Last month, I had the opportunity to join a panel of top executives in New York City to discuss the topic of “Best Practices for Developing and Managing a Successful Career.”
As each of the executives offered their advice on developing and managing a successful career, although we worked for different industries our messages were aligned and very similar. We discussed such topics as self awareness, enthusiasm and positive thinking. I found myself reflecting on this trend toward female leadership as women bring a unique, positive and powerful impact to today’s corporate environment.
It is a corporate landscape that many of us take for granted today. For example, from top to bottom nearly two-thirds of all team members at my company, Wells Fargo, are female. That includes women at our highest levels of leadership, including our first female Board Chair Betsy Duke and our Senior Executive Vice President of Community Banking and Consumer Lending Mary Mack. The shift toward female leadership at the executive levels of corporate America is real and ongoing.
When I first started working at Wells Fargo, I juggled a second job on the news desk at a local NBC affiliate. I harbored ambitions to be a journalist. However, it was at the bank that I learned my true calling: helping people. I realized I could make a difference in the world by helping our customers and the people I worked with be better than they ever thought they could be by lifting them up, coaching them and showing them their actual capabilities.
That desire to coach and guide my fellow team members to realize their potential led me to seek out more management and leadership roles at Wells Fargo. This passion and desire to make people the best they can be granted me the opportunity to serve in the capacity of leader of small business banking, where I led and coached our team in providing services to our small business customers. As leader of the Western Region, part of my responsibilities include leading a team of 34,000 team members to not only help them obtain our customers dreams but achieve their dreams as well.
Wells Fargo’s embrace of diversity and inclusion and our company’s commitment to people of varied backgrounds and different perspectives has helped foster my growth as a woman and a leader. Along the way, numerous female leaders have modeled for me the importance of women in business, and many have played vital roles in my journey. One female mentor, in particular, taught me two valuable life lessons that have proved essential to my professional career.
One lesson was the power of positive thinking. My mentor’s message to me was that I might not get to control the changes that are going to happen, but what I do have is the chance to respond with a positive attitude.
The other lesson she taught me was to embrace change as it comes. As so many of us, tend to resist it. My mentor helped me reach the perspective that if a difference is here, and you are not in a position to control it, then find a way to believe in it. An ability to embrace change is a big reason why I have been able to enjoy success in my career.
Maintaining a positive attitude and an openness to change has brought with it other lessons in my career. When I find myself in a mentoring relationship today, some of the career-building experiences I emphasize include the following:
• Maintain a sense of enthusiasm for your job and never lose touch with your desire to make a difference in the world.
• Be willing to ask questions, be vulnerable, and admit you do not know something.
• Be OK with failure and mistakes, because they’re often our most influential teachers.
• Never stop learning.
At Wells Fargo, many of our team members maintain a “PPF Wheel.” The wheel is a circle divided into three slices of pie: professional, personal and financial. We regularly update our wheels to reflect our current goals in these different categories. Our financial goal might be to save for the downpayment on a house. Perhaps our professional goal is to take a training that could lead to a promotion. Whatever those goals may be, we write them into our PPF Wheel, and we share them with each other in team settings.
The PPF Wheel is a process of self awareness – what do I want my life to be like? It also helps our team members stay in tune with the fact that our customers harbor their own goals and dreams. And that puts us in position to better realize our vision at Wells Fargo, which is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.
The career qualities of self-awareness, enthusiasm, positive thinking, vulnerability and an embrace of change are not exclusive to women. That is the unique, positive and powerful impact of women in the corporate environment of today.
Lisa Stevens is a Wells Fargo Western Region Bank Executive. The Importance of Women in Business