. If you have suggestions for topics, please let me know.

Career Curveballs: The Importance of Having and Being a Sponsor

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Influencers on April 28, 2014 as part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers share how they turned setbacks into success. Read all their stories here.

Early in my career at Goldman Sachs, I almost quit to go to another firm. I joined as an analyst in 1988, was quickly promoted to a trader in 1990, but a few years later I was feeling stuck. My career had been moving so briskly forward that this prolonged feeling of being at a standstill made it feel like a setback. My response was to shop myself and find a similar position at another firm. Just before I was about to resign, a senior manager caught wind of it and intervened. In retrospect, leaving would have been the biggest mistake of my life, as only a few years later I made partner, and at the time, I became the youngest woman and first female trader to do so at Goldman Sachs. So why did I think I had to leave? What happened to save me from making such a bad decision? And, what did I learn that made me a better manager of others?

It was the early 90s and I was a junior trader on a desk full of more experienced ones. I had been working for some time in a secondary position to someone who was good at his job, but who was not very interested in helping me develop into everything I could be within my position. Nevertheless, I worked hard, kept my head down, and tried to earn more of his time and effort. I failed to manage up, my mistake, thinking that great performance and a good attitude alone would win him over. As time passed I grew resentful and truly did not know what to do differently. I began to think the only option I had was to leave.

As I was getting close to having an offer in hand with another firm, the head of my department caught wind of it, and he invited me to lunch. This person was someone I really respected and admired, but as his role at Goldman Sachs expanded, my direct contact with him had become very limited. However, I knew he liked me and supported me, and in that moment, I also knew that he would be both personally and professionally upset by my leaving the firm. I was petrified. Of course I immediately wondered why I did not go to him sooner. The conversation over lunch went something like this:

“Jacki, I heard you are talking to another firm. Why?” It did not take long for my feelings about the situation to come pouring out over that majestic dining room table. “Because I feel stuck. My direct manager is not invested in my development. I want to be partner one day, but I don’t feel like there is anyone really sponsoring me to make that happen. I never thought about leaving Goldman before but I did not know what else to do.” I went on and on.

He just sat there and listened to me, and when I was finished he simply asked me, “What do I need to do to have you stay?” I was shocked. After a moment to think it over I asked him to be my sponsor. This meant that I was asking him to take a greater interest in my career, including giving me the opportunity to trade a bigger book, to be involved in firm-wide initiatives that gave me exposure, and to be paid more and fairly. (I discovered my market value when I looked to go to another firm.)

After an hour of discussions he basically agreed to everything and I asked him to write it down and sign his name to it. He laughed at first, saying “We don’t do that at Goldman”, but I insisted, saying that it was just for me and him, and that this was what I needed to stay. On a cloth napkin he wrote out our agreement in bullet points, and at the bottom he signed his name – Michael Mortara.

The biggest blunder of my career would have been walking out the door of Goldman Sachs without first having that conversation. It was purely luck that Michael caught wind of my intentions and reached out to me when he did, because once I had accepted the amazing offer from the other firm, it would have been too late. So my advice is this: Before you decide to leave your current position, have that type of conversation with someone you know and trust at your firm, or better yet, someone who could serve as your champion and sponsor. Perhaps the challenges you currently face are both short term and in close range, and if someone could help you gain a long term and longer range perspective, those challenges just might look different.

Did things change overnight for me? No, they did not. I kept working for and with the same guy for a while, but I knew that there was an exit plan. I just had to work hard and wait it out. I had someone watching over me and my career. Knowing that I had a sponsor gave me greater confidence in my role, and allowed me to shed the angst that was holding me back. I felt secure and that made all the difference.

It was not long after that I did start to get the opportunities I had been looking for. I was invited to participate in firm-wide initiatives and became very active in recruiting. In time I had my own book to trade and soon after had a junior person working for me. I never forgot what it felt like to not be supported, and did my best to empower the junior person on my team. A few years later I was running the desk with a group of traders and to this day one of the things I am most proud of is what an incredible group it was. Was I a perfect manager? Of course not, and in hindsight there are so many things I could have done better. But I was a fearless and vocal champion for the talent on my team.

In 2000 I left my position as a desk manager and trader to take on a role in the Executive Office where my job was to help manage the careers of the firm’s Managing Directors. I served on the firm’s Partnership Committee, which has oversight of all aspects of human capital management. What became clear to me in reading the reviews of so many senior people is the importance of not only having a sponsor, but being one. Great companies have great people who work hard to develop the talent below them, beside them, and even above them. If you are working your way up the corporate ladder, who is the person who is invested in your success and will make sure that your talent is visible and you get the opportunities you deserve? If you can’t name that person then put this on the top of your to-do list. FIND A SPONSOR!

Michael Mortara passed away very suddenly in 2000 at the age of 51 while still working at Goldman Sachs. He was a legendary financial figure and a truly exceptional human being.

For a great read on the subject of sponsorship check out Forget a Mentor Find a Sponsor by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

Photo: sezer66/Shutterstock.com

AOL, Goldman Sachs & More: Let’s Give Corporate Sponsors a Break

Posted on LinkedIn Influencers, February 14, 2014

Yesterday, I traveled home from the first ever Makers Conference, where corporate, nonprofit, and civic leaders (predominately women) spent two-days envisioning a new agenda for women in the 21st century. As I was pouring through the hundreds of emails that backed up over the past couple of days, I came across one from a friend with the title “What do you think about this?” and a link. The link was to this article about two swag items, a branded cosmetic mirror and a nail file, given to attendees of the recent WECode Conference at Harvard by Goldman Sachs. In fact that was the headline for the article. Apparently one person shared a photo of the items on Instagram, stating “Not sure if this is #sexyfeminism or gender stereotyping.”

I thought to myself, “are you kidding me?” and was ready to quickly move on to the next email. Not a subject worth thinking about, let alone writing about. As I thought about it for another second it got me annoyed. Annoyed at the author (sorry William) of the article for trying to make a big deal out of what was just one person’s comment. And I have to be honest, I was a tad annoyed about the Instagram post even though I am sure it was not meant to be negative, which is what the article turned it in to. I felt the better story, the worthy story, was about the event itself and how awesome it was that Goldman and others sponsored it. I had just heard from many speakers at the conference how women are dramatically underrepresented in STEM, and what was being talked about regarding a conference with this theme was the swag items?

We live in a world where everything, and I mean everything, can be shared and made visible. So what are the implications for companies, such as Goldman, who sponsor great initiatives like WECode? On the one hand we are asking, occasionally begging, these companies to support worthy efforts to advance women in business, women in STEM careers, and women in general (and of course countless other charities and causes). And it is my opinion that when companies sponsor wonderful events like WECode, they should of course be acknowledged and thanked. In fact, I feel we owe them a lot more. Personally, I am trying to make it a habit to send out positive social media messages to the sponsors who are backing the causes I am passionate about, such as encouraging women to enter STEM careers. I also make a huge effort to purchase products and services from companies that I know are aligned with my values.

A quick peak at WECOde’s Twitter feed after the conference showed few such responses, and I think that is a shame. Same is true for many other events I have gone to. Given how much non-profits depend on this type of support, I believe we need to do a lot more to show some love. I don’t think I have ever been asked at an event to give a Twitter shout out to the sponsors and that should be common practice. Worse yet when not only do the sponsors not get positive shout outs, but they get negative ones, and that is what gets picked up in the media. I can just imagine someone at Goldman saying “What the heck? You can’t win for trying.” Personally I have no issue at all with a compact and a nail file, but even if you do, please don’t “lose the forest through the trees”. They made possible an event you attended and benefited from.

On the other hand, just because a company sponsors something you care about or benefit from, does that mean you have to agree with everything they do, go out of your way to buy their products, and promise allegiance forever? No, of course not. Should you think better of them for doing it? I hope so. I encourage everyone to use their voice and the power of social media to let companies know that we are grateful for their financial support to the causes we hold most dear. The more we reach out, the more gratitude we show, the more likely they are to do it again and that is a very good thing!

But here is our true power. When you don’t like something a corporation does, you now have the power to let them know it in ways unprecedented a mere decade ago. Our ability to share our opinions and to enact economic consequences when we disagree with a company’s stance or action is the newest and most powerful tool we have to create the change we want to see in the world. This is so huge, so powerful and should be used, but be thoughtful of unintended consequences. If negative tweeting around the swag bag meant that sponsor was not coming back next year, would that be a good thing? Perhaps if extreme enough, but know that might be the consequence. This theme of using our economic power in alignment with our values was a big part of the TEDxWomen talk I did last year. You can check out #notbuyingit as an example of this type of activism and its power for change.

Furthermore, when companies do sponsor events and they are being visible, they should also know that they can and should be held accountable for what they do and what they stand for. I say this hoping it is a good thing. This is where my experience at this week’s Makers Conference comes in. It just so happens that the BIG sponsor of Makers, an absolutely amazing platform that showcases ‘Women Who Made America”, is AOL. Well, I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the uproar at AOL last week over comments made by its CEO Tim Armstrong that “distressed babies” were the cause of the company’s decision to change their 401(k) retirement policies. Needless to say, these comments were widely derided, prompting a reversal of the policy change and an apology from Tim Armstrong.

However, he chose not to address the controversy in front of the hundreds of women who had gathered for this event, and this was noticed and hotly debated by some attendees in the hallways. What was interesting is that during his brief talk, no one from the audience chose to shout out anything at him. Had there been a Q and A I am sure it would have come up, but it was not offered. So why did the audience choose silence? It clearly was a hot button issue for many people, but in that moment did they understand and respect that Makers exists in large part because of AOL, and therefore were willing to cut the CEO some slack? I think so. Again I would love your thoughts on this. What should Tim have done? What might you have done if you were in the audience? Had there not been a retraction I think the outcome would have been different.

For me, I am beyond grateful to AOL (and the other sponsors) for their support of Makers, because I know that this is not just a ‘check the box’ diversity thing for them, but rather it is a true commitment from AOL to sharing the stories of amazing women who have changed our world. This initiative is big, huge, visionary, and I wish more companies would take note. I think there was enough respect and goodwill in the room at that moment that the audience, collectively, was willing to give Tim Armstrong, and AOL, the benefit of the doubt. I further believe that consistent and authentic support for events and organizations that promote women’s advancement grants you not only good will, but the benefit of the doubt when you do make a mistake. Is it of course better not to make such mistakes and always do the right thing? Yes, but I live in the real world.

Now a deeper question. Does that mean I am for sale? That we were for sale? Of course not. Do I think NGOs should refuse money from certain corporations? Yes, I do. Do I also know that it is a slippery slope when you start to differentiate between ‘good money’ and ‘bad money’ rather that money that ‘does good’? Yup. And please do share your thoughts on this below. I am a CEO of a non-profit organization that has received money from corporate sponsors, and in approaching those sponsors I think long and hard about whom we are approaching and with whom we are affiliating ourselves. I hope that they are thinking the same way about us. However, when we do take that money, when we do invite them in to the room, I feel that we have to treat them with appreciation and respect.

So back to Goldman. Thank you Goldman Sachs for sponsoring WECode and for everything you do to support the advancement of women and girls. Thank you AOL and especially Tim Armstrong for your unbelievable and authentic support of the Makers platform and the Makers conference. It was amazing. As for the mirror and nail file in the swag bag? I am back to my original observation. Who cares? “Let’s not lose the forest for the trees.”